(Peter's #3 Blog)
Warning: if you’d prefer not to get into the sad and messy reality of the devil’s tactics against unreached peoples – you might want to skip this blog…
If you haven’t already read our son Daniel’s account of our first church plant with Pastor Cipriano in Paraguay, read here!
A short time after the church plant trip, one of the newer believers from that community (who had recently given his life to the Lord at one of our outreaches) visited a neighboring community, about 6 miles away, where his half-brother is Chief. He had heard that the community was having a lot of spiritual trouble, and began to share with a gathered crowd about the goodness of God and what they were experiencing in their community. While he was sharing, he came upon some intense opposition.
This community has quite a history. For decades, it’s Chief (Mburuvicha Guasu – Great Chief) had also ruled over 17 neighboring communities and their chiefs, never allowing the Gospel to enter the region nor the Paraguayan government to bring schools and education. However this Chief had died 5 years ago, and the doors had begun to open. They had a small school now, but still the simple Gospel message had never reached their community.
As this new believer was sharing about God, several of the young people simultaneously began to manifest demonically. Displaying supernatural strength, they were punching, kicking, biting, screaming, grunting, spitting etc. as their family members/friends frantically tried to hold them still. The community was in disarray, not knowing how to deal with what was going on. Although an awareness of demonic activity is very common among the Indigenous (much more so than in the first-world), and a fear of evil spirits is widespread, they had never experienced nine young people in their community manifesting simultaneously!
It had apparently begun with one young girl who was manifesting demonically on and off and asking people where the grave was of a man who had recently passed away. (Sometimes demon-possessed people will dig up dead bodies). She was detained (tied-up) for several days by the current Chief. Some of her relatives from a different community reported to the Paraguayan Police that she was being assaulted and detained. The Chief was taken to prison. Then this demon-possession had spread to eight other young people in the community.
This new believer, somewhat overwhelmed by what he found and the desperation and necessity of the people and yet knowing that the Lord could set them free, made the 2-3 hour journey by motorbike through the dirt to visit Pastor Cipriano and asked for help. Pastor Cipriano called me, together we went.
Going on a ‘casting out demons’ trip isn’t on my top ten list of fun things to do (yet :-). It’s kind of like going to war – it may be necessary for the common good – but it’s messy and not that enjoyable. What is on my favorites list is seeing our all-powerful God set people free from the evil intents of the devil – the casting out part is an intense but necessary step.
Both Cipriano and I have had limited experience in ‘casting out demons’ from people. But we knew our God as well as the need of the people and we were compelled to ‘go’.
We arrived at the church plant community, to find out that a few days prior, the Chief (who was planning to accompany us) had gone to help at the distressed community only to be called back urgently because one of the houses in his own place was burning down (from a grass fire). As he was rushing back by motorbike, he had an accident that tore his foot open and was recovering from that so he couldn’t come. The house had belonged to one of the believers, and their only guitar (that they used for worship) had burned up too. It was clear to us that the devil was trying to stop any assistance getting to the community in need.
The Chief gathered another set of volunteers to go with us and off we went... On arrival (our first visit to the community), the Chief’s wife, looking very down-trodden, slowly opened up and began to explain the situation of their community that had not been at peace because of these demon-possessed young people.
We could sense the darkness in this place - darkness that had never been challenged by the Light!
We had brought along supplies to hold a Karu Guasu (Big Feast) event. With permission from the Chief’s wife, we sent someone to go and invite the people from the nearby huts. The Chief’s house would be the venue and his wife started giving instructions to her children to sweep the dirt patio (of all the twigs and leaves and trash) to prepare for the event, and then they all put on their 'best' clothes and fixed their hair. A Karu Guasu is a big deal culturally, and can be compared to Christmas Day or Thanksgiving (although it is only a plate of something simple like chicken and pasta). Normally a village may have an event like this once or maybe twice a year. It was very touching to see these precious people brush their tattered hair with their hands and put on clothes that most of us wouldn't even consider giving away to charity - but this was their best.
