Sunday, August 27, 2017

We Found the Man from Nuevo Mundo

As part of morning prayer we ask the Lord to help us see as He sees, that we're able to recognize each opportunity to serve Him in the disguise of the poor...the physically poor as well as the spiritually poor. Sometimes the people that Jesus desires us to encounter are impossible to miss, other times they're waiting silently in the shadows. Thanks be to God, we need only to rely on the Holy Spirit, who faithfully leads the way.

Last Thursday we traveled into one of the bigger towns nearby expecting only to attend to some basic business matters before returning home; however, the Lord had something more important in mind. While waiting in line we noticed a man sitting on the ground, all slumped over. Although his legs were tucked beneath him, they were obviously malformed and smaller than Michael's. Looking a bit closer, it seemed that this man was strangely familiar....

Could it be??  Is it possible??
"Excuse me, sir, where do you live?"  I asked, gently rubbing his arm to get his attention. He reluctantly lifted his head with a scowl, but began laughing when he recognized our family and said, "Nuevo Mundo, don't you remember?"  Yes, of course I remember!!  How could I forget?  Sitting before me was the inspiration for the wheelchair ministry we did earlier this year; the ministry that allowed us to give the gift of mobility to over 40 individuals. Sitting before me was the man that we had been looking for since July 2016.

If you haven't read the story of how our wheelchair ministry started, please go to the blog post titled "Free Wheelchair Distribution Party".

Our friend, Ezekiel, was excited by the possibility of receiving a wheelchair and agreed to meet us at a nearby gas station a couple days later.  As we bid farewell, we begged the Lord to make straight our path, to remove any obstacles and allow our planned meeting to happen.

This morning, after our service at church, we loaded two wheelchairs into our van and headed out.

The first stop was pretty straightforward.  A woman in a nearby village, who desperately needs a wheelchair, had already made all necessary arrangements with our municipality and was waiting to receive the wheelchair which was originally ordered for a gentleman that has since died.  Our task was simply to find her, which we did without any trouble.

Anna and Chris taught her grand-daughters about the various adjustment options and maintenance techniques.

Before long, we were on our way.

When we arrived at the designated meeting spot, Ezekiel was nowhere to be found.

Through a little investigative questioning we learned that he was at home, in Nuevo Mundo.

Loading back into Burrito Gris, we continued our search.

Utilizing our scavenger hunt skills, we ascertained bits and pieces of valuable information from each person we asked.  With each turn we hoped to be getting "hotter" and not "colder".

Having driven a while without any affirmation, we agreed to stop the next time we saw people... Little did we know that those people would be Ezekiel's family.

Adrenaline rushed through our veins as we pulled up beside their rice-sack home. Ezekiel was literally face down in the dirt, hardly able to move. We introduced ourselves to his family who tried to sit him upright, but he just tipped back over. Ezekiel was drunk.

Quickly dismissing the sadness that arose in our hearts, we embraced the joy of the moment.  Chris and Ezekiel's brother lifted him into his new chair. Given his intoxicated nature, it was difficult for him to maneuver the wheels, but we all agreed that sober he would have no problem given his tremendous upper-body strength.  Despite the influence of the homemade sugar cane brew, Ezekiel was incredibly grateful for the gift of mobility and expressed that gratitude through tears of joy and thanksgiving.

After talking with him and his family, we thanked the Lord for this incredible opportunity and said our good-byes.  As we drove back through the unending expanse of rice fields we all rested in the peace that comes from knowing we're right, smack-dab in the middle of Jesus' will for us.

Please pray that we're able to recognize the opportunities the Lord places before us each day, knowing full well that within the shadows there are many others like Ezekiel that are in desperate need of help.

We'd love to hear from you via email:

If the Holy Spirit is nudging you to support us financially, please visit:
or call Family Missions Company at
(337) 893-6111

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Why would 500 teens walk 25 km uphill?

Before walking 25 km, these teenagers would need to arrive at the starting point via some sort of mass transportation that does not exist here in the jungle.  Solution.....improvise:

Starting elevation of 238 meters (781 ft) above sea level.  The walk was broken into 2 days of ~12.5 km each day.  The temperature on the first day was approaching 95 degrees F.  Starting point was Tingo de Ponaza, San Martin, Peru (if you click on this link, it will hopefully show you the Google Map of the walk).  Ending point is Shamboyacu, San Martin, Peru.  The road is covered in asphalt so it is easy to walk but it is HOT!

