Friday, December 9, 2011


Are you thinking….fast, quick, swift, rapid?  Well, change that.  Think, fast, voluntary abstinence, prayer, communion with the Spirit.  I never fasted before I came to Peru, I never really understood fasting before coming here.  But now, I understand the meaning and importance of fasting.  I understand the power of crying out to Him in fasting and prayer, its a beautiful experience, a time of growth and closeness with our God. 

The thing is, not only do Frani and I and the rest of our team practice fasting personally, we teach fasting to these new Christians.  You might think that’s getting ahead of ourselves or unnecessary, that’s what I thought at first.  But, we have the opportunity to teach these ‘babies’ from the beginning the beauty and importance of fasting.  One of the lessons in the discipleship series we use here is a lesson on fasting.  We have gone through this lesson with many contacts but had not yet practiced the lesson with any contacts.  The boys, Garren and Geremias have fasted with a number of their contacts before, but Franci and I had not yet had the opportunity.

Last week, God presented us with an opportunity to teach Carmen firsthand about fasting and prayer.  We went to Carmen’s tienda to chat with her and she opened up to us about a problem that has been going on for months.  Her oldest son, Dante is fighting with his wife, Lisbeth and they are actually separated at this point, Dante living with Carmen and Godo, Lisbeth living with her mother.  They have a little son, Alexander who lives with Lisbeth but stays with Carmen during the day while Lisbeth works.  The main issues are that the fights between Lisbeth and Dante lead Dante to drink which then in turn frustrates Carmen and Carmen puts blame on Lisbeth and Lisbeth reacts to the accusations and Dante drinks more.  Its a big mess and its taking its toll on the entire family.

Here’s a picture from a few months ago to put names with faces….

DSC_0045 Front: Lisbeth’s nephew;    Middle: Me with Alexander, Carmen, Lisbeth, Elvis, Guillermo, Petronila, Pastora Diana;   Back: Godofredo, Dante, Franci

So, Carmen vented to us about the continued problems between the three of them.  As Carmen walked away to make a sale in the tienda, Franci and I chatted about what we could do to help them.  Franci told me she had already thought about fasting with Carmen to lift this situation up to God.  I agreed that was the only thing we could do, lift this up to Him.  So, Carmen came back and we asked if she would be willing to fast, that we would fast with her and pray with her.  Carmen was very receptive.  She remembered the lesson on fasting and was eager to take this next step, to practice what she had learned.  We decided we would fast on Friday until 3pm.  We also planned a special time of prayer in the church in Yanamayo for an hour while we were fasting. 

Friday morning rolled around, Franci and I fasting at home, Carmen fasting in her home.  Around noon, Franci and I went up to Yanamayo and went to Carmen’s tienda to pick her up and walk over to the church for prayer.  When we arrived I saw Dante, I didn’t think much of it as he’s been living there.  But then, we headed to the church and Carmen shut down the entire tienda and brought Dante along with us.  She told us Dante and her husband Godofredo, (not Dante’s father)  were also fasting.  Wow!  This is huge because Godofredo refuses to make a heartfelt decision to follow Christ, he always says he’s not ready.  But, he was fasting.  And Dante has also yet to make a decision to repent and follow Christ in His ways.  But he was fasting too! 

We sat down, the four of us, on the wooden benches in the church.  We discussed our reason for fasting, to pray for Dante, Carmen and Lisbeth, for the relationship between the three of them, for guidance, for strength, for change.  And in this, Dante said that he wanted to change.  Franci took this opportunity and asked him if he really meant that, if he meant it enough to ask for forgiveness and start a new life, a new road with Christ.  He said he was ready, so the first prayer we prayed together, was a prayer of repentance and forgiveness, Dante started a new life with Christ that day! 