I then drove the truck down to the well with a couple of willing helpers to bring lots of water for the big pans. As we loaded up the truck, with the water supplies, I heard a commotion along the dirt road. The Chief’s daughter (apparently one of the nine affected young people) had begun to manifest demonically, screaming and hitting her mother and others who were trying to control her, as she tried to escape and run off into the forest. Not having an exact script to follow, I decided that I would at least get the water back before trying to help this suffering girl. But as I was reversing back to the road, she ran past my truck window throwing a ball of dirt through my window that exploded throughout the truck, thankfully missing me.
This got my attention! I jumped out of the vehicle and got a hold of the girl's arm as a few other people caught up with her and held her too. Although she was trying to kick and punch everyone, it seemed like either I had supernatural reaction time, or she slowed down considerably when trying to hit me. The attempts were easily avoided/controlled, although she did manage to spit at me with success a few times. I put my hand on her head, avoiding her bites, and rebuked the demons in Jesus' name. I'm not sure which language I used in the thick of the action, but she fell onto the ground into a trance, her eyes rolling. With a relative calm, I began to think, "What now Lord!?" Within a few minutes, the demons in her kicked-off again! We rebuked them, and she became somewhat calmer again. I told those with me to take her back to the Chief's house and that I would bring the water (I guess in a "the show must go on" type of way).
As I arrived with the water, the girl (under the control of the demons) began to manifest again, attacking all around her, grunting and spitting. Again, I prepared to rebuke the demons, this time getting a glimpse of the swirling darkness in her eyes. At that moment as she glanced at me, the demon spoke through the girl in a shocked voice in Guarani, "Ha'e imbareteve chehegui" - "He is stronger than me". The demons in the girl, seeing spiritually my position in Christ, had a scary revelation. This I think was the first time in the history of the area that Christ had come and that these demons had met any resistance. At that point, another young girl, and then another, and then another all began to manifest simultaneously. It now took most of the people present (that had begun to gather for the event) to restrain them all and stop them running off into the forest!
We went from one to the next and the next until each one was either at peace or in a trance. I then turned to Cipriano and said, "We must preach the Gospel, now!".
It struck me that these people had never heard the Gospel or heard of the True God who had power to set them free from these demons. They had a clear knowledge of evil and lived in fear of it, but had never been given the wonderful message of life and peace in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Never been given the opportunity to be set free from that fear and enter into rest.
As I preached the simple Gospel message, a complete spiritual calm came over the area! It was amazing! Each of the now four demonically manifesting young people were sitting still and fixing their eyes on me, waiting on every word of the beautiful message they were hearing in their language for the first time.
Almost the whole crowd gathered so far (around 25-30) gave their lives to Christ, and a few received healing as we prayed for the sick.
In the peace that followed we were able to speak coherently with three of the possessed girls, and they committed their lives to Christ too!
All the time, more and more people were gathering for the event and with them more of the nine demon-possessed, as each of them arrived they began manifesting! We rebuked the demons and the girls would become calm again temporarily, but then manifest again after some time.
The new believer from the church-plant community who had asked us to come there, had been watching everything and wanted to help. We were able to teach him a few fragments of theory in the midst of the 'action'! We got as far as telling him that the demon-possessed needed to hear the Gospel and receive forgiveness of sins and salvation through Christ so that the Holy Spirit would live inside of them and the evil spirits would no longer be able to indwell them. He jumped to the task with passion. Holding a manifesting youth at arm's length with one hand, and reading/preaching the gospel from a printed copy of the simple gospel in the other, he started to preach to the demon-possessed girl, all the time avoiding being kicked, bitten, spat at and beaten!
It was quite the scene as four or five young people simultaneously manifested! And all the while the pots were being stirred in preparation for lunch.
Later we encouraged the new believer that he could wait for the young people to become coherent again before preaching the Gospel and leading them to the Lord.
What a hero! What compassion he had to help those in need. What faith!
