God gave me what is termed as the 'Beatitudes' for the village we live in: Arroyo Pora, and I/we have been praying these verses, the first part for our neighbours, and the second for us as we challenge false religion.
Finally, we are somewhat settled - nest is made, winter here now, so a little chilly, 6° C (43° F) outside and a two little heaters cranking out! I am sitting by one of them. We are getting accustomed to the frequent powercuts, a little interesting if you are in the shower, and we keep candles and matches at the ready. We decided to relocate, gently, our tree frog who loved to echo his croak at night in our bathroom sink, and we have reduced the tarantula population somewhat but only after finding several inside and out. We found the grandpa of all tarantulas! We moved in, unpacked and settled all while Joseph and Becca were fighting that horrible cough - actually that situation was truly a huge attack against their lives. Becca vomited every day, several times with every coughing fit, until one night Jesus walked in her bedroom and touched her back! We believe he touched Joseph too, just he is too young to tell us about it, praise The Lord he was healed also.
We have always believed in reaching out to our neighbours and being faithful in introducing yourself and taking God's kingdom right next door! But the devil tried so hard to stop us this time. Since moving in, we didn't get to see hardly anyone while our children were in a battle for what felt like their lives! We focused on seeing them receive from Heaven their full recovery. Then one night, actually after I had written the last blog, a spirit of fear tried to grip me. "There's someone outside your home..." This has happened to me before in both Israel and the States, especially when Peter would be gone at night. I have resisted this each time, but it can take a while for my flesh to calm down and my mind to be settled on the Word of God again:
No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the Lord. Isaiah 54:17 NIV
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
II Timothy 1:7 NKJV
And there are lots more! So, I woke Peter up and we prayed these scriptures together, sleepily at first but then as the fear tried to enter through our bedroom window like a thick threatening atmosphere, our prayer became more fervent. Was there someone outside, prowling around? We don't know. But certainly satan tried to convince us so. Peter went outside at one point to take a look around, in defiance to the Spirit of fear we both sensed. And there is a real situation here of burglaries, not as bad as some other South American neighbours, but enough to cause missionaries and Paraguayans to warn us about it. We took authority over the spirit of thieving that has plagued this land, lifting up our neighbours in particular, declaring a freedom from fear for them also. Peace began to replace the fear, a comforting knowing that the Lord is greater! I began to think upon the Heavenly hosts that God has appointed to watch over us, remembering God's promises to never leave nor forsake us, and the role of angels as our guardians. I could almost see them, with my spiritual eyes, standing around the borders of our place over our house. Satan had tried to come, as a thief in the night, but now we were getting so excited about how powerful our God is, with His heavenly armies and began to worship Him! If any of our dear readers suffer from fear at night especially, I thoroughly recommend that you look up scriptures regarding God's protection for you, and His covenant promises, and then just as we began to do, see it all with your eyes of faith! And then thank God for it!
Morning came, and we were all fired up!! We could now naturally see outside, the birds hopping around the bushes, the mist lifting. We needed milk, so Peter and I ventured to the corner shop to buy it. As we waited for them to milk the cow (quite literally), we began to get to know our local store owner. We discovered she was a believer! I knew there was joy about this lady, I thought. I asked if there was anything we could pray with her for, and she mentioned a recent operation on her eyes that had left her with a lot of pain. We leaned over the counter and grabbed hands, squeezing in ministry to this dear lady before her next milk customer. Glad to have made this first connection in our neighborhood, we began our short walk home.
As we passed the village school, we decided to ask the Principle if our children could attend to learn Spanish quickly and find friends. She was very welcoming, and invited the children to come along that very morning! I wasn't sure if they would be brave enough - they have always homeschooled, in English! But they were, and after a quick breakfast with our delicious fresh milk we walked them to school. Peter decided in his heart, 'If I am leaving my children here, I need to share Christ with the teachers!' And he did. They listened and smiled and agreed, as Peter told them we are all sinners, in need of a Saviour....His name is Jesus Christ. Would you like to receive Him in your hearts this morning? You can pray with us right now, and make Him Lord of your life, it's simple but very powerful!' They looked at Peter in amazement, holding snacks and 'mate' in their hands. "Si, Si," they nodded, with expectant smiles. "Close your eyes, and pray this from your heart, out loud." And they did, all seven of them. These ladies were all Catholics. We hope and pray they encountered the Lord that morning, and have begun a true relationship with their Saviour. We look forward to exampling Christ as we are part of their community. Our children will be lights in effectively a religious or perhaps more accurately a secular environment. We said goodbyes to our brave children, putting our faith in God who had this planned, and we were just walking it out.
