Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Still in School in Tanela, Colombia

Saturday, January 26th
Today, Sindy came to take us to her house. She, too, was an awesome guide! Her mom, Hna Maria Miranda, and her siblings--Cristian, Omar, Marta, and Ana--as well as her cousins--Luis and Veronica--were all waiting on our arrival. After some hot chocolate and bread, the boys all ran off to find guama for us. It's a fruit that grows inside of a pod. It pretty much tastes like bubble gum! They brought back their treasure to share with us, and then they climbed up in the tree to eat their portion of the fruit!

Hna Maria Miranda's husband was out working today, so we didn't get to meet him. We were able to share lots of our testimony with Hna Maria Miranda and Sindy. Hopefully we encouraged them. We talked with Cristian about being a pastor (that's what he wants to be) and reading the Bible as much as he can.

We got a little thirsty while we were talking, so Hna Maria Miranda walked over to one of the coconut trees and knocked down a couple of coconuts for us all to share. Cristian used the machete to open them up for us and we drank the milk out. Then for the best part...the soft part inside...with a spoon we scooped it out and ate it!

Not long after lunch we headed back to the house because we needed to prepare the Sunday school lesson for tomorrow. Unfortunately, Chris had a headache and fever by the time we got home. So he went to sleep. While he was sleeping, I went over to listen to the praise band practice! Wow!!!! They all asked where Chris was, so I told them that he was a little under the weather. They stopped what they were doing, and filed over to the parsonage. Pastora Dionisia lead the prayer for his healing. Praise God! He is big! Chris immediately began to feel some relief!!

Sunday, January 27th
This morning, Chris felt 100% again! Praise God! So we were able to prepare the Sunday school lesson on faith. We started with a faith walk. Luis volunteered to help us, so we blindfolded him and sent him through the obstacle course. Pretty difficult...he couldn't make it out. Domingo volunteered to guide him through by taking him by the hand and telling him what to do. We talked about how sometimes we can't see what God is doing, but if we'll listen we can hear His voice guiding us even when times are tough.

After church, we had another lunch appointment...this time with Hno Alfredo, Hna Odilia, Darley, Alfredo, Josue, and Esther. They have eggplant and squash growing on their parcel of land along with tons of other fruits and veggies that we've already mentioned. Lunch was delicious!! We were able to fellowship with them a ton. Then they boys wanted to show Chris how to play marbles. Chris finally got pretty good at it!! I was impressed with his new skills! ha, ha, ha!!!

Since Sunday is the day of rest, we went back to the parsonage and took it easy for the rest of the day. We had devotion together tonight, and we all turned in early.

Monday, January 28th
Today is a church-wide fast...and today we knew ahead a time, so we are excited to participate. When we were waiting outside the church for everyone to show up, Alfredo and Josue came to talk to Chris. Yesterday, they noticed he wasn't wearing his watch (the one that Nohel gave him in Mexico), and they asked him where it was. He explained that the band broke ( in Mexico) and that he was carrying it in his pocket. (He didn't tell the boys yesterday that he was praying for God to fix his watch or to send him a new one.) Today, they showed up with several different watch bands and a knife and they went to work on Chris's watch. Just as Pastor Leo was calling us all into church, they boys finished fixing Chris's watch!! Now it's half Mexican and half Colombian!! Isn't God amazing?!! He's concerned with even the smallest details!

From there, we went into church. Pastor Leo taught on intercessory prayer this morning after our time of singing and praying. Moses, Samuel, and Jesus were the lives that he focused's really about standing in the gap for other people. We as Christians are called to this!

This afternoon, it was time to wash clothes again. We also walked down to the downtown area just to get some exercise. Tonight we had a good time fellowshipping and swapping testimonies with Pastor Leo and Pastora Dionisia.

Tuesday, January 29th
This morning, Hno Obidio came to get us. He wanted us to visit his other son (Hno Alfredo who we ate with on Sunday is Hno Obidio's son) as well. Plus, he wanted us to visit with his house and spend some time with his wife.

