Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
Our children have been such a strength to us since we announced to them God's call on our lives here, last August. There have been times we have wanted to give up, but they have encouraged and prayed for us to continue standing in the Lord's will for our family, their childlike faith pouring forth. So we thought you would enjoy hearing from them too, oldest to youngest!
Daniel (16 years old):
Paraguay is an amazing place!
Living here has changed my life, and challenged my flesh, but it has also broadened my understanding of what serving God on the front lines actually means. When Jesus called us to this country it would have been direct disobedience to just stay in the U.S.A., and I also felt the urgency to be where God wanted us.
I was born in England, and when I was two, we moved to Israel. Five years later we traveled to the U.S., and 6 years later we were moving to South America. For me it was extremely difficult to leave my friends and home, but by then I had learned not to get too attached to things. I was also ready for more adventure! The untamed South American jungle seemed pretty epic to me!
When we left Oklahoma, I sold my horse which I had saved up for for 6 years and bought when I was ten.
It was one of the hardest things I've ever done, but God gave me grace to let him go.
As we stepped out of the airport on arrival I had no idea what we would end up doing, where we would stay, how I would go to school, or how I would learn to speak Spanish, but it just felt so right to be where God wanted me. To be able to live for and serve Him is such a privilege!
When we began to travel all over Paraguay I had to work hard to pack our roof rack with suitcases, but after about 10 times, I became a skilled and tidy packer. I really began to feel at home on the road after a while.
The cows, the horses, the heat, the flies, and the lack of AC were all part of the adventure! I'm so proud of my sisters for adapting so well and getting on with life through the difficulties we faced!
Everywhere we went, we shared the gospel with the precious people we met, and they happily gave their lives to the Lord. Tears fill their eyes and they are so grateful that we pray with them. Just to sit and talk and share with people about Jesus is an awesome experience! They often ask us for how long we will stay and are amazed to find that we are here longterm until God tells us to go somewhere else.
Just before we left the U.S., a really good family friend gave me a camera and backpack full of gear. That has helped capture epic moments, amazing scenery, and nature from all over Paraguay! Most of the photographs on our blog were taken with my camera. It has been challenging trying to take photos in the car or on the streets, but with fast shutter speeds and image stabilization it's amazing what I am able to snap. I try not to be distracting or disturbing around people though. It's tricky to hide a big camera or take a shot without anyone seeing me.
Not having a house was difficult for me. Sometimes I didn't understand why we couldn't just find one. I would have been happy with a barn or something as long as I could call it home! Because I'm the oldest and a guy, almost everywhere we went as we traveled I was put in interesting places to sleep. Like in the hallway, on the floor, on the couch, in the attic, or in a storage room. I would often rig up my mosquito net with my tripod to keep out the mosquitoes. It was fun, but I kept a flashlight and my slingshot within reach at night just in case some creature found me, like rats or bugs.
When I bought my horse in the U.S. his owner kindly took time to teach me how to work with horses. Only one month after we arrived in Paraguay, I had already began working with a young horse owned by some missionaries we had met. A few lessons later, I rode her with an English saddle. I was amazed how fast she learned. Many times horses that have not interacted much with humans are much easier to train because they haven't yet learned how to be disrespectful around people.
Not long after that, in the community where my brother was born in the jungle, I was asked to train a wild white stallion named Spirit that had never been handled before.
He had run free with his mob of wild horses on a spread of land since he was born. It took me about an hour before I could touch him on the nose, working in a square cow pen and deep sand. Soon after I was able to put a halter on him. On the second day, I had already sat on his back and introduced him to a lot of things he had never seen before. About 25 days later, over different visits to the community, I was galloping safely down the dusty dirt roads with perfect control. Spirit is now ridden easily even by children and young people.
I was so happy to find that I can still use the skill God gave me to help people with their horses in Paraguay. To be able to watch the sunset on a white stallion that was totally untamed before I trained him, on a mud road 1.5 hours from paved roads was worth giving up everything I had, just for that moment.
When the Lord led us to our home we live in now I was ready to have my own bed and yard again! The field we have as part of the property is big enough for a horse and a corral!. When we asked the owner if we could build a corral he was so happy. He said " I've saved up supplies for two years for a corral for my cows; strong hard wood from the north and boards as well as all the posts, and you want to build it?!" He told us it could be any kind as long as it could hold cows when he needed it to. If he had already built it, it would have been square, but for horse training it has to be round. So God had it as ready as possible for me. That was incredible! That two years before we came to Paraguay, God was already planning my future here!
A few weeks after we moved into our house I began to go to the local school. In my class there are about 15 teenagers, 14-17 years old boys and girls. I was the tall white guy from out of town, so everyone was very distracted in class! In fact, the teacher said that the class should just get to know me on my first day, so we played soccer and chatted in Jopara (a mix of mostly Guarani and Spanish).
The next day, the subject was dating. So I had to write 'dating' in Spanish down the side of my page and then write a sentence about my girlfriend for every letter of the word. There was only one problem..... "I don't have a girlfriend" I politely told the teacher. She said "No problem... The boys will help you get one." Then there was another problem... "I don't need a girlfriend" I told her. She said "Well you do because you have to fill out your paper."
Clearly I was in a different culture.
