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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