Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Student...Again By Brita

Becoming a student again is a strange experience.  Before I left Montana State University to be a full time stay at home mom in 2002, I had always been a good student.  My motivation though was not always to learn.  My purpose for acquiring knowledge during my thirteen years in public school was a combination of pleasing my parents, pleasing my teachers, and competition with my classmates.   I enjoyed a lot of it along the way but I did not appreciate the education I was receiving.   It was a requirement and I certainly did not consider it a privilege at the time.  I went to MSU after high school simply because it was the next step.  Josh was working to get his engineering degree and I floated from major to major with no direction at all until Dan was on the way and I dropped out.  

Being a student this time around is entirely different because my motivation is entirely different.   We are here in Costa Rica spending 4-5 hours a day in class learning Spanish, with another 2 hours of homework a day.  That might not sound like a lot of time in the classroom each day compared to a full time job but it is all I can handle.  It’s hard to explain what happens to my brain during those hours but at times I feel like I am constructing a new addition in my brain.   I can feel this new part gradually clicking into place as I slowly search my head for the right verb, conjugate it, realize it's irregular, re-conjugate it, consider the pronunciation, then search for the right noun just to be able to say something simple like:  “They bring the book to school.”  Even then after working so hard to use this new and very weak part of my brain, after I have practiced how to say the sentence correctly in my mind, what pops out of my mouth is often not at all what I had planned to say!  I had it right and then my mouth betrays me and I say something totally wrong.  Instead of saying “I get dressed” I say, “I visit”.   Or, while I’m working so hard to find the right verb and conjugate it correctly, I forget that my noun is plural feminine and I say it in masculine singular.


It is then that my teacher gives me the look.  The look that says, “You know this!  I taught you this weeks ago!  What is going on with you?”  And to be honest I have no clue.  Sometimes I know it’s wrong as it leaves my mouth and sometimes I don’t notice I’ve said it wrong.  The point is when I have to think so hard about every word in every sentence, it’s hard, hard work.  It’s not just the words that I speak that my brain is intently working through, but every word every teacher and every fellow student says.  On Monday and Wednesday Josh and I have individual tutoring sessions in order get some extra help with anything we are struggling with.  It’s an intense forty minutes for both of us.   I often use the time to work on practicing verb conjugation and meanings, memorize vocabulary, or just to try some conversation.  Since I’m the only student there is no opportunity to think while the other students are taking their turns.   We are both so thankful for our tutoring sessions but we come out of them with a glazed stare and a mind of mush!  For all these reasons it’s hard to imagine our brains being able to take in more Spanish instruction each day.  The experience of a mind exhausted from language learning, doing daily life in a new language and culture with four kids is hard to explain.  It is definitely not a vacation!  I’ve been on many short-term mission trips and this does not compare at all the any of them.  This is something else.  It’s not an adventure, though we do get to go on what we call “adventures”.

Our adventures usually include trying not to get lost while getting to a new store that may or may not have what we are looking for and then the thrill of trying to find the right bus to get us back home.  Or the adventure of having a sweaty dirty family after playing at the park and coming home to no water for showers.  Or walking a hour to buy zip ties in order to put up mosquito screen.  You get the picture ☺

While we work our brains to exhaustion on a daily basis, and though there are some minor challenges to figuring life out here, I cannot say how thankful we are to be here and to be learning Spanish!  The difference between being a student now and my previous experiences being a student is my motivation.  I am motivated to learn not to please people and not to please myself.   I am motivated to learn in order to live in Peru so that Josh can train Peruvian pastors who are begging to be taught simple things like how to understand their Bibles and how to teach their congregations.  They want to share the gospel with their fellow countrymen and women, but they need and want training first.  I am motivated to learn Spanish because right now it is the work I can do, to do the work that every Christian has been called to:  to share the gospel with every tribe, tongue and nation.  It’s my part right now and I am so thankful I get to play it!

There is no work more important than to do what we can to bring the Hope of Christ to everyone!   It doesn’t look the same for everyone but this is what it looks like for me right now.   Thank you so much to everyone who has partnered with us in prayer, by sending us encouraging emails and letters, and financially.  You are doing the work of language learning with us in Costa Rica and soon you will be doing the work of training Pastors in Peru right along side us!  

