Wednesday, April 4th in 2 de Mayo

For pictures from 2 de Mayo and the river village, you can go to:

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151471705950215.840641.741380214&type=3&l=6671fd9562

Waking up this morning, my first thought was the girls on the porch.  I hoped that they hadn’t gotten wet in the storm that lasted all night.   Sure enough, they were completely dry!  The plastic that Neil hung up just before the storm came completely protected them!

As we were all waking up, we had a great conversation with Neil.  I asked if he led family devotions every night, or if it was just because of the movie.  He smiled and said that they’ve done it every night for the past year.  With a huge grin, he started telling us this story:

“You see, I used to say I was a Christian.  I went to church, prayed, sang the songs, did everything I was supposed to, but I also had my other life.  I would drink with my friends, and even stay away from home sometimes.  Last year, a woman at the church had a word from the Lord, saying that He wants His church to be pure and spotless… that He wanted us to turn away from our wicked ways and give all of our lives to Him.  This word also came with a warning: that if we didn’t turn away, He would bring judgment on us.   My friends and I didn’t believe this, so we continued doing what we had been doing before.  After 2 weeks, all three of our families got sick.  We all knew at that moment that the word was true, and that we needed to really give our lives over to the Lord.”

“We went in front of the church and confessed our sins, and then truly turned away from our wicked ways.  We’ve seen the Lord’s blessing and protection ever since!  We have even started going to other villages to tell them about Jesus!”

He excitedly went on about his passion for the other villages to know the power of believing in Jesus, and we listened to every word.  It was amazing!

Last year, we found out that Neil and some of the other men, aside from making money from their hand-made crafts, were also growing coca (the plant that eventually gets turned into cocaine).  The houses and boats of these men were the finest in the village!  When Neil said that he turned away from his “wicked” ways, he later explained that all the men stopped growing coca.  That is a very bold step, because in these villages… if you’re not growing coca, you’re against it.  The guerillas and other para-military groups depend on the villagers’ “willingness” to grow coca for their own financial needs, and in turn, the groups “protect” the villagers.  Last night, when Neil was praying for protection for his family, he was praying against a very real threat since he has stopped growing coca.  The love that we already had for Neil just kept growing deeper and deeper as we talked this morning!

We all had to get to the pastor’s house for breakfast, and it was tricky!  Our morning routines were a little off, anyway.  With the river being so high (and there being no latrines), we literally had to pee off the side of the house.  For guys, this is pretty easy… for girls, however, not so much!  I mean, it’s easy as long as you get over your need for privacy and realize that your butt is going to be hanging out for anyone to see!  The problem with peeing in the river is that there are little fish that follow the flow of urine up into your body and then attach themselves with little hooks to your urethra…. not very pleasant to think about!  But we were told that if we had our bathing suits on while we peed in the river, we’d be fine.  So, with my bathing suit on, I sat on the submerged front step of Neil’s house and peed into the river.  Not even 5 seconds later, there were fish all around me.  SO GROSS!!!

Anyway, most of us ended up walking through the river to the pastor’s house for breakfast, and when we got to his house, we found out that the lower level got flooded during the night!  The lower level is where the girls were camping, too!  They told us that because they could already hear the water hitting the floorboards when they set up the tent, as soon as they heard the thunder they decided to move it… it was a crazy complicated process as they had to wake everyone up and re-arrange everything.  But, at least they were dry!

Liz and Lauren said that a few of the days on the trip felt like we lived 3 days in one… and this day was no exception!!!

After breakfast, we loaded everything up in the boat and headed over to the school.  We yelled out to everyone as we were going that we would be setting up the medical brigade and the kids’ ministry stuff… so everyone was welcome to join us.  Ruben and Andrew pulled us over, and as soon as we got to the school, we realized that it was locked!  As we were waiting for the schoolmaster to come with the keys, the kids slowly started showing up.  They were really shy, and didn’t speak a lot of Spanish.  They would just look at us, covering their smiles with their hands.  Kylie found one of the sponge balls that we brought with us and started playing with them, throwing the ball back and forth in the little cement space outside the classrooms.