We then read through 2 Chronicles 20:1-30 together.  I will be the first to admit, my Old Testament history knowledge is very lacking.  But, the very basics of this chapter teach us the importance of coming together in prayer and fasting.  The history is that Jehoshaphat of Judah allied with Israel by marrying the daughter of Ahab.  Ahab was about to go to war and because Jehoshaphat was the king’s son in law and he was loyal, Jehoshaphat went to battle with Ahab against the Ramoth Gilead.  You can read chapter 18 and find out why, but basically, Jehoshaphat was directly attacked and almost died in this war for his father in law’s sake.  Now, Jehoshaphat gets home from almost dying and finds out he’s in trouble, the Moabites and the Ammonites want to fight him.  Talk about troubles!  We think we have problems, try almost dying and then finding out more people want to go to war against you and your people. 

So what does Jehoshaphat do?  Verse three of chapter 20 tells us, he declared a fast for all of Judah, and verse four tells us the people came together, fasting, to ‘seek help from the Lord’.  His first line of defense was fasting and prayer, together.  And while they were fasting together, Jehoshaphat gets up in front of everyone and he prays (vv. 5-12).  He prays, “You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations.  Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you……we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and we’ll cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us……for we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us.  We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”  His words are sincere and he knows, God is the only one who has the power and might needed to help us in our time of trouble, Jehoshaphat knows we must humble ourselves and go to Him in our distress, we must cry out to Him, plead for His strength and help in the battle we are facing, we must admit we don’t know what to do, but that we know enough to go to Him. 

We read these verses together and then began to pray.  But, before praying, Carmen,  called Godofredo, her husband and told him to shut down his jean shop down at the market because we were going to be praying in Yanamayo and she wanted him to pray at the same time with us.  My heart filled with joy and pride.  This was all  Carmen’s idea.  She understands the importance of fighting this battle against the devil together.  Then, Franci said she would start praying and I would finish.  I jumped in and asked Carmen if she would pray, I know this woman, young in her faith, can pray.  She did want a turn to pray and Dante also agreed to pray.  So, we started with Franci, would go in a circle, and I would finish up our time of prayer.  After Franci prayed, Carmen, not used to praying in a circle like we were doing, stopped and asked if it was her turn, we said yes and bowed our heads again.  In this, Carmen got off the bench and got down on her knees, lifting her hands to our Lord.  She began to pray.  And like I said, that woman can pray.  She cried out to our Father.  She called on His name, she pleaded to Him with her tears staining the cement below her.  She gets what Jehoshaphat got, she gets the fact that we must unify ourselves in prayer in fasting, she understands God has all the power and might, she knows the importance of crying out His name and asking Him to save us from our problems.  She is willing and does humble herself before our God, she gets on her knees to pray. 

As she prayed, I thanked God for the changes we’ve seen in this woman.  I remembered the first time we met her, Franci and I were talking to Godofredo, we had meet him and talked to him a few times before.  Then, Carmen came home from the market.  The impression I got from her was, who do you gals think you are, talking to my husband?  She was not very receptive at first, she was not very hospitable.  And now, here we are, praying with her, fasting with her, for her family problems.  Wow.   What a dramatic change, and its all from Him.

Carmen prayed, she cried, she called out the name of our Father, she asked for help, for guidance, for strength.  But, she also thanked Him.  She gave thanks to our Father for the life she has, for her family and I was so humbled when she thanked God for Franci and I.  This is a moment I will always remember, Carmen praying.  It is a moment I will always treasure.  It was a moment of grief for her, a moment of pouring her heart out to God.  But I felt so very blessed in this moment.  It is so incredible that God has given me this opportunity to be here, to see these lives change before my eyes.  I am so incredibly blessed to be here, I was blessed to be able to share this time of fasting and prayer with Carmen, Godo and Dante. 

After Carmen, Dante prayed and again, I felt blessed.  To hear a new believer, thirty minutes before who had made a heartfelt decision to follow Christ and now he’s praying.  Again, wow!  Then it was my turn to pray, I’m not a girl who cries often, but I was so overwhelmed with emotions, overwhelmed with thanks for the opportunity to be there with Carmen and Dante, overwhelmed with the need in their lives, that I cried, I cried out to God for this family.  It was an awesome time of prayer with Franci, Carmen and Dante.  God was there, God was moving, it was incredible.