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Good Gifts- By Brita

In his graciousness to us God has used many things to prepare us for the ministry He has called us to.  One of the most intense and best gifts he gave me (Brita) along the way was a car wreck in 2008.  At the time, we were preparing to go to serve at Rehoboth Children's Home in the Philippines for six months.  Our objective was for Josh to be the project manager on the construction of a perimeter wall so that a baby home, medical clinic and several other buildings could be built.  We were so excited to go but I had a major problem.  Fear.  I was fearful about so many things but mainly I was afraid for our children.  I was afraid of illness, injury, kidnapping and death.  At its root it was really simply a lack of trust.  I did not trust that God was good.  I believed that if we stayed at our home and lived our normal life we were "safe".  Instead of trusting that God would do what was best for all of us, that each thing he gives us is for our good, I was trying to hold onto my definition of what was good for us.  The truth is that I am terrible at recognizing what is good for me and for my family. 

 So on a beautiful June evening I followed Josh home as he rode his motorcycle and I drove our van.  I remember seeing half a dozen deer in a field.  It was the golden hour.  The sun was just setting and we had had a wonderful evening with family.  We were only a mile from our house.  Josh was enjoying the acceleration of his bike and I was trying to keep up.  Then it happened in the blink of an eye.  There is no way I could have seen the car.  The bushes blocked the view of the road coming from the right.  Just as our van came to the intersection the man in the Isuzu Trooper turned left without pausing, without looking.  I had never liked that intersection and I remember being thankful that Josh breezed through it fine.  I saw a flash of silver and I screamed.  Then a loud bang as we hit first on my right front bumper and then banged together on our right sides.  Our van shot off to the left across the road.  I  opened my eyes saw the already deflated airbag and then saw the oncoming ditch.  I pumped the brake but there was no response.  We sailed down the ditch and through a hedge I had always admired.  I remember saying aloud "Sorry bushes!"  The kids were crying as we finally eased to a stop out in the middle of the yard on the corner.  With adrenaline pumping I unbuckled and jumped out.  I reached Paul (who was 1) first, unbuckled him and whisked him into my arms.  He had bit his tongue and was not too pleased.  Next I went around to the other side and got Clara (3) and our nephew Caleb (4).  They were crying but seemed fine.  I had no cell phone.  I didn't know what to do with so many little ones.  I couldn't hold them all but they were all crying.  I lay a blanket on the dry stubble in the yard and we all sat down on it and cried as I thanked Jesus that we were not seriously hurt.  The people in the house came out with another blanket for us.  Soon I heard sirens and the woman offered her cell phone to me so I could call Josh.  I called our home phone with no response.  He didn't have a cell phone either.  Then I called my parents house to let my sister know we had been in a wreck and that Caleb would probably not want to spend the night after all.  It's funny now to think that's how I worded it to them.  

Meanwhile Josh, who had not heard the crash, was waiting at home for us.  He heard sirens and started to get worried.  He went around the block once and didn't see us.  Then finally he back tracked to where we were.  At first he only saw the silver trooper on the road and was relieved.  Then he saw our van out in the yard and realized it was us.  I will never forget the look on his face as he ran to us.  What an awful thing it must have been to find your family next to your wrecked van and surrounded by sheriff cars, a firetruck, and ambulance.  Not long after Josh arrived my dad and brother in law came to help.  The kids and I were loaded into the ambulance for a luxurious ride to the ER.  By this time my neck and right knee were screaming with pain.  After several hours in the ER and x rays for all, we were released with bumps, bruises, and whiplash for me.  Over the next five months I was constantly in pain.  However,  my eyes were opened to the simple truth that God is sovereign!  We were only a mile from our house and we were in a nasty wreck.  It could have been so much worse!  Here's the thing that got me the most:  we are really not "safe" anywhere.  Not if our definition of safety is  the one that I had created and worshiped.  But with a sovereign God we were truly safe.  What God had planned for us was good because He gets to define good.  After all He is the ultimate good.  His plans are not to make me happy, healthy and wealthy.  Oh no they are way better than that!  His plans are to give me what I need to make me more like His Son.  Only then will I have the joy and delight that only He can give.  

I was able to go to the Philippines with a much deeper love and trust.  Not a trust that we would be safe but a trust that He would be good.  I have often lost sight of this truth but He is so patient with me and reminds me often.  

As we get closer to launching onto the field- only 9 (ish) weeks!! - I am finding myself slipping back into fear at times.  When I remember the gift of our accident, peace and gratitude washes over me once again.  God has us in the palm of His hand and He will continue to give us good gifts!  