The boats kept coming, and the cement space quickly filled up!  The schoolmaster came with the keys, and was able to unlock the room for the medical brigade, but the room for the kid’s ministry had some kind of lock on the inside.  A kid climbed up the wall and reached through with a piece of wood and got the door open.  All the kids entered the room at once, yelling and running in circles.  They were SO happy!

And, this is where it started to get interesting.  Literally, a few of the kids understood Spanish… but the rest… not so much!

I found one of Leo’s friends, Nehemias, and asked him to help translate for us.  He was more than willing!  We started out playing one of our favorite games, “come, little sheep, come!”.  Daniel and Sara are amazing at this game!!! We then talked about how Jesus is the good shepherd, and how He protects us from all the evil around us.  We taught the kids how to draw a little sheep head and the had a good time gluing cotton balls on their little sheep bodies.

As we continued with our childrens’ ministry, it got even harder to work with a translator.  Personally, I LOVE that our students have to struggle with this!  They are so used to BEING the translators for teams and preachers that come to visit, that the experience they have actually needing to be translated for is so valuable!  My favorite part was when we were teaching the kids how to say John 3:16.  Nehemias would say a part, and then the kids would repeat after him.  They repeated everything… the words and his vocal inflection!  The Tikuna language is so beautiful!

After all the children’s ministry was over, we made sure that everyone got their oatmeal and cookies.  Then, Lili took a model of teeth and a giant toothbrush to show the kids how to properly brush their teeth.  It was precious!  She asked for volunteers to come up and model it as well, to show that they had learned.  Then, it was chaos as we started handing out the toothbrushes and little gifts.  We tried our hardest to have the kids form a line, but that didn’t work.  Then, we had them go back into the room and sit down to wait, and that mostly worked, but as soon as we gave a gift to one kid who wasn’t sitting down, we were mobbed all over again.

The little girls got beautiful barrettes for their hair, and the boys got little toy animals that grow in the water.  Some kids got little flute whistles that we could hear even late into the evening.

Once again, the students did a phenomenal job!  Diana and Mafe decided to stay with the medical brigade and help Hector pull teeth.  They were having such a fun time!  Laura was helping bathe the babies with fevers, while Lili was painting all the womens’ fingernails.   I was so impressed with each person on the team and how they found the place where they could serve the best!

All morning, we gave everything that we were to love the kids and teach them these valuable stories!   We were ready for lunch when the time came!

Once again, Andrew helped pull us back to the pastor’s house so we could eat.  Most of the people had already seen the doctors, and were just waiting in line for the dentist.  So, we decided that it would be wise for us to try to go to another village to help them with medicine after lunch.

Monica knew of another village just down-river, so we loaded up whatever medicine we could fit and were on our way.

The river was so full!  We passed house after house that the water had damaged or entered, and some of them seemed deserted.  We also passed random houses with anywhere from 5-15 people.

On our way, we had to stop at a floating police station on the side of the river.  Liz and I started sweating a little bit because we left all of our paperwork back in 2 de Mayo, and without proper documentation, they could’ve fined us!  They just wanted to see who we were, and what we were doing.  When we told them we could give them medicine on our return trip, they let us go, no problem.  What a relief!

As we rounded the bend into what should’ve been the entrance to the village, our boat got stuck.  Even though everything was flooded, the water there wasn’t deep enough for us to go farther into the village, and even though the water only came up to our waists, the current was really strong!  So, John, Pravaas, Batman and Andrew all put on life jackets and floated down into the river to let the people know we were here.  It was a really funny sight!

Slowly but surely, we were visited by different people.  They would tie their little canoes to our boat, and then come on board.  The doctors and some students were inside, running the program, while the rest of us were on the bow of the boat worshipping in Spanish and Tikuna.  It was so much fun!  We were “parked” right underneath a HUGE lemon tree… that is, the lemons themselves were gynormous!

The guys came walking back up from the village completely painted red!  They found some achiote and covered themselves in it!  They passed it around for all of us to try, and we painted ourselves silly.  We had so much fun laughing and painting ourselves before the people started showing up.  Andrew dunked himself in the water to see if it washed off, and it didn’t!  We were all freaking out as we had silly symbols painted all over our faces.  The “paint” was really oily as it turned out, and it took a little bit of effort, but we were able to get it all washed off eventually.