And as I read on in Chronicles, verses 15 is especially meaningful.  Verse 15b says, “This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.  For the battle is not yours, but God’s’.”  This is not Carmen’s battle, it’s not Dante’s battle, it’s not Lisbeth’s battle, it’s not my battle, it’s God’s battle.  There’s no reason to be afraid or discouraged in this difficult time, but its time to have confidence and faith in Him.  And God is faithful, it is shown in the scriptures.  In verse 20 Jehoshaphat and his crew left for the desert as God told them to.  And as they went out, Jehoshaphat told his men, “Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in His prophets and you will be successful.”  Then Jehoshaphat urged his men to sing and praise God.  They sang, “Give thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever.”

Verse 22 is quite notable, it says, “As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.”  The men of Judah didn’t even have to fight just as the Lord said in verse 17, God was faithful, he delivered Judah from this battle.  Why?  I’d like to refer to Isaiah chapter 58, a chapter on how to fast properly, with a right heart and attitude.  Verse 9 says, “Then you will call, and the Lord will answer: you will cry for help, and he will say: Here I am.”  This verse comes after an explanation of proper fasting in verses 6-8.  If we fast with a right heart, with right reasons, with humbleness and selflessness, God is faithful to answer our call, to answer our cry and come to our rescue just like He did for Jehoshaphat and just like I know He’s going to do for Carmen and Dante.  In fact, God already answered, before we even prayed, God opened a door, He touched Dante’s heart, and Dante is a new creature in Him!  But I know in my heart, God has more work and healing to do in this family, and I have faith that He will continue to work in this family, in His way and His time.

So, to end this very long post,  I ask for your prayers for this family.  Dante and Lisbeth are still separated, Lisbeth and Carmen are still struggling in their relationship, Dante is going to face difficult decisions along this new path.  But not only do I ask for your prayers, I challenge you, fellow North Americans.  I don’t think we realize the importance, the beauty, the power in fasting and prayer.  I challenge you, the next time something comes up in life, fast, pray, do it together, cry out to God and He will always be faithful.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


I feel like I’m on a rollercoaster ride of emotions.  Things are going good in Yanamayo, the thing is, sometimes they don’t go the way I want them to.  But, God is showing me His faithfulness.  He is working in me, He is filling me up, He is pouring me out, He is touching hearts, He is changing lives.  I can’t believe how blessed I am to be able to watch Him work, right before my eyes. 

The past few weeks I’ve been thinking about this rollercoaster I’m on.  Especially on Tuesday nights.   On Tuesday’s at 6pm we have a prayer service in Yanamayo.  Four weeks ago I was stunned, I was amazed at God’s blessing.  We had in attendance 4 adults, 1 teenager, 2 kids, plus Franci and myself.  Its not about the numbers. But what it is about…….We gathered in a circle and got on our knees.  I’m not talking about getting down on carpet, or catholic kneeling benches, or even a mat.  I’m saying, we got down, on our knees, on the cold, hard concrete, all of us, kids and adults, young and old.  Kneeling, bringing ourselves, heart and body to the feet of Christ, we held hands and prayed to our common God.  It was powerful.  The most powerful part, can you believe we stepped foot in Yanamayo for the first time in January?  Can you believe we didn’t know anyone?  And now, look at God’s blessings, look at His work!  Ten months later, we have a small group of people gathering together, kneeling on the cold, hard concrete in prayer to our God!  Wow!  What a ride!

