Boy, it’s good to be back in a cooler climate. The past two weeks have been a challenge and a blessing for many different reasons. There is so much to tell you that I think it is best if I attack this in a few “shorter,” rapid posts than trying to download this all at once. Let me start by saying, “THANK YOU!” Thank you to everyone who supported me, Natalia and Jordyn with your prayers and with financial support. I can’t stress enough that without you, mission work would be impossible. God bless you for your trust in us.
Leaving on Friday, September 7, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew it would be hot and I heard it could be dangerous. The day before we left it was confirmed to me that I was indeed the first North American to travel with the fledgling MisiónGo organization into the Amazon area of southern Colombia and northeastern Peru. That did not help the slight anxiety I was already dealing with (because of the warnings of danger from friends and family). But, I knew mission work was not always going to be safe and easy so I prayed more and pressed on. I was really hoping for better conditions than what I was preparing for, Jordyn told us that we may be sleeping in tents inside of the church grounds were we were going to be staying.
Knowing that I didn’t have any of the usual camping gear that I use, to make myself comfortable, with me here in Colombia, my 55-year-old body was not looking forward to 2 weeks sleeping on the hard ground. But God is good all the time and this time He came through with spare beds in both locations. Although in Caballococha Natalia did choose to use a tent, I think for additional privacy for her, because the rooms had no doors to close and open windows. So she pitched her tent outside of our room in the covered porch of this upper living area.
So we arrived in Leticia, Amazonas Colombia. This was our starting point where we would prepare all that we needed for our 8 days in Peru. But that was not all. We used our three days before and two days after Peru to visit and encourage two local churches in Leticia. Natalia and I gave our testimonies Friday night at the church of pastor Carlos, Saturday night Natalia preached for the youth at the church of pastor Cristian and I preached Sunday morning. The two pastors are not only awesome men of God with a heart for their community but also very hospitable and friendly,
eager to show us their city. Leticia, located in the farthest southern tip of Colombia, is an interesting place. With open borders to Brazil and Peru it is an easy walk or quick ride across the river to visit either of the other countries. Jordyn also has a connection to this city as he once lived here and was the pastor at the Ministerio Evangelilstico Church where Pastor Cristian is now. Across the tributary from Leticia is a very small indigenous community called Isla de La Fantasía, yes, Fantasy Island, (for those of you over 40, you get it). This community is the location of pastor Cristian’s sister church where Nata also preached Sunday night. Jordyn is looking into purchasing a strip of land near the church to build a mini school of praise and worship and a location for housing for visitors and members of MisiónGo. Before leaving for home Jordyn and Juan Pablo (another MisiónGo missionary and friend of Jordyn) had a strategic meeting with the president of the community to discuss the logistics of such an endeavor. Something they have been praying a long time for.
