Monday, July 25, 2016

Witchcraft 101

"Psst!! Psst!! 
What is her daughter rubbing all over her?"

Our family, along with a group from church, gathered in the home of a woman dying of cancer to offer our prayers, support and love. As requested by the dying woman, we took our places around her mattress, which laid upon the dirt floor, and began lifting our voices in song.  Her immense pain was felt by all as she trembled and moaned. The louder she wailed in agony, the louder we sang.  As we laid hands on her I prayed for relief from the tremendous suffering.  I felt inspired by the Holy Spirit to beg the Lord to break through the walls that had been built around her heart which were keeping Him out.  I imagined His love and mercy washing over those walls and flooding her with tranquility.

Sample Potions

While we were praying, her adult daughter began rubbing oil on her abdomen and legs where the cancer was attacking most aggressively.  As she applied the salve, the daughter repetitiously mumbled and stared off hopelessly.  I didn't think much of it until I noticed the label on the bottle.  It was a potion from the witch doctor.

The nature of my prayers changed instantly as I became aware of the spiritual battle that was occurring right before my eyes.

When the group arose to leave I was unable to move from her side.  I clenched her hand and kissed her head.  I was afraid to leave her in such a vulnerable state.  I reluctantly asked the daughter if I could place a miraculous medal and a hand-crafted crucifix around her mother's neck.  Praise God, she agreed and helped me lift her head.  As I explained the significance of the two items the daughter listened intently...for a moment.  Then, she returned to the bottle of lotion and generously applied it to all the areas that we had touched.  Before leaving I asked if we could return the following day for prayer.  Reluctantly, she agreed and I quietly walked out.

When our group arrived the next night there was a buzz in the air.  Small groups of people were huddled together in front of the house. They whispered.  They pointed.  Finally, someone approached us and explained that her adult children had come from Lima with an "expert witch doctor" who was in the process of curing her.  They insisted we left as to not upset the visitors, but I begged our group to stay.  Fervently, we prayed the rosary outside of their front door and begged Our Blessed Mother to intercede on her behalf.  The battle continued and the devil's presence was tangible.

Later that night we learned that the family paid the witch doctor 10,000 soles, which is the equivalent of about 200 days wages in the local rice fields.

Obviously, the witch doctor's potions did nothing to stop the cancer from completely taking over and everyone knew the end was near.  Although our friend could hardly speak, she managed to communicate her desire to see a priest before she passed.  Discouraged, betrayed and hopeless, her children acquiesced and allowed us to visit with Padre Paco, our local priest.  We filled her room with songs of praise. We surrounded her with love and prayed altogether.  Padre Paco was able to hear her last confession, give her communion and anoint her.  Despite her excruciating pain, she suffered quietly and felt ready to die...which was mystifying to her children.

Two days ago our friend died.  Shortly afterward her children sent word and asked if we could lead the family in prayer, which we were honored to do.  As part of the funeral service (in their home) we prayed the rosary altogether.  As I walked around passing them out, I humbly offered rosaries to the sons who were visiting (again) from Lima.  Without making eye contact, they both accepted my offer and clenched the rosaries in their fists.

Today, we joined the family at the cemetery to bury their mom.

We waited patiently with the community as her final resting place was prepared.

Before they lowered her into the ground they asked if anyone had any last words.

I acknowledged my limited ability to speak Spanish and asked if I could pray over the casket in English. They agreed and made a path to allow me into the inner circle.

After I was done praying I looked up and 
saw her children huddled together... 
...wearing their rosaries.  

Through their tears 
they smiled at me and said, 
"Thank you very much!"   

Through my tears 
I looked up to heaven and said, 
"Thank YOU very much!"

Witchcraft and occult activity are not things of the past that kids read about in their history books.  They are a very real part of life that people experience in their homes and kids encounter in the schools.  Recently, a young man that we've gotten to know well shared a personal testimony.  He explained that when his aunt was dying of cancer his grandfather sacrificed her and used her blood in satanic ceremonies. We are currently praying for his safety because the same grandfather is battling for his custody and threatens to sacrifice him as well.