After that amazing Tuesday night, I naturally, humanly, had expectations for the next Tuesday night.  I wanted it to be awesome in the same way, I wanted it to look the same.  But God, He works in His ways, not mine.  Why is it that I forget that so often?  Every time I forget, He reminds me.  He reminded me in a special way that night, He reminded me as Franci and I started our prayer service with just us, nobody was there.  My high from the week before and my expectations were let down.  But God reminded my I let myself down by putting Him in a box, He reminded me that He always has a plan, He always has a purpose.  About 30 minutes later, Carmen walked in the door.  I felt human relief, that someone actually showed up.  But God showed me so much more.  Carmen, Franci and I prayed, we sat on the wooden benches in a little circle, holding hands.  We prayed for Yanamayo and Carmen’s health.  We thanked our Lord and praised Him.  It was a beautiful time of prayer, three women, coming together, spending time in conversation with the Father.  And, it was exactly what Carmen needed that night.  I know it, I saw the change in her face when we were done.  It wasn’t a big group, we didn’t get down on the floor, it was different, but that doesn’t mean God wasn’t there with us, that doesn’t mean it was in vain, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t as good as last time.  It just means God used that Tuesday differently.  Not better, not worse, different. 

And then there was last week.  Tuesday was an interesting day as everyone was celebrating ‘Dia de Los Muertos’, ‘Day of the Dead’.  People were busy, nobody wanted to come to church, and nobody did, except little 3 year old Davis and 6 year old Ingrid.  We sang with the kids, Franci read a story in the Bible and explained to Ingrid how she could later share that story with her mom.  Then, we prayed.  I held Davis in my lap and Ingrid was at my side, leaning her head on my arm.  Franci prayed in Spanish and I prayed simultaneously in English.  With that little boy in my lap, his tiny hand in mine, I prayed for his life, for his future, and the same with Ingrid, her head touching my arm, I reached out and hugged her, prayed for her future, her soul, her life.  What an amazing opportunity, to pray for those little lives.  I prayed for all the little kids we play with, all the little kids that come running up to us, give us big hugs and call us ‘professora’.  I love the kids, I know Jesus loves the kids.  God used Tuesday night again.  Not in the way I expected, but in His way. 

And this week, Garren and Geremias went up to Yanamayo with me in the afternoon since Franci went home for two weeks to take care of her sick father.  The three of us walked around Yanamayo, we visited a few contacts and reminded them of the church service later on in the evening.  I probably reminded 6 families as we walked the streets and chatted.  The hour came, 6:00pm, and nobody had showed up as seems to be normal.  But we got started, we sang, the three of us, we read the Bible, the three of us.  Then finally Petronila and her friend Felipe came.  They sat down and I talked about Psalm 4, I tried to teach these new babies in Him what our responsibility is in prayer, and what God does on His end when we pray.  Then we sat down, Garren, Geremias, Petronila, Felipe and myself, we prayed together in a circle.  God is teaching these new followers how to pray, He is using these Tuesday nights to show them the importance of prayer. 

Really, I’m on this rollercoaster of emotions because I put my own human expectations on God.  I get let down because I’m putting God in a box.  And every time, God blows my expectations out of the water.  He shows me how little my perspective is.  He shows me He’s got this, and I’m along for the ride.

God has put Isaiah 55:8-9 on my heart in these past few weeks.  God doesn’t think the way I do, He doesn’t act the way I do, but His ways, and His thoughts are better.  When I think He should act like I do, think like I do, I put Him in a box.  Because the difference between His ways and thoughts and mine, is as big as the distance from here to heaven.   The thing is, He’s teaching me His ways, He’s teaching me His thoughts, He’s closing that gap.  Not that I or anyone else will ever be on His level, but, I’m learning to keep an open mind, I’m learning to trust His way, I’m learning to put my expectations aside. 

Isaiah 55:8-9

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

neither are my ways your ways,”

declares the Lord

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways

and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Monday, September 19, 2011

Rays of Hope......

Awesome things are happening in Yanamayo! I don't just see glimmers of hope for this community, I see rays of hope! Let me share with you some of the stories.......

First, let me brag, brag on our Lord, because He provided us with awesome church attendance in Yanamayo on September 18th, we had 18 people in the church! This was our largest church service yet, not that numbers are the goal, but it is an awesome indicator that God is working in this place. It's crazy to think that 9 months ago Franci and I knew not one person in this community and now we have a group of people coming to church! Of the 18, there were 8 adults, 3 youth, and 7 kids. We had a great time of fellowship and prayer and I shared the message (God is continually stretching me!).

