May 31- We get to another smaller town, a few hundred maybe, and switch to a peki peki. A boat that is carved out of a tree, and that same lawnmower engine with a propeller is stuck on the back. They tell us at three in the afternoon that we should be in Nueva Vida in four hours. Eight hours later in the pouring rain, with no cover we arive there around midnight. There was a bit of leakage problem that we had to use a bowl to drain the boat of water periodically. Cold, tired, hungry, and wet we finally arrive.
June 1- The first day we get aquainted with the community, learned some of the greetings in Chayahuita. Only a hand full of people spoke Spanish, and none of the women did.
June 2- This was community work day. We wanted to earn our food, and our stay, and just be a part of the people as much as possible, so we sharpened our machetes and started to help. The project was to basically cut the grass throughout the community in order to maintain it. We went to town on that grass, and before long we both realized we were the only ones working, because everyone in the village was staring at the silly gringos hacking away at the grass. I like to think we held our own, except when I reared back with my left hand and the machete was flung a good twenty feet behind me. Luckily no one was there. That would have kind of ruined my witness, but they just laughed at the silly gringo. This was a good day, despite the several blisters, if only because they had never seen gringos work with them in that way. It was a great testimony to what we wanted to accomplish in that we are all working together.
June 3- Sunday, and we went to church, which is pretty traditional. The women get dressed up in their traditional Chayahuita dresses and paint their faces. Most of the village came to church, as the village was founded as a Christian community. One could sense their deep commitment to the Lord. Later that afternoon we went fishing with a net…great fun.
June 4- We head into the jungle to clear it with our machetes and do our part. This was a lot of fun, until the heat and the bugs just wore me down. That night is when the sickness really hit me. I had a terrible fever and my appetite immediately left me.
June 5- The Typhoid totally took me out this day. I was bedridden and lost all energy, my whole body ached and was severely weak. I had a temperature of 104, and didnt drop under 102 for two days. They had a clinic which gave me some medicine and basically just checked to see if I had Malaria. I wont go into the details of the sickness but it was not pretty.
June 6-8- Because I got sick we werent able to go out to the other communities in order to tell stories and train the Chayahuita. So we were waiting until I got better before we headed out. For three days I didnt eat except maybe a few crackers. I recovered slowly but surely and my appetite took a long time for it to come back. I ended up losing close to fifteen pounds.
June 9- Two people died from Malaria. One of the founders of the village, an older man, and a teenager. We visited the families during this time. For the most part, these people see death as a regular part of life (which it is), and at first I thought they were kind of cold, but when death is this common, they learned to live with it and treat it as such.
June 11- Jeff was diagnosed with Malaria. We realized we needed to get out to get proper treatment, and basically leave the Chayahuita do their work because by this time we were only hindering them.We were going to leave this day, but the waters were not high enough. It is dry season and boat travel depends on the rains. We were actually so fortunate to be able to get to Nueva Vida as soon as we did, but the Lord brought the rains for us to go up river. Now we were waiting for more rain to get us down the river.
June 12- It rained all night and most of the morning. The waters raised significantly. We were sure we would be able to leave, at least fairly soon. That night we find out there was a strike in Yurimaguas, the whole city, so we werent able to get a ride. We prayed for the strike to end.
June 13- That morning we find out that the strike ended. True answer from God, however the waters lowered already and there was no ride. We had to pray for more rain and a ride.
June 14- We find out that there is a man leaving this day, but he didnt have a boat yet. We prayed for a boat. We left Nueva Vida in the afternoon on a boat, Glory to God. By this time my sickness had totally subsided and I had my appetite back, which was good because Jeff had lost his, which meant I had to eat his portions as he had to eat mine when I was sick. It seemed to work out perfect like that. For the most part Jeffs symptoms were so mild and almost non-existent that travel was much easier.
We took a peki peki and had to get out numerous times to push. The boat almost tipped over and our bags fell in the water. We were wet, cold, tired, hungry, and smelled awful. That night they take us to a town to rest. We knew no one and had to find a place to lie down for the night. We walk aimlessly into the village and a family took us in and fed us and gave us a place to lay our heads. Lords provision.
June 15- We took the boat to another town where we got on a bigger boat to get to Yurimaguas. This boat had a cement mixer, a ridiculous amount of bananas, pieces of meat hanging dripping blood on our bags, and a huge bull. Yeah, I thought to myself, I wonder how they got that huge bull in here considering there was maybe a hole next it about three by seven feet. We stopped a little ways…to pick up another bull. When I saw them dragging this unwilling bull down the hill, I said to myself, surely not. Well, sure enough, they dragged the bull, kicking and what not, through that small three by seven foot hole. It basically collapsed after the struggle and they tied it down so it wouldnt keep charging me though it tried many a time. By this time Jeffs symptoms were acting up and we were desperate to get to Yurimaguas. At six we finally made it, smelling like manure, exhausted, and Jeff was so sick that I was worried.