"If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" Matthew 7:11

COUNTDOWN: Just 10 weeks until we launch!!!

A Few Stats...

I recently spoke at a church and gave statistics about the need in Latin America showing why the need for reaching the unreached through deep discipleship and training is crucial.  Here are some of those statistics which come from David Sills' book Reaching and Teaching the Highland Quichuas:
  • Throughout Latin America over 50% of the churches do not have any pastors.
  • Those that do not have pastors are not looking because there are none to be had.
  • Among those churches that do have pastors, only 10-20% have received any kind of formal training.  
  • In the United States, there is 1 trained pastor for every 235 people.
  • Outside the United States, there is 1 trained pastor for every 450,000 people!
Almost every pastor I met in Peru wanted two things: 1.) training to shepherd their congregation and 2.) training to reach out to their own unreached people (Peruvians who have no established church) and unengaged people (tribes who have never heard of Jesus).

Giving eager pastors training and discipleship right where they live is our desire!  They can go where we can't and partnering with these men to see Christ exalted and people's lives eternally changed is an incredible opportunity!  Will you work with us?  

The Last few weeks in Pictures

The day Clara found out our friend's dog had Golden Retriever puppies!
Knee deep in visa's, fingerprinting, background checks and apostilled documents!  I didn't know what apostilled documents were!
A day hike to Bell Lake with Papa.  All the big kids caught fish!  
11 feisty puppies!  They were loved on by Clara and Evie. 
Saying goodbye to Josh's grandparents.  We will not see them again until after our first term.  Let goods and kindred go...
Josh sharing about the ministry at Dry Creek Bible Church.

Getting Closer.....

We have seen the blessing of God as we continue to pray for partners to work with us in Peru.  We have seen our group of prayer supporters grow over the last few weeks and we have seen our financial partnership grow.
We praise God that He has increased our support to 77% of our monthly support needs and 45% of our one time costs.  We are praying that our support will be at 100% by the time we leave in December.  We are not looking for just financial support.  We are seeking to invite people who want to have an impact in Peru with the gospel.  We invite you to work with us!  You may not be able to go into all the world physically, but you can go!  If you would like to partner with us by prayer, email us at and we will add you to our list of prayer partners.

If you would like to partner with our ministry through Reaching and Teaching, please click here or send checks to
   Reaching and Teaching
   PO Box 122, Wheaton, IL 60187  (Note McKenzie in the memo)

Thank you for prayerfully working alongside us!
Serving along with you!

Josh, Brita, Dan, Clara, Paul, and Evelyn McKenzie

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Week in Northern Mexico

Here is an article I wrote a few months ago about what we did in Northern Mexico- "a day in the life" post.  I hope this gives you a glimpse into the work we have done for the past two years!

