John and Rachel had kindly invited us for Christmas and New Year but we had not been able to make it due to delays on the car (it took 27 days to have 3 days of work done - a story that might have to remain untold for now) so, better late, very late, than never, we arrived on the 6th of January. Our dear friends had kept up the Christmas decorations of tree and tinsel, and gave us gifts and the children even had stockings to open!!
Initially, we had been invited for a few days, meaning that we truly needed to find a place to live/stay quickly. However, this invite has been very graciously extended - taking off the pressure! This has really helped us right now, and again we see the Lord's hand of provision for us through His faithful servants. The children all have their own mattress and have had some fun at a local mall racing Scalextric and pedal bumper cars. We have had powerful prayer times together, and been able to lift each others' visions and their work here in Paraguay. We are learning so much from John and Rachel about the culture here, and how they reach out with the Gospel. Their generosity towards us has been so touching, and we thank the Lord for them. Please pray for our dear friends, and continue to pray for the provision of our house.
Whilst we have been on the border with Brazil, we managed to renew our visas for Paraguay, so we now have another 90 days to get our residency paper work through. Also, just this week we were able to get Joseph's Paraguayan birth certificate made. We had tried as we left La Belleza, but the specific office was closed. We made a special trip near to the area Joseph was born for this, and praise God the process went smoothly and he now has paper work to his little name! In Paraguay, this is very important, as we have discovered. We must always have our passports on us when we travel.
Civil Registry in Curuguaty, Paraguay - Joseph Michael Peter Ratcliffe Ratcliffe (not a typo - they take the Father's and Mother's last names here) Joseph is a dual-citizen, Paraguayan by being born here and British by being born to British parents. (His British passport will just have the one 'Ratcliffe' :-)
So, I cannot help but share the spiritual journey that is also taking place. We are still not in our own home, and despite searching on the internet, speaking to contacts and a recent trip to look for a house in the area the Lord is leading us to live in, we are yet to find a home. Living out of suitcases is challenging, and I miss so many things about having your own place. Also, I have seen on the children the challenges they have faced not having their own family environment, in the various places we have stayed and my heart hurts for them. I have been discouraged and at times even desperate and wanted to give up.
A couple of weeks ago, I received a very timely and encouraging message from my dear Pastor in OK, USA, Miss Ginny Estes. She shared with me the following scripture:
Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands,
let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.
For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did;
but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not
share the faith of those who obeyed.
Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,
“So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’”
And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world.
(Hebrews 4:1 NKJV)
And for those who are like me and need this scripture in plainer language:
"For as long, then, as that promise of resting in him pulls us on to God’s goal for us,
we need to be careful that we’re not disqualified. We received the same promises as
those people in the wilderness, but the promises didn’t do them a bit of good because
they didn’t receive the promises with faith.
If we believe, though, we’ll experience that state of resting. But not if we don’t have faith.
Remember that God said, Exasperated, I vowed,
“They’ll never get where they’re going, never be able to sit down and rest.”
(Hebrews 4:1-3 MSG)
I had to confess that I was not at rest. We had arrived at our friends' house and had a few days with them to relax and enjoy, but then again we were facing the reality of needing a place to stay, preferably our new home Lord? But as this word from the Lord convicted me, I began to think about the Israelites, and how they ended up walking the desert for 40 years, when the Promised land was just a few days journey away. Why could God not let them enter into His restful provision for them? Because they had not recognized after all the miracles and signs and wonders He had shown them that all they needed was Him, the God of love!!! They just needed to trust in His loving care for them.
"So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief." (Hebrews 3:19 NKJV)
Imagine those Israelites, having to set up their dwellings wherever the cloud or pillar of fire halted, make some sort of life in a desert, and just when Grandma figured out where the entrance and exits of the tent were, "Oh, the cloud's moving again! Start packing again guys!" I really do not want to wander around Paraguay for an unnecessary length of time, living out of suitcases, because of my own doubts and unbelief of the Lord's provision for us, so I repent! God has shown His mighty hand throughout all our journeyings here so far, and He will continue to faithfully do so. And it is my responsibility to choose to enter into that rest, by faith, that God will establish us here in what He has called us to do and that he has a house for us!
Despite us not apparently being established, we still have had many opportunities to minister the love of God. I would like to share a couple of those with you: on our first trip here, Peter and I were introduced to one if the wisest people I have ever met, a humble indigenous pastor, Cipriano. We have wanted to go back and see him again, and this past week, as we were 'close by', we managed to make it to his house. I am so grateful for the Holy Spirit as He clearly spoke to me to make the effort to go, despite how we naturally felt after a long days journey already. After 1 1/2 hours on a very bumpy dirt road, we arrived and were lovingly welcomed. We introduced the children and sat down and asked Cipriano how he was. He told us that he had been unwell for 3 months and doesn't have medical insurance to go and get checked out and receive some medicine. He shared with us, all he has is God, and we agreed He is enough. We offered to pray for him, and he received gratefully. It was another one of those "this is why we are here Lord, this makes it all worth it, thank you for this privilege!" moments.
The next day, we had driven close to where Samira lives, the sweet young girl that has been struggling with the spine curvature. We spent a very precious time with her and her close family sharing the word of the Lord, as they still face the painful journey of this life threatening condition. Peter was led to tell them of God's amazing love for them. The atmosphere was filled with the presence of our Lord Jesus again, tears flowed and they hungrily received. They don't have one Bible in the home, so we will take a Spanish one next time. I copied out Psalm 23 from Peter's phone (thank God for modern technology) in Spanish for Samira, asking her to read it each morning and night, especially the part about the Lord satisfying her with long life! Please continue to pray for Samira's complete healing, and for Cipriano's recovery. He needs his strength to continue the work of preaching the Gospel to the indigenous communities around him. Out of 113 communities in that region, only 5 have a Christian church planted.
Thank you for being part of spreading God's loving Kingdom here in Paraguay! And we are truly grateful for all your prayers! Some days we truly sense we are being carried on the prayers of the saints!
We really believe our next post will be to report on our Heavenly Father's provision of our house. We will make another trip to the area we feel called to, this time with John and Rachel, who have actually lived in that area too.
Peter & Evi Ratcliffe