But first, how are you all, dear family and friends? We hope your summer break has been refreshing and full of cherished memories. I still remember our family holidays to our favorite place, Holy Island, off the North East coast of England. We would pile our bikes, including my parents tandem, on top of our Land Rover, spend a couple of weeks of cycling, beach-picnics and swimming! Thank you Mama and Papa for giving us these precious memories!
I would like to tell you about a recent trip to facilitate 5 indigenous outreaches together as a family! (Sorry it has taken us a while to post something!) If you have read our previous blogs, you may remember Pastor Cipriano, a dear brother in Christ who God has divinely connected us with. These outreaches are the beginnings of a combination of our heart to reach the lost in Paraguay and Cipriano's vision for his own indigenous people. We had invited others to join us, and in total we were a team of eighteen: our family, Brother Sergio and his daughter Joana, our Paraguayan family friends, Justin and Elya, S.I.M. missionaries, and their young son Caleb, and some brothers from a local Ache tribe. Peter and I love to take others with us when possible, to expose them to the need to reach people, and to experience with us the wonderful joy in harvesting for the Kingdom of God.
Before we left, we faced the usual attacks from our old arch-enemy: heavy oppression, vehicle issues, family relationship challenges, etc. If we were to decide to do ministry when all our ducks were in a row, we would never do anything. We would just continually be trying to herd our ducks!
Packing is always an interesting one for me, as there are so many factors to take into consideration: weather that can some days be very hot, or plunge to cold and damp. We need to take sheets, towels, blankets, prepare for mud-stained clothes, take plenty for nursing baby and active toddler, pack snacks, basic kitchen supplies, water filter....the list goes on. Joy and Rebecca have a backpack, and cleverly pack mostly by themselves - they always manage to stuff in a teddy and a notepad. Daniel and Emily use a small case, and the babies and I usually share one. I always try to only take what I'm sure we will need, but this trip had so many unknowns, that I felt to throw in a few extra blankets and supplies. I am so glad I did!!! Our car looked so overloaded on our way out. I wasn't sure we would make it up and over the hills. With a top speed of about 45 miles an hour, I had visions of us just about to reach the top then rolling back down;). Lazarus, our 22 year old Land Cruiser*, had died many times on these trips before. Another miracle journey was about to take place.
We arrived early afternoon to our base for the next week - dear Pastor Cipriano's home. Our children have friends here now, so they came shyly to great them and give hugs. We wanted to do the correct cultural norm of sitting and drinking terere together, but before it grew colder and dark, Peter and I had to move our family into our 'casita' for the week, make beds and be ready for Peter to preach that evening.
The weather was cold and damp. I was glad I had brought all the bedding I did. We finally were set up for the night, and glad to have discovered the large flat spider hiding under one of the mattresses!
We joined our hosts for the short ride an Ache church, a nearby indigenous community. We were warmly welcomed, but because of the weather, few had ventured out. It's not like back home, where you can warm up inside if you get cold outside. These humble dwellings, usually made of wood shingles with tin or grass roofing, barely shelter people from the elements, and whatever temperature it is outside, it may only be a fraction warmer inside their hut. Many choose not to venture out after dark, but bunker down, sleeping on the dirt floor, hopefully with some sort of blanket, waiting for the sunrise.
They apologized anyway for the few attendees. It didn't phase Peter. We had come anyway, and he would share what the Lord had put on his heart. It was Shavuot, the feast of Pentecost as we call it, where the Holy Spirit was poured out about 2000 years ago on the disciples in the Upper Room. As we knew from the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit had fallen so powerfully on them, that many who had come to Jerusalem for the Feast heard the disciples speaking in their own languages. After realizing the dates of this trip, and hearing Cipriano's heart for this gathering of believers, Peter had prayerfully decided to teach about the in-filling of the Holy Spirit. Starting from Genesis, he guided them through a simple but clear teaching, and then there was a time of ministry, where the hungry came forward to receive from God. Almost all came out from their benches and lifted thirsty hearts to the Lord. It was a precious and holy moment. As the presence of the Holy Spirit filled the room, and these dear believers received, I sat and thought of what a privilege it was to serve our Loving King.
I love being mama and I love my children. But it was past bedtime for Joseph. I had fed him all the snacks. He just needed his blankie and bed. After trying to go to Daddy several times mid-preaching (in Guarani!), I hoped he would settle down in my arms. Emily thankfully kept Naomi asleep, while I tried to prevent Joseph's tiredness from distracting.