One of the young guys that was first to see the doctors and get medicine came back after about 45 minutes with a boat filled with women and children.  I was so happy that he had done that!  All the babies had fevers, and most of the kids had weird rashes all over their bodies.  One little girl just fought and fought and didn’t want to take the medicine!  Stefy had to try 3 different times while the little girl’s mom held her tight.  That girl was a fighter!

I imagine that we were able to serve over 60 people from that village, and even though the village is only 20 minutes from 2 de Mayo, it was obvious that the people had no hope.  There was such emptiness in their eyes.  Monica kept praying and declaring victory over abuse and depression as they were coming through the “line”.  We just worshiped and worshiped.

It was a beautiful boat-ride back to 2 de Mayo.  We stopped back at the police station, and Leo became fast friends with the police officers.  We even gave them a water-proof Bible, as one of them was a Christian.  God is so good!

We got back just in time to get ready for the evening service.  Leo went straight to the church to get the sound and movie ready (they stopped it last night about 20 minutes from the end), and the rest of us got a bite to eat… wading through the water of the pastor’s kitchen.  I figured out a few days ago that the sole of my left boot was coming un-glued, so I was walking around bare-foot, hoping that the mosquitoes wouldn’t eat all of my feet… not that there was much left after all the ant bites during the day!

The church service was packed!  After the movie finished, Pastor Burgos felt led to pray for different groups in the church body:  it was the men’s turn first, and it was powerful!  Pastor then invited the wives up, and Neil yelled “Amen!”.  He loves to pray for his wife! 🙂  As Rocio, Kylie and I went around praying for the women, there was something beautiful happening.  They were crying out to the Lord, drowning out our prayers.  One woman started singing and dancing holding her baby tight to her.  I had no idea what she was saying, so I went to one of the elders and asked if what she was singing was for all of us, or just a deep prayer from her to the Father.  He said it was just a deep prayer and to keep praying for the other groups of people.  So, we invited the youth up, and the team prayed for them.  Afterwards, we had the children come up and their parents make a circle around them as we prayed.  It was beautiful!  Parents were crying out for their little ones to grow up in the ways of the Lord, and in purity.  I still get chills when I think about it.  It was such a beautiful picture of protection and covering!

After that, it was worship time!  Sandra, Carolina and Paula all got their tamborines out and danced while the women sang.  It went on and on, and we didn’t want it to stop!  Then, the youth and children took turns singing.  They were totally bold as they did so.  They even sang my favorite song… ch-ta a ey… 🙂

After the worship time, Sandra asked that the villagers close their eyes and pray while she and her team dance over them and let the Holy Spirit minister to them.  As a team, we went around and prayed for as many people as we could.  Words really can’t describe the feelings of peace and battle that we had at the same time!  Lili and I prayed for all the kids individually, and then I went over to Neil’s wife to pray for her.  I have a feeling that the Lord is going to use her gift of music all over Tikuna land, and I prayed that He would give her new songs to declare His glory.  It was powerful!

We went to bed that night exhausted again, but so grateful for everything the Lord was doing in 2 de Mayo!  We keep praying that this village will bring many others to the saving knowledge of Jesus!

 

 

 

Tuesday, April 3rd in 2 de Mayo

Another un-eventful sleep, more bug-spray-filled air, more clunking boots on the wooden planks of our “house”, but this morning, we were packing up to move out.

The plan was to have everything packed up and ready to load into the boat before breakfast.  The team was amazing!  Slowly, the tents were emptied and taken down.  The “checked” bags were put in one corner, and the “carry-ons” in another, so as to not get confused while we were loading up the boat.  The kids gathered in the doorway, watching the show while Leo was outside talking with some of the elders.

Leo really connected with the men on this trip.  The connections would either happen in church while he was praying with them, or on the sidewalk while they were passing by.  This morning, however, he was in a deep conversation with one of the elders and his son.