After class one of the guys took me aside and told me he wanted to talk to me. "Que es tu problema?" (What is your problem?) I tried to tell him what I believe: "I don't have a house, a car or a job I'm 15 and I live with my parents... I'm not ready to have a girlfriend!" and he listened. I thought yes! How's he going to answer that! But then he said "But Daniel, here it's different." 😑
On another occasion when I had the opportunity, I told the whole class what I believe about my heart. I told them that every time you have a girlfriend and split up, it's like a small piece of your heart is always with her. So if you have lots of girlfriends then you're left with a tiny heart. I told them I want to save all of my heart for my wife. Everyone was silent for a few seconds. Then one girl said "I like that. I like the way you think..." then she looked at the boys in the room and said "Why do you not think like him?" From then on my classmates have had a different attitude around me.
The youth here are desperate for truth. They need an example of how to live for God because they are surrounded by young girls who are pregnant, alcoholics and glue sniffers. Please pray for me as I continue to be a light to some of the youth in my community. I know I will have many more opportunities to share with them and help them get out of this destructive lifestyle.
I personally feel called to this amazing country, especially to its young people. I know God has as a plan for everyone's life. I know mine is here for now!
Emily (11 years old):
My Mummy has told a lot of the story, so I will just tell you some of the things that have most impacted me.
Paraguay is an amazing country, because of the people. They have a spirit of sweetness, generosity, love, and kindness.
God has blessed us so much with our beautiful little house. Our yard is wonderful. Parrots flying in the sky along side toucans some times. The sound of water flowing with butterflies dancing all around. Every citrus tree you could think of and an orchard of banana trees. In the year and a half of us being here (renting), we still won't have had enough time to give thanks for all He has given us!
Telling people about Jesus is very special. Almost everyone we meet, Daddy shares the gospel with! It is sad when people reject, but most of them really want to receive and pray with us. One time as we were leaving La Belleza we visited a very poor family whose 5 year old son had just died. Daddy, Mummy, and I were welcomed in by the drunk couple who looked so broken hearted, and needed Jesus. A while later Daddy asked them if they wanted to receive the Lord into their lives, the man started to cry as he said yes. It was special to be a part of something so amazing. One moment he was drunk, and then after praying he was a sober and gentle man. We will go back and visit them again.
Finding friends and going to school was quite an experience for me. You all might think I'm being a baby but they speak Jopara, which is a mix of Spanish and Guarani. Well, that's what they speak here. I may catch a few words: "You.………bananas……….hot…….…" "What?"...I am managing to speak a few words now.
I have amazing friends in America, but when I left, it was hard to believe I could find good friends here too. Well, God is so good! I have met lovely Tatiana, a christian who goes to my school! Their family are the only christians in our area.
I also have another friend called Barbie, who lives at La Belleza (were Joseph was born), she is sweet.
I love Paraguay. It is my new country. I'm so glad we listened to Jesus and came.
Joy (nearly 8 years old):
Hi I'm Joy, I love it here in Paraguay because the people are kind, sweet, and loving. I like the new foods here - they are all yummy!!! Jesus has given us a small but comfortable home. Two bedrooms, one bathroom, but a lot of land. I have one lovely friend named Liz. I miss all my friends and my family in England and in the USA. But I'm glad that I came here to tell people about Jesus!!!:)
Rebecca (6 years old):
Interview with Mummy
Mummy: How are you doing here in Paraguay?
Rebecca: I am doing good, thank you!
M: Do you like it here?
M: What do you like about it?
R: I like the people because they are my friends.
M: What else? Anything else?
R: Well, I don't really like the food at school. (She had eaten liver-higado, a delicacy)
M: What do you miss about America?
R: Everything! I miss the cats.
M: Why has Jesus sent us here?
R: To preach the gospel. The gospel is Jesus.
M: When we first arrived what did you think?
R: When I first got here, I felt sick from the plane. I was happy though, because it
felt like I was home again.
M: You know how everything looked different, what did you think about that?
R: I was shocked.
M: Are you still shocked?
R: I am sort of used to the streets now.
M: What do you feel in your heart when mummy and daddy are sharing the gospel?
R: I know that it's good what we are doing. Sometimes I get bored.
M: Has anything special happened to you since you got here?
R: One night, we had to go on a trip to visit a church that was a long way away! I
was lying down in the back of the car, resting, cos I was still sleepy. Then I heard
a song. I thought it was the radio playing. Then when we were in the church, I
heard the same song being sung in the church by the people! I pulled Mummy's
arm and said "Mummy! Mummy this is the same song I heard in the car!"
Mummy said "but you couldn't have ever heard this song before because we
have never been here!" (We realized Rebecca must have heard the angels
singing to her in the car in the Ache language, preparing her for what we
were about to experience in a powerful and passionate Ache tribal church…
We hadn't had the radio on, the whole way)!
R: …and one night I was coughing, (she had had a nasty cough for about 5 weeks),
someone touched me. I said "Yes Lord, I am listening." I was afraid it was
the devil, but I turned and looked and there was no one there. I told mummy
in the morning. Then mummy said, "Maybe it was Jesus." But I said,"how was
it Jesus?" Then mummy asked me, "Did you feel at peace?" I told Mummy
I felt healed.
M: Do you like the food?
R: No. Yes. I like terere, chipa, fried Mandioca chips, Milanesa(breaded chicken),
mandarins and all the fruit.
M: What was your favourite place so far?
R: La Belleza and our new home. I liked it when Joseph was born.
M: Have you got anything else you would like to say?
R: No. Bye-bye!
We thank you for all your love, prayers and support for our children! It is hard to convey how grateful we are for these, but please know that without them, we could not be here. Please pray for wisdom for us as parents on the mission field, that we would have wisdom how to continually nurture our children as they face many new and different circumstances. Pray for our children, that they will have the boldness and grace to continue to shine at their school. Thank you and God bless you all!
Peter & Evi Ratcliffe