I don't know how to describe the past two days. I have seen a little of everything, in terms of what you can see on the mission field in South America. I was moved by all of it. I was stirred beyond words. All I can do is try to carry you to a point you may be able to envision somewhat the scenes we not only witnessed, but participated in.
Yesterday began early, relatively speaking. We went to a new church. It is a traditional church, for what I could see. At least, the worship was traditional. We met in a converted garage. The pastor told me there were 76 present for worship. I do not know if that included me, my wife, and my daughter. I do not know if it included the little ones in the nursery, separated from us by a wall made of heavy nylon screen material. There the people loved us; they hugged us. They asked to have their photo taken with us. Seldom have we been greeted in that way. God moved in our midst. I could not say how many prayed to receive Christ at the public invitation. That is because as soon as they raised their hands to indicate they wanted to know Christ, counselors all over converged on them and took them into another part of the building. That alone was impressive to me. Equally impressive was the fact that this was their third Sunday to meet. They have grown from a dozen to over 75 in three weeks. What an exciting thing to witness!
At three I headed back to the southern part of our city. There, we seek to minister to a community called The Oasis. It is anything but that, believe me. The community of over 3,000 families was built upon a garbage dump, now covered in sand. Literally. Their houses are made of straw mats. The image above is one shot of those houses.
In the past week, the third section of this community have taken down their houses, brought in heavy equipment, and leveled much of the area. The result has been sad, in a way. Large sections of old garbage have surfaced. The area has an unpleasant stench of rotting garbage all around. There is no water. There is no electricity to speak of. Families who lived inside cubes made of straw now lay their mattresses on the garbage-infested ground. They erected makeshift tents made of one sheet of plastic or one section of matting. There the entire family sleeps. On one mattress. I showed up on this scene for the second time this week. I had hoped they would be back to "normal" by Sunday. I was wrong. They were frightened, even worried that they would lose their little plot of land.
God may use it for good. I was able to pray with over one hundred men and women, asking God to bless their endeavor to eke out a living in that small corner of the world.
Today I went to yet another community. It was not much better off than Oasis. They at least lived in houses made of thin plywood. That is better than straw mats. But this community is on a steep, barren hillside, at 1,100 feet above sea level; and the sea is only about 3 miles away. While I waited for the man I went to visit, I watched the community life go by. It was something to behold. As I looked out over the ravine at other communities in that area, I watched the water trucks make their way up the hill. They would blow their air horns, giving a long, loud blast that echoed across the rocks.
Soon one of the trucks made it to where I was. I went down to watch them unhook a hose and fill 40-gallon trash cans or barrels with water. To everyone's surprise, there was only enough water for one person. I asked what they would do. The ladies standing there told me that another truck might come later that day; otherwise they would have to wait till the next day and hope there was enough water then.
But there is a hitch to the water thing. The water is on ground level. Most of the houses are in rows above where the water truck deposited its water. The ladies and children had to come down the hillside with 5-gallon buckets to carry the water as much as 200 feet up the hill. But they are desperate for water. They have to carry it. They need it. It is life for them.
We are there because they need the water of life far more than they need the liquid stuff. My heart is burdened for them. There they are: hundreds of them. And they have no church. There is a small evangelical presence. But it is not felt. Few understand what it means to be born again.
In all three cases, we plead with the Lord of the Harvest for laborers. We long for them to know the true Lord. We dream of the day that they become water-bearers, bearing the water of life to others.
In all three cases we were reminded of the one singular truth that drives us: Jesus is Lord. And he loves these people enough that he died for them.