"...for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9
Dearest friends and family,
We have not written an update for so long, please forgive us for our lack of communication. The good news is during the long silence we have actually been so busy, and have amazing and wonderful things to tell you. In fact, I don't know where to start! Perhaps in a sort of time order, I will try to update you.
Daniel is now 19, and by the grace of God is walking with the Lord and has a living relationship with King Jesus. He has been under attack from several angles, but thank the Lord he is founded on the rock of Christ, and stands having done all to stand. He loves to go out into the jungle with Dad, and they make a great team. Daniel has also decided to stay with us in Paraguay, after finishing up school this year. After prayer and careful consideration, he feels called here, alongside us for now. He will be making more trips with Peter, as well as helping us with administration and communication. We are overjoyed with Daniel's decision, despite my concerns for him not choosing the traditional route of college/university. I trust God's leading in Daniel's life, and after much discussion, I finally realized I had been pushing for something I wanted for Daniel, not necessarily what was God's path for him. Daniel's horse training has been on a long pause after he broke his wrist, but praise our faithful Father, he is healing up really well, and is almost ready to take on some more wild buckaroos! Also, Daniel has a gift in photography, as you may see in the photos we post. Most are his work, and it is a real blessing for Peter and I, that we can capture in some way what the Lord is doing here. Daniel tries not to distract or be intrusive with his photography. So if you feel the photos aren't close enough or don't give the whole picture, you might just have to come and see for yourself;)).
Emily has grown an entire foot in height, dwarfing me, and is even gaining fast on Daniel. I can strangely fit her clothes which she has grown out of, and I am taking advantage of it;). She has expressed a desire to study midwifery with the goal of helping out here in that capacity. Due to our constant moving around and interruptions, she has some serious catching up to do for school, but again, we love the children to see and be part of what is happening out here, so school takes second or third place sometimes. Recently, Emily went with her Dad on a very amazing trip (which I will write about later), and was a huge help in facilitating outreaches to previously reached and one new unreached village.
Rebecca has fallen in love with horses, like her big brother, and her favorite thing to do is ride them, or just be around Daniel when he is training or taking care of them. It makes me so happy to hear her speak Spanish now more confidently, and almost daily her Paraguayan friend, Claudia, comes looking for her.
Joseph is growing up so fast, and is sweet with his baby sister. Our neighbour gave Emily a day old duckling, which is now very big, but is Joseph's favorite pet. He prays at night that it will be safe, and makes sure that it has plenty of food and water. Joseph is also our chief egg collector, and after several 'accidents', Peter decided he needed a basket. He liked to hide the found egg behind his back as a suprise for me, then put it in the fridge.
Naomi is a cutie. We are amazed at the amount of joy she gives us all! As a mama of all these precious babies, I am often so overwhelmed at how special each one is. Naomi does these little cheeky smiles, that we can't get enough of, and she knows it! She also loves all our pets. Her favorite is Smokey, our lovable Paraguayan mut. She likes to play 'horsey' on his back, and give him cuddles. He is so tolerant, thankfully.
I am also grateful for the friendships our children do have. Wherever we go, the Lord has given them friends that light up as we arrive. They run and play, and laugh and are making happy memories.
In amongst all of that, Peter and I finally hung our huge map of Paraguay on our freshly painted wall in our cosy living area. We can see all the places we have been, and where we are yet to go. The children love to look and read the names of places we know. Even Joseph is convinced England is next to Paraguay! So this map keeps us accountable as it is a constant reminder of every area of this nation we have been called to. On top of this, Peter was given by Pastor Cipriano the geographical statistics of the indigenous communities, and so with this information we know the areas that need reaching the most. Calendar in hand, Peter and I began planning practically how often to go and on which dates. We prayed and jotted an idea of the year down. The pace sounded good. We would begin discipling the new believers we had reached, with the material we had managed to have printed in the UK. (I was quite concerned when we had to pack all thousand of these, plus laminating paper and the laminator - really? Oh and a bee hive...). At the same time, we would continue to go to the yet unreached communities, guided by P. Cipriano as to which one next. When our new disciples are ready, they also will start going out and we will multiply the efforts.
