(Written December 2014)
It is hard to describe things and situations that are indescribable, beyond imagination:
"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."
(Ephesians 3:20, 21 NKJV)
But that is what the Lord has done for us. At this point, I have to thank with all my heart all those that have interceded/prayed for us over these last few weeks, as I believe that we could so easily have given up and missed what The Lord had planned for us! So, on behalf of all of us Ratcliffe's, thank you!...
A few days into our time at La Belleza, I was offered a book to read about the rescuing and rebuilding of the lives of thousands of Mennonite refugees, many of whom found new hope here in Paraguay after the horrors of the first and second World Wars. In the opening chapter, The Lord showed me something that helped me come to terms with our grand entrance to La Belleza: the author explained that before he could be used by The Lord to reach out to the many thousands of refugees that he and his wife rescued, he needed to learn how to be receive help himself. He went through the humbling ordeal of loosing his briefcase containing his passport and money, as he was arriving in Europe from Canada to help in the war efforts (Up from the Rubble, by Peter and Elfrieda Dyck). I thought about us, and how humbling it had been to have to be towed in, having prayed and thought The Lord was bringing us to La Belleza to help the community of Mennonites. On this side of our car trial, we can now laugh, but more importantly, we can see that The Lord uses every opportunity to teach us life lessons that are invaluable for service in the Kingdom of God.
Since we arrived we have been lovingly accepted and cared for by this dear community, with meals and gifts of fruit (mangos, pineapples, bananas, watermelon, grapes) milk fresh from the cow and all kinds of Paraguayan delicacies, including armadillo stew! After baby Joseph was born the community volunteered to feed us every lunch time, which is their main meal, for 7 days in a row! Some will have given very sacrificially to feed us. There are no shops for many miles, and not everyone here has means of transport, so I often thought about each family giving to us these special meals, including freshly made juice, bread and home baked and decorated cakes, how would they restock for themselves? I had been unnecessarily worried about how I would feed our family, with no access to a store, and only a small fridge in the Casita.
As a family, we have been invited to visit various Mennonite families in the community, and been able to share how The Lord has sent us to Paraguay. On the outside we look very different in many ways, our clothing and skin colour, but they have accepted us as brothers and sisters in Christ, and so fellowship has been sweet. Church is different than what we have experienced before: the congregation sing beautifully in unison, without the use of instruments and the service is carried out in a very reverent manner. The clinic and church are perfect platforms for the love of Christ to shine forth, and already some from the surrounding areas have come to love and walk in The Lord because of them. Please lift these believers up as they continue to reach out to the locals with the Gospel, and pray that the seeds of love we have sown here will flourish.