So first stop, a visit with Esteban, Dionisia, Dennis, Weimar, Weimer, and baby Kiara...This is Dionisia's second marriage, and Dennis is her oldest daughter from her first marriage. Dionisia's first husband was killed by the guerilla in front of her and their children. Dennis was about 12 years old so she remembers it vividly! Again, our hearts just grieve for this innocent family! About 5 years ago, Dionisia met Esteban, and they married. Now they have three children together. Both Esteban and Dionisia have walked far away from the Lord, so we prayed for them this morning...that God will draw them back to His feet and unify this family through His Holy Spirit.

While we were visiting with Esteban and family, Ana-- one of the neighbors came up. Ana's husband, Ricardo was stung by a mantaray yesterday in the river. He's in a lot of pain, so we went with her to pray for him.

From there we went on to Hno Obidio's house. Hna Dominga was waiting for us!! What a sweetie!! Chris's friend, Pancho (the monkey) was also hanging around to greet us! We had a great time listening to music, playing with there grandkids (Darley, Alfredo, and Josue), and sharing testimony with them!

Hno Obidio walked us back to the house late in the afternoon, and we found Hna Francia and Hna Gladys there! They just arrived back in Tanela. Oh my, her feet look terrible...BUT...they look a ton better than they were before! We are trusting God for complete healing!!! Two of Hna Francia's sons came to visit their mom. She wanted us to share the plan of salvation with her sons, so we pulled out the evangecube and walked through it with them. They understood that they were sinners and that they needed a Savior, but they didn't want to make a decision to follow Jesus. So sad!! Please pray that God uses Hna Francia's healing to bring her children to the feet of Jesus.

Wednesday, January 30th
Today is the export day...and today we were able to go see the process!! First we met the guys who work on the tug boat. Then we talked with Hno Nafer who helps load the containers. Of course, we ran into tons of brothers and their sons bringing their plantains to the boat, so we saw the weigh in processes and everything! Hno Luis (Monica's dad) even took us over to see the new dock that they've built to make the process easier. It will probably be open as soon as next week!!

We made our way back to the center of town, and this guy, José Manuel, stopped us to talk for a bit. He's out of work right now, and he came to Tanela to visit his son. He loves to learn especially he took advantage of meeting us and pulled out his English book to work on his pronounciation! We also talked to him about seeking God for guidance. Before we left, we prayed with him that God will lead him to a new job where he could glorify God!!

As we were saying good-bye to José Manuel, he told us that Franklin the owner of one of the plantain chalupas was standing down by his boat. We walked down to talk with him, and he told us that he would take us to Turbo. WAHOO!!!! We are finally going to cross the water! We just have to be down at the loading area tomorrow night after 6 pm! Praise God!

We went back to Pastor Leo and Pastora Dionisia's house for lunch and we spent time sharing testimonies again. This afternoon, Chris and I helped the family clean up the yard next door. Hno Lorenzo and Hna Regina are going to move to Tanela for a while, and they are going to rent or buy the house next door. After I got cleaned up, Leidy painted my toe nails...the first time since we left Texas!!!! I was sooo excited! The day ended well...we were able to share a lot and learn a lot from their testimonies of God's constancy and consistency.

Well, it looks like we are heading out tomorrow!! The next time we'll be in touch, we hope that we are writing from the other side of the water in Turbo, Colombia!!! We hope that y'all are all doing well! We continue to pray for you daily. God bless you and protect you! We love you!! Keep walking with Jesus!!

A little more about Tanela...
I've never seen anything like this place. Everything grows here. In the middle of the plantains, you can find every plant imaginable--yuca, oranges, papaya, guayava, guanabana, lemons, tomatoes, bananas (two other forms than the plantains), sugar cane, passion fruit, star fruit, plums, pineapple, cacao (used to make chocolate), rice, and the list goes on and on...including some fruits that Chris and I didn't even know existed. I think we have entered the land of milk and honey. Food flows in abundance...they don't have a lot of other things though...their houses are made from wooden boards, sometimes with a concrete floor (other times it's just dirt). The houses are about 150-300 feet apart, but a person can't usually see his/her nearest neighbor because the tall plantains provide privacy!! Very few people have electricity or any form of bathroom. (When they need to go to the bathroom, they dig a hole, and then cover it up when they finish their business.) There is also very little running water. They have to carry water from shallow (not so clean) wells or from the not so clean Tanela River. There's also no doctor or clinic nearby...the closest medical help is more than an hour away on horse. So they have learned to depend on God for their healing instead of medicine. I've learned a lot about the power of our God! In the center of the plantain fields, there is a small area with a few shops to buy supplies. They are truly happy...families live together and work together. As I questioned in the Comarca Kuna Yala, I question again here...who is really more "civilized"?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Life on a Plantain Plantation—Tanela, Colombia

