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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Last Church Service

Friday night was my partner and I's last church service in Belen. The services will continue with the help of Belen's mother church, as well as one of the leaders in Belen itself. Dalila and I will simply no longer be involved in all of the day to day decisions with this church plant.

It's so exciting to see how far Belen has come, how much the members of the church have grown in their faith and their love for God. At the same time it was very sad for my partner and I to have to say good-bye. We have vacation for one month over Christmas and will be coming back to Iquitos. However once we come back we will be working on 2 new church plants at the same time in different areas of the city. Therefore while we may be able to visit occasionally, we are essentially done in Belen.

The last service was beautiful. We celebrated together the work that God has been doing over the past 8 months and said goodbye to our friends and church family. The house was absolutely packed full... I'm sure in the United States it would have been considered a fire hazard, haha. It also happened to be Nely's (the owner of the house where we hold services) birthday. So at the end of the service we celebrated her birthday with her. A couple of days before members of our mother church came and repainted the main room of her house and installed a better light for her. It was a really special day to be able to do something like that for Nely. Also at our last service one of our church members, who happens to be a carpenter, gifted us a podium. It was such a blessed and amazing surprise.

I am so proud of the little church in Belen. I will miss being able to be a part of their daily lives, but am so blessed for the times that I was able to share with them. For how much they have helped me to grow and learn about myself as I worked to help them grow and learn more about our Father. Thank you for your continued prayers for this new church and these new Christians. We have been blessed more than you can know by your prayers.

Dios le bendiga.

Pastor Antonio painting.

Last service

Alfredo with the podium that he made and surprised us with on the last service.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Watching new Christians Grow

We are approaching the end of our time working in Belen. I can't believe how fast time has flown by! Belen will not be left on it's own, rather our Mother Church will continue to work with this church plant to continue to help the church and the people grow. But Dalila and I will be done working on our first church plant of Belen on December 10th, just a little over a week away.

Slowly we have watched our contacts grow in their faith and strength in Jesus Christ and as Christians. It has been an amazing journey so far.

Gradually during the church services we have worked on encouraging the members of the church to participate. This is their church after all. From leading a prayer, to leading the songs, to taking the offering, or just helping set up or take down the chairs. They have done an amazing job, and have really grown in their confidence.

On Sunday we had baptism's for the second time. The missionaries and the 3 church plants in the city (we have 2 groups of guys planting churches outside of the city) were in charge of putting on a service and directing the day in general. We had our "Praise Ministry" from Belen come up to lead the worship time. Our Praise Group consists of the majority of the youth in our church. There were 9 youth ranging from 10 to 18 years old that led the worship time. They did such an amazing job! I was so proud of them.

Last night for our Prayer Service we decided to have the members of the church not only participate, but direct the service as well. They did pretty much everything while my partner and I just sat back and watched. We have a recent addition and blessing to our group, and that is a brother named Alfredo who has been in the Nazarene church for years, and recently moved to Iquitos. He decided, rather than to go to one of the more established churches, he wanted to be a part of Belen's congregation and help us out. It's a huge answer to prayer and blessing from God to now have this leader in our church. He has even worked in helping plant churches in the past. Alfredo preached last night.

It will be very hard to leave this still baby church in just 10 days... but I know that God is in control, which means this group is in great hands!

It is such a blessing to be able to be a part of this journey, watching so many brand new Christians grow so much in just a few months.

 Our "Ministerio de Alabanza" = "Praise Ministry"

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Jesus Film

About once a month to once every 6 weeks we show the Jesus Film in a new area of Belen as an Evangelism method. Last night we had the chance to show the movie in the Plaza of Belen, which is a very central area of this part of the city. During the day we passed out 500 invitations to the areas surrounding the Plaza, and we told as many people as we could about the movie that night.

One of the great things about the Jesus Film for this culture is that if there is going to be any sort of movie shown on a big screen for FREE, people will generally come if they can.

We invited our Belen church to come out and help us and support us for the night. One of the most beautiful parts of the night for me was that most of our congregation came out to help! It was great to see them so eager and excited to help. Many of them had also become saved through a previous showing of a Jesus Film. We also had a few members from our Mother Church come to help. The support was really great.

In all we had about 150 people come to watch the Film. They sat quietly and intently throughout the whole film. Usually there are interruptions with kids running around or drunk guys walking through and being loud, or any number of other things. But there were no interruptions last night.

At the end of the film our Superintendent gave an invitation to the crowd to accept Christ as their Savior. 4 Men came up to the Pastor and prayed with them. We noticed 2 other men and 1 woman praying from where they were sitting. It is very rare for us to have so many men make this decision. We were able to get the names and addresses of these 7 people and will be visiting them in the coming days, hopefully to be able to continue to visit with them and share more of Christ's love and the plan that God has for their life.

