#21 - Daily Grace!
Yet they seek Me daily, And delight to know My ways...
They ask of Me the ordinances of justice;
They take delight in approaching God. Isaiah 58:2
Dearest family and friends,
Another stretch of time has passed, and still the Lord continues to faithfully walk with us every day! At this time of year we remember the core truth of our faith, that our King was crucified, buried and rose again, conquering sin and death! Hallelujah!
I miss daffodils and tulips, as we transition here into 'winter', and I think of you all watching the beautiful signs of Spring! My favorite is the tender bright leaves of the chestnut tree, as they begin to unfurl...
Back to Paraguay!
We wanted to catch you up a little on what is going on here. We are more than half way through our language studies, and already are having simple conversations with our neighbours in Guarani. It has been and will be until we finish, a very busy schedule where we study all morning, then have the afternoon to practice what we just learnt. The children have been doing their school with Leah up until recently, when she has gone back home for a few weeks to meet her new niece and attend a couple of weddings. There have been meltdown moments, and we definitely have been stretched as a family keeping up with homework, regular household chores and upkeep, but we are making it! I keep telling myself the fruit of this season will be so beneficial, that it will far out weigh the challenges we face.
Early February, by the grace of God we were able to submit our papers to apply for residency! Little Joseph of course has his Paraguayan cedular, being born here, but for the rest of us, Peter has had to work hard to get everything in order. We had a delay in this procedure due to our refusal of entry into the USA back in 2008, but with a clear explanation of why that happened, and a couple of months of back and forth with phone calls, the office of immigration in Asuncion finally accepted the large pile of papers. We now wait a total of 90 days for processing... This has been quiet a relief, as we started gathering documents after having arrived in Paraguay, October 2014. It is hard to explain how complicated this kind of process is and perhaps hard for you to imagine if you have never had to apply for residency. Just imagine gathering up everyone of your important documents, then having them all translated, photocopied and authenticated internationally, add several photos, a bunch of cash and a few hundred miles, and then times it by 6! (I left out the heat and sweat and it all taking place in a South American country on purpose;)
So that was the happy note. Now for the big challenge we have faced over these last few weeks. We love our car. We are grateful it has four wheels and for the most part has taken us faithfully from A to B and back. However, since we bought the vehicle, it has been in and out of garages(shops), some of which the mechanics managed to worsen the car's problem, all of which have needed 'mechanic sitting' - translation: common phenomenon here, where one physically oversees that the required work is done for said vehicle during said time. So, Peter has spent hours, perhaps totaling days traveling to and from mechanics (hours away in the capital city), some weeks more than once a week. This has been a costly trial. Emily had a dream some time ago, and in her dream she saw our vehicle surrounded by a huge green snake. As she told me, I immediately understood that all this has been an attempt by satan to keep us from going. Jesus told us to go. We do not let the weeks go by without some form of reaching out with the love of Jesus Christ, sharing the gospel, and being a light. So we broke this attack against us going and we laid hands on our car and believe for a change in Jesus holy name! To date we now have our car back, up and running again, praise you Lord!
The purpose of this website is keep you all up to date as much as possible with what the Lord is doing here in and through our lives, however much of our daily life is as yours is - full of the regular. But we have unexpected visitors almost every day.
So as I'm cooking dinner, our neighbour Petrona comes by late one evening. The time is inconvenient, our food is hot on the table and we are all hungry and tired. The children sense Petrona wants to talk to me and gather up Joseph and run outside into the garden. She began: "I had said the other morning I wish I was sick so I could lay in bed all day and rest."
Petrona shared with me how that very day, she woke up, fed up with all the work she had to do (milk two cows twice a day, clean out the large cow pen, and two huge chicken coops, collect eggs laid by over a hundred chickens, wash and clean for a guest house, cook, etc....every day!). "I cursed myself," she went on to tell me, "and instead of rest I got more work - my daughter fell and broke her leg and my husband is now very sick! I have repented..." I was amazed. Even though I cannot coach my dear friend through all the trials of life, the Holy Spirit Himself had revealed to Petrona her error.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.
Proverbs 18:21 NKJV
She repented, and with bubbly giggles was sharing with me now she has more work! She was not angry with God; she understood she had opened the door for this. I shared with her that God can perfect every situation, and that He has good plans for her, not evil. I wanted to know how her faith in Jesus was, if she felt strong despite all this: "I give God glory and thank him all day long! I sing to Him, and I tell my husband you are sick because you haven't got Jesus - you should choose him and then you won't get sick all the time." This dear family has been going through so many trials recently, all since Petrona received Jesus so powerfully after He healed her from intense pain in her shoulder from all the milking. (That pain has not returned, and won't in Jesus name!). A while ago as I was praying for Petrona, I heard satan threaten me: Jose (her husband) won't receive your Jesus because ever since Petrona became a believer, everything has gone against them. Immediately I saw this. In their overloaded job of caretakers of a plot of land, their bosses treat them shamefully, and pay them so little for all the hard work they do. They are trapped though, as they have no other place to go. They are like so many Paraguayans, living from hand to mouth, vulnerable to the whims of their 'patron' (boss). "We have a piece of land, and one day we hope to build on it." Jose has told us. "We are tired of this life, always being taken advantage of. Never a thank you or a please." In my heart I dream and pray that Jose gives his life fully to the Lord, who will make him that man of God he is called to be, perhaps even a pastor, and they will have their own home and land.
