Chapter 5 An Amazing Team

I woke up the next morning to blue sky, the smell of fresh air and the sound of commotion as other campers were up and about before me. It was nice to just lay there for a while and listen to the sounds of the birds and life. I finally got up and showered. I looked down from my balcony location and saw Russell working on the battery to the grey pickup. It had been failing the day before. Russell had a spare battery which he was installing in the grey pickup as we had about a 4 hour drive through the hot, dusty outback of that area. We were headed to Russell’s farm which is in a more secure location than where we had been.

The reason we were heading to the farm was so that we could hold a 5 day workshop for the P’s to learn how to operate recording equipment as they are building a recording studio in one of their villages. Their recordings will join mine on the P airwaves. Fernando, Russell’s spectacular audio engineer, had selected all the equipment and we had purchased it prior to the conference. We were now bringing it in the back of the truck with us along those dusty roads.

As much as I totally wanted to attend the workshop classes, I knew that there were other things that I should be doing to make the best use of my time with the P’s. The Lord had prompted me to invite several P church leaders along to the workshop so that we could discuss church matters face to face. Russell contracted a “Chiva” bus to come to the P village along the Orinoco and transport them all to the farm. There was a group of P musicians and studio trainees and a group of church leaders all heading to the farm.

The grey truck lost it’s battery power again on the road. It was hot with no A/C or windows to open but we caught up to the bus and switched the battery again. We all made it to the farm and settled into phase two of the trip.

Fernando had three parts to his workshop: 1) music recording, 2) podcast recording and 3) field recording.

Everyone, especially Fernando, was so impressed at how apt and studious the P’s were. They learned quickly. They diligently took notes and videos. One guy even drew sketches of the equipment to make his notes.

While Fernando was teaching the recording workshop, I gathered in a separate area to talk with the church leaders. We discussed several exciting and important topics. We talked about 1) how elders are appointed, 2) how the P’s can be taking more of the work load (like writing books, creating Sunday School curriculum, creating a P dictionary to establish official spelling), and 3) children’s ministries.

While I was speaking with the church leaders, Fernando took advantage of the opportunity to train them how to use a digital recorder in the field. In other words, they will be able to record a high quality digital recording at Bible conferences or at church and they will then be able to edit that recording and create radio material from it.

To train them on how to create and record Podcasts, Fernando had them invite me as their guest on the show. There were about 8 of them who each had to create a short recording together with me. I thought that was fun and I was honored to be the guest on their shows. Each one had a question to ask me. I loved it! They had awesome questions.

Venancio asked me, “Timoteo, there’s a question that my students ask me and I have not been able to answer it. Why did God allow sin to enter the world? He knew what was going to happen from the beginning, so why would a good God allow that?” I said, “You know, I have thought about that same question too. We certainly do know that God knew what He was doing and He knew that the Lamb was slain even before He made the world. Colors and shades are a combination of light and darkness. If it were all absolute light, all we could see would be white light I suppose, so the shadow areas actually help accentuate and define the beauty of the colors. I think it might kind of be like that. If we had never been sinners, I don’t know if we could appreciate God’s grace in the same way. God’s goodness and light is all the more meaningful in comparison to darkness. Paul says that all things work together for good.” All the the questions were awesome. I had wished we could have done that all day long, but I had to get back to my leaders meeting and they to the other stages of their workshop.

They recorded 5 songs during the workshop. It was so good to hear these good quality recordings. I am really looking forward to hearing more and more. Out of the 5 songs, Elendie’s was a highlight. Rick and I created a video version with the English translation of the lyrics.

The workshop and the conference were a tremendous success. It was such a team effort.

Thank you all for praying and sponsoring. We all together are making great and eternal strides for the kingdom of God. My return flight back to Mexico was again cancelled and I had to endure another 22 hour day. Jorge, Sole and Robin awaited me at the other end in the Hermosillo airport. It was so good to be home again.