It was a beautiful night. Pray for these 7 people who came to Christ last night, that God would continue to work in their lives, and that they would be open to us as we go out to visit them and share more.

Blessed

We are extremely excited and feel incredibly blessed by the work that God is doing in Belen. Here is a picture of our group from this past Friday night. We were celebrating my birthday after our service. There are 25 adults and kids from our congregation. Plus 4 people from our Mother Church there to help us. Along with myself and Dalila and Juliana. Thank you God for the work that you are doing in this part of the city that so desperately needs you.
I love this group.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Praying with Faith

Tonight we had a very special Prayer Service. Every Tuesday night we have a prayer service, and on Friday nights we have our regular service. We tend to get more people to come to the service on Friday nights. Up to this point we have had on average 9 or 10 people coming on Tuesday nights.

Today we were visiting and discipling Nely. Nely has opened her doors to us to hold services on Tuesdays and Fridays. As we were leaving her house to make some more visits before the prayer service at night, my partner Dalila asked Nely a simple question: "Hermana Nely how many people do you want to come fill your house for the service tonight?"

Nely sat and thought for a moment and then responded "15 people".

So Dalila told her ok, start praying right now that tonight we will have 15 people in your house to pray, and we will be praying for this as well.

The 3 of us prayed the rest of the afternoon that 15 of our contacts would come to service tonight. A number that is pretty high for a Tuesday. But we prayed with faith, believing that God would fill his House of Prayer if we only asked Him.

And you know what happened? 26 people show up to pray tonight. WOW! We never imagined that we were praying for too SMALL of a number. God is so good. We were able to tell the story to our contacts of how we had prayed for 15 this afternoon and look how God answered our prayers! We had an amazing time of prayer together. There are so many needs in our group and it is so encouraging to see those in need turning to God for help. Knowing and believing that he is the ultimate Provider, the ultimate Healer, and so much more. Our group is really beginning to come together as a family. It is so amazing to see the spiritual growth that is happening in the lives of those in the Church in Belen.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Baptisms!

Today we had a very special day. All of the Nazarene churches in Iquitos were invited... and many came to a special Baptism ceremony set up for the church plants that us 40/40's are working on. We had 3 church plants represented. Belen, Mazusa, and 9 de Octubre. It was so amazing to see so many people there from the places where we are all working.

In Belen we had 17 people come out! With the 3 of us missionary girls we had an even 20 of us. So great. And out of those 17... 7 were baptized. It was so cool to see how much God has worked in the lives of this group of people. My heart was soaring the entire time. Someone commented that I didn't stop smiling the whole day. It was probably true! I was so filled with joy to see the "fruits" of a lot of work. God seems to be pretty great at filling us right back up when we pour ourselves into other people.

It was a pretty fun trip. We all met at the house where we hold church at 8ish in the morning. We were supposed to live no later than 8:30... but because we live in Peru we left by 9:15 once everyone showed up. We all walked a ways to catch a bus together. And then spent the morning worshipping with a short church service at a church with a "pool" out in the middle of what felt like nowhere. Nely... who is one of our first contacts and it is at her house that we hold services... was baptized first in the church. This is because about a year ago she lost her leg because of complications with tetanus and diabetes. So she was unable to climb down the many stairs to the pool. But it was so special to see her really wanting to be a part of things despite her "disability".

The other 6 were baptized down in the pool. Afterwards we all ate together. None of our contacts brought food, even though we had asked them to do this because there is no food at this particular place. But I believe mostly for financial reasons this really wasn't possible, something we didn't count on beforehand. My partners and I had brought enough food for ourselves and 1 other of our missionary partners that works in 9 de Octubre. The 4 of us decided to try to make the most of what we had and share with the Belen group. I was reminded of the miracle when Jesus feeds the 5,000 out of just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. Food that was only meant for 4 easily fed 17! It really didn't make sense. No one ate a huge amount of food, but it was enough to be filled. It was truly a cool miracle to me.

After we ate we played soccer and volleyball together before finally heading back home. Sweaty, dirty, thirsty, and decently sunburned.

I think things can be best told through pictures so here are a few...

 Almost our whole group.

 Nely getting baptized.

 First Roger and then Roxana getting baptized in the "pool".

 Eating lunch together.

 Flabio.

 Roxana and Esmeralda.

