#7 - Our Stable and Manger Miracle - 'La Casita' (the little house) at 'La Belleza' (the Beautiful), Paraguay
This miracle did not happen without a battle. Our journey to get to this beautiful place as it is appropriately named, was quite dramatic. It started off on Friday 5th December with a good plan: we had finally purchased our 'donkey' after much prayer and deliberation, had the necessary paper work done (it's a long process to purchase a vehicle here), and were eventually packing up our belongings and leaving the city! Despite the heat and long list of tasks to pull off our exodus from Asuncion (the capital city), we got on with it all with great excitement! The car was packed up, with suitcases on the roof, and orange tarp strapped over. We must have looked quite the sight! After several necessary stops for food supplies, gas and a new spare tire, we were finally heading out of the city.
Little did we know what kind of journey we were about to have. I am not sure I should go into the painful details of it all, but what should have been a 4 hour trip turned out to be 12 hours. We stopped at least 8 times, dealing with all kinds of car problems, including overheating and at one point flames from our battery. Peter and Daniel did everything they could to try and fix our car with duck tape and leatherman, but after several stops we realized we needed to be rescued! At about 1:00 am we made an SOS call to our host at La Belleza. We had really not wanted to ask for their help as they had just returned from Asuncion themselves that evening and would have been all tucked up in bed. But we truly were stranded on the road with no fancy RAC/AAA service to call upon. The girls and I were trying to sleep, and Peter and Daniel had done all they could to get our wheels rolling again. We swallowed our pride, and made the embarrassing call. Our dear Mennonite brother, Mr. Sanford, found us about 2 hours away from La Belleza, towed our car to a local mechanic and brought us safely to their community. He even offered us a tray of much welcomed food (in the stress of it all, we had not stopped to eat). Finally, we arrived at our little guest house, La Casita, at around 4:00 am, exhausted!
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.
Restoration to our hearts and bodies began from our very first morning. We had come with a peace and because of the gentle leading of the Holy Spirit, but with little idea of what it would be like to stay in a Mennonite community, in their guest house, and have our baby in their clinic. But The Lord immediately began rewarding our obedience with so many blessings, we felt very much overwhelmed by His extravagant display of love during this time. At La Belleza, the birds sing every morning, the crickets chirp at night, the stars are so bright and some nights it feels like you can almost touch them. The days may be hot, but there is almost always a gentle breeze. All around are hills, valleys and green grass and trees: a paradise on earth, to all of us who love nature and countryside. (There are a few things that heaven will be an improvement on, like the lack of pesky flies, bitting bugs, ants and parasitical worms...).
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.
During our time here, we have tried to learn from and contribute to this peaceful community life. Peter and Daniel have been involved in various handy man tasks, including putting in a staircase in the guest house. Daniel also helped weed the staple root mandioca fields, and found a beautiful white stallion to train. The children have made some dear friends, some of whom speak English, but they are beginning to speak and understand Spanish, praise The Lord! The church here had a 10 day bible school programme, that was in Spanish and Guarani, so our children can now sing a few songs in both languages! It has been amazing to see them find sweet friends, running and playing together with them, laughing and enjoying the countryside. Joy spent our first few daylight hours here up in a tree, after being cooped up in the city for so long!
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.
Peter & Evi Ratcliffe