Chapter 4 Hunger, Faith and Multiplication

From the moment I arrived at the hot and dusty P village near the Orinoco river, I was met by the presence of another river flowing with living water from the shores of an unseen land. This river of water of life flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb. How rich we are “in Christ“. The very life of Christ Himself is present in every believer no matter how noticed or unnoticed they are. The wonders He does in the hearts and through the hands of His people are really “beyond finding out“. Yet, stepping into this village gave me yet another taste of the water which springs up into everlasting life. I wished you too could have experienced it there with me.

It is depressing when we look at what the world is doing. But when we look at what God is doing, our hearts are lifted up. God is storing up treasures in hidden places where the world doesn’t see. Yet, mighty indeed are His works; sure and unfailing. As we set our minds on what God is doing, our hearts are filled with hope and excitement!

For whatever reason, the P’s are a very motivated people group to know and serve God. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. David says he works in 55 countries all over the world and that in today’s world he sees God’s hand at work the most among the tribal peoples. It certainly seems so with the P’s. Their faith encourages my faith. I am often pleasantly rebuked by their great faith in comparison to my little faith. They prepared for this conference with much enthusiasm and heart. They invested much of their time and resources in creating a facility there in the village and making this conference happen. Many traveled far, bearing gifts and letters. They gave me a pile of letters and gifts.

There was what seemed like an endless line of people wanting to greet me. I felt bad I could not have visited with them all as they constantly approached wanting to shake my hand, take a photo together, give me a letter or gift and tell me of their faith, their church or their lives. Most of them asked for prayer. It was evident they really believe God hears prayer. Many of their letters included a list of the names of the believers in their village. It is encouraging to see their beautiful hand writing in their own language, the fruit of many years of labor from the early missionaries who worked among the P’s long before I ever arrived.

The women and men that worked in the kitchen during the conference also touched my heart. They served in a smaller hut next to the church building, laboring around a fire with a huge pot, daily preparing food for 1,200 people.
All this work, travel and effort went into providing for one short but full event. I hope the Lord blessed them according to their faith and gave them everything their hearts had desired. May He build His kingdom in their hearts and establish them each firm to the end.

For the times allotted to me, I was not sure what exactly to speak on. As I laid in my hammock and prayed about it the night before, the great and mysterious truths of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount came to mind. So the next day when they called me up to speak, I opened Matthew 5-7 and began to share these incredibly backwards sounding sayings of Jesus. How opposite to our natural way of thinking they are. We have much to learn of this heavenly mindset which is 100% dependent on the reality of God reigning in another kingdom beyond that of this world. Do you believe in this kingdom? Jesus’ promise is sure; He says if you do these sayings of His, you will become like a firm house built upon a solid rock which cannot be shaken by the winds, rains and floods of adversity against you. My first two sessions were on some of these sayings. How amazing they are. “Love your enemies, do good to those who persecute you and pray for them. When people speak evil of you and slander you REJOICE AND BE EXCEEDINGLY GLAD!” Wow!

On the last day of my time at the conference, I was planning to continue speaking on these sayings of Christ, but while lying in my hammock the night before, the Holy Spirit impressed upon me to challenge the P’s themselves to go out into the world as missionaries. At the end of that message, after teaching various passages of scripture on the topic, I said, “You may not have many resources of Bible literature, but you have something which most of the world does not have. You have the Light of Truth shining bright in your hearts. This Light is given to you that you first may know God yourselves, but it is also given so that you may share it with others who are not so fortunate as you. ‘You are the light of the world’. You would never put a basket over a lamp and hide it’s light. No! It is meant to shine so that people can see where to go. You have been blessed by God. It is now your turn to bless others. Since you have this light, it’s like you are now in debt to those who are without it and so God would desire to send some of you to other people groups too. Look at how many of you have come to know God because we missionaries came to you years ago. I am just one person, but look at how many of you there are now who believe through the word I’ve taught you. Look at how your lives have changed. Look at how you know and have relationship with the living God! So, what if one of you now goes out to other people? What if two, three or ten go? The amount of people who would be saved out of their darkness by Light of God would be multiplied all the more as you go. Our Lord commanded us this; ‘Go into all the world and tell the good news to everyone.’ This final message of mine was received with great excitement and many indicated that they were willing to go and serve the Lord this way. It was really note worthy as David, Rick, Russell and I talked about how each of us was impressed by the Holy Spirit to speak on this exact same topic, but none of us had consulted each other. It was beyond coincidence how even many of the scriptures we shared were the same ones. Pray for the P’s to know the calling of God in their lives and for God to make a way for them to go and tell!