Time came for Peter to pack up and get back out into the harvest field. Daniel felt he should go too. It was hot, and had been somewhat rainy. The girls and I helped them prepare, and kissed and hugged and sent our boys out. There's always some tears and a feeling like you are just about to jump off a very high and scary diving board. But as the car disappears down the driveway, and I decide to trust fully in the Lord, His loving and caring grace falls so gently on me, like a cosy mantel. Then I need to pass this joy and 'we can do this' to the rest of us who stay behind. We get on with our daily life back home, and look forward to hearing from them with great excitement. When my phone rings, we all dive on it at once!! It is often hard for Peter to stay in contact with us because of the far out places he goes, and the signal here isn't very good anyway. But the short updates are always so encouraging and help me to carry on at home. The fruit of this trip was 5 Karu Guasu outreaches, 2 of which were new communities, 115 salvations and 27 recorded miracles. For one of the nights, they stayed in a community which has been going through many challenges, and Peter and P. Cipriano were able to encourage and minister to the chief. God has used us through timely encounters like this, and they can make an eternal difference. Peter and Daniel came back exhausted, filthy but rejoicing in what the Lord had done. We love to hear the stories, so after their first night's deep rest and some good food, it's story time!! Daniel should be writing this part, but he is helping us fix our phones right now, and so I will try to remember a couple of the most impactful things he told us about. They had done a Karu Guasu at this one community that only a few months back had had 9 demon-possessed young people, 4 or 5 of which were simultaneously manifesting: rolling, kicking and biting as Peter and P. Cipriano tried to carry out the first outreach there. (See Blog #30 for this story;). So Daniel had remembered this as they drove up. What Daniel discovered was there was no more torment, only a true presence of precious heavenly peace. He also told us a touching, and humorous account of ridding along in the car to another community in that area. Their young guide and 2 other little passengers sat beside Daniel in the back, P. Cipriano as co-pilot. Daniel showed the young girl how to put on her seat belt, giving her the example with his own. She willingly copied, but her's didn't click. So she held it there, for about ten minutes, until finally she managed to find the place. Only when Daniel heard the tell-tale click, did he realise what had happened. It was one of her first times in a car. Peter later told Daniel that this sweet and complying young girl was one of those who had previously been tormented. Now she was guiding them to an unreached place, with joy and the Prince of Peace in her heart. If you would like to watch the video Daniel made of this trip, go to blog #31.
Locally, we are raising up young believers that every time we go to visit, we have such joy in seeing all that the Lord is doing among them. I have mentioned Zona Alta before; in the hills behind us there is a largely unreached area of Paraguayan 'campesinos' - country folk. Initially, if you remember, Peter went up and prayed for a young girl who had been demon-possessed. Herself and family received Jesus, and ever since we have been going to visit, having church out in the dirt, with chickens, pigs and bugs all around! It's wonderful. This is one of my favorite places to be! Well, almost every time we go, there is someone else added to the group, who wants to give their life to this amazing Jesus! It's not all rosy. We walk through challenges with them, the realities of living life in a fallen world. One time Peter arrived to take something to them, and found one of the young boys had fallen badly out of a tree and needed to be rushed to hospital. They would have had no way of getting the little boy quickly to hospital if Peter hadn't shown up. Also the newly believing mother was now able to pray for her son while he went through serious surgery, and could believe God for a good recovery for him. This mama shared her story with me recently. Through tears she explained how she was such an awful person, that she lived in a little room all by herself. She pointed to it from where we were sitting. "Wasn't I horrible?" She asked her mama and sisters who were sitting with us. They nodded and made agreeing sounds. She went on to say how she hated everybody and everybody hated her. She was full of bitterness, pain and sadness. She was always worried and stressed. And then she gave her life to Jesus, quite unwillingly at the time, but has never looked back. Again she asked her family, "Haven't I changed quickly?" They all confirmed. There were tears and laughter all mixed up together as they recounted some stories giving evidence of this once very unkind lady. Just the last time we were there, this same redeemed lady was crying out in her heart that they as a family don't make enough time to thank God and worship Him for all the good He is doing in their midst. With tears and deep concern she said, "We don't gather and thank God enough for all that He has done for us!" So far, 9 have been baptized, most of them at our place with a celebration to mark the special occasion! Truly the Lord came down and celebrated with us too!