For over three weeks now, Guillermo has not had a drink. This is incredible as he had been an alcoholic for years. He was not the typical Puno beer drinker, he was drunk off whiskey on a daily basis. Months ago you may remember a blog on how disappointed I was after we visited him at 10 am and he was drunk and had peed his pants. His yellow eyes, a sure sign of a failing liver, also confirm he was a victim to this dangerous disease. But now, Guillermo is more interactive, he's coming to church every Sunday and Tuesday in Yanamayo, he's eating more and he just looks healthier even after such a short time off the bottle. God has worked in him and changed him. This is obviously the work of our Lord in his life. And even more awesome, is that this change in Guillermo is spreading. First of all, now Petronila is happy, joyful, and no longer frustrated with her alcoholic husband. Secondly, I'm so glad Elvis, their grandson, is being raised in a better environment. And, Guillermo and Petronila have been sharing their love for God with their friends! Because of their excitement about this new life, they invited their friend Felipe to church a few weeks ago. Yesterday, Felipe hopped on a combi, came up to Yanamayo, and started lessons with us in Guillermo and Petronila's house! Not only is this family changing, but they are bearing fruit!

Yovanna and Richard......
Yovanna and Richard are a young couple with two adorable little kids. We first started meeting with this pair back in May. We met them through Carmen who had been 'preaching' the importance of God in our lives to her neighbor Yovanna. We went over to Richard and Yovanna's house and started discipling them and struck up a great friendship. It's refreshing to spend time with contacts closer to my own age. But, meeting with them on a weekly basis has proven to be difficult. They are often out and about on Richard's day off, Saturday, at the time and hour of our appointment. We hadn't seen Yovanna and Richard since June when my parents were here. We kept knocking on their door weekly and trying to call them. But we never heard anything back from them. I was sad and frustrated, thinking that we had lost them. But, two weeks ago we ran into them on the street in Yanamayo and Yovanna promised us they would be home the next Saturday. And they were! We have been able to reconnect with this couple and have seen them two weeks in a row. The best part was last week when we were on the lesson "Knowing our Heavenly Father". It's a lesson that talks about certain characteristics about God. We talk about His mercy, love, power and more. But as we were chatting before and during the lesson, Yovanna has been exploring God and knowing Him all on her own! It was incredible, we would talk about God as our Healer in the conversation, and then, in the lesson, there it was, God is our Healer. Yovanna said she no longer feels alone while Richard is off at work because she knows God is by her side. Another part of the lesson, God is omnipresent. We went through the Bible and looked at verses to confirm all that Yovanna is already learning on her own through prayer!

Things with Carmen and her family actually haven't been awesome lately. Carmen and her family have seemed distant and disinterested in the past few weeks. There was one day especially where we went into Carmen's tienda to chat with her and she was very short with us, telling us she was busy. I knew something was wrong at that moment and then we knew something was really wrong when we walked by later in the afternoon to find the tienda closed. Carmen's tienda is the biggest with the most traffic in all of Yanamayo. Her tienda is always open. But recently, we along with the neighbors find the doors closed and locked. Franci and I had been praying especially for this family, not knowing what was going on but knowing something was trying to tear them away from God and from us. So one day last week, Franci was ready to head home one day as the rain poured down on us. But I told Franci we still had to go say hi to our friend Ines. Franci hates being wet and cold. She's a slow mover until there's rain and then I can hardly keep up with her! We rushed over to our friend Ines' house quickly only to find out she wasn't home. Then Franci tried to hail a combi. I told her 'not yet', that we still had to go to Carmen's. (Out of my own stubbornness, I push Franci when she's tired and done for the day.) So we went to Carmen's tienda. We walked into the shelter of the tienda to find Godofredo, Carmen's husband. I asked if Carmen was around and he said 'no'. I chatted with Godo for a few moments while Franci waited impatiently at the door ready to jump on a combi and go home. But then, Carmen walked in the door. I hadn't seen her since that day she was short with us and told her we were praying for her. I asked her if there was something specific we could pray for. She broke down crying. She said her son Dante has been drinking again, her daughter Aracely was in a car accident last week but is okay, and she told me she's being treated for arthritis. I asked Carmen if we could pray together right then and there. I was just expecting to pray right where we were, with the tienda open and some neighbor would probably come interrupt us. But, Carmen had another idea in mind. She closed the store, turned off the lights, and us four, Franci, Carmen, Godo and myself went into the back room, held hands and spent a very special time in prayer together. I love that Carmen realized the importance of prayer, that she understands God is the One who can help us. She took this prayer time seriously, she didn't want to be interrupted, she wanted to be focused on God and lifting everything up to Him. Things are still rough for this family as they struggle through what I truly believe is a spiritual battle. But, through it all, this family recognizes the power of God and prayer, that's an awesome start, and awesome weapon against satan in this battle for their souls.