We had announced to the P’s a 2 or 3 day conference. Russell had deliberately left it vague. As it turned out, it ended up 2 days. Russell likes to move about these dangerous territories unannounced. So, without any notice and while I was still visiting with a group of P’s, Russell and others gathered up my belongings out of ‘my’ house and in a split moment, that last evening came to an end. David came, grabbed me by the arm and gently pulled me away from the group who had gathered around me to visit, ask questions or share things. He quickly loaded me into the truck and shut the door. That was it. It was over. It was a little sad seeing their confused faces on the other side of the truck window, still with so much to say. It was hard to break culture by not announcing my departure and bidding them each a proper farewell, but I knew it was a small price to pay in order to gain some tactical security which did afford us the great blessing of having those days there with them. The personal contact element is powerful and encouraging. It says things that can’t be said by merely sending recorded messages or letters.

We drove off into the night. As I looked up at the stars, my heart reflected on many conversations. It was somewhere about 11 pm. We got to the river where we needed a ferry ride to cross and the driver was nowhere to be found. We honked and flashed lights to no avail. Russel finally went around to another spot on the river and repeated the honking. After about 45 minutes, the driver must have awakened. He had a small hut there where he slept. It was good to see his flashlight coming to the river bank on the other side.

We crossed the river and arrived to the tourist camp sometime after midnight. My bed was outside on the upper deck. It was hot, the stars were brighter than you can imagine. There were no mosquitos. I fell asleep under a starry night sky.


Chapter 3 Variety, the Spirit and Art

Do you ever wonder why there are so many people in the world? I sometimes wonder what God had in mind when He created so many people. Each and every person is unique with a special place and purpose in the human race. The more people give themselves over to God to be who they were created to be in freedom, the more I can see this special design of God which He calls “the new Man”. As we grow in Christ and become increasingly real, being who we are, we see the special and individual design God has created us to be and how when we have been fit together as one body, it forms a beautiful masterpiece. “you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5).  We are many members, but one body. It’s actually really cool that we are not the same.

From the beginning of the planning for this recent trip to an actual P village, there was a special joy in my heart when I heard that David Witt and Rick Arellanes would also be joining us. It just seemed right. Rick has not joined me on a trip since we finished the NT back in 2021.

The P’s greatly look forward to the word of God being taught at these events and they especially look forward to it being in their own language. I was anticipating the blessing this trip could be for them, but I did not anticipate the blessing that David, Rick and the P’s were going to be to me. During the three day conference, I was scheduled to speak each day and Russell, David and Rick were also given a speaking engagement each. Russell spoke first, then David the second day and Rick the third. I didn’t get to hear Russell’s message, but when David and Rick spoke, I was scheduled to translate for them, so I had to be there. I was looking forward to it.
When David stood up to speak, it was so interesting to me to feel his dynamic, joyful and loving energy so different than the typical P speaker. This was also different than my way of teaching. I could see their glowing faces, so interested in what he may say. Even if you couldn’t understand the language, you could just see and feel the love and humility emitting off of David’s face and through his voice.
The Holy Spirit was filling the room and as I translated, He took me by surprise. David spoke a powerful message about God’s heart for ALL people. He challenged the P’s to consider going themselves to spread the gospel to other people who hadn’t heard it. He gave some examples of the power and love of God in some specific men. One of them was Richard Wurmbrand who was so in love with Jesus he was willing to suffer for His name sake 14 years in prison, 3 of which were solitary confinement. He shared Richard’s testimony that it was Jesus Himself that sustained him in prison, nothing else, not even the Bible, but rather the very Person the Bible talks about. As the Holy Spirit spoke through David, and I was sitting there translating each word, the Lord began to speak to me. All of a sudden, in my mind, it was no longer only a message to the P’s but rather a message also to me. David’s message broke my heart. I began to weep and struggled to get the words out for the P’s. At the end of his message, he gave a challenge. He said, “if you are willing to be sent by the Lord wherever He may send you, stand up right now”. Hundreds of P’s stood to their feet. It seemed like the entire crowd of 1,200 people stood to their feet cheering with a joyful heart, offering their lives to serve God wherever He would send them.