The next challenge was the roads. They were flooded. In the effort to get there, John's 'chapa' or license plate was swept off, and they had to grasp around trying to find it in the dark. It was all worth it though. The Karu Guasu in a totally new unreached area was very successful: 9 out of 14 communities had gathered together. Many received Christ, and there were miracles and signs following! But the most amazing thing for us was what one of the Chiefs said after the event; "Leaders, and fellow Chiefs, I ask that all of our communities gather for the next one, that not one be missing...for we have never heard news of this God who created the heavens and the earth and all that is around us. Please visitors, come back again, and don't delay in coming! We want and need to know more about this God." Such hunger, such sincerity, in a culture that does not waste words, and only speaks when it is necessary. When we think of these words, it spurs us on to continue to go back to tell them more!! This is our challenge: the work is huge, and the labourers are few. So, we feel it's also key to raise up disciples who will go out along side us, then be launched into their own areas! Some of these gathered together on the last day of this trip, and Peter and P. Cipriano began some discipleship training with them, taking them through the first steps. It all looks so simple and uncomplicated; a few chairs in a rough circle, in which are seated future evangelists, pastors and leaders in Christ! As a teacher, P. Cipriano patiently coaches them and they listen and learn, and will go out and teach the same!
(A funny note about this trip is the story of the giant spider in the room and the two brothers (in Christ). It goes something like this:
"You kill it!"
Apparently, there was more than one giant spider:))
All the glory to God, but the boys, big and small managed to raise another beautiful church building! But what is more beautiful, are the people that will come and use it. We are not building and then trying to find those to fill the church, but the new believers are asking for us to help them build a place to worship!! So the formerly tormented and crazy place, is now one of the most peaceful that we know, and soon they will know more songs to sing and worship our great and mighty God within their 'local', church. A big and heart felt thank you to Mark, his son Barrett, and Justin for giving of your time and strength, and thank you also to your families who sacrificially let you go:)
For a while now, Peter and I have been praying about moving closer to where we feel the greatest need is for the moment: Canindeju. I would like for Peter to not have to drive so far, and stay away for stretches. Also, this work out there needs more hands on and frequent visits, until it takes off and we have raised up others. We are to be fire starters, the Lord told us as we prepared to come out here, and has confirmed since. And we love to raise up others, especially the indigenous themselves to reach their own people.
If any of you know us well, then you will know our house hunts are always a journey of some sort. This will be our 8th house, in 20 years of marriage this year. We are listening and waiting on instructions from the Lord. He told Peter clearly to pray in the Spirit and follow step by step the Lord's guiding. One of those steps was to visit an abandoned mission, not far in relative terms from where we are working. With permission, we stayed on the grounds of the mission base, located on the edge of an indigenous community. We wondered if the Lord was having us move there. There are a lot of complicated politics with this place, and very sadly the people have been left in the middle, with a threatening church split situation on top of it all. We managed to meet with the chief again, and encourage him in the Lord, but we sensed this place was not for us. Because we were close by, Peter took us to see the new church. On arrival, we saw a little boy running to the car. This was Peter's buddy from the building trip. He looked distressed and was so shy of us as a big family, so we left Peter just to talk to him. As a mother, all my instincts were to pick him up and hug him, wash his little round face and find something for him to eat. He was too afraid, and Peter's one or two minutes with him where just as valuable, I'm sure. I could tell he was comforted to see Peter again. At the church site, the kids and I looked at the fruit of 8 days labour, touching the strong beams and admiring the strength. This building was another here to stay! We then visited a couple of families, the second of which had been the most involved daily with the project. We had heard their daughter had been manifesting demonically at night. As we arrived, greeted warmly by the father, he told us the mama had taken their daughter to the witch doctor. We were too late, we thought. But no, praise God for His goodness, the doctor wasn't at home, so they returned to find us there. The mama was so happy to meet us. It was so very touching! She and I wanted to hug, but the Mby'a tribe don't. Instead we just smiled for a while at each other and laughed. This was the lady who had brought the hard working team offerings of food. I told her how grateful I was. Now her daughter was under attack, and they had not been able to sleep as a family because of it. They all sleep together, so there is no getting away from any disturbances. We offered to pray for her. They were very happy. We listened to the description of what was going on. Typical of satan's cowardly work: at night, great fear comes upon her and she screams and wails. Shyly, the young girl sat with us, as her parents told her we were going to pray for her. She wasn't sure. They reassured her. She sat, and as un-intimidatingly as we could, by the grace of God we rebuked the tormenting demon in Jesus Holy name. We blessed her and declared she was free. She began to try to sing, a few little sounds came forth, and the parents told us she wants to sing to God but doesn't know the words. So we all sang a couple of Guarani worship songs. Peace and joy fell on us all. They brought out a plate of recently harvested honey, literally 'bees knees' style, as my Daddy calls his own honey. It tasted delicious, and so rich in minerals. We then were handed a cup - we weren't sure if it was to drink or wash our sticky hands off. So not to offend, the case being there was a shortage of water, we drank. After we laughed and chattered some more, we told the young girl that the next time she feels any fear, she just needs to sing and remember the evil spirit has no more power over her. It was time to go. I always seem to leave a piece of my heart after meetings like these. They become my family. I sometimes wonder how big God thinks my heart is, then I realise it is actually His that I am passing out.