I understood that with the Chief gone (in prison), the next in authority would be the witch-doctor. I asked if we could go to see him and off we went. I knew that if we could win him to Christ, and if he as the authority would invite God into his village, it would change everything!
We headed down a muddy walking path with our truck, taking out a lot of brush on the way. After several minutes, we arrived at the witch-doctors house. It was the old house of the Great Chief that had died 5 years before. It was the spiritual stronghold of all these 18 villages in the area! There were a few normal huts as well as the meeting room for incanting evil spirits. We sat down with the witch-doctor's cousin (who was very friendly) and waited for the witch-doctor to return from the field.
As I sat there, before I heard or saw anything, I felt (spiritually) the witch-doctor approaching from behind. He apparently was carrying a lot of dark spiritual baggage. He came and shook our hands and sat down with us, with somewhat of an apprehensive and unwelcoming look on his face.
Cipriano told him that we had heard of the spiritual problems in his village and had come to help. He was so hard of hearing, however, that we had to shout what we wanted to say.
The witch-doctor began to explain that the situation was very bad in the community and then he said "Ore rosapukai ore tupã guérape" meaning "We are crying out to our gods!"
Cipriano began to explain that we had come with a message of freedom through the Most High God.
The witch-doctor then relayed to us that he had been walking in his vegetable garden a few weeks before and had fallen to the ground dead. He had left his body and was taken to a place where he could see through a gate to an incredibly beautiful garden, but he knew he could not go in. Then he returned to his body and as he raised himself up from the ground, he vomited a large bloody ball (some kind of tumor/demonic manifestation in his body?!?).
Cipriano told him that God had sent us to help his community and to tell them the message about Jesus, so that when he died, he would be able to go through those gates and into that beautiful garden.
He listened carefully to Cipriano, who was shouting the Gospel message to him. And he decided to call upon Jesus and receive forgiveness of his sins! Praise God!
I then explained that from now on, he would receive instructions from the Holy Spirit and from God's word, and that he shouldn't listen to or obey any more, the evil spirits that he was familiar with. As I told him that Jesus was much more powerful than any other spirit and he could rebuke the demons in Jesus' name and they would have to leave, he sighed in relief.
I went on to say that his community needed the peace of God that he was beginning to experience himself, and that if he invited the Lord into his community, all of the evil spirits and influence would have to go. He repeated a prayer, committing his community into the hands of God. We invited him to come to the Karu Guasu, and then we returned to the Chief’s house.
As we got back, the atmosphere had notably changed; it felt lighter, like God's peace was reachable for all who would receive.
By now, the food (which the cooks had faithfully been preparing amidst the mayhem) was ready to be served! The crowd had gathered (now about 50 people), we blessed the food, sat down and began to eat. Don't imagine tables and chairs and a nice frilly table cloth:-)! Most people were simply squatting on the ground and eating from some kind of container on the floor in front of them. A few of us had been honored with the tree trunk that had been partially felled and left in position to act as a bench.
Just then another of the nine demon-possessed arrived (this time, the ex-witch-doctors daughter), and began to manifest. I finished my mouthful, gave my plate to a neighbor (to guard it from the hopeful dogs beginning to swarm) and rebuked the demons, she fell into a trance and relative calm, so I returned to my plate...
Just over half of the people had heard the Gospel already, the others hadn't yet. We prepared to preach the simple Gospel message again and as we began, the ex-witch-doctor arrived.
As we presented the Gospel, all those present called upon Christ and received forgiveness of sins. Things for this community were changing dramatically by the grace of God!
We then prayed for the sick, and a few more people received miracles in their bodies - including the ex-witch-doctor!! His near-deafness was instantly healed in front of the whole community!!
I asked him to come over to me, so I could test his hearing. Standing behind him, I began to speak and had him repeat what he heard. My voice got quieter and quieter as I stepped farther away and he continued to repeat my words. A gentle awe spread across the crowd as the community witnessed the very one they held in the highest position of spiritual authority, the one who they themselves went to for healing and spiritual instruction, being touched and miraculously healed by the One, True and Most High God!