The “medical brigade” that was happening when we arrived in Zaragoza wasn’t much of a medical brigade as it was a census where they handed out a few pills to help with the absolutely desperate situations.  The census was because the Colombian government passed a law that said the indigenous families will receive more money with each child they have (not much unlike the welfare system in the States).  The elder was talking with Leo about his frustration with his son because he doesn’t farm anymore, but just keeps having more and more children so he can rely on the government’s money.  The son was frustrated because he didn’t feel like his dad respected him.  So, here was Leo, helping a father and son communicate.

The son wanted to move away from the village so he could get a real job, helping with tourism.  He is a Christian, but trusting God is something that he struggles with.  He was just waiting for God to show him a “sign” about what to do next, as well as the approval of his own father.    Leo spent over an hour helping him process what his skills are, and how he could take the first steps to actually doing what he wants to do.  Leo encouraged him to not wait for approval from anyone, but to make his own way… trusting that God had given him the gifts and talents to provide for his own family.  Both men were grateful for Leo’s time, and hopefully they will take his advice.  They had a great time of prayer together before saying good-bye.

We ate breakfast, finished cleaning, and loaded up the boat.  The mud was so thick that it was hard to really walk on the land next to the boat!  We had to wash off our boots before even getting in the boat!  Stefy and Luis Carlos were doing last-minute checks on the babies from yesterday, and all the fevers had gone down.  The parents were so grateful!

Our 2-hour boat-ride to 2 de Mayo was filled with worship, prayer and laughter!  We spent a lot of time sharing as a team what we felt the Lord had laid on our hearts for Zaragoza, and our individual experiences.  The blessing of having such a diverse team is that we all connected with different people and had such different view-points of the village.  Besides meal times, boat times between villages were the only times we were all together to share.

We arrived to 2 de Mayo and were absolutely shocked.  The river had completely swallowed the village.  The current was pretty strong as well!  We arrived to the pastor’s house, and started figuring out where we were setting up “camp”.  Our team was the largest we had ever brought, and we wouldn’t be able to fit everyone in the pastor’s house this year.  We decided to split up into 4 houses… Leo and I took Kylie and the senior girls to Neil’s house.  We were happy to be able to spend time with our dear friend!  The doctors all set up camp in the pastor’s daughter’s house… “next-door”, and the boys were across the way in another church-members’ house.  The Burgos’, Monica and the puerto-rican couple and the other girl tent all set up in the pastor’s house.  It was cramped!  I think the Pastor had another family living with them as well… and they all had beds this year instead of sleeping in hammocks.

Getting a team of 24 set up in 4 different houses that you have to get to by boat was a little tricky… and time-consuming!!!  The kids all got in their little canoes to come greet us, and immediately started doing flips off the boat!  Pravaas and some of the other guys got right in the river with the kids and started throwing them around.  It was so fun to watch them!!!  As the kids gathered around, I started calling them by name… Celita, Palermo, Ronaldinho… it was sooooo good to see their faces again!!!  The majority of the team had their bathing suits in the “check-in” bag, but slowly we were able to get changed and finally enjoyed time in the river with the kids… and enjoyed cooling off!

We spent most of the afternoon just getting set-up in our different places.  Leo and Neil were talking like old friends, and we were all just getting adjusted to life in the middle of a river.  I started popping the pop-corn for the movie.  The fire was so hot, and there were crazy mosquitoes almost in a cloud around me, even though I was in the smoke.  I don’t know why they attacked me so much, but they did.  It was frustrating!

I made about 10 batches of pop-corn, and Lauren and Liz helped fill the bags.  We had a great system!  We were a well-oiled machine, I tell you!

We found out that parking our big boat next to the church would be pretty much impossible because of the current, so the village let us borrow their metal boat.  We loaded everything we needed for the evening into it, and the guys took turns walking us to the church.  The paddles kinda worked, but because the current was so strong, they didn’t work as well as having someone personally walk us around.  The guys really served us in that way!  Most of the girls were on their periods and didn’t want to spend crazy amounts of time in the river… or wet, for that matter!