Having our passports stamped for Peru we headed out Monday and made the two and half hour trip up the Amazon river by “rapido”, a twin-engine speed boat/bus, to Caballococha. Caballococha is a small indigenous community in Peru of only 4,028 people (1993 census) accessible only by boat. This is where our work was to be done. Natalia was to speak Wednesday night, Jordyn was preaching Saturday night and me again Sunday morning with Natalia wrapping it all up Sunday night, and evangelizing in between. With our busy schedule ahead of us we didn’t really need nor anticipate the excitement that lay ahead. After settling in Monday evening, and a long conversation with pastor Arlan and his family. Natalia was not feeling well, having a headache and stomach pains. Trying to deal with it the best she could we eventually turned in for the night. After several hours of noticing her having an up and down restless night she finally came into the room at 2 a.m. and basically collapsed on the floor crying saying her pain was very bad and she was throwing up blood. She said she wanted to go to the hospital and Jordyn and I quickly agreed. Waking up the pastor, we got her into the little moto carro and made the short journey to the hospital. Thankfully we got her right in and the doctor began. I have never been in a hospital in Colombia but I’m sure they must be a bit better than this little “emergency room” we were in in this small community in Peru. To this gringo, it seemed liked something out of a movie. After a long night of IVs and medications and making sure she was stable, Jordyn and I headed back to the church for some breakfast. She was finally released later that day and spent the rest of that day recovering. We never knew exactly what the cause was but thank God she was ok. That evening I headed out, without my translator, with Jordyn and the pastor’s son to go to a neighboring community to visit a church. Did I mention that Jordyn doesn’t speak English. I’m feeling a bit better about my ability to communicate in Spanish now so I didn’t really think anything of it. On the long dark road leading to the next community we approached a police checkpoint. My heart starts to race as I ponder the possible scenarios that could play out here. As they ask Jordyn to step out of the moto carro and begin to question and search him I’m beginning to wonder if the Gerber multi-tool/knife I’m carrying on my side will pose any problem with them. Jordyn explains that we’re missionaries from Colombia and the United States. I’m glad we made sure we left with our passports. They seem to be a little more relaxed as he checks out ok and they ask me to step out. As soon as they approach me I lift up my shirt and show them the Gerber and state, “Es una herramienta”, (a tool). They ask me to take it out of the sheath. I am wondering at this point if I will ever see my knife or civilization again. They look it over, I show them how it operates and the are highly impressed. One officer says he has one similar to it. I say, “yeah, they are very useful.” We exchange pleasantries and shake hands and they send us on our merry way. Thank you Lord!
With Natalia feeling better, the next two days we had opportunities to go into two different schools and share the gospel using the Evangecube in many different classrooms. I am always amazed at the ease in which we are allowed into public schools in South America. The teachers welcome us in and step out of the way and give us the classroom for about ten minutes or more. The children there were so beautiful, they were of all ages. From pre-K through middle school. They seemed very excited to have us.
They listened intently, answered our questions And they all wanted to receive Jesus as their savior! Many of them I’m sure are raised in somewhat of a Catholic environment I can only pray that they truly received Jesus. On Saturday our work continued as we hit the streets and the town square. Again using the “Cube” we shared the gospel with the people of Caballococha and invited them to a worship service at the church that evening where Jordyn would be preaching.
I had hoped for a better turnout than what we had, I’m not sure if any of the people we spoke to actually attended but I DO know by the reaction of some, that we made an impact on them this day. I believe God used us to change some lives.
In wrapping this post up let me add just a few things. This mission trip was definitely the most challenging trip I have been on. Haiti was close, because of the heat and the living conditions we had there. Also because it was a service trip and we worked very hard for five days. But something about this one was more so. Maybe because it was for two weeks. Maybe because of the oppressive heat with no relief inside or out, day or night. The lack of any modern conveniences and zero internet. Possibly it was the spiritual attacks that I felt while I was there. The things Satan can bring to your mind and the struggles that ensue can really be burdensome. That’s why your prayers are so important for us, for me! All in all, looking back, it was an awesome experience. The Amazon river is truly amazing! The people there are absolutely beautiful, and being used of God is a rewarding feeling that I will never grow tired of. Let me close with this story. My first day on the river, being who I am, and loving everything construction. I couldn’t help but wonder about the construction of all these wooden boats. Somewhat primitive but very effective. Who builds these things and how? How long does it take and what is the method used? Well, God being who He is, a giver of gifts, He gave me an awesome gift. You can imagine my joy in finding out that pastor Arlan not only works in an incredible woodworking shop but he and a couple of the men of the church just started construction of a ten meter wooden boat that they will use for mission work! Not only did I get to ask many questions and witness the construction but I was also invited to take a small part in building it! After hammering a couple dozen nails I jokingly said they should name the boat after me, since it is for mission work. After a good laugh, to my surprise, the pastor said he liked the idea and he promised he would do it. Maybe, God willing, when I return I will be able to take a little ride on the river in the “Randy”, haha.
To God be the glory!
to be continued…