Monday, January 21st
We woke up this morning for devotion at 5 was really good, but I was still exhausted. I apologized and went back to sleep. I was a bit embarassed that we didn't get back up until 10 am. I felt it was necessary to explain what we had been through in the last few weeks. When they knew the whole story, they understood that we needed rest. In this house...we could feel God's peace, so we could finally rest at ease!!

After breakfast, we talked with Pastora Dionisia several brothers from the church. We learned so much of their's amazing that God has dropped us off in Tanela.

Pastor Leo y Pastora Dionisia have been planting churches in the Chocó for more than 25 years. In addition to planting churches, they've been sent to a couple of churches that need to be revived (spiritually). The last church they were in was Santa Maria which is about 1 hour by horse from Tanela. It was a church that had almost completely been destroyed by division. They pastored there for 10 years. During that time, they opened a mission in Tanela. The body of believers grew, and they needed a church building. Seven members of the church offered part of their land to build the church. How to make a decision that wouldn't offend?? Of course, go to the Bible...they read about how the apostles chose Matthias to replace Judas and decided that they would do something similar. They wrote the names of the 7 families on slips of paper. They prayed over them, and then they drew out one at a time...the last one to be drawn would get to donate their land. Hno Robinson and Hna Maria were the ones who were chosen. There's something soooo special about this couple who have been married for over 50 years. They glow...they are prayer warriors!!! We felt that it was a privilege just to meet them!!

Lots of things happened, and the devil got in the middle of the work that was going on in Tanela. The church wasn't ready financially to support itself, but they wanted their independence from the mother church from Santa Maria. There was nothing they could do, but let them go on their own. After about 5 years, they church dwindled to nearly no one with several thousand dollars of debt from misuse of funds. Who did God decide should come to help restore this church and this situation? Pastor Leo y Pastora Dionisia. They arrived just 6 months ago...praying and seeking the Lord the whole way. They've taught their members that they needed to get married and not just live together as well as how to seek God in prayer and fasting. As they've sought the Lord together, He has grown the church family, showed them how to pay off the debt, and allowed them to build the parsonage. To hear this testimony is just amazing...God has done so much here in such a short time. It's a boost to our faith just to be here!

Next, we learned about why Pastora Dionisia's parents were here living with them since they have their own house in Santa Maria. Hna Regina HAD a huge sore on her leg...this month marks 5 months with this problem. She thinks that she hit it on something, but she doesn't really remember it hurting that bad. The first month it was annoying, but tolerable. The 2nd and 3rd months, she was in such intense pain that she cried all the time. It burned all up and down her leg. They went to doctors for shots and medicine...they tried the herbal medicines that the people of the Chocó often use to treat themselves. NOTHING worked! So Pastora Dionisia called a friend who God has used a lot in Colombia to heal people. When she explained the situation, he told her that he would be back in touch in 3 days because he needed to pray first. God revealed to him that someone had tried to put a curse on Pastora Dionisia, but it hadn't been able to affect affected her mother, Hna Regina, instead. As a result, it was up to Pastora Dionisia to care for her mother and to remove her from this town. In the 4th month, they prayed over her one night that they were having a vigil in Tanela, and the demon left. Horrible-smelling puss began to ooze from her leg for a week or more. It continued to be painful. In the 5th month, she has begun to feel relief. However, they were still fasting and praying for her up until about a week ago. On Sunday, the last of her scab fell off. She's completely well!!! So to show her gratitude to God, she's having a Thanksgiving service this coming Thursday night to give testimony of God's healing in her life!!!