Livia is a new contact from a movie we showed in Yanamayo a few weeks ago. She lives about a block away from Guillermo and Petronila in a district called 27 de Junio. Livia is adorable and sweet, I liked her from the moment I started chatting with her after showing the Felix Vargas film. Franci and I have been to her house to visit her a few times since the movie and have had the chance to start lessons with her. In the first lesson I asked her if she had a Bible and she assured me that she did. Then yesterday, before I got started on the second lesson with her, she told me that she liked my Bible better than the one she has, she said she understands my Bible better. I asked her to bring out her Bible and she brought out a giant 'Coffee Table Catholic Bible'. We talked about the Bible and different versions, we talked about religions and denominations. We had a great conversation and I believe she has some clarity on a few of these topics now. I promised her to bring an NIV Bible to her this week. We use the Catholic Bible with some contacts, its actually a very clear and understandable version which I like. But what we discussed with Livia yesterday is that she needs a Bible that she can use on a daily basis. This giant yet beautiful Bible is not conducive to daily reading. But, how incredible, she was reading her Bible during the week! And more than that, she lugged out that giant Bible to read! That is exciting and empowering, its wonderful to see new believers with true interest in learning more!

The Jail.....
Franci and I go to jail every Saturday morning. Nope, its not because I'm breaking the law. Its because we basically hold a little church service with the inmates weekly. With a jail right there in Yanamayo, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to take God's Word literally, like when Jesus talks in Matthew 25 about visiting the prisoners, and that compassion is truly shown to Him or in Isaiah 61, we can take literally the action of being anointed to bring the Good News to the prisoners. Saturday mornings are one of my favorite parts of this job. I hate wearing a skirt and walking the 3/4 mile on dirt roads to get to the jail. And I don't like the whole process once we get there, we get stamped and marked on, go through the pat down and all our stuff is gone through. But, then we go into the jail and see our friends. I work really hard to remember all the guys names. They feel special when I know them by name. We hug and kiss, we greet all these guys who know us as the "hermanitas", little sisters. We all get together upstairs between jail cells there is a sewing room where we meet to sing and share a special time in The Word and a few minutes of English lessons as well. I love joking around with these guys, laughing with them and chatting with them. I hope to change their view of "chrisitanity", I hope to show them the love, compassion and mercy God has shown me. After our service last week I was able to spent a good time chatting with three of our friends there, Ricardo who is an Adventist along with Elias and Virgilo who are beginning an interest in the Word and our Lord. We chatted about everything, from the States to the Bible, we talked about what this 'road with Christ' looks like on a daily basis, and I was able to share my testimony with these guys. Now they know I'm not a perfect little Christian girl, they know I have a history, they know I turned my back on God but that He took me back. It was incredible to be able to open up to these guys and through my testimony show that our God is waiting for us with open arms. We consistently have about 10 - 15 guys come into the sewing room and share in this time with us. It's a great opportunity and awesome to see growth in these guys as they take hold of the Word and prayer.