The next day, it was Rick’s turn to preach and it was more of the same. Though he had independently prepared his message without consulting David, his too was a strong emphasis on world evangelism. Rick too was humble and lowly in heart, full of love and many powerful words from the scriptures came pouring out of his mouth through his heart.

His message was a strong but loving challenge to take the good news to others who have not heard as he referenced several scriptures on the topic. As he would cite one, I would look it up in the P Bible and read it. Rick said later how good that worked because as I was reading from the P Bible, I (unknowingly) was using my finger to guide my eyes and he knew what verse I was on. Rick’s message, like David’s, touched MY heart. The room again seemed filled with the Holy Spirit. I’m sure the P’s were touched and challenged just as I was. I had gone to the conference thinking that “I” would have a message to share with the P’s, but it’s likely that those two messages spoke more than any. How good God is. He does things that we can’t plan.

Then there were Rick’s songs. I had forgotten that years ago Rick had learned some songs in P. He loves to learn songs in other people’s languages. Years ago he got me to translate 5 choruses and to teach him how to sing them in P. He practiced and recorded them. For whatever reason, those choruses hadn’t really grabbed my attention, so I had forgotten about them. But Rick had shared them with the P’s. During the conference, the P’s asked him if he wanted to sing. What an opportunity for him! I was happy to see Rick get to sing his P songs live. He got out his Kindle, borrowed a guitar and up he went on stage. As he began to sing these simple choruses, to my surprise, all of a sudden the P’s began to sing along with him. Their voices started quiet but soon, the whole congregation was singing along with him in full voices and right on time with each word. I was astounded! I thought, “When did they learn these songs?!” As the entire congregation sang from their hearts along with Rick, the Holy Spirit again moved my heart. I thought, “Wow, has the culture dramatically changed over the years. They would have never done this back in the early years”. I was awe struck and blessed. I was sitting in the front row and I could hear hundreds of female voices behind me in beautiful P pronunciation. To me, as the Holy Spirit ministered their song to my heart, it sounded like a thousand angels, “be exalted, be exalted, be exalted oh my LORD“. Maybe it wouldn’t have sounded like that to others, but it did to me. I was touched. Rick too was taken by surprise and touched by the Spirit through their singing, so much so that he stopped strumming the guitar as he repeated the chorus of “We Exalt Thee” so he could just listen and enjoy their hearts as they sang along with him in the Lord. As I heard these voices falling on my shoulders, it felt as though they were washing over me. I bowed my head and began to weep.

I was blessed with the simplicity of the songs and the power of music in the hand of the Spirit. Is this what Paul meant when he talked about singing “spiritual songs?” “…be filled with the Spirit… speaking to one another… … in spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:18-19). What makes a song “spiritual” other than the Holy Spirit? I was blessed and motivated to give more attention to others like Rick when their hearts are moved to contribute.

