The blog says that I last updated you five days ago, but it feels like much longer! We have had some really busy days the last little bit with visitors and various activities.
Two representatives from the GCM Board arrived on Friday. We had such a joyful time with them. Keith brought his wife Eva along who proved to be an immeasurable blessing to Steph. The last number of times the Board visited, there hasn’t been a sister along, and I’ve felt for Steph. Eva was excellent. She took the role of grandmother seriously, and made sure that Steph was well looked after. It really touched me to see my dear, servant wife getting some serving in return; she needs it.
Andrew, Keith, and I spent a lot of time in meetings, both scheduled and otherwise, to work through a bunch of things on my mind and to prepare for the services on Sunday. We had interviews with each of the potential members on Saturday in preparation for receiving them officially into the church and for sharing Communion afterward. It was a blessed time together, and I was glad to have other men to help me through the process.
Besides the Board representatives arriving Friday, we were also blessed with a surprise visit from Jheyson and Judi, a young couple from the Huaral congregation. God moved them to come this weekend without their knowing ahead of time of our plans for the special services. Jheyson proved very valuable in navigating some tough issues with Fernando and Esmeralda as well as working with the young Venezualan man, Edward, who has begun working here on the farm. God is so kind to work out the details of our lives to meet our needs so perfectly.
The Roca family from Puno arrived Saturday evening, filling up the rest of the rooms in the two houses. Esmeralda being here was perfect timing, as she helped keep the houses in order without complaint or direction. She has a servant’s heart. Having the Rocas here was a special privilege. Rafael is a dear brother and confidante, so it was extra special to share the weekend with him and to have him handy for advice was invaluable.
Sunday came at last, and I still chuckle at how the morning went. How many people were late? I don’t remember. Percy’s showed up sometime during the first few songs. China went to collect Cristina (who hasn’t been to church in about a year!), and Steph went to get Alicia partway through the singing. Edward, his wife Lady, and son Calef showed up while Steph and China were gone. Rafael Farfán and his mom Maritza showed up latest of all, so I guess they get a gold star. Our first service as an officially recongized church certainly felt like we were in Peru!
Rafael Roca shared a meditation on waiting on God because we realize that not only is He completely powerful to work, God is also completely wise in knowing when to take action. Andrew shared a moving message on the calling of a servant. Then Keith performed the ceremony of placing me as pastor here. The mixture of the weight of the call and the joy of the work is hard to describe; I was grateful to receive a blessing in prayer from Keith, Andrew, and Rafael Roca.
Andrew then performed the ceremony of founding the church and receiving its first members. When he asked that those who were ready to join would stand, Alicia and Edward immediately jumped up, too! Andrew then took a moment to explain what this meant, and they took a seat though Alicia answered and accepted all the questions from her seat, anyway. Caleb, Belinda, China, Leonela, Steph, and I were all received as members of La Iglesia Cristiana Agua de Vida de Izcuchaca—Lucrecia corrected us a bit later and said we are the church of Huancarpata! 😁
Afterward, there was a time of sharing in which many people gave encouragement to me as pastor. We were moved by Esmeralda’s testimony and her kind words for Steph and me. Alicia had already said the Sunday before, but she reiterated that she is feeling God asking her to count the costs of going all the way with Him. Percy and Lucrecia each talked and said that they feel safe and fed in this flock, and that they hear God telling them to leave the Evangelical church to join us officially. Percy was crying as he commented on the friendship he and I have, which made me cry, too; they have been a godsend for our family. Edward is a Christian and shared how he has been without friends or family since he left Venezuela four years ago, and now he feels he has found people who can help him in his walk with God. Rafael Farfán shared how he has come to know God and to love the Bible because of our studies together and how he sees in us the true love of God that doesn’t fight even when attacked. Cristina shared how she has been running from God, but she had finally decided to come back only to see God has been working while she was away; she says she feels God clearly calling her to join with the group here.
These dear people! I am literally crying as I type this out. We have labored with them for so long, and at times our weak faith wondered if God could do anything with our feeble and failing efforts. But the battle is the Lord’s! We are but instruments in His hands. It is humbling to see Him working through us. For myself, I know that I am but dust, and I wrestle with my weaknesses daily. It is an impossible work for us, and that’s exactly where God wants us so that He can glorify His name. He is only worthy of all the praise for the Holy Spirit’s work in the hearts of these dear ones.
In the afternoon, we had instruction class again. Esmeralda has officially asked for instruction for baptism, so we are working through some fundamentals with her and thinking about a future date in a month or so. I love seeing her Bible each week. It was brand new a couple months ago, but now it is filled with highlights and notes and dog-eared pages. She uses that Bible like we all should our own, as if her life depends on it!
In the evening, we had Communion and Feet Washing. Keith shared a message in Spanish and then helped me as I bumbled through the ordinances. Andrew and Caleb served as our deacons and took seriously the need to have hot water for feet washing—it felt only marginally below boiling point! We certainly felt clean afterward! Ah, life is not perfect, not in our church anyway, but it was a blessed time, nevertheless.
Monday, Esmeralda and Leonela went to meet Fernando in town at the department of social services, I think. Fernando said he was ready to reconcile with regard to custody of María Gracia. It turns out, he came prepared to demand that she never be exposed to anything regarding Christianity; that was his only requirement. Of course, Esmeralda didn’t yield to that (she called me partway through the conversation to get advice, and we had met as a group the night before). Fernando says he will sue for full custody. We are still in the battle!
Alicia’s mom died on Monday at age 94. Alicia asked if I would come share a gospel message at the vela, which I did. Afterward, three men asked for Bibles and wanted to talk. Andrew and I talked together with two fellows who were under conviction and felt God calling them to repent. The fields are white unto harvest!
Tuesday was the day everyone left. The Rocas left in the morning, Jheyson’s left in the afternoon, and the ones from the States left in the evening. It was a busy day of last-minute conversations and goodbyes. And we ran out of water! God had blessed us by sending water from the mountain the day before our visitors arrived. We had been without running water since March 27 (if I remember correctly) with the exception of a day, I think. Three full months without water unless Caleb was hauling it in, and finally it came back just before this huge group of visitors arrived.
Then it left right when we didn’t need it so much. Well, we still need water, but you get the idea. Eva said she was glad that she had to live without water here only a day; dealing with the cold was already bad enough! We are in our coldest month of the year with every morning being below freezing; we haven’t quite dipped under 20°F yet.
Marti Roca stayed behind to spend a week with China and Leonela. They seem to be enjoying having a friend around. 😉
Speaking of water, we have gotten quotes from four different well-digging operations, and have decided to go with one that is local to Compone. Levi gave me the green light to go ahead with the project, so we filled out a contract, and the fellow will start work on a well at the upper house tomorrow. The contract says he’ll be done before the end of July; we are eager to see!
There’s a lot more I could share. I’m sure you all would love to hear more details about Esmeralda or Edward our new Venezuelan friend or Percy and his family or… But I have been just too busy to make that happen. At the moment, we have no visitors on the calendar for the rest of the year, so maybe that means that I’ll be finding a bit more time in my days. Thanks to all of you who have been sending messages of support over the last week; we have felt bolstered.
I’ll wrap up this post by saying that we came through the last week with our times of special prayer. Thank you to those from different countries who pledged to take an hour slot for prayer. We certainly felt that boost of power. We know that you will continue praying for us as we come to your mind. The work is great, but God is greater.