So, I know this was long. And I hope it all makes sense! But I just can't hold in all the cool stuff that's going on in Yanamayo! I want you guys to know about these blessings and miracles! Keep praying for Yanamayo, God is doing great things but there is still a battle for these souls as they begin this new life with Christ.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Baptisms on the shore of Lake Titicaca!

We are so blessed to live right by Lake Titicaca here in Puno. I seriously look at the lake daily as we leave the house, as we ride in combi's, and as we walk atop the hills overlooking the blue waters. But the part of the lake we see from the city here is only a small part. The lake extends North and South of us for miles and miles. To be exact, it is 3,315 square miles, stretching over 109 miles long and 31 miles wide. We drove about an hour and a half South of town on Tuesday morning to a town called Juli, also known as the 'Rome of the Americas' because of its' four beautiful and elaborate catholic church buildings. Past the Plaza and the farms, you can walk onto a beautiful sandy beach, hardly occupied, and enjoy the view of this enormous lake; this is where we held our second baptism service with the church in Puno, the first baptism in which Franci and I had contacts being baptized.

Guillermo, Petronila and Elvis, this family of three from Yanamayo, all made decisions to tell the world through not only words, but actions, that they believe in God, they believe in the Son and His sacrifice, they have decided to follow a life with HIM, and they want to walk down this narrow path with HIM. Their names might sound familiar from past blogs. Guillermo, Petronila and Elvis are all very near and dear to my heart. They were the first family to complete the first discipleship class of 7 lessons in a record 7 weeks, they are 3 lessons away from being the first to finish the second discipleship book of 13 lessons, and they are the first of our contacts to be baptized.
Petronila is loved by all. When she greets you, she does not gently push her cheek up to yours in a traditional greeting, but she pulls you in for a hug, squeezes your body, and slaps a kiss on your cheek. This woman does not know how to read, but holds onto a Bible like she is holding a brick of gold. If its raining out, or even looks like its going to rain, she carries her Bible to church in a plastic bag. And she is at church every service we have. She is our most faithful contact, always eager to listen, eager to pray, eager to know more.
Guillermo is a tiny little man who has a drinking problem. He does not drink beer which is the common choice here in Puno, but goes straight for the liquor. His eyes are yellow indicating liver problems and I truly don't expect him to live very much longer. But from day one, his understanding of the trinity, the Holy Spirit, the Gospel, has all amazed me. He is very knowledgeable of the Bible and is quick to recognize God is our Creator, Jesus our Savior. He truly wants to live a life pleasing to our Lord, but he struggles to break the chain of alcoholism that ties him down.
Elvis is not actually Guillermo and Petronila's son, but grandson. His father, their son, passed away when he was younger and I'm actually not sure what happened to his mother. He lives with his grandparents, goes to school two combi's away, and runs their tienda daily while he does his homework. Elvis is a sweet young man but he doesn't want anyone to know it. He tries to act cool and roll his eyes at his parents and even at me. But deep down, he's searching for acceptance and love as he tries to discover himself.
This family is far from perfect. In fact, exactly a week before the baptism, Francisca and I were at their house around 1o in the morning. Guillermo and Petronila were fighting, Guillermo drunk on liquor already. Guillermo refused to join us for the weekly discipleship lesson so we continued on with Petronila. After another discipleship lesson on what might be considered basic or even common sense to us, but new and eye opening to this baby christian, Franci wanted to pray with both Petronila and Guillermo about their problems. Guillermo was lying in his bed in his room at the back of their property. Instead of forcing him to come to us, we went to him. Francisca calmly talked to the two adults as if they were children having a petty fight over a toy, but it was necessary to speak to them in this manner. We discussed the vicious cycle in which they are in.....Guillermo drinks and that makes Petronila upset so she yells at him and in his words, 'doesn't respect him', so that leads Guillermo to drink which in turn starts the whole process over again. We told them to forgive each other, to 'kiss and make up', we told them to start over, a blank slate. We tried to stress the importance of forgiveness as well as the importance of putting God at the center of their relationship. Franci put her hands on Guillermo while I held onto Petronila and Franci prayed aloud. Crying and pleading to our Lord, Franci lifted this couple up to Him. It is rare that Franci cries; this couple, this situation, really moved her. I know she has much love, care and compassion for this family as do I.
We don't know how their daily lives are going, they are probably still fighting, probably still arguing, and Guillermo still drinking. But, that's the beautiful thing about baptism, we don't have to be perfect to declare to the world we are followers of Christ. He takes us as we are here and now. He will work in us and mold us in this process of life.
The baptism was beautiful and joyful. I rolled up my jeans and stepped into the water to take pictures. My jeans got a bit wet above the knees as I tried to get closer to Pastor in the lake. At one point we were waiting for the next person to walk through the waters, Pastor asked me if I would help him baptize our contacts from Yanamayo. I told him I hadn't planned on getting wet and didn't bring any extra clothes. He gave me a snickering look as he noticed I was already quite wet and told me he highly doubted Franci would enter the cold water. I thought for a moment, in my head I calculated....wet clothes versus the opportunity to help baptize our contacts. I looked back at Pastor Herman and said, "Ok, I will do it, I'm already wet, what's a little more!". So when it came time to bring Elvis out in the frigid waters, I handed my camera over to Trevor and escorted Elvis out to Pastor. I did the same with Guillermo and Petronila. It was an incredible opportunity, to be able to be side by side with each one of them as they make a statement with their actions. Luckily, I have the best brothers in the world and when we were done with all the baptisms, both Trevor and Garren had extra pants they offered for me to borrow. I put on a pair of borrowed pants, laid my jeans out to dry on a nearby rock and we all had lunch. Petronila, in true Petronila fashion, opened up her blanket to reveal an incredible amount of potatos, chuño and chicken, still hot and steaming from her kitchen earlier that morning. She yelled out to everyone, people she knew, didn't know and one's she just met......"Brothers, come eat!". Petronila is always teaching me how simple God's commands are. How beautiful it was to watch her gleam as she shared her spread of food. And it was even more precious as others came over dumping more food on the blanket to share as a group. I ate some lunch and with a satisfied stomach, heart and spirit, I laid down on the sand and took a nap on the shore of Lake Titicaca.