As the car has been in so many garages, Peter has shared the gospel to almost all the mechanics! One precious account showed how hungry humanity is for the truth: a mechanic was so amazed by us leaving everything we own to come to his country to tell his people about Jesus, and live as missionaries, that he readily gave his life to the Lord.
Peter often goes to visit Don Mateo, the gentleman who had the moto accident. He is still working, able to feed his family. A while ago we asked him what is different now that he has Jesus in his life. With a clear and thoughtful look, he answered: "Now we have bread in the home, and peace. Life is better now, we are happier!" Just recently, Peter shared with Mateo about baptism being an outward display of our commitment to Christ that demonstrates what has happened to us on the inside. He is thinking about it.
Recently Peter visited our other friend, Mateo senior, up the hill. The last time we saw him he was sad. We weren't quite sure why. Then I saw an empty bottle of wine by his little wooden seat. He would hardly talk, and our time with him was a little awkward. We loved him, sang a praise song in Guarani and just small talked. Sensing a guilt about him, we shared a scripture about God's unconditional love. We ate juicy pinapple, gave him a box of groceries, hugged him and left. These acts of love feel so insignificant, perhaps I even dare to say it, so ineffective. And yet, we have to believe that God's love pours out from us and satisfies the thirsty! This last visit however was remarkably different. Don Mateo senior was joyful, and very receptive to the word of God. He still walks up and down that huge hill! We love him and try to be faithful with our visits to share more about the Lord. It is also very special now to be able to communicate with him in Guarani, and he is so patient with us.
We have been in touch with Samira and family, and message every now and then, but have not been to see her for a long time. We hope this will change soon.
Recently, we have met another special family. Young Joanna takes care of little Joseph every morning while we study, and her family invited us to eat with them one evening. It was a precious time. Joanna's parents are believers, some of the first in this area, but have gone through a long desert time, where they have been far from the Lord. As we ate with them, struggling to make conversation in our broken Guarani, they opened up and shared with us. We ended up praying for them, the Lord giving us visions and words for them. Tears flowed. There was a time of repentance and restoration of relationships that had been broken through it all. God showed up! We invited them to come and enjoy being hosted at our house, and while they were here the relationship grew more. I was able to share our story of how we came to Paraguay, and gave them the book (Spanish version) that Pastor Rhonda wrote. Peter and I sensed that they have an important calling on their lives to raise up the body of believers here; we believe they are key and so we pray for them to rise up!
For a while we had walked past a little broken down hut not far from our house and just waved to whoever we saw. We had been told by the family next door that they were bad people, drunks and liars and that the woman was a prostitute. I didn't want to go. And yet these are the ones Jesus spent time with when He walked this earth. Forgive me Lord. One day, as we were coming back from class, we decided to stop by. We were welcomed, and the lady said we have been waiting for you to come. We sat there, Joseph bouncing on my knee. The man was quite drunk and couldn't walk, and kept trying to poke at Joseph with his stick. Thankfully in his tipsiness he was a bad aim. I moved my seat away just in case. The lady, also tipsy, asked us to pray for her husband's legs. (Evidently she had heard we did this kind of thing.). First, we told them about Jesus, that he loves them, and came to save them. The lady, Isidra, told us she knew about 'evangelicals' and our gospel - her son had gone to a church and she had joined him one time. She asked for help to fix their leaning, broken down house - it was true, the next strong wind would easily blow it down. The man, Felipe just stared and had a look on his face that held so much expression of all his life's suffering written in every wrinkle. We continued telling them of Jesus love and forgiveness, and that nothing is impossible to God. We asked if they wanted to receive Jesus into their lives and have the power to stop drinking. For the first time, Peter was able to lead Paraguayans to Jesus in their own mother tongue, even though he had to use his notebook... We then prayed for Felipe's legs. He walked without his stick to the gate and wouldn't let us help him back. Since that time, we have noticed when we go past, there are visitors in their yard, and smiles and a joy about that place that wasn't there before. Praise you Lord!
Please pray for Don Mateo and family, that they would consider baptism, and seal their faith in Jesus Christ with this powerful outward sign. We would hope to host it here in our natural pool, perhaps with the involvement of the local pastor and church family.
Please pray for Jose to fully receive Jesus! And for this family to begin to walk in the blessings of God!
Please pray for Don Mateo senior, that he would continue to grow in Jesus, and live the rest of his days without guilt.
Please pray for Joanna's family, that they would rise up and shake off the ashes of past hurts and failings of others, and step into their calling for those around them.
And pray for this dear couple - Felipe and Isidra, that alcohol would no longer have a hold over their lives, that they would know Jesus love for them and by the power of God be able to testify of what the Lord has done for them.
Please pray for us, for strength as a family to continue to 'go' even when we feel tired, afraid or sometimes we just want to hide!
Your prayers for us and Paraguay are so important, and we bless you for your faithfulness in this!
Peter & Evi Ratcliffe