Feeling impressed in my heart that we should anoint them with oil (something I have never done before in that situation), I drew a symbolic line on the ground and explained that the one side (where they all currently were standing) represented the hard time they had been through, the spiritual darkness they had been in, and the despair they felt. The other side of the line represented the new season in God's hands, His peace and blessing. A new spiritual position as Children of God, walking in His light and His goodness.
Before I even explained that those who wanted to give 100% to God should come, be anointed with oil and step over the line, they all started moving to cross the line with desperation and hunger for the new day.
We asked them to wait just a little and explained. Each one then came humbly to cross the line, the elders instructing the young ones to come. Even the ex-witch-doctor and all of those that had been manifesting demonically came forward, some with the help of their parents or friends. We anointed them with a copious amount of oil as they readily came forward in hunger for this Almighty God.
We blessed them as we anointed them saying:
"Ñandejára mba'e ko ára guive, Hesu rérape, taupéicha."
"God's possession from this day forth, in Jesus' name, amen.",
All present reverently stepped over the line, some visibly felt '100 lbs. lighter' as all of the pressure, stress and worry fell away in the presence of King Jesus.
They then, in somewhat a state of shock (in a good way) waited silently and eagerly for more instructions, more about this all powerful Jesus. We explained that although we had to go, the Lord's Holy Spirit would remain in their community and within each one of them. He would guide them into this new season of peace and his presence and blessing. As we packed up the truck, they asked us how soon we could come back again.
The work being so vast and there being so few laborers, we couldn't promise when we would be back. But we did tell them we would return as soon as we could.
This department (state) of Canindeju has the greatest number of Indigenous communities in all of Paraguay. According to Cipriano, at this time, it has no international missionaries living there, actively preaching the simple Gospel to the unreached communities.
It was tough to leave, but also a huge relief! It had been a VERY stretching day, but we left with the knowledge of the great victory that Jesus had wrought in their community!
As the days and weeks passed, I found myself beginning to become more and more concerned about all of the new believers out there, praying for them and really, really wanting to get out there again (about 7 hours from our home and 3 of those hours off-road).
We had just been amazingly blessed with a newer vehicle and so the journey became much more do-able. It was time to go back, so I contacted several people to pray for us, picked up Pastor Cipriano along the way, and off we went!
To be honest, I pretty much expected a round two of the previous visit, with just a little less spiritual resistance. But as we arrived I was delighted!
They explained to us that since our last visit, the whole village had been in a peaceful state! There were no more issues with demon-possessions and the people were no longer in fear; Jesus was enthroned!! Praise God!!
The last thing we had said during the first visit was that God would remain with them and lead them in this new season with Him. That is exactly what the Lord did!!
He is so faithful! Even though I had begun to worry about them - the Lord had faithfully been working among them and they had been changed forever!
During this second visit, we did another Karu Guasu event. This time it was a joyful occasion and even more of the community received the message of salvation, called upon Jesus and some also received miracles of healing in their bodies too! God is so good!!
As we travelled past the other 17 communities in the area, we noticed a change in the atmosphere. The Lord had taken over the stronghold of this whole region and all 17 communities were now open to receive the Gospel! Waiting to hear this message of salvation.
I think of the scripture in Romans 10:14 & 15:
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
Thank you for reading this long yet amazing account! This was one of the most intense experiences yet for us in Paraguay, but it also has become one of our greatest victories by God's grace as we preach His glorious gospel message here!
If you'd like to 'send us' as we reach the unreached - please click here.
P.S. As we post this blog, we have arrived in the UK for a short but very welcomed visit with family - the first visit in 4.5 years! Our relatives are meeting Joseph and Naomi for the first time and there is a lot of catching up going on!! :-) Please agree with us in prayer that we can impart great encouragement to the Body of Christ in the UK during this trip. Thank you!
Peter & Evi Ratcliffe