Ready to find out the reason these teenagers went on this walk?

The reason was the 5th Annual Pilgrimage Walk to Shamboyacu!  This year was very special because we have been celebrating the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima appearing to the three shepherd children, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta!  To learn more about the Fatima 100th Anniversary, please visit the link:
    We kicked off on Friday with mass in the plaza in Tingo de Ponaza

Padre Francisco (Fr. Francis) animating the youth with a song on the guitar during the walk.
I took a turn on guitar to animate all of the youth during the pilgrimage walk!

The arrival into Shamboyacu!!!

Everyone arrived to the church for a time of prayer!!!

 There was a concert each night for the youth which was full of high-energy praise and worship!

The final night was capped off with fireworks, Peruvian style on a "castillo" or castle!

Throughout the pilgrimage, there was much time for prayer and contemplation.  There were many priests available (thanks to 2 additional Spanish priests visiting from Spain and additional priests from other parishes) to hear confessions.  In addition, there was a great group of college students from Moyobamba that gave talks on Fatima and also lead small discussion groups during the pilgrimage.  I encourage each of you to go on a pilgrimage and to learn more about the history of pilgrimages and to find out about a few near you, click on this link:

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Teens Renovate a Nearby Church

"Do not restrain the Spirit." 
(1 Thessalonians 5:19)

Santa Rosillo is a little pueblo which lies along the main highway.  Being perfectly average, it lacks any defining features to catch people's attention...

Why did it keep catching our attention???

Each time we passed, we'd exchange glances and say, "We really ought to do something to help them. Look at their church."

Unbeknownst to us, the Holy Spirit was moving in other people's hearts as well. A couple weeks ago one of our animadoras explained her desire to help Santa Rosillo and wondered if we might be able to mobilize the youth. When we approached our priest to discuss our ideas, he immediately affirmed our plans as being Spirit led because he too had been praying about how to assist this community. When the teens in our village eagerly offered their services, we knew that the Lord was working through us all.

A few days later we visited to assess the need.

The animador, who is elderly, tired and chronically ill directed us to the woman who he said, "opens the church for me".

After unlocking the rusty deadbolt, her daughter asked, "Mommy, who are they?" She whispered, "They're missionaries, baby. They're here to help us." I could barely hold back the tears as we entered their humble place of worship.

Cynthia, "the one who opens the church", explained that their biggest problem is that rain fills the chapel every time it rains because there is nothing covering the windows.

The kids got right to work figuring out the most practical solution that satisfied my requirements:
(1) we had to stay within our budget
(2) it had to be completed in one day

They sketched and talked, talked and re-sketched. After visiting the carpenter, they assessed costs and determined what supplies were needed.  All praise be to God, they were taking ownership of this project and hardly needed my help. The scripture verse from Acts 11:12 comes to mind, "The Spirit told me to accompany them without discriminating."  Filled with gratitude for all the Lord is doing in the hearts of these teens, I assumed the roles of chauffeur and supervisor.

When our animadora's husband stopped by Santa Rosillo's chapel he noticed large cracks in the walls and offered to fix them all for free.... before the kids arrived the next day.

On Saturday morning 15 teenagers arrived at our home excited to work. We loaded Burrito Gris with paint buckets and ladders, window coverings and fresh drinking water. After the kids climbed in and found space around our supplies I tried to pull away, but Burrito Gris isn't powerful enough to carry this big of load. Before I had the chance to say a word, five guys jumped out of the windows and pushed until we really got going (to an impressive speed of 5mph).  Everyone cheered as the "Gringo-mobile" SLOWLY made it's way through town. The same pit crew made it possible for up to make it up onto the main highway. Every other moving vehicle passed us as we crept along to Santa Rosillo filled with faith, hope and love!!

Upon arriving, the kids proved that they needed very little from me.

They unloaded all of the supplies, mixed the paint, divided up into teams and got started....



First up was painting the outside of the church white.