Fields.  Cultivated fields on both sides like well-manicured gardens ready to be planted.  The loud hum from the suburban seems to fit the sleepiness of the area.  Every now and then a bump in the highway jars me from my contemplation.  Looking back I see most of the team asleep or reading.  Two hours into this trip and the conversation has faded, except the chatty boys, who love the chance to go “to work” with dad.
We pass a small town where kids are playing and speed bumps force the highway traffic to slow down for half a second on its winding path ever south.  As our speed again picks up, my thoughts turn to my sleepy surroundings.  I could be driving in almost any state in the US.  We could be on a vacation through Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, or even Montana (well the mountain-less eastern Montana anyways).   But we aren’t in any of those states.  And we aren’t going on a vacation.
As I look out at the fields, dark green plants are replacing the dark black rows, almost imperceptibly.  Rows and rows of corn like sorghum are everywhere.  The harvest is coming.  I break hard and turn left on our journey, almost missing the nearly hidden turn.  Once again I'm thankful for the old building with the faded BUD LIGHT sign that marks our next road.
The abrupt turn and subsequent rattling of the washboard road shakes me from my thoughts again.  Looking back at the bouncing heads and hearing every rattle of our suburban, I start to wonder how many times can this truck take the constant beating?  The reality is that not all roads are paved and smooth, and sometimes you have to take the road less travelled, even if it rattles you like a marble in a spray-paint can.
As I'm contemplating the worthiness of our vehicle, my hope and wonder rise as we pass a small Geo Metro loaded with more passengers than I can count coming down the road toward us.  The car seems to leap from one pothole to another as if in a frantic hopscotch game.  We exchange waves and smiles and continue our methodical plodding.   The view now starts to change to glimpses of water here and there in the distance.  Yes, we are close. 
Forty minutes later we stop at a small house, the size of a garage back home, and get out.  The smell of fish is everywhere.   We are in northern Mexico. We are in village “M”.  We are here to fish.  We are here to encourage the fishermen.  And as is always the case, we are encouraged by the fisherman here.  They are little known and greatly used by God.
We have no boats, nets, or tackle.  We are here to be “fishers of men” Matt 4:19.  Not to take fish from the Laguna, but to seek and save the lost and perishing, those who have no hope or hardly any access to it.  But even more so, we are equipping the fishermen, the only believing family here, to continue the vital work in village “M”.   
As the boys get out and immediately start collecting “treasures” of discarded batteries, bottle caps and seashells, the team walks past the flock of chickens standing guard and yell the familiar “Hola R”!  A moment of silence and then a clear reply comes from behind the door in a singsong voice that only R can do “Hō-Sway” (Joshua in Spanish).   R comes out of the house and there is a warm hug for everyone and a lot of laughter.  The village seems so small but when R comes out and starts talking about his ratty old dog “Stitch” or the tire he had to replace on the way to sell the days fish, and how he had to pay for the repair with a large trout, the village seems to grow into a comfortable neighborhood of old friends.  There is a deep friendship and love that only Christ can form despite cultural barriers, language barriers, and life experiences that are worlds apart.  Jesus is so amazing!
We clean up our small but very adequate house and head over to R and A’s for dinner and conversation, both of which are delicious.  We eat fresh fish, fresh salsa and tortillas and talk about the previous week's happenings.  R has trouble pronouncing my teammate Todd’s name and has resigned to call him Pedro.  That will stick.
After dinner, we gather together in R and A’s house and begin a study of scripture.  This takes different forms at different times but it always includes studying the word, prayer, and talking through questions or life issues.  I am constantly amazed how God works!  He saved me when I wasn’t looking for him and now I am here in northern Mexico teaching and being encouraged by a man, who was a town drunk, mixed up in the cartel and left for dead, and now is leading a devotional for us and his family!  I am thankful for the consistent planters and waters that have worked in R’s life and now we see God is giving the increase. 
The next day we went through the village of about 70 people talking with those we know and inviting all that we saw to the outreach bible study that afternoon.  Typically we have 8-10 people attend the outreach.  We usually story the bible and share the gospel.  There is always good discussion after the study and seeds are sown.  Some people come and go from study to study, while others are consistent fixtures.  We are praying for ears to hear.
Just before our study was to begin N, a man who usually comes to the studies, came up to R and our team as we were waiting for people to arrive.  He was wearing his fishing gear and a grim face.  “C, was fishing in the Laguna and he fell out of his boat and drown.”  Through our translator I asked N what happened.  Apparently he must have had a heart attack, because he grabbed his chest then fell into the water.  By the time other boats came to help it was too late.”
I was shocked.  Two incredible things happened that afternoon.  One was that we were able to talk with N about life and death.  N knows the realities of death.  He has seen it and been around it much more than me.  He would say, “All you can know is this life and that death will come.  Nothing else.  No one knows what is after that. “  Except God, I asked?  “Of course.” With that we had a great discussion about God revealing what happens after death in the Bible, how we all have sinned, how God has made a way for us to be made right through Jesus and we can know with confidence that death is not a fearful unknown but a glorious full knowing and seeing our great Savior in all His glory.
The second thing we saw was a glimpse of that glory here in village M.  As the afternoon faded to evening, people were making there way to R and A’s house.  Sometimes it would be a single woman.  Sometimes it would be a groups of two or three.  We found out later that they were coming to R and A for comfort, consolation, and counsel.   There is something about this family, and their relationship with Jesus, that is drawing people to them in the darkest hour of the village.  This is the manifestation of the love of Jesus to those who need it.  And as R fully attests, this has come about only by a changed heart through Jesus Christ.  It was a privilege to see their faith in action and I was reminded again that we are not the only missionaries in this village.    
Yet there is so much work here.  There is no church here.  There is no access to the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ except through this family and maybe one or two others that we know of for sure.  The mixture of Christianity and other beliefs are constantly surfacing.   After our study that evening R asked a good question.  “There is a mythical bird people fear here.  It will come late at night and walk on your roof (all the roofs are sheet metal) and if you hear it, it means that someone will die.  That man died today.  Is there any truth to that legend?”  
This is why we go.  To proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to those who need to hear the gospel.  Please pray for our team:  Jill Rae Johnson, Joshua Brown, Todd Simpson and myself as we strive to be fishers of men in a fishing village.  Pray also for R and A, the fishers of men in their own village!  God is working here and it’s exciting to see!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Most Powerful Word!