This afternoon, we met another really special lady, Luzdari. She was the first person to participate in the 20 day fast. They have a special place called "El Campo" where the church or individuals can go to be away from all distractions and seek God. It's underneath a huge tree also located on Hno Robinson and Hna Maria's property. Hopefully we'll get to visit it tomorrow?! Anyway...Luzdari's testimony is incredible as well. She never learned to read when she was growing up...she wasn't able to go to school for very many years. But as she has sought the Lord in fasting and prayer since she became a Christian, God began to reveal to her how to read. She can read now!!! It's mind-boggling!! She explained to us that she still didn't know how to write, but she can read her Bible! Praise God!!!

After supper tonight, we had devotion with the family and some folks from the church. Pastor Leo taught out of Jonah 3...when the city of Nineveh repented, fasted, and prayed...even the animals fasted. The outcry to God must have been intense...pretty powerful, huh?!

(Note: In the Chocó, there is A LOT of black magic, Shaman, and witch doctors...there are very powerful
spiritual forces both evil and of God. I would have never believed this existed if I hadn't come to Tanela. I'm not sure that I'll be able to share all of the stories with you are not. Ask us about them sometime.)

Tuesday, January 22nd
I'll share a little more about the rest of the family today...Leidy is Hno Lorenzo y Hna Regina's adoped daughter. They rescued her from a family that didn't take care of her at all...she was dirty and extremely tiny when they found her. When they got her home, they learned that her body hadn't formed right, so she could barely go to the bathroom. Hna Regina immediately put her on a special diet that helped Leidy start to gain weight and be able to go to the bathroom. Leidy was doing well, but she would never be able to fully develop without solid foods. A medical mission team arrived in El Chocó during this time, and they took Leidy in for an exam. The doctors did what they could, but they didn't expect her to live very long without an operation. They operation was several thousand dollars. People in El Chocó don't have that kind of money ever! But they began to pray...God eventually opened the door for Leidy to go to Medellín for the surgery that she needed. She was a 14 months old when she left, and she came back when she was almost 3 years old. Pastora Dionisia was able to stay with her for a couple of months, but she had to come home to take care of her own family. Leidy had to stay in the children's hospital alone...but God never abandoned her. She's as healthy as she can be now!!! Praise God!

Milena is Pastora Dionisia's neice that's spending the last of her vacation with her grandparents. Hna Regina's sister, Catalina, is also visiting right now. She's here to be a part of her sister's Thanksgiving service!! Finally, Monica is staying as well. She's the youngest daughter of one of the church families. Her mom, Gladys, went with her mother, Francia, to visit the man who God used to heal Hna Regina. Hna Francia has been battling with open wounds on both her feet for about 4 years. She's tried everything to get well, and it hasn't happened. Now she's decided to seek God for healing. So Monica is staying with Pastor Leo y Pastora Dionisia until her mom gets back...and they don't know when that will be!

This morning Pastor Leo sat down with us to teach us about fasting and what the Bible says about it. He also let us borrow a book that had a short passage on fasting and 20-30 verses from the Bible. We spent the morning studying. The reasons that the Bible gives for prepare to receive a message from God, before going out on a mission of God, death of a loved one, for social justice, to remember a national catastrophe or God's deliverance, or to ask for God's help, discernment, or forgiveness. There are different lengths of fasts mentioned in the Bible...1 day (sun up to sun down), 3 days, 7 days, 3 weeks, or 40 days. Of God lays a time of fasting and prayer on one's heart it could be very different than what I've just explained. I just didn't even have any idea about what the Bible said, so I'm glad to know a little more.

This afternoon, we studied some more...this time about revival...the primary passage is in 2 Chronicles 29...pretty powerful message if you read it and analyze it!! Here's an overview of what we learned...
revival ALWAYS goes from personal to the group.
prayer fuels a revival
Elements necessary for Revival...
constantly in the Word
a life of prayer and spiritual discipline
a firm decision to make changes in your life or in the church
must be seeking God with whole heart
must confess where you are out of line with God
must make reforms according to God's Word
only with confession can there be freedom in adoration, worship and celebration
when you are truly experiencing revival, others are drawn in with little effort
the spiritual level of a church con be measured by the spiritual level of the pastor

I told you that we were going to be in class!! It's been a wonderful time of refreshing in God's Word!!

This afternoon, Pastor Leo took us to "El Campo" so that we could see the place were the church members are fasting and praying. It's can feel God's presence's a holy place! While we were there, Pastor Leo laid his hands on us and prayed his blessing on us. Then he asked if we'd be willing to share our testimony with the church tonight! Praise God for more open doors!