The strike, however, was still not officially over, so we had no ride to the hospital. The father-in-law of the man we stayed with brought over some medicine but quickly had to leave because the natives were trying to slash his tires and throw rocks at him in order to enforce this strike. Jeff had taken some medicine, which had a lot of side effects, not so pleasant. By the morning he was feeling much better and we walked to the hospital for there was still no transportation. At the hospital they tell us things we already know, and he took the medicine already that they recommended. All was well, because we were mostly fine by the next day and traveled by bus and car for two and a half days to Lima.
Nueva Vida was a beautiful community with beautiful people. Everyday we would look out and be amazed at the mountains that surrounded the village and each sunset was breathtaking. I was truly blessed by the passion of the people, how they loved each other, and how generally everyone seemed happy, seemed just content with their lot in life.
Our diet basically consisted of green bananas (immature bananas -terrible) that were boiled, with yuca, and soup, sometimes chicken.We bought noodles and fish spaghetti (it is as nasty as it sounds but at the time, it was glorious). That was basically it with the exception of a lot of Papaya, coconut, and we had monkey. Hoorah! We went hungry many times. Many times there was just no food. We bought some crackers and one or two days that was all we had. However, looking back, God provided whenever we needed it. The people that took care of us were so gracious with everything, and I cannot count all the times people brought us fruit to eat.
I cannot express how much the Lord saw us through time and time again. What I learned, what I experience through those two weeks were so difficult and trying to my soul, but it was something that I needed and that I can now cherish. What comes to my mind is that the Lord just totally dashed me against the rocks, totally humbled me. There I was having no Spanish, no training in the area of missions, but there to learn as well. I couldnt contribute really anything, couldnt build relationships not knowing the language, and had to depend so much on Jeff on translation and so much more. Not only that but I hindered the ministry when I got sick.
At this time is when I had such a dark brutal night of my soul. I felt so worthless, so down, so incapable, and all the time I was so miserable physically. I can honestly say that I was never mad at God, but emotions, feelings of abandonment, of loneliness, of worthlessness flooded me, consumed me. Psalm 39 was my passage. I did all I could to not speak out against God, for the sickness, for being dead weight, for the total humiliation, but in the end I did hold my tongue. I felt that God was telling me over and over again that He wanted to break me in everyway, to make me truly know the measure of my days, that my life is His, His to do whatever He wants with me. I felt spent by the hostility of His hand, but verse seven spoke so clear to my soul. “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is you.” This changed everything for me, from waiting on a boat to waiting for the day I knew Spanish, to waiting for the day I was finally trained, to waiting for the season that I could be used. He told me to wait only on Him, that all my hope is in Him. That in waiting for this day or that season, or even for a boat, that God always has something for me right now, even if it is to humble me and dash me against the rocks.
I am so grateful for that season. I know the measure of my days, and I hope that I will spend those days in continual hope in Him. Though they were tough days, lonely days, I wouldnt trade that experience for all the treasure in the world. Not only that God, in the days of uncertainty of about our travel back to Yurimaguas, whispered so softly to me saying “For what are you waiting for? I am here, hope in me.” I let go, and God continually showed Himself faithful time and time again, whether it was bringing rain, stopping a city strike, getting a boat, healing sickness, or even delaying the sickness long enough to travel, I was utterly amazed at His Hand on our lives and continually directed our path.
I praise God for all the people that have been praying for Jeff and me. Your prayers were answered in more ways that you can ever imagined. Especially the letters that I received from everyone was such a blessing to me that I was never alone, but I had so many warriors interceding on their hills so that I could make it through all the battles taking place in the valley. Thank you so much. I am so grateful for all of you.
In the end we gathered a lot of information about the Chayahuita and recruited two guys to come to the training in August that I will be going through as well. Jeff, in the past few weeks, received more extensive training about how to train, and he might be going back to Nueva Vida in August to help once again with the work there. If nothing else, I grew so close with my Savior, and I am so thankful to draw ever so close to His presence, even it was a painful process of peeling all the pride and the flesh off my heart.
I will try to add some pictures to this post and will shortly post about the most recent travel. Right now I am in Pucallpa about to travel to Lima to get my residency. Pray for our country because it is in turmoil right now and there are strikes happening everywhere. But what do I wait, my hope is in Him.