Thoughts on Malachi 1:1-5

Words are powerful!  There are words that are conveyed that can make people stop dead in their tracks.  Words can change minds and hurt deeper than any sword or gun.  Words are powerful.

We yell STOP! And most likely everyone within earshot will stop and look up. We yell FIRE!  And it can send a crowd full of people into a frenzied panic.  A word of MARCH! From a commanding officer can set your body into movement regardless of desires.  Words are powerful. 

Proverbs says a calm word can turn away wrath.  Soothing words from a mom can calm down a frightened child.  A single word of tacit knowledge between friends can evoke uncontrollable laughter.  Words are very powerful.

Words can bind.  We say I promise and it binds us to do what we say.  We say “I do” at the altar signifying that these words are binding us in covenant with someone else until death do us part.

 I am convinced that one of the greatest and most powerful words in the world is love.  I remember when I was on the phone with Brita in high school and at the end of the phone call I blurted out “I love you” as we hung up the phone.  I was shocked!  Those words are powerful and are an outpouring of my heart towards Brita.  Thankfully she felt the same way about me.

But in each of these instances the words have power, only to the degree with which the speaker has authority.  A friend says stop, you may stop, but if a police officer says STOP, you stop.  A partner in your barracks may say march, but if your sargent says march you do it!  If a stranger says I love you, it has no power and is kind of creepy, but if someone who you love and has demonstrated their love to you says I love you, it is infinitely meaningful.

Words are powerful.  So when Malachi open with a word to Israel that says “I have loved you,”, it is weighty.   But the weighty words turn infinitely powerful when it’s THE LORD who is saying them.   I have loved you says the LORD.  He could have said I have been your God, or I have been your Helper, or I have been your Master.  But he uses the most intimate words he can; I have loved you.

The infinite all powerful and sovereign God who created the universe with a word, saying Let there be light” and it was so, has loved you!  How can such a thing be?  This is truth to Israel.  The Lord needs no other words.  If he speaks, it is so.  Therefore if The Lord says that He has loved you, then it there is no other words of clarification. 

“How have you loved us?” is the deafening reply.  “PROVE IT!”  Is the response of the creature to the creator!  If there is any antithesis to the Almighty God declaring his love for His people, its this.   Isaiah says  “Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground.”

The scorn is palpable.  Make no mistake; this is not an innocent question.  This is a loaded declaration of God’s unfaithfulness, distance, and indifference to Israel.  Look at us!  Don’t you care?  Don’t you see us?  The temple is rebuilt, the walls of Jerusalem are up again, and sacrifices are going again.  So where is the blessing?  Where is the prosperity?  Where is the benefits that come with all the pieces in place?  We are doing our part!  But our enemies despise us.  The kingdom is in shambles, and there is opposition everywhere.  How have you loved us??  How?

The Lord replies to their question.  But not how we might think.  We are expecting for the Lord to respond with a recounting of the mighty work of bringing the Israelites out of Egypt, or sustaining them for 40 years in the desert.  We might expect God to point to his faithfulness as the Israelites cross the Jordan and drive out the nations before them.  We might even think He will point to the exile, and how He had sustained them for 70 years in Babylon and made a nation return to their land where it seemed all hope was lost.

But He didn’t respond with those truths.  Instead he said, “ Remember your brother?  Remember your elder brother Esau?  Son of Isaac? You were one and the same, yet I have loved you Jacob, but Esau I hated.  Look Israel.  Look outside of yourself-absorbed world.  Edom, the nation descended from Esau, is laid waste.  Their portion I gave them has been removed forever.  And if they try to rebuild, I will tear it down.  Do you have an inheritance now?  Have you rebuilt?  Don’t you see it? 

You are here and talking with me right now because of my love towards you!  I am carrying out my plan and purposes in Israel and in the whole world.  You returned to the land I gave you because of my love.  You rebuilt the temple because I have loved you.  You raised up the walls of Jerusalem, because I love you.  I am working in the whole world my purposes for My Name!  I am no petty tribal god. 

Even now, Israel, my love and faithfulness are guarding you.  You question and accuse me of wrong.  But I, the Lord, do not change, therefore you O children of Jacob are not destroyed” though you deserve it as much as your brother Esau.