Robin has been expressing of late how our modern, North American church has lost touch with the arts! It hit me vividly. Robin has such a gift to see things that I don’t notice and then when she says a simple statement, it becomes so obvious. I thought, “You’re SO right!” God is SO much an artist! So many things in the scriptures come to mind where God is the source and Author of art. As you look at the world, the creation, the heavens, human beings, He is the GREAT ARTIST! Jesus Himself was SO poetic and creative in the way He taught truths through stories and parables. How dry we’ve become! The church needs art… true art, in all it’s forms, in the hand of the Spirit! Just because the devil has hijacked art in the world doesn’t mean that we should think ART is evil and just give it over to him. God is not a flavorless god of mere information, sitting in a colorless boring cloud. The church needs creativity. The church needs to behold and express the beauty of the LORD. We need to open our hearts and express the divine nature, truth, joy and love in the glory and splendor of divine artistic expression. David’s humble, free and loving heart blessed me. Rick’s simple but powerful and loving message blessed me. The music which the P’s sang together with Rick blessed me and motivated me. I hope to spend some time in the months ahead working on more P music.


Chapter 2 A Man of Many Roles

It was so nice to just rest for a spell in my new house and feel all the love the P’s had for me. After a little siesta, I got up and took a shower in my new shower! I could hear activity going on in the meeting building, so I dressed and headed over there to see what was happening. It was night. There was a wide and long center grass strip to the village, like the main boulevard, running straight through the village.

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They ran their power poles down it which hooked up to a diesel generator. It was probably 80 yards wide, with a trail in the middle, but the grass was matted down and walkable the entire width. As I walked down the strip towards the meeting building, there was still a little bit of sunset light in the horizon ahead, but not enough light to walk by, so I used my flashlight which Russell bought me back in town. The sound got louder as I neared the building and I could begin to hear what was being said. Russell had brought big speakers and sound equipment and Fernando had installed it all earlier that afternoon. He and Casildo had now gone back to the tourist camp. It was just me and the P’s. I’ve been alone in P villages often. It was a familiar feeling. In the early years, there was a loneliness to it, but now I feel family, like I belong.

I walked into the meeting place and found a place to sit down. To my surprise, after I sat down, I looked at the person beside me on the bench and it was L together with her husband E! I almost started to laugh. What were the chances with over a thousand people crammed in that building to sit next to L and E!? I thought, “what a coincidence!” As I glanced at her she smiled back with a partial giggle as she realized that I had not realized I was sitting down next to them. I think she must have had the same thought I did. It is a nice feeling to belong and to be loved.

Leaders from each area of the P nation were getting up to give a small report from their church. They call these areas “sectors”. The P’s are very organized and keep tabs on each sector of their nation, who the leaders are, how many believers there are in each sector, etc. They use this information as they continue to target unreached areas for evangelism. At the end of the reports, the director of the meeting motioned to me to come up and also give a report. So, I went up on the stage and greeted the people. I wasn’t sure what exactly to say, but then I realized that culturally they always love to hear how you have been, how each member of your family is, how many kids, in-laws and grandkids you have, etc. So, I began to tell them stories about our family, about each of our kids, how and where they were. I think I went on for about 45 minutes. They loved all the news and also will know how to pray for each of us as I gave specific details about each of our kids and their families. What an honor to be prayed for by all these people.

It goes without saying that none of this current ministry would be happening without Russell Stendal. I can’t even begin to enumerate all the work he does and all the work that he has done for the P’s. He is a true servant of God, a very faithful man who remembers every detail of things you may have asked of him and he fulfills his word every time. The ground work for this recent trip of mine that Russell and his right hand man Casildo did months before I ever showed up is remarkable. He made special trips out to the village long before the conference was to begin. He spoke with the leaders, he checked out the security, the location, he made reservations with the tourist camp, he bought airline tickets from Bogota to the border, he took barrels of diesel fuel out to the village for the generator, he carted all the sound equipment out there which included a big movie screen, as well and on top of that, he transported hundreds of boxes of Spanish Bibles, Christian books and the recently published P primers (over 6,000 of them).

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Click photo to expand; use back arrow to return here

Click photo to expand; use back arrow to return here

All of this was done beforehand at his expense. I could not feel a bigger red carpet than the one Russell lays for me each time I have gone. How the Lord works through His people! It is His hand indeed.

