It’s 6:00 pm on Sunday night, October 12, 2008. Lynn just said, “It’s been a good day!”, and it has. It has been a while since we have felt that way. What a tough year it has been. It’s not that we had lost faith in God’s providence, but we have been oh so weary of waiting for it. It seems that we have been bombarded since the moment we arrived last Spring with one thing or another fighting against us and our work here. We have realized, at least most of the time, that Satan is surely not happy with this little corner of his world since God began working through Riverside here. Dear sisters and brothers in the States have reminded us of that, and we have certainly witnessed his wrath with just about every step we take.
The truth is we have struggled to remain true to the belief that God wanted us here doing what we are doing. Satan knows how to pull the right punches. He has hit us physically, but even more difficult for us, he has tried to cause trouble in the church; toying with our faith in each other. So, in one respect, I have to say thanks to Satan for teaching me a much needed lesson; No-one, either here or in Gassville is or will be perfect, or even good all the time. And even if the sins seem more terrible, they are still just sins, and God is quick to forgive. We should be too.
For most of my Christina life I have felt that we, as a church, are far too quick to not forgive some sins, but others we seem to accept more readily. Adultery is usually the biggy. He can walk past the poor widow needing food for her child and we will say nothing, but if he messes up and sleeps with a woman who is not his wife, he is bound for hell, and we don’t even need to talk with him again. Ok, maybe an exaggeration, but you know we do it. I used to say “shame on you guys for doing that!” Now, because the sins of others in the church have hurt me, have caused me to rethink my own Christian life, I was doing the same thing toward other sins. Their sins were worse because they were against the church, or another brother or sister. Phooey! That was my ignorance and God (yes, through Satan’s efforts) has taught me a most needed and valuable lesson. I am truly, deeply grateful.
Ok, back to this good day – this was our first anniversary as a church celebration. Two of the preachers who speak here most often came up and we invited all the families of our members to attend. We had a record attendance of 44. The bunk house was full up!! (Our meeting room doubles as a bunkroom when groups from the States come down) We had our first ‘cooperacion’ . That is, everyone who could, pitched in to help buy the food for lunch. It was my first attempt at it too, and Lynn and I still had to do the majority of the work preparing, but did not have to purchase everything. It went really well. We had pollo guisado (chicken with specially prepared sauces) Arroz con vegetales (rice and vegetables, kind of like stir fry, but not quite) ensalada de papas (potato salad) and Kathy made a dulce (cake, kind of). Iris, a wonderful new addition to the church, made a chichi de piña (pineapple juice drink) as well. It was all wonderful and everyone enjoyed our time of fellowship.
Okay, I have to tell you, one of the highlights of the day for me was when Maritza walked in the doors. Maritza is the mother of 3 of our regular children, and the sister of Dani, our dear friend and sister. Alvin and Yanitza have been begging their mom for months to come with them, as has Dani. You should have seen the smiles on those children’s faces as they walked in with her! Truly hearts in smiles stuff! We have been praying for this, for so many reasons, and today God had her heart ready, so she came. There is a little more to the Maritza story that some of you will remember. While she is Dani’s sister, she is also Dani’s husband’s mistress. She has been for over 15 years. All three of the beautiful children who Dani has brought to church faithfully for 6 months are her husband’s children as well as her niece and nephews. Can you see the heart of this woman? Can you see the difficulty Maritza had in walking through the door here? Is God not totally awesome? She and I chatted more before she left, and she assures me she will be back. I believe she will. She felt no condemnation from the church here. We know that God will allow her to feel condemnation with time, and we know He can and will change her life. I just can’t wait to see Him doing it! I must admit, too, I wish I could be a fly on the wall when Dani’s husband finds out that both of his women are following God! Will that not be too cool!
There were other important folks here today. Family members who we have been praying would attend did so for the first time. Jairo’s family was complete except his father. Even his younger brother, Alvin, who has not attended since before Ezequias left was here. He also said he would like to begin coming again. Two of the teenage girls taught the children’s class today, in preparation for taking over when we leave in just three short weeks.
The only thing that was not perfect was that my beautiful baby Anna Valery was sick all night and Kathy had to take her to the hospital this morning. There she was rehydrated, given medicines, and sent home. So that part ended well. The still sad part of that was that Kathy was to be baptized today, but could not be. We spoke tonight and she says she does not want to wait until next Sunday, so we will go to the river tomorrow afternoon, Lord willing. She has struggled with this decision for some time and is ready. She asked me to speak with her mom, which I did Saturday. When I asked her what she thought about Kathy being baptized she just shrugged and said “that’s fine, but it won’t change anything. She has got to change herself”. Please keep Kathy, Anna Valery and Carmen, Kathy’s mom in your prayers. While Kathy is being baptized into the greatest family possible, she is still living in the worst of family situations.
Okay, other news before I close. Marlene came home from the hospital today. Her surgery was successful, and she is thrilled to be home. She said she just wanted to get home in time to eat some of the good food, so we took her a plate.
Of great import – One of our hens just laid the first egg on the farm!!!!! It was beautiful, right up to the time when Lynn accidentally cracked it. We were told that the chickens would begin laying when their tail feathers turned black – and, at least in this case, it was true.
Blaze, the calf is doing well, growing and playing.
Our final farm projects for the year are wrapping up. We put in sidewalks to get to each pen. Lynn was walking in knee deep mud to move the cow daily, and feed her. Our friend Ňungo is putting the final touches on Lynn’s new bodega (shop, or doghouse, according to how he behaves). It will be quite secure and I can get the tools out from under my bed! It is actually quite pretty! We will paint it (and put Lynn’s bed out there) when we return! The last project is to build a good, dog-tight fence around the entire place. We have had barbed wire fencing, and it keeps the cows in, but the dogs come in and eat all the chicken food. Also, I hope to bring our big dog down from Yellville in the Spring to take care of the sheep (we will buy in the Spring). I want him staying with the sheep and not out chasing the pretty girl dogs!
We have the orchard planted with lemon, orange, avocado, pear, chirimoilla, and guava trees. We have two fig trees to get planted tomorrow. We already have bananas, coffee, otoi and frambuesa (kind of like a raspberry) growing and producing.
We hear that Ben has been sick much of his time in England, so we ask that you say a prayer for him as well. It is tough on this ole mom to be so far from my boys when they are sick!
We are eager to praise God with our family in Gassville. We fly back on the 5th of November, and Lord willing will sing praises and worship with you on the 9th!