Now this may seem obvious to us.  We may look at Israel and say “How can you question God’s love towards you?”  But you and I are not any different.

We work hard, doing the things that we ought.  We can be involved in many great and good works and yet feel at times alone.  We can perhaps stop and look at our circumstances and say “this isn’t what I expected.  I have served God and now look how things have turned out.”  Maybe a family member dies.  Maybe you get very sick.  Maybe you are struggling to make ends meet.  We can, like Israel, look up from our Bible that declares Gods love toward us and say “How?  How have you loved me?”  This, right now, doesn’t seem like love.

And like Israel, we will hear the sovereign voice of the Lord say, I chose you.  You did not choose me (Jn 15:16).   I chose you before the foundations of the world to be a people for my own possession.  Did I not love you?  If ever we are in that terrifying position of questioning Gods love towards us, we need to look only as far as the cross.

We have a brother, Jesus Christ, who was despised and rejected, who took the full wrath of Gods just punishment, for his brother and sister.  This is love!  And we have done nothing to deserve it! 

We can confidently boast, “Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel.  Great is the Lord beyond our sphere of current circumstances.  He loves us!  He chose us!  He does not choose everyone!  He is accomplishing his Sovereign purposes throughout the world!  This is truly amazing love!

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. 1 John 3:1

So if you are in the depths of questioning God’s love towards you, when circumstances are not what you thought they would be, when your heart says PROVE IT, look to the cross.  See the wonder of the God-Man Jesus.  God’s sovereign love and righteousness on display to the world!  See his purposing power revealed to make a chosen possession. 

Worship the God who chooses whom he wills. You were worse than Jacob.  You were dead.   God made you alive with Christ.   By grace you have been saved!  You are alive!  He chose you!  You will be in the presence of God in unimaginable and full joy forever!  What a God, what a Savior, what a LORD, what a KING we have!!! 

So meditate on some of the most powerful words spoken by the most powerful and intimate being in the universe, our loving Father………… I have loved you! 

Finally, meditate, look to, and delight in the greatest word, THE WORD made flesh, Jesus Christ!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Missions, Mermaids, and Making Disciples- Peru Trip Part 3

The Village of Chembo

In my previous posts, I recounted our time in Huanuco, Peru and  Iquitos, Peru.  To read about our time in Huanuco, click here or Iquitos, click here.  I also posted a set of interesting pictures of Amazon life here. And, if you are wondering why we went to Peru, click here.   Ok, enough links!

Our final leg of our trip focused on the southern part of Peru.  We met up with Scott Doherty and his family, who are missionaries in Cusco, Peru.  Scott is part of a church plant in a city that needs sound, biblical churches.

Cusco is at the southern end of Peru at 11,100'

Sitting at an elevation of about 11,100', Cusco is a testimony to the diversity of Peru.  I had never been in a place where you can go up one flight of stairs and be truly winded!  There was a definite lack of O2 in the air!  We spent a few days with Scott and his family seeing Cusco and peppering him with questions about the surrounding areas.  From Cusco, we traveled into the jungle city of Satipo and on to the village of Chembo deep in the jungle.

Beautiful picture of area around Cusco.

Since we had a recap video of the trip, I will try to focus on some of the highlights of this area.

    Looking at a map of Cusco with hundreds of villages surrounding the city.
There is a huge need to train pastors and missionaries in and around Cusco.  As we looked over a map of Cusco with Scott and Pastor Werner (a Peruvian missionary from Lima) they pointed out hundreds of Quechua villages 1-5 hours from Cusco that have no church.  The few churches that are available are usually at a significant distance from these villages and are led by pastors who have no training.  There are no people that Scott or Werner know of reaching out to these unreached areas or training the few pastors who are in these villages.  There is a great need to give these pastors the tools to shepherd their people!  The increasing globalization of the world is leading many Quechua people to learn Spanish as a trade language.  They are becoming more active in the trade market and they are realizing Spanish is a benefit for their children and their future.  This creates a great opportunity to teach Quechua pastors who know Spanish and can teach in Quechua to others in their village!

View outside Cusco.

There are many more villages, but who will go?  The few local pastors feel ill-equipped to go and yet in many cases they are the  best people to reach out to these villages!  A paraphrase of  Pastor Werner echoes in my mind; come, teach, train, and disciple us.  Come along side us and labor with us! We sacrifice our very lives for this high calling of partnering with local pastors to teach and train them as they take the gospel to their people.