On our way home, we passed a neighbour who invited us to sit with her and drink terere. She talked of her religion and ours being the same, as we sat beside her mini temple in the garden, probably where family ashes are kept and prayers are offered to Mary or a favorite saint. When we finally had a moment to speak, we shared Jesus Christ with her. Peter asked if she had ever made Jesus Lord of her life, and asked if she wanted to pray with us? She did, and her son. I am thinking, 'Lord do we tell her she needs to demolish this idol house?' Then I remembered that Jesus ate at Zacchaeus' house, and just being with Jesus convicted him of his sinful lifestyle and he made a change, without being told he had to. Hopefully, we can bring this Jesus to her. She wanted to bring us soup, sharing with us what she had made that day: tripe soup, and then invited us back for later that day to talk some more. (My first time to see intestines floating.)
So, after a night of spiritual struggle, in one day we had met neighbours and prayed with about 15 people, including a known neighborhood thief! What if we had panicked, began our day in stress and given into the plan of satan? I believe we had a breakthrough for our area that day, which opened the door for God's Kingdom to come! We will walk our little cobbled, dusty or muddy streets, and build on these relationships, teach and share more of what it is to be in the Kingdom of light, free from the weights of sin and death. Pray for our catholic neighbours, that they may enter into true relationship with our Lord Jesus. And also pray for our few brothers and sisters in Christ here, that they may reach out to their community without fear.
On one of our exploring journeys of our area, we ventured up a very steep hill. We had been told of this road, which was built by Bolivian prisoners of war back in the early 1900s. Once you arrive at the top, there is an incredible view of Paraguay, and we wanted to see it for ourselves. It was a Saturday morning, and we were taking the road as a back route on our way to visit Samira and her family. Up we climbed, enjoying the fact that our vehicle was not challenged by the gradient, nor the unevenness of the terrain. We met a group of red cheeked youngsters, huffing and puffing for breath, taking an evidently much needed pause. We waved and smiled. It was not reciprocated...then we saw an elderly man with his stick, striding on, seemingly unchallenged by the hill. We offered him a lift. He smiled and accepted, but as he climbed in, a bouncy ball rolled out of the car and down the hill it bounced away. The gentleman hopped out, ran after it and got back in!! We were amazed. We let him catch his breath, but then introduced ourselves, welcomed him, and began a small conversation. He spoke little Spanish, but we managed. His name is Don Mateo, and he is 82 years old. He climbs up and down this mile and a half hill at least once a week. It takes him about 20 mins. I doubt we could do it in 1 hour! We fell in love with this precious man. We took him home, right to the top and spent a little time with him. He has a stutter, and loves to teach us Guarani, so communicating is slow and needs patience. But there is no rush. We are here for him. He picked some delicious clementines off his trees and started to peel some for us. He was so grateful for the lift. We told him we would come visit when we could. He was so happy. While he talked to the children, I told Peter we need to ask him if he knows Jesus, as he is closer to stepping on to Eternity. He gave his life to the Lord with us, right there and then. "¡Eso fue muy poderoso, me alegro mucho/that was very powerful, I am so happy!" We said our goodbyes, the children giving big squeezy hugs, and drove off waving! He looked so happy waving back at us. I knew in my heart the Lord had sent us to him, and given us a grandpa for those special hugs!
We have been back a couple of times since then, and we were able to give him a very special gift just recently. Last time we visited, we asked if he had a Bible he could read. He did not, so after looking and thinking what to do for Don Mateo, so he can hear God's love story for him, we were very kindly given a solar-powered MP3 player with a Guarani Bible recording on it by our dear friends at La Belleza during a recent visit. We were so excited to take this to him. As I picked Paraguayan lemons that Don Mateo wanted to give us, Peter sat with him on a tree trunk to give him his 'audio bible'. Peter turned the gadget on, and the Guarani Bible recording began to play. Don Mateo's eyes filled with tears, and a huge smile of surprise and joy flooded his weather beaten face. Had he never heard God's Word in his own language before? Was this the first time he could hear about our loving God? The amazement and awe about him seemed to say so. From what we could understand, this meant a lot to him. "I cannot give you anything to pay you for this," he told us. "No, you don't need to, this is a gift for you. You cannot buy a gift." Such gratitude beamed from him. Peter gently showed him how to operate the device, and Don Mateo listened and tried, with a child-like bubbliness. He pressed a button, and the Gospel of John started playing. He paused and listened intently, repeating several Guarani phrases of it to us. Evening was fast approaching, so we said our goodbyes, hugging our friend and telling him to enjoy listening! This was one of the most amazing moments of my life, witnessing this precious soul encounter God's Holy word! He may only get to hear it once through before he makes it to those pearly gates, but that is better, so much better than never at all!
We thank God for the privilege of finding those who are indeed "Poor in Spirit" and yet are finding their place in the Kingdom of Heaven. Thank you for all of your prayers and gifts to us!! Without these we wouldn't have met Don Mateo, nor our neighbours. May the Lord bless and keep each one of you, in Jesus' holy name!
Peter & Evi Ratcliffe