Pray that Guillermo, Petronila and little Elvis would continue to grow and be molded. Pray for Guillermo's drinking, Petronila's inability to read, and for Elvis' future after an already difficult 12 years of life.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Casa de Dios

We have our first building in Yanamayo! Francisca and I had been asking everyone in Yanamayo if they knew of a room or house to rent. We are discipling more than 20 people in Yanamayo and we need a place to meet all together so these new believers can start fellowshipping and also so Franci and I can consolidate our house to house lessons into a group lesson.
After asking around for weeks, finally one day Carmen told us she has a friend who has an empty house down the street. She got the keys and we took a look at it. The cool part was, Mom and Dad were here that day and they got to check the house out with us! I walked in and started tearing up. I knew God had this place for us and I was so excited for what He has in store for Yanamayo, so relieved to finally have found a place.
We would have taken the place immediately, that day but the owner was out of town. So we waited another week and a half until she was back in Yanamayo. The moment Carmen called us to let us know she had arrived, we dropped everything we were doing and went up to Yanamayo to sign a contract and give her the first and last month's rent.
A few days later, we had an inauguration service and now we are holding services there every Sunday and Tuesday evening as well as a kids class on Saturday afternoons! Check out our awesome turnout for the inauguration service as well as some photos of the house. Many of the houses in Yanamayo, including this one, were a Habitat for Humanity project back in the 80's. Ronald Regan went to Yanamayo Peru to help with this project and all the original owners still remember his visit along with many other North American's.

Our kids singing a song at our first service. And, my homemade sign with our schedule of services.

There's only running water in the morning so we have to fill up the trash can with water and use the bucket to flush the toilet.

Thanks NWCC for the Spanish Bibles!

The house came complete with curtains!
This is our backyard, I call it the jungle, still a bit of work to do!
The floor in the bathroom and the living room.