Tag Archives: Central America

No evil befall you

29 Jan

    I’ve learned that following God in Guatemala can lead to the unexpected! IMG_0210

A quarter of Guatemala’s population call themselves evangelicals and churches are as plentiful as tortillas. But for many of the indigenous population of this Central American country, ancient Mayan beliefs lie just below the surface. Jesus and Mary are equated to the Sun God and Moon Goddess. Shamans or witches wield great power as healers and casters of spells in rural communities, and it’s not uncommon to see individuals wearing protective amulets against the “evil eye”.

When four OM volunteers were assigned to work with the pastor of a tiny church in the mountains of Guatemala this past November, they had little idea of what they’d be up against.

God had led Pastor Noé Godoy to the town of Trapiche ten years before. He was aware that that the territory had already been claimed by the Prince of Darkness: Violence, drinking, sickness and death oppressed the residents. A number of young people were using insecticides to take their own lives. During his first years there, local witches performed supernatural “miracles” and incited people to attack the pastor with boiling water and machetes. Evangelism was forbidden. And even though the roof of the tiny building he used for a church was ready to collapse, it wasn’t until after his main opponent’s death that he was allowed to make repairs.  

“Yet,” affirmed Pastor Noé, who has elected to remain single rather than bring danger upon a wife and children, “our church has seen great miracles of healing and protection as well. And as our people shared the evidence of God’s power with other families, they too came to Christ.”

Although church members owned very little, they actively began to help some 200 widows and single mothers as well as 225 orphans. “We have the vision and even the plans for a dormitory, kitchen and dining room to help these women and children, but so far no way to make it a reality. Meanwhile, we do what we can in the midst of the difficulties and keep trusting that God will accomplish His purposes here.”

For OM’s four Love Guatemala volunteers, Trapiche provided a dramatic first exposure to spiritual warfare. At night villagers threw stones at the house where the girls were trying to sleep. And while going house to house during the day, one of the men, Otto, found himself in the home of two witches. What could he say to them? After silently asking God for help Otto opened his Bible. His eyes immediately fell on Revelation 22:14-15, a passage condemning those who practice magic arts. Otto boldly delivered God’s message.

The Lord had a very different message for the team: “Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place –the Most High who is my refuge –No evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent” (Psalm 91: 9, 10; ESV). Swiss team member Nathan Schmutz was one of the few non-Guatemalans to take part in the outreach. He admitted, “I wasn’t prepared for such a confrontation with evil! But I learned a lot about the power of prayer.”

Guatemala’s ten million people suffer the highest chronic malnutrition rate in Latin America and the fourth-highest rate in the world. On average, about one out of two residents are malnourished. Concerned by the obvious poverty of Trapiche church members, OM Guatemala staff made an extra trip to deliver used clothing, shoes, food parcels and even toys for Christmas. The pastor couldn’t hide his personal delight at finding a suit that fit. A young mother named Nora had given her life to the Lord through the team’s visit a few days before. She had five children and they were barely subsisting in a nearby hovel. The unexpected provision of food, clothing and toys gave the family new courage.

At the end of the outreach Pastor Noé voiced his gratitude. “Some unbelievers opened their doors to the OM team, and we hope they have helped to change the mind of this community. They have been a big blessing to us. We have no way to pay them back, but God will!”     IMG_0344

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A Gringa Back from Central America!

15 Dec

IMG_0624“No disaster will come near your tent!” the Lord promised me in Psalm 91 after my first night in the Costa Rican jungle. It was a promise that I (a total coward) clung to. While tourists flock to the Green Republic to enjoy its abundance of flora and fauna, along with 1000 varieties of butterflies are 100-plus varieties of snakes, some of them poisonous. The warning to wear sturdy shoes was enough to strike terror into my heart.

 Costa Rica was the third stop in a 25-day fact-gathering mission to Central America this 17 Nov. to 10 December. In tiny El Salvador (named for “The Savior”) I found mega-churches–some of the biggest in the world–but Christians who weren’t effectively changing their violent and poverty-ridden society with the Good News.  OM is trying to mobilize more believers for this purpose.

 On Thanksgiving Day I took a bus to Guatemala in order to join an evangelistic outreach to a resistant area. 32 of us split into teams for 9 days. Mine stayed with a pastor’s family in basic conditions. Now, I’ve learned to do without a lot of things through the years, but I’d put a door on the outhouse in the “necessary” category. Altho’ it was tucked in the corner I was in a constant panic that someone would walk in on me–or that I’d walk in on them! Sleeping was also a challenge: dogs barked, cows lowed, traffic lumbered by and over-eager roosters started in at 1:15 a.m. Shivering under inadequate covers in the early morning didn’t help. And while I welcomed my first plate of frijoles (beans) and tortillas I grew less enthusiastic as they reappeared faithfully at every meal.

But the church people were lovely, and some of them accompanied us as we trekked every morning to isolated houses on the mountainsides, talking to families about the Lord and distributing Spanish New Testaments.  The people were so poor they didn’t even have baňos (toilets), so that made me more grateful for our humble facility. One lady I visited was Gabriela, dying from AIDS probably contracted from her husband, who had already died. More than anything else Gabriela needed the absolute assurance that God loves her, and that He would receive her into His arms when she was through with this life. We prayed together, and I believe Gabriela now has the sweet assurance of salvation.

My poor Spanish was stretched to the breaking point as I only had someone to translate part of the time, but it was part of the learning experience. One team in the mountains was in a town known for practicing witchcraft. The pastor who started a little church there has been attacked many times. Murders and suicides among teens are quite common and the pastor, poor as he is, tries to look after the welfare of several hundred widows and orphans. The team was a great encouragement to Pastor Noah. One day we brought some used clothing for the church members. When I found a suit to fit the pastor, I was touched by his delight.

On the final day of the outreach all the teams joined together for a final day in an area so poor that many residents have to wash themselves and their clothes in a stream. In the local church–which had only 8 faithful members because the area is riddled with witchcraft and idolatry–we distributed used clothing and shoes, bags of basic food staples and a toy to each thrilled child. Recipients also heard the gospel message, many for the first time. As a result 17 men and women prayed to receive Jesus into their lives. Hopefully that will triple the size of the church! Altogether during that week team members trekked to 441 homes to share Jesus’ message with 845 individuals, and prayed 113 into the Kingdom.

In Costa Rica God showed me another side to the apparently affluent capital city, which boasts modern malls, Starbucks and Walmart. My heart broke as our field leader’s wife drove through San José by night and I saw homeless men and women and–yes–children, too, curled up on pieces of cardboard along the sidewalks, obliged to sleep out in the rain. On other corners were young transvestites and prostitutes seeking customers. The King Hotel in central San José attracts foreigners looking for easy prey. Costa Rica offers more sex tourism than any other country in the world, except for Thailand.

A trip to an indigenous area 6 hours from the city was where I had my close encounter with Costa Rica’s jungle. No snakes crossed my path, praise the Lord, but I saw the darkness of spirit worship and desperate poverty. We held on for dear life in the back of an open truck and forded streams to get to these forgotten people. OM has been able to build a home for one elderly lady who used to walk two hours each way to attend the local church.–Her life is much better now. We have also installed a pump to give running water to about 15 houses. And this weekend OM holds a “Festival of Smiles” for 1000 children and their parents, introducing the Christmas story, playing games and distributing toys. I know for sure this Christmas will be different for many, many of those people!

This report has been much longer than usual. I’m sorry for that. But my heart is so full, it had to spill over. In the next days I will be writing articles that I hope will get others to get involved and praying for this part of the world.IMG_0055