Scott also works in Satipo, a city in the Amazon jungle with a population between 22,000-108,000.  I have searched for an accurate population of this city but it must be difficult to nail down who is actually a member of the city and where the boundary of the city is.

To get to Satipo, we took an overnight bus that required Dramamine for those who wanted to keep their food down!  Unfortunately not everyone wanted or had this luxury.  What a blessing a little pill is!

Ashaninka dancer in Satipo

View in Satipo

6 hours into the bus ride, which goes from an elevation of 10' to 15,700' and ends at 2000', a landslide covered the highway and forced us to wait another 8 hours for equipment to clear a path through the mud.  I'm not sure how close we were to the actual event, but we were only about 10 vehicles back from the start of the slide.

Mud slide that blocked our bus

During the delay, we met a Christian woman in her 50's who has been living in an Ashaninka village for the last 10 years as a missionary.  She was so eager to share with us her understanding of the Ashaninka culture and stressed the huge need for workers to come to this vast area of Peru!  What seemed like a huge inconvenience in our schedule turned out to be a perfect answer to our prayer of seeing the needs in Peru and those who are doing the work!  This woman's insights proved valuable as we entered Chembo.

Sweet time with woman who is working in an Ashaninka village.

We met Pastor Miguel, who is a pastor in Satipo with a growing hunger to reach out to the villages along the river systems of the Amazon.  He has started a church in Satipo and is begging Scott to come more often for training.  His desire is to get the few pastors from the rivers the training they desperately want and need.  Miguel has permission to, and has been teaching in, 8 villages with Scott already.  Please pray for Miguel and his family. 

Pastor Miguel

Early in the morning of the 16th day of our trip we loaded up in a Toyota pickup truck and headed for the deeper jungle village of Chembo.  Five people sat in the cab and three sat in the bed of the truck with the gear.  A quick stop for bags of rice chaff to sit on and we were off!  Again Dramamine was a great gift!  I knew we were really going out into the bush when the driver spent 5 minutes shaking the truck with all his might trying to squeeze every last drop of gas into the tank!

Early morning ride to Chembo
Not quite as fun as it was 2 hours ago!

    Some of the windy muddy roads
I didn't realize how crazy the roads would be.  It's similar to speeding up a forest service road at 40 mph and skidding around each turn.  These roads gave India a run for their money!  We would stop every 2 hours and switch who was in front and who was in back.  After looking at the scenery whiz past you backwards for 2 hours and being beaten up on the gravel roads and sudden stops for a lone vehicle passing, I realized this would be a tough trip.  When we stopped, there was at least one of us that would need to throw up.  Thankfully it was only an 8 hour trip. 
    This was typical every stop.  Can't even crack a smile!
One highlight of the Tilt-O-Whirl truck ride was being "ferried" across a river in the truck by three boats hooked together and a platform made for three vehicles at a time.  It was actually really cool.  I felt better after it looked like they shifted the weight a bit before we took off. 
We go off this "ferry" and took this picture as we drove away.

Sloshing through the jungle!

Made it to the boats!
Once at the end of the road, literally, we carried our gear and the food/water for the trip a half hour through a muddy, water-soaked trail.  I have never felt heat and humidity like that before!  And that's saying a lot living in southern Texas for 2 years!  At the same time, I couldn't help but think how cool this was!  This is a hard place to get to!  We are sloshing in the Amazon jungle to teach a few believers and share the gospel with the community!  Amazing!  It was then that I really just sat back and took it all in... but the mosquitos were huge and vicious so I quickly kept moving.  After resting for a minute next to some amazing butterflies, we loaded into two dugout canoes and were taxied across the river for about 1/2 hour.  

This was great.  The river is so wide.
The river is high and the canoes sit low in the water, probably 5 inches from the rim of the boat.  It is a sobering feeling crossing a high, muddy river with trees floating down it, looking a mile across it to the shore on the opposite side.  Thankfully our guides were experts and never had a moment of anxiety other than when a member of the group stood up to take a picture! 