Please join us in praying for an end to witchcraft in Peru.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Youth Group Caught on Fire

The hearts of the young adults in our region have 
caught on FIRE for Jesus, 
praise be to God!!!  

Madre Eugenia, a young nun from Chile, serves the youth in our area.  About 18 months ago she began organizing bonfires for the young adults which include praise and worship, scripture, reflections/ meditations, as well as games and light refreshments.                                                                           Each time a bonfire is scheduled the youth in the surrounding pueblos are encouraged to attend. Over a hundred kids travel upwards of two hours (each way) on camionetas, motos and motorcycles to join the fun.  When possible, we load up our van and shuttle kids from San Hilarion so that they can enjoy this time of fellowship.  

A few weeks ago our community hosted the 'fogata" (Spanish for "bonfire").  Using rocks and sawdust, the kids created an enormous cross inside of an even bigger heart.  The silence of the night erupted in cheers when the heart and cross were set ablaze.   

During the "fogata" Chris and I gave a talk on recognizing the presence of the devil in our daily activities.  We had groups of kids shout words  like "compassionate", "frustrated" and "jealous".  Then, everyone else had to indicate who wants us to feel that way by yelling either "Jesus" or "Diablo" (which is "devil" in Spanish).  It was both insightful and fun.

We humbly ask for your prayers as we continue to work with the nuns to foster friendships between kids who love Jesus.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Make DISCIPLES of All Nations!

I've read Matthew 28:19 so many times:

"Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations."

At times, as I've read this passage, the word "GO" has stuck out to me. It says "go" and so we went.

Other times when I've read this passage the word "MAKE" jumped off the page.  To me, "make" signifies intentional devotion to a cause with a desired end in mind.

"ALL NATIONS" resonates with me; especially as we work hard to bring the Good News to the people of Peru.

Never before has the word "DISCIPLES" struck me, but today it did.  Let me explain...

A couple weeks ago Michael and I had some time alone to walk along the river and talk.  Curious what he thought about our ministries, I asked open-ended questions to get him talking.  "Jesus has been telling me that we're supposed to go out to far away pueblos where there aren't missionaries and introduce them to Jesus."  Michael continued to explain that we don't have time in our schedule to visit far away pueblos regularly, but emphasized the importance of "introducing them to Jesus".  I suggested that we take this idea to the rest of our family and try to make it a reality.  Four hours later, while at one of the pueblos we visit weekly, a woman asked if we could go with her to another pueblo, which is far away. Before we could respond, she acknowledged our busy schedule and assured us that it wasn't necessary to visit regularly.  She just wanted us to go once and "introduce them to Jesus".  The Holy Spirit was definitely at work.

The pueblo our friend wanted us to visit is in another region.  This is slightly problematic because it is overseen by different priests than those who invited us here to Peru to work.  

Last Sunday, we visited Nuevo Mundo knowing that it would likely be our only chance to evangelize the people there.

Wanting our visit to be impactful we brought along reinforcements.  In addition to our own family, we brought our friend who initially invited us to go, some of her friends and several people from San Hilarion.  In total, we arrived 21 strong.

As we lifted the roof with songs of praise and dove into scripture it occurred to me that we don't just need followers in Nuevo Mundo, we need DISCIPLES.

So what's the difference?

Followers believe in the saving redemption of Jesus, but they don't necessarily talk about their faith with others.  Disciples, on the other hand, desire to make more disciples.  Disciples want to spread the Good News.  Disciples understand the urgency of our mission and become part of the initiative.