Within 20 minutes Linda (a girl that has become a good friend of Katelyn and Anna's) was already covered in paint... little did I know, that this was a foreshadowing of things to come.

When the buckets got low, the kids worked together to empty the bags of paint (yes, paint is sold in bags).

Then they began adding water.

I went searching for something to stir the paint with, but returned to discover that they had all they needed at the ends of their arms.

"How do you know how much water to add?" I ignorantly asked.  They laughed at me and said, "Until it feels like paint."

Although we had music playing, what could be heard most loudly was the sound of laughter and silliness.

As one group was working on the white base coat, another group was busy painting the window covers and doors that the carpenter had made for us.

At first I felt a little anxious about the care-free approach the kids were taking....

How are we going to get all the paint off the floor?

Are their parents going to be upset that they're getting paint all over their clothes?

Is the animadora going to wish we never came?

I'm glad everyone's having fun, but are they doing a good enough job?

As I looked around, I realized that I was the only one concerned.  Everyone else was having a great time. By the grace of God, I recognized the devil's attempt to jeopardize this amazing effort. I renounced the evil spirits of fear, judgement and doubt. Immediately, I was filled with Jesus' love and could enjoy all that He was doing - not only in the church, but in the hearts of each kid that volunteered to come.

As the primer was drying, the kids capitalized on the opportunity to have an impromptu rap session.

Each one took a turn recapping the day's events in rhyme.  Although I couldn't understand all that they said, it was super funny and exactly the break everyone needed.

Next up on the agenda was lunch, provided to us by the community. Each person received a large portion of rice, chicken, veggies, and barley flavored tea.  It was delicious!!!

I'm continually amazed by how effortlessly the folks here throw together meals for large groups of people with no advanced notice. I'm also constantly blessed to see how truly grateful everyone is for whatever has been prepared.

People are always happy to share forks and don't need chairs to sit in.

They graciously accept a chicken head when the person next to them received a succulent thigh and leg. I beg the Lord for even a fraction of their gratitude.

As we ate lunch the carpenter hung the window coverings.

It was really starting to come together!!

Finally, it was time to put on the color.

Michael had SO much fun painting because he didn't even have to worry about drips!

The elderly animador gave the kids permission to choose whatever color they wanted.

As the lime green was taking over, we all prayed that the community would love it as much as we do.

Sometimes, people ask why we like living here so much.

It's hard to describe....

...but I know one reason is that the people are super laid back and really know how to have fun!!!

This is Espranller and Jherson, two of our beloved Lost Sheep.

In between the paint fights and wrestling matches, the church got finished.

The paint-covered kids made their way to the canal, where they splished, splashed and scrubbed themselves clean.

Cynthia and I washed the rollers, brushes and paint buckets in the canal upstream from the kids. They all thought it was hilarious that the water they were swimming in was green instead of the normal brown.

Before leaving we made plans to visit the following Wednesday for our first community gathering. EVERYONE was super-duper excited... especially Cynthia!!!

A few days later we all piled into a camioneta and headed up the road to Santa Rosillo.  When we arrived they split into groups and headed into the community to invite everyone to church.  Within ten minutes the church was full.

Chris kicked things off with praise and worship.

Next, one of our animadoras (the same one who originally approached us about fixing up Santa Rosillo's church) shared a bible story and reflection.

Finally, it was the kids' turn. They led the group in fun "dynamicas", which are worship songs with dance moves and silly hand gestures.  The excitement was palpable.

As we loaded back into the camioneta to leave, the kids excitedly asked in unison, "So, what's next?"

My heart bubbled over with joy as I said, "Whatever Jesus wants."

I keep thinking of 1 Thessalonians 5:19

"Do not restrain the Spirit." 

Please pray that I can stay out of the way and be nothing more than the chauffeur/supervisor that these kids need to do the work that the Holy Spirit is calling them to do.  Please also pray for them as they learn what it means to have a real relationship with our real, living God ~ Jesus Christ.

Stay tuned to see what Jesus 
has planned for this group!!

We'd love to hear from you via email:

If the Holy Spirit is nudging you to support us financially, please visit:
or call Family Missions Company at
(337) 893-6111