Totonac Indigenous Ministries
LAIM was founded in 1973 under the name Totonac Cultural Center. Our vision was to support the work of Manual Arenas in building a school for young Totonac Indians to gain biblical training and return to their villages to become leaders and pastors. The ministry identified a great need among this indigenous people: that is to hear the Truth of who God is in their own language and learn how to assemble as a congregation to worship Him through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. This work was so successful hundreds of students graduated from the school and perhaps 100,000 Totonac Indian lives were changed. Now the ministry continues in the Highlands under the direction of Manuel’s co-translator Felipe Ramos.
Felipe reaches all 250,000 Totonacs living in Northern Puebla and Veracruz states with a weekly Totonac Radio Hour. He distributes Bibles and evangelistic materials mostly free of charge and responds to many requests to visit the newly formed groups and help them mature in faith and form churches. Because of the deep poverty in this region LAIM seeks U.S churches or groups interested in supporting Totonac Indigenous Ministries.
In September of 2007 leaders and pastors gather in Las Lomas, Veracruz to celebrate the arrival of the New Testament in their Coyutla dialect of the Totonac language, which puts the Gospel in the hands of many who would otherwise not be able to read and understand God’s Word. Coyutla is the third Totonac dialect to arrive in Mexico. Read more about how the ministry began with Wycliffe bible translator Herman Aschmann and native translators Manuel Arenas and Felipe Ramos.
Short Biographies on the leadership journey at Totonac Ministries:
DR. MANUEL ARENAS, a native Totonac Indian, was born in a primitive hut in Zapotitlan, Mexico. He exhibited a fiery curiosity about life beyond the green canyons that hemmed his village. The course of his life changed radically when he met an American Bible translator, Herman Aschmann, who introduced him to Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Manuel then embarked on a lifelong career of Bible translation, pastoral training and church planting which qualifies him as one of the more remarkable Christian leaders of our time. Wycliffe Bible Translator’s founder Cameron Townsend often used Manuel’s work as a showcase of the indigenous principle whereby a native Indian reaches his own people through training and discipleship. Manuel built a Bible school/cultural center and then a network of 50 churches that reached half of the 250,000 Totonac Indian population with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. At his cultural center Manuel also operated an experimental farm and a medical/dental clinic that served his people who were too poor to afford professional care. Manual passed away in 1992, leaving the ministry to be taken over by the many pastors he trained and motivated.
FELIPE RAMOS – Herman Aschmann knew Felipe Ramos as a boy in Nanacatlan. After Felipe had gotten Bible school training, he was heavily involved in Bible translation with Herman and in church planting with Manuel. He became the academic director of the Bible school in La Union, Mexico. One very effective tool in reaching the Totonac people with the Gospel has been the use of the weekly radio program broadcast from the town of Poza Rica, Mexico. The signal is strong enough to reach the entire Totonac speaking population located in the Mexican states of Puebla and Veracruz, covering all five Totonac dialect areas. Numerous requests come from young listeners to come and teach them how to win their villages for Christ. Older believers ask for help in organizing their congregations into churches. Felipe has developed three strategic locations from which they distribute Bibles, evangelism materials, and pastoral training. Here he trained countless young Totonac students in biblical principles and sent them back to their villages to become pastors and leaders.
In recent years, Felipe has worked closely with Latin American Indian Ministries founder Dr. Dale Kietzman and Boardmember Peter Petry. They both recognize the urgent need to rebuild the network of support enjoyed by Manuel at the Totonac Cultural Center. Felipe has trained scores of pastors who are eager to minister the Gospel of Jesus Christ to their own people, but as was the case with Manuel, the congregations are too poor to support a full-time minister.