Something else today...I noticed something about the way plantains grow when we were in "El Campo." As a plantain/banana plant grows, it drops seeds beside it so that it can have "children" to carry on when it can't produce anymore. It's an awesome example of discipleship. When you are discipling someone, the goal is to work yourself out of a job. You should teach the person you are discipling to disciple another...that way you can continue producing disciples even when you are no longer in that city or in this world. In this picture, you can see the stump of the oldest plantain plant, the one that is tall and healthy and producing plantains, and finally the two children that will grow up and continue producing!! It's really possible to see God's Word every where you look!!

Church was awesome...the music was authentic worship of our Lord and Savior!!! Wow! We enjoyed sharing as well. After the service was over, Chris and I visited with a lot of families, taught the kids some new songs, and Hernan (Nicolas's brother) sang some of the songs God has given him. Wow!! What a night!!

Wednesday, January 23rd
Today we went to visit with Nicolas and Felicia. Sandra (who is much better now) came to get us and lead us through the plantains to get to their house. She was a great guide...she pointed out all the different plants and animals along the way!

Today is the day that they export the plantains through a company called BanaCol. Look for their sticker in stores...they export plantains and bananas from Colombia!! So we stopped by to see the process of cutting, cleaning, and packing them. First, we stopped at a stranger's house. Then we stopped at Hno Obidio's house to see how he was doing. In order to export the plantains, they must be a certain size and color, and they can't have any dark spots. If they don't fit into this category, they are sold to chalupas on Thursday. These plantains are for use within Colombia.

We learned (when we got to their house) that Luzmari was stung by a freshwater manteray yesterday, so her foot's swollen and she's in a lot of pain!! We prayed for her first thing...she's going to be better soon!!
We fellowshipped together over breakfast and washing dishes. Then Felicia sent Daurin and Sandra to find some ripe plantains, so that Chris and I could eat some. We followed them around a little more in the plantains. They can move like rabbits. After our treasure hunt, Felicia sent Daurin to the store. In other places that we've been kids ride their bike to the store if it's far away...not here...they go on horse back!! Kids as young at 4 or 5 already know how to control a horse and run errands for their parents!

We had lunch together, and then it was time for me to learn to make cheese!!! The fresh milk from the cow has to sit out until a layer of film forms over the milk. We skimmed off the film and put it in a jar. (Tomorrow it will be ready to make cream or butter!) Then we took a small tablet and dissolved it in a large spoon full of milk. Felicia told me it was time to stop mixing it when curds started to form in the spoon. Then you stir this milk into all of the milk and it works it's way through the whole batch! (Just like the yeast that Jesus talks about in Matthew 13:33) Once the milk separated into water and curds, we drained off the water for the pigs to drink. Then we began to squeeze the rest of the water out of the cheese. We add salt and kneeded it and squeezed the water out again. Then it was ready to be formed into little balls to be sold or put inside of a press so that it would last longer. It was soooo good!!

By the time we finished making the cheese, it was time for Nicolas (the son) and Daurin to go bring the cows in to the pen so that they would be ready to milk in the morning. Chris went with them and watched in amazement as a 10 and a 12 year old lassoed the cows and brought them into the pen!

In the later afternoon, we went down to the river. Felicia, Sandra, Freizer, Jacob, Yudis (a family friend), and I swam and "bathed" with soap and all...with all our clothes on! Chris went with Neder, Nicolas (the son) and Daurin to catch supper! They used a net that Neder just bought to catch more than 15 fish! Tasty!!

Devotion tonight was about the woman at the well (John 4). By then it was dark, so it was time to go to bed!!

Thursday, January 24th
This morning the devotion was about Nicodemus (John 3) meeting with Jesus, and Pastor Leo compared the woman at the well with Nicodemus. Pretty should read them and compare the two!!

Chris helped me wash clothes (by hand) again today...I can truly appreciate at washing machine now even the simple ones that you have to fill up with water between cycles that have a 2 different compartments--one to wash/rinse and one to spin out the water!! I'm still not sure how to get the clothes completely clean by hand!!

