Christian Emergency Relief Teams or CERT of Crossville, has a team of 12 people who were on a medical mission trip that are stuck in the remote Peru jungle town of Puerto Maldonado due to coronavirus flight restrictions.

“It may be April before we get home,” Bruce Rainwater, development director for CERT International, said via Facebook messenger.

CERT International’s Manu National Park medical mission was scheduled from March 6-20 in Peru. Rainwater is the only person on the team from Crossville.

CERT is a local Christian ministry headquartered in Crossville. The group’s primary purpose is organizing and leading short term medical mission trips to Peru for more than 25 years, and 20 years in the Amazon. 

“We (CERT) are 46 years old and have served in 44 different countries. This trip, into Manu Parque Reserve is extremely remote only accessible by boat. Lonely Planet magazine called it the most bio-diverse piece of property left in the world … Part of our CERT staff, pastor Tomas Deza and his wife Norma have been shepherding our remote church in Boca Manu for 14 years. A strategic church plant on the boundaries of Manu Park. It’s an extremely hard ministry and hard life.”

Rainwater said the international team consisted of two physician’s assistants from New York, a registered nurse from Minnesota, a dentist from Peru and Rainwater. Three translators, the Dezas, a cook and local boatsman wrapped up the team.

A Facebook post from Rainwater explained the harried trip out of the jungle.

“Yesterday started at 5 a.m., after being off the grid for 9 days, deep in Peru’s Amazon, we finally got the news Peru was shutting down so we had to ‘find a way’ back to Puerto Maldonado before all transportation was ceased. Slowly, but surely God opened the way, clearing one police precinct in Boca Colorado to Puerto Carlos, porting the river. With all taxis drivers scared, we hitched a ride in the back of an empty beer truck to Santa Rosa. After two hours trying to flag a ride to finish the journey the police in Santa Rosa provided documents to clear the way. 2.5 hours later in the floorboard of a van, we arrived in the ghost town of Puerto Maldonado where military vehicles blocked roads and police checked all. Getting in our hotel around midnight. Thank you, Jesus! We’re now waiting on a 14-day Peruvian ‘no flights’ restriction to hopefully return home April 1, or prayerfully sooner. Thank you FB family for your prayers and continued support. Will try to post some of His Amazon stories tomorrow,” Rainwater’s post states.

“Though our team is still stuck in the jungle, our hearts are soaring with angels in heaven,” Rainwater posted.

He said the group concentrates on 1-2 week missions to remote locations in developing nations to support missionaries and indigenous churches. The trips are medical, dental, and eyeglass clinics; safe water projects; building renovations; discipleship and leadership training; and evangelism.

He explained that for 20 years CERT has been “knocking on the hearts of Manu Park natives with the Gospel, via love and healthcare. Overt evangelism is restricted by man’s regulations.”

He said the group’s persistence has paid off.

“After years of building this relationship we have bore fruit. Pastor Tomas and wife Norma openly evangelized every clinic patient, many hearing the ‘Gospel of Jesus’ for the first time,” he posted. “It’s truly a 20-year breakthrough.”

He said after nine days sleeping in tents and 1/2-star hostels, the CERT team logged 41.5 hours boating the mighty Madre de Dios and Manu rivers, producing the following numbers in six clinics — 263 medical patients, 18 dental patients, 14 extractions, 803 prescriptions, 23 Bibles presented in Spanish and Machiguenga and 52 salvations.

“Unfortunately, we had to abort the mission two days early due to the coronavirus, or there would have been more,” Rainwater wrote.

Rainwater said Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton and 6th District Congressman John Rose have been informed of the situation through the office of CERT.

He has also written the U.S. Embassy in Peru requesting help if there is any plan to get U.S. citizens out of Peru.

Rainwater said he is not anxious, but encourages those who pray to consider them for a safe journey back to the U.S.

CERT also has a mission team in Mexico at this time.

CERT International is at 460 Old Jamestown Hwy. and can be reached at 931-707-9328 or www.certinternational.org.

Gary Nelson may be reached at gnelson@crossville-chronicle.com