The first evening in the church, the people took turns singing.  It was beautiful!  Neil’s wife has an incredible indigenous voice, and she led the women.  Then, it was the kids’ turn.  We got up as a team and led some worship in Spanish as well.  Then, we started the movie.  The kids were hilarious watching and eating pop-corn.  Pretty soon, the bags started getting thrown around in a big paper-bag fight, and the pastor’s wife had to step in and stop the kids from being so distracting.  I just laughed.

Most of us were still exhausted, so we left the Burgos’ and Leo in the church to finish up while the rest of us went to bed.  Again, it was tricky getting everyone where they needed to be, but everyone had such a great attitude!  Even trying to step from wooden canoe to wooden canoe to get to our metal boat outside the church was hard!

Pretty much as soon as I got into our tent, I was asleep.  Hearing the bugs and frogs outside, as well as the sounds of the movie in the distance was so relaxing!  Eventually, the sounds of the movie stopped and I knew that Leo and Neil would be coming back soon.  Kylie and the senior girls were sleeping on Neil’s “back-porch”, and as we could hear thunder in the distance, we knew we could be in for a long night.  Neil hung up plastic on one side of the porch so that the girls wouldn’t get wet, and pretty much as soon as he was done with that, the storm came.  Thunder, lightning, rain, splashing water… it was crazy.

Leo and I talked a little about the day, and could hear Neil in his room talking with the family.  Listening in, we could hear him blessing his wife and children.  He then started reading a Psalm and praying for us.  He prayed protection over all of us, but especially the house, that the darkness would be kept out by God’s light.  He prayed for what seemed like 20 minutes, and then the family all started singing together.  The sounds of their family devotion pierced through the rainstorm.  It was beautiful.

Drowning in Details

amazon_forest_trees-wide.jpgI am a person who can’t see the trees for the forest; so organizing a trip for 24 people is a little overwhelming… let alone the fact that 14 of the people on the trip couldn’t pay for the majority of the costs.  On top of the individual trip costs, we had to raise money for the medicine, supplies, and toilet project… a total of $4000 additional.   I’m also not good at coming up with crazy ideas for fundraising, especially here in Colombia, where missions and mission trips are a relatively “new” idea to most churches.

We had our annual “Celebrate Colombia” day at school, and I was able to tell all the parents about the upcoming Amazon trip and ask for their prayers and financial support.  I like talking about the trip and getting people excited about what the Lord is doing in the Amazon; but what put me out of my comfort zone was walking up to the parents after the main celebration and asking them to donate towards the trip.  I had an offering bag, and just walked up to everyone.  It made me feel so uncomfortable, but I knew that if I didn’t ask, they wouldn’t give.  We raised enough money that day to pay for 1 ½ trips! So, it was worth it… but it was hard for me!

That same day, I was talking to a mother about putting together a worship event/fundraiser for the trip.  I think I looked at her with a blank stare, wondering how in the world it could happen.  I knew we would be able to use my church, but I didn’t have time to work on getting a whole concert together!  The mom told me that if I organized it all, she would get her dance team together to help out.  There was that word again…. Organize.  As if I didn’t already have enough to organize!

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But, we did it!  The following weekend, my middle-school worship team put together a great bi-lingual worship concert, and we had an amazing time of prayer for the Amazon, Bogota, Colombia, South America and the Nations.  The community also surrounded the team and prayed specifically for us and what the Lord had for us in the Amazon.  We felt so empowered!!!  The dance team was also a great addition to everything, as they danced while we worshiped with song!  I can honestly say that the entire evening was one of the coolest things I’ve been a part of for a very long time!  And, we raised enough money for 3 more people’s trips!

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During the months of planning and preparing, the Lord was so faithful in my weaknesses!  He would continually bring people alongside to help me, as well as allow me to push myself to get better.   However, I don’t know if planning and organizing is something I should keep pushing myself to get better at, or if I should find one person who thrives on details and organization to be a part of our team.  This is my struggle now.  I can honestly say that I drown in details.  I am so much more of a big-picture person that I get lost in the tiniest of details, and it really affects me.   The tricky part is finding a person who is going to stay around for a while.  Most of the teachers at ECA stay 1-2 years… if they stay for 3, that’s a blessing!  So, I am praying that I find a Colombian who will come alongside me and commit to these trips as much as Leo and I have… for the long-haul!