The bombo drum is a traditional
instrument of Peru. 
As our time together was wrapping up, the Holy Spirit jumped in and took the wheel.  Although our praise and worship was fulfilling and the bible study was thought-provoking, it wasn't enough. The Holy Spirit knew that the people in Nuevo Mundo needed something else.   Through His inspiration, our conversation turned to practical strategies for developing the community of believers.  Currently, they have very few followers (15 to be exact) and extremely limited resources.  Without a church, their only option is to meet in a small, dark community building. They have only a handful of songbooks and a couple bibles.  Eager to help, we gave them the 9 bibles we had and promised to send songbooks with our friend the next time she visited.  In the meantime, they could have our bombo drum and tambourine to enhance their praise and worship.  Their eyes twinkled.  We discussed the importance of praying together and developing their own faith so that they could be disciples.  We explained that Nuevo Mundo doesn't need us; it needs them.  As disciples of Jesus, they can spread the Good News and build up their community.

Unsure of what physical aid we'll be allowed to provide, we are committed to supporting them spiritually.  We will continue to pray for them and ask that you do the same.

As we were driving home our van rang out with songs of praise.  Although my mouth followed along with the songs, my mind drifted to Matthew 28:19:

"Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations."

I looked around the van at all of the smiling faces...the faces of Jesus' future disciples...

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Mice, Lice and Parasites - OH MY!!

Lions, Tigers 
and Bears 
OH MY!!!

As Dorothy and her faithful companions ventured through the woods they felt afraid; afraid of the known, but perhaps more afraid of the unknown.

What would they encounter 
and how would they protect themselves???

The same questions haunted us as we prepared to leave for our first mission post in the northeast region of Peru.  

We envisioned life in the Amazon jungle to include daily encounters with large, venomous snakes...

...and cats the size of grown men hoping to enjoy our children for a snack before dinner.  Little did we know that what awaited us were only mice, lice, cockroaches and parasites.

Mice, Lice and Parasites
OH MY!!!!

Before entering missions I felt entitled to live without mice and cockroaches.  I knew that they existed in every community on the planet, but I just didn't want them living close to me.  The thought of sharing my space with them was horrifying; so, I took all the "necessary precautions" to ensure a pest-free life.   

A couple weeks ago I discovered a mouse in our bedroom.  He had made a cute little nest behind the bamboo shelf where we put our clothes.  I scooped him up and let him go outside.  A few days later he returned "home" to settle back into his daily routine.  That same week I opened a box that we keep under the sink and found cockroaches.  Before, I would have scrambled to get rid of the nasty bugs as quickly as possible, but this time I simply laughed, noted one's large size and thought about how much our missionary friend's son would like to have him as a pet.  

After warming up to the idea of living with mice and cockroaches the Lord stretched us a bit more.  He blessed us with lice.

Like Dorothy, who was deathly afraid of lions before meeting one, I abhorred the thought of having lice.  Our family never had lice while living in the States, but it seemed like the worst thing ever.

After realizing that we had a situation on our hands we went directly to our Peruvian friends and asked for help.  They confirmed our suspicion, invited us into their home, told us to sit down and began picking through our hair.  We were taught how to remove each individual bug and kill them by "popping" them on the arm of the chair.

As they helped us find the tiny creatures they assured us that having lice is no big deal.  In fact, they said, most people have at least a little bit.  After our informal training session, we were qualified to work on each other.  Over the next several days we spent hours (and hours) picking through each other's hair to find our unwelcomed guests and "pop" them.
When we were finally able to declare a lice-free house we all agreed that it really wasn't a big deal.  In fact, we felt thankful to be able to better understand those with which we live.  Ever since we arrived here in Peru we've seen people sitting outside their homes on stools picking through each other's hair. We never understood what this was all about, but now we do.

As if mice, lice and cockroaches aren't enough, the Lord has blessed us with parasites as well. Before, we sympathized with our friends and neighbors who experienced extreme fatigue and abdominal pain after eating.  Now, we can empathize with them.  Praise God we have the medicine we need and will start our treatments tomorrow.

Before we came into missions we were like Dorothy who wondered what she would encounter and how she would protect herself.  By the grace of God, we no longer worry about what we might encounter and have full confidence that Our Lord will protect us.  Truly, we thank Him for giving us the experiences we need to better understand those He has called us to serve.