My fortress of solitude.
The village itself was a mixture of traditional grass huts and a new school made with cement blocks.  We slept in hammocks with bug nets and I was so grateful for these fortress of solitudes!  I distinctly remember shining my headlamp up into the grass hut roof and seeing the shining eyes of unknown creatures living with me in this hut.  Most of them were little spiders or lizards, but there were some BIG spiders and I'm sure other unsavory characters sleeping with me each night.
Yep, that's a tarantula in my roof.
Yep, that's a huge spider in my bedroom!
    Pastor questions after preaching.
We were able to worship with the pastors that came for training and the few believers in the village.  I was able to preach from Hebrews 12:1-2 on the running the race of a Christian by looking to Jesus.  It was a great time.  After, the pastors asked Scott some practical questions such as:  - What is temptation?,  What is biblical marriage? How do you discipline your children?  These were great questions from pastors that just didn't know.  They need and desire training and discipleship!  What a joy to be here doing just that!

As we were getting ready for the training the first day, we were told that every man in the village was required to attend a community meeting.  The reason was that 9 people in the village were sick and it was determined that there was a witch in the village that was causing the sickness. 

The result was to have the curandero or "good witch" come to the meeting to determine who the "bad witch" was.  We were told the curandero takes a hallucinogen, then over the course of the next several hours, identifies who the bad witch is.  The meeting lasted the whole day and the person identified was kicked out of the village .  

As we were waiting for the meeting to end, Wilder, a pastor that hiked 8 hours and travelled by boat 6 more hours to get to the training, told us a little of the beliefs of the Ashaninka people in this area. Here is some of what he said:
    • Chewyachakee- This is a person who looks like a relative or friend that asks you to follow them into the jungle where you are lost or killed.  Only by running away can you be saved.  The only way you can know if it is the real person or the Chewyachakee is that the Chewyachakee has a limp.  The people are VERY afraid of it!
    • Mermaids- Wilder and his wife have both seen mermaids as they travel the rivers.  Apparently the one they both saw at the same time was a "good" mermaid that only presented itself to them.  He said that there are "bad" mermaids that lure you into the river to drown you and they make most of the men and women on the river very nervous.
    • There is also a person called a Face-peeler.  This is the belief that a gringo looking person comes in to a village to take the faces of the children in the village.   So we were instructed to be careful not to touch any of the kids.  This is more prevalent the deeper you get into the jungle.  
These beliefs are very serious and not a laughing matter.  There is fear, even in the Christians, about these things.  We know that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood. We have not received the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but we as Christians have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry Abba! Father! These men need training and discipleship! 

The next day we were able to teach all day and it was great to talk about the Word and encourage the believers. 

Teaching during the day

The trip back was uneventful except seeing a vehicle just like ours off the side of the hill and come to find out that one man died in the crash the night before.  This gave us all pause and the reality of the hardness and danger of going to these places struck each of us.

Truck crashed the night before we left

It's easy to talk about sharing the gospel, teaching, training and discipling people.  It's even possible to do all of that.  But is it changing YOU?  Is the Word of God affecting YOUR heart?  But the true test is when you yourself get bumped.  When something happens that isn't according to plan, what spills out of your heart?  It usually comes out of your mouth.  We were "bumped"  when we got back to Satipo and found that a huge landslide had covered a town and blocked the way back to Lima and home to my family.  Instead of prayer for the victims or thankfulness for our safety and the work that we were able to do, I immediately became frustrated.  My heart was exposed and it was ugly.  God, in His love, reveals our hearts to us, the blind spots that we don't see until we are bumped.  I don't like it, but I need it.  Yes, missionaries are not anything special.   We sin and have our hearts exposed in our attitudes, actions and thoughts just like anyone else.  We desperately need Jesus daily!  Thankfully God uses these weak and broken vessels for His glory!

On the way out.  What a God we serve!

A delay of two days,  extra fees to reschedule missed flights, and another plane ticket from another town we weren't planning to go to 8 hours away and all was fixed.  There was more "bumps" along the way, but God was so merciful to get us home.
The summary of the whole trip was answered prayer!  From the trip planning, travel, meeting missionaries and nationals who helped us understand more of the need of Peru, safety along the way, protection from sickness when we ate "whatever" was set before us, to sustaining Brita and the kids over the long 24 days!  Thank you so much for your partnership with us!  What a joy to serve Christ alongside you!  Please pray for the work in Peru and our desire to serve in Peru long term.  There is so much to do but God is so faithful!  Thank you for reading!!

Teaching and Training in Chembo

One of our kids favorite pictures! Chembo pet monkey.

Not sure what to say... We were "encouraged" to try these on!

And the rumors were true.  There were bats in the latrine!  This was taken during the down time in the village.  Be warned, there is a latrine, and there are bats!