We walked down today to see the chalupas to see if any doors would open to give us a ride to Turbo. We did learn more about the process, but no open doors! We were a little sad even though we love Tanela...we haven't talked to our families in sooooo long! We are really longing to be across this last expanse of water!

This afternoon we played with Monica, made salvation bracelets, taught Pastora Dionisia and Hna Catalina how to make salvation bracelets, and studied/prepared for tonight's service. Then we went down to the watering hole to take a bath in the middle of the plantains!

Tonight was the Thanksgiving service, so Hna Regina gave her testimony of God's healing on her foot. We shared about memory stones out of Joshua 4. When God does something big, we need to have/make something that reminds us us His faithfulness! Memory stones are especially helpful in the hard times because as you remember God's past faithfulness, it gives you encouragement to keep waiting on Him! After the service, Hna Regina offered refreshments to everyone.
Plus, several families invited us to come to their houses for lunch and to fellowship with their families! We've never experienced anything like this...usually we get to know 1-4 families in the church, but never the whole church...there's no telling how long we'll be here because we never leave an area until God closes the door.

Tonight we received a gift like we have never recieved and will probably never receive again. Luzdari came up to us after everyone at church had left and told us that her husband, Luis, had gone home to bring us a present. So we talked to her and their children--Lucho, Margis, and Juli. Actually we sang with the kids because they love to sing. The whole family is very talented muscially. You can imagine our surprise when Luis came back with a hen THAT WAS STILL ALIVE and gave it to Chris. Chris didn't even know how to hold the thing! We almost passed out...we didn't know what to do with a live chicken! Thankfully Pastor Leo did know what to do, so he helped us tie it up so that it would run away during the night! Apparently one day soon we are going to be eating chicken for lunch! We continue to be amazed at how welcome we have felt in Tanela and in Colombia!!

(The church has a generator so that they can have services at night. It's a pretty awesome time of fellowship because people hang out after church until the gas runs out. It's one of the only places in the community with lights.)

Friday, January 25th
This morning Pastor Leo shared more with us about life in El Chocó during the high time of the guerrillas and paramilitaries. 1996-1998 were the worst years. Daily 4-5 families came to the church seeking counselling because one of their family members had been killed that day. Many people (including pastors) left because they were afraid for their lives. Pastor Leo and Pastora Dionisia held firm ministering to the community because they knew that the Good Shepherd doesn't leave His sheep (John 10). If Jesus is the example that we are to follow, then there was no other choice for them except to hang on with the flock God had entrusted to them. Pastor Leo told us of a day that he had to help dig graves for 20 unidentified bodies. Story after story that he shared rocked our hearts and minds. Chris and I can't understand the horrors that the people of this country have suffered through. What do you do with this kind of information? There is so much hurt and so much that healing that needs to take place. I really believe that's why God's love is so abundant here. Only He can heal all that has been hurt!!

Today we had a lunch date with Alvaro, Luzmaris, Yorlenis, Luis, Alvaro, and Santiago up on the hill. Yorlenis and Luis came for us on horse to take us back to their house. Luis and Chris rode the horse, and Yorlenis took me on a side trail on foot. She too was a wonderful guide, she showed me the river and new plants and even climbed a guava tree to get some fruit for me to eat along the way!

While Luzmaris was preparing lunch, some of their neighbors--Ezequiel, Meri, Angelica, and Eneidis--came over. So the women talked outside while Luzmaris cooked, and the guys chatted in the hammocks on the porch. The boys went to find more fruit for us to sample and to make juice for lunch. They came back loaded down with star fruit and ciruelas. Tasty!!! When Ezequiel realized that we like fruit, he went back to his house to bring us some tiny bananas that are really sweet!!

After supper, we went over to Luis and Luzdari's house because it was close by. We thanked them again for the hen! Plus we were able to pray God's blessings upon them!! On the way back over to Alvaro and Luzmaris's house, we saw a SLOTH in a tree!! At first it was curled up, but Luis poked it and the sloth waved at us!! What craziness?!

All three families and us headed down the hill to the church together. Pastor Leo brought the message. Then after church, the prayer team went out to "El Campo" to pray until midnight.

Well, we still aren't sure when we'll be leaving here. God has opened sooo many doors. We'll be in touch again soon when we know something more definite. Until then, may God bless you and keep you! We love you!