Our friend, Andy Bowen was about to bring a team from USA to minister here. He had asked Peter if part of their time could be along side us, out in the harvest field. The trip was arranged. Emily really wanted to join her Daddy on this one. She is my other set of arms and mummy number two for Naomi and Joseph. However, I think of God's plan for her life. Emily has an amazing gift with the children in these communities. Her smile seems to fill them with love. So the day came for goodbyes again. I took a gulp and released my daughter. It would be the first time she would sleep in an unknown situation, alongside other young ladies I wouldn't know. I had heavenly reassurance that God was watching over my precious daughter. She had stayed at Hermana Carmen's place many times before. This was big for the both of us. Knowing some guarani, and being familiar with what we do, Emily was able to assist the team of young people who had come, helping them pull together some of the logistics of the Karu Guasu outreaches and kids ministry of balloons and songs. What was very touching about this team who had traveled far to come and join us for a couple of days, was that they experienced first hand the love and goodness of God being poured out on the unreached. Thank you to all those who came. God bless you!
I have been living in a more graced and peaceful way these last few weeks, thanks to the family adjustments we made. Peter was heading out again, and this time we were stronger as a couple. This was essential for this trip as I will explain later. The goal for this adventure was to visit and strengthen an already reached community, put the roof on the last new church, and then to take the gospel to another unreached place. Peter prays and takes time to plan these trips. They require serious logistics, as any tools, food or equipment need to be brought in. We use big black boxes that you will see in the pictures loaded on our roof top. Budgets are made, plans are complete and we set off, often without the full amount in advance to complete the trip - but God is always faithful. Our call to Paraguay was confirmed through a dream, something supernatural. We don't plan to make our vision and what we do here fit a natural spread sheet.
There are always first times for everything, but I think God sees us and our limitations very differently than we see ourselves. I don't like to drive, and haven't driven much here, and definitely not on the dirt roads. I do pack up often when we travel, but not for what would be a surprise camping trip. So, I had never driven this far before, leaving the house all locked up, by myself. And yet, I felt such grace and strength from the Lord Jesus to do so. And I believe I wouldn't have been in this place had Peter and I not taken time to repair our marriage. I made a list, and began gathering. We didn't leave as quickly as I had hoped, nor did we arrive as early as I wanted, but we eventually got there. I drove 175 miles, 50 of these on dirt. At one point, my heart sank as I faced a pile of freshly tractor-plowed dirt. They were preparing to lay the tarmac. Then I realised there was a narrow option to my right. This is where the big trucks play chicken with all other traffic. I had put deodorant on that morning, but I began to smell something. Emily was my co-pilot, support team and map reader. Without her encouragement and help, I couldn't have made it. I am so thankful for her maturity. Instead of being annoyed that we were again losing school time for the work of the Gospel, Emily got busy packing and taking care of her younger siblings, then in the car, guided and supported me. Emily recognized more of the road than I did having traveled there recently, so when maps and connections ran out, Emily was looking out for memorable markings or sights along the way. We eventually came to the 'big gate' and the 'bend to the right'. We were now looking for the opening in the tall grass, and the church building. We had made it! Daniel was on the ladder, and Peter came to greet us. It was 4pm. The time when all these tiny noisy flies come out and really bug you, like gnats. I could tell the team was tired and had had a hard day. They were figuring out how to build the gable end for this church. My daddy is the architect for these 'locáls', community buildings, and shared with us how he feels such grace every time he designs something for them. However, Peter has to take the intricate, detailed drawings and make them for real, using limited tools and usually massive fresh cut jungle wood! There is also the whole dynamic of leading his often mixed team of English, Spanish and Guarani speakers. These drawings are all creased and stained now, after being used a few times over. They haven't just remained a dream or another far off goal, despite all the challenges. Often Peter has had to adapt certain aspects, and when I arrived they were in the middle of figuring an adaptation out. The end result, a day later, was stunning, as you can see from the photos. Thank you so much to my amazing Daddy, who has done all of this as a big gift from his heart to Paraguay. Your skill Papi will shine in the Paraguayan countryside for many moons, giving glory to God!