That night, as our hosts fed us 'galletas' (a type of dry bread bun) and coffee with their family gathered round, we felt at home, among family. We eventually climbed into our cold beds and snuggled to get warm. I was concerned for Naomi and Joseph, but bundled them up as well as I could. Despite all the ways that I was being stretched naturally, I sensed that the more important spiritual needs of my soul and spirit were being met, as we seek to go and obey our King.
The air was still cold and time had come for us to go to the site of the first of our 5 Karu Guasus, only a little ways down the muddy road. On our arrival, it was so touching to see the anticipation on the faces of these dear Ache people. The adults and leaders were already in full swing with the preparations despite the cold: wood was being split and two fires were built, a table was set out to chop and prepare the food upon, and the loud speaker was sending happy melodies into the neighbourhood. A couple of huge, almost glowing white grubs were found as they prepared the fire wood, and were lightly toasted then eaten after a small tug of war as to whom should have it. Obviously delicacies, but we weren't pressured to try. Thank the Lord.
A few things stood out to me about this outreach: one was the moment I was given my Ache name. [A non-Ache person, if accepted in an Ache village (usually after a number of visits), is given a name in the Ache language.] They had talked about what I should be called last night at the church, but they decided not enough elders were there to make the decision so they would wait. But as an elderly lady stirred the huge pot, she studied me for a while and then decided I was 'Kajaminígī', meaning 'small Jaguar', a type of wild cat. For me it was a very special moment - Peter already had his Ache name and I was jealous. But more than that, this meant acceptance and fellowship, a becoming one of almost opposite worlds. I was so happy, and honoured and my heart felt so full! (Peter was now jealous as his name is after a large rodent type creature :-)
As the children played in our host's garden, I mentioned to Carmen, P. Cipriano's precious wife, that i had on my heart to reach out to women here in Paraguay, specifically with practical help for personal hygiene and baby care. Her eyes lit up. It was a huge need in her opinion, and an open door for outreach. We visioned together with Elya, who had been involved in a project making hygiene care packages for women in Haiti, about one day having a leading lady in each community who would facilitate meetings just for women, in our newly built church to teach them sewing, health information and what ever else was needed. It would be an outreach in itself, drawing the community together through the women. We all were excited, dreaming together about sowing machines, material, health workshops and all sorts! God in His way and perfect timing would bring it to pass.
Finally, late that evening the boys returned and with stories to tell and mud slopped all over the car to verify them! They had traveled 200 miles, been pulled through a river of mud by a tractor, and had made some very key connections with community leaders for future Karu Guasus. We thanked God for their safe return. A witch doctor and friends had even given their lives to the Lord! Tired though we all were, the shopping needed to be organised and divided up between the next outreaches.
As we drove off, I thought to myself how easy it would have been to just drive on by those little huts and not stop, and then completely miss being Jesus love messenger for Rosa and her family. We didn't stay long, but in the short time, Love was poured out. What a privilege Lord to serve You!
Each community we visited, there was a sense of finally someone cares, we are not forgotten, maybe we can be someone. The smiles of the children as Emily and my girls blew up balloons, washed their little hands and handed out much treasured candy were unforgettable and so very touching - a reminder that loving someone is not complicated, it just takes going to be with them, and some time.
The stretch and strain these trips have on us are hard to describe, and impossible for those who have never been stripped of comforts to imagine. However, the results or the fruit far outweighs any sacrifice we make. On this trip alone we roughly counted 190 salvations, and witnessed 20 miracles of healing. Only God knows all of the fruit though, and I am happy to leave them in His capable hands. The vision is to revisit these places, and more, as the doors remain open, and continue to reach out to them, until a body of believers is established. We hope to then disciple our new brothers and sisters in Christ, build a church in their community where they can fellowship, and raise up leaders and missionaries who will go and make disciples of their own indigenous people, even to other nations' indigenous. Big vision, but a great huge God. And yet, even in His greatness, He never overlooks the dejected, the wretched and broken. They are valuable to Him, so much so, He is calling us to GO to many forgotten corners of this nation and find them, hut by hut, if need be.
We are willing to go! There are hundreds more communities waiting! Please help send us! We pray we can faithfully and wisely carry out the great commission Christ gave us, but we cannot go unless others support us. If you sense in your heart to be a part of this vision to reach the unreached here in Paraguay, please take a moment to look at our 'Send Us' section on this website which outlines the goals and needs to accomplish the task. Thank you so much, from all of us! And God bless you for taking the time to read this. I hope you have been encouraged that we all serve a truly loving God!
*As we post this blog, we are purchasing a much needed newer vehicle - Praise God!!!! A Huge big thank you to Grove Christian Center who made this dream a reality and to all those who gave. Lazarus will enter semi-retirement. :-)