 Jhenifer sitting with me as I take pictures.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Storm in Belen

Last night we had the craziest church service that I have ever been a part of. In general it has been incredibly hot in Iquitos these past few days. Right before our service was supposed to start I could see lightning in the distance, and was immediately grateful that we would finally have some rain to cool things down a little bit! Around 8:30pm... about an hour into the service... we heard the thunder getting closer, and it finally began to rain.

What happened next took everyone by surprise. The storm passed directly over Belen. On top of the house where we have church services is a billboard. Lightning struck the billboard and other houses and electrical poles within a matter of minutes. It was easily the loudest sound that I have ever heard. We couldn't see what was going on outside as the wind and rain picked up and turned into a crazy blitz-like storm. In our service people started majorly freaking out, some yelling that we needed to get out of the house and others saying it was safer to be inside. At the time I really didn't understand why people were so afraid. Everything was up in commotion. Juliana, Dalila, and I worked on trying to calm people down. Some of the ladies were crying and praying. One of the 12 year old girls had freaked out and ran out of the house as soon as the storm hit. None of us could find her and her mom was crying and praying as well.

Within 10 minutes the thunder and lightning had passed. And within 10 more minutes the rain stopped. The people that had ran outside came back. It took awhile to get everyone relatively calmed down. The electricity never did come back on (in fact it was still out today), but luckily we had a couple of cell phones with flash lights. We ended our service just praying and singing. Thanking God that we were all safe and okay. We had a couple of new people accept Christ during this time. It was intense but our little church came together like a true family. And to me that was beautiful.

Once we left I finally realized why people were so afraid. In the poorest part of the city houses are often not constructed very well. Full houses had fallen. Roofs of houses had been ripped off. Motorcycles and Mototaxis had flipped over from the wind. There were electrical cables hanging all over the streets. No one could drive because the streets were full of debris. To add to what was already sad and scary, there were many robberies taking place. Belen is already one of the most dangerous areas of Iquitos. And with no electricity the streets were nearly pitch black. Sadly robbers took advantage of destroyed houses to loot what little was left.

As we went out to work today we could better see in the light the damage that had been done. There was a solemn mood in Belen. People were working to try to salvage what they had to start to rebuild. We learned from the newspaper that 50 houses had fallen. I believe that includes the houses that had roofs taken off, or parts of the houses damaged. We heard from people spreading word on the streets that at least 2 people had died when their houses had fallen. I can imagine there are quite a number of injuries as well.

Pray for Belen as people work to pick up their lives in the next few days or weeks. We don't yet know the extent to which all of our contacts have been affected. We know so far that one has lost their roof. Pray as they work to rebuild and keep going.

Luis - The Ex-Terrorist

The months of July and August were full of God proving to us again and again that He is a God of miracles and that He is capable of things that we would deem impossible. I have many stories of this but in this blog I would love to share one in particular of a man named Luis Torrejon. We have known Luis for quite awhile now. His wife became a Christian in the first weeks that Dalila and her original partner were working in Belen, and her and their 6 children faithfully assist our services. Luis was initially pretty hostile towards us. The hostility changed to indifference. He told us that we could visit and what his wife wanted to do was her decision, but he really didn’t believe any of the things that we would tell him about God. We learned that Luis is an ex-terrorist. And as he himself told us more than once, he has done things that “we could never imagine”. Many times when we went to their house we would find Luis drunk. He eventually changed to the point that he would hold regular, friendly, conversations with us when we would visit. He even took some of the discipleship classes that we were offering. I think that for Luis it was difficult for him to imagine that anyone could ever actually forgive him for all that he has done in his life. That, with God’s help, he could change and have a new life.

Our boss, Brian, came to visit our group in Iquitos a couple of weeks ago. He came with us to see some of our work in Belen and we decided to go visit Luis. Our hope was that maybe it would help if it were another man who was talking to Luis. The entire time that Brian and Luis were talking I sat praying. Luis couldn’t seem to sit still, he kept getting up and walking around, or fidgeting. It was really apparent that he was struggling with the things that God was speaking through Brian. That there was a true war going on in his mind. He told us how he has no peace in his life. That he can’t rest, that he can’t sleep, because of the memories of so many different things in his past. He also has many bad experiences with another pastor that is in the area. Finally he sat still and truly thought about the things Brian was telling him. And we watched as his face completely changed and he said that yes, he wanted to accept Christ. As Brian and Luis prayed I could so strongly feel the Holy Spirit in this little house. God truly did the impossible in changing Luis’s life that day. He now has started coming to church with his family, and every time we visit we can see the change, the difference in his life. He has a craving to learn and he has talked more than once about how he wants to be a pastor someday.

 Brian and Luis