Time for supper, (way past it really). Peter filled a pot with water and tonight's menu was 'porridge'. My daddy would take us camping once a year, and I have such fun memories of those times, and porridge definitely was on the menu. P. Cipriano had never eaten this before, and actually truly the Holy Spirit guided me to bring this staple of ours. He was feeling weak and tired, but the porridge really strengthened him and he slept deeply. He was very thankful the girls and I had come.
Morning came very quickly it seemed, and with it a fresh breeze. The cockerels were a lot noisier through our thin tent, and we could here movement outside from the Chief's little hut. Cipriano was stoking up the fire, and we gathered to pray and thank God for this new day together. We asked Daddy in Heaven to give Peter wisdom to help get this project on the way. Breakfast was more porridge, which was less exciting this morning, so we had plenty of leftovers to share with our friends. I had scooped out and prepared some and handed it to a few of the precious local children, some of whom had little siblings on their hips. They looked at it and some tried it. One child finished it all up, but a few just tried and handed it back. I was told, 'ndahei', it's not tasty. I laughed, appreciating their honesty. I perhaps didn't put enough sugar in:)
Soon, the workers were ready to start off again. Tools were gathered and plans discussed and slowly but surely the project advanced. The hurry and necessary efficiency of our culture in Peter and I, is so tested by the cultural opposite here. We try to adapt and not be impatient, slow the pace of our walk down, and keep our conversation of what's needed to be done relaxed, not pressured or stressed. This takes Holy Spirit given grace, and self-control. Peter is used to it now, but he had to remind me a few times, "smile Evi, it's all okay." And for our children, to speak gently to one another, as our little onlookers might think we were speaking meanly of them. Doing washing up and preparing lunch were my logistical challenges, not to mention keeping Naomi and Joseph safe with chainsaws, screws, open fire and dust as constant temptations. Emily and Joy helped me keep them safe, and also helped chop our veggies for 'gizo', stew Paraguayan style. We had plenty of food so I was so happy to hand out something hopefully tasty to the families around us. Empty and rinsed plates and pot were handed back to me, with big smiles. That said it all to me. It will never get old to see how they squat together and share the food. There's no squabbling, or grasping between them. The older ones feed the younger patiently. I had worried I wouldn't be able to make enough food when the little local store had no onions and only a few wrinkled peppers. God always blesses and it multiplies somehow! The work continued into sunset, at which point there was a suggestion of a wash at the river. Daniel took us, but because of a dry season, the river looked more muddy than we were. Daniel still felt he had to get 'washed' after his fourth day out there. Emily braved it too, but the rest of us just scrubbed our feet.
I spent a very precious day with Hermana Carmen's daughters, and had deep conversations. The children all played and laughed together. The following morning, Peter and P. Cipriano sat down together and had an important planning meeting of what has been accomplished so far, and what our next goals should be. P. Cipriano listed the places we have been to and the ones still waiting. Their names grab our heart. Time came for goodbyes. We love P. Cipriano's family so much, and feel close to them, that it is not easy to part. We hope to move a little closer and spend more time with them. It is a privilege to work along side them for our King!
From all of our heart, we would like to say a huge thank you to all who have been part of this work, financially and prayerfully. Hopefully one day we can thank you in person, but the greatest and most precious moment will be when Jesus Christ himself will thank you and then show you the souls that are in Heaven because you helped to send us!
The work is still huge, and the other night Peter and I calculated statistically that at the rate we are going, it will take us 22 years to reach the several hundred Indigenous communities in Paraguay that are still waiting to hear the Gospel! We need to speed up! We need a bigger team! We must keep going! Jesus is coming soon!
Thank you for taking time to read our update!
May the Lord richly bless you!