After the meeting, I went back ‘home’ and had a good night sleep. One of the P women had been put in charge of my meals. Before I went to bed, she had brought me some scrambled eggs and arepa cakes. Again, the hand of the Lord everywhere I turned. The P’s posted guards outside my house. One at the front door and one at the back door. Those precious people sat there all night long keeping guard in case there may be any nefarious kidnappers lurking about. I wished I had gotten a photo of the guards. I slept in a bit the next morning. David, Rick and the others were there at my hammock. They had gotten up around 4 am as Russell wanted a good start to the day. I had some breakfast, showered and went over to the meeting house again. Russell was there preaching. I just caught the tail end of it. G was interpreting the message. Following his message he began to announce and distribute all the Bibles he brought. He brought some 12,000 Spanish Bibles to give to all the P leaders to take back to their villages. That guy is just flooding Venezuela with Bibles. He’s distributed about 300,000 and wants to make it 3 million. The P’s LOVE getting books. Many of them are bilingual and will make great use of these Bibles as they don’t have the Old Testament yet in their language.

Russell is a man doing highly important things all over the world. He’s often on international trips or on the phone with dignitaries and yet, he takes time to lay out a royal red carpet for me and the P’s. Please say a prayer for Russell, his family and his ministry. I thank the Lord for you Russ. Thank you for all you do.


Chapter 1 The Journey There

On Friday, January 12th, I got up at 4am. Rob, a new friend here in Mexico, was waiting outside my house door with a coffee in the coffee holder of his car with my name on it. He was here to take me to the airport in Hermosillo. I had to be there by 6am in order to catch my flight at 8am. It was a nice feeling to be sitting at the gate ready to board my flight. As time lingered, I finally got up and joined the others to stand in line. We stood there for an hour until finally the agent said the flight wouldn’t take off until 9. So I sat back down. Soon I began to notice people disappearing. Just like that, my flight was cancelled. There I was stuck in Hermosillo, rescheduled for a flight later that evening. The evening flight caused me to miss my connecting flight from Mexico City to Bogota and so they rescheduled me on a red eye to Bogota. I finally arrived to Bogota the following day at 6:40am. Needless to say, I was tired, but felt okay. Russell picked me up at the airport in Bogota and drove me to his house. On the drive as I was looking down at my phone, I was all of a sudden hit with a flash of nausea. I thought “oops, I better not look down”. Well you know the story. I got to Russell’s, ate some breakfast and then laid down for a rest. I slept a bit, but woke up a few hours later to my head spinning. It got worse and worse until I was going back and forth to the bathroom to vomit about every 20 minutes. I spent the whole day in misery thinking, “how am I possibly going to get up at 3am to catch the next flight interior?”

Those hours were absolute misery. Nausea is just horrible. It boxes you in and suffocates you and you have no escape. Yet, during those hours of suffering, I was blessed in other ways. Though the nausea was horrible, the love I could feel from Steve (Russell’s son-in-law), from Rick, David, Russell and all of you sending your prayers and notes, brought more waves of tears to my eyes than the waves of nausea brought to my brain.

As you know, your prayers were answered. The nausea passed later that afternoon and I slept well till 3am. I woke up feeling ready to play soccer. That extra pep may have had to do with a shot of “Diclofenac Sodium” that Russell got the doctor to give me. I’m not sure what actually happened to me, but I think it was a combination of exhaustion, lack of hydration (I don’t drink lots when traveling so as to avoid needing to find a bathroom) and high altitude (Bogota is 8,600′).

Off to the airport we went and away we flew, Rick, David, Russell, Marina, Fernando and I. The flight was smooth and on time to the border town across the river from Venezuela. We did a few errands in town, then loaded up two vehicles and off we went into the boonies. Not long before we arrived to that border town, this video was taken at night by one of Russell’s people.

It was about a 4 hour drive. The road was rough. I was weak, but okay. The only thing I needed was a decent bathroom and there was nothing out there in those dusty savannah lands.

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The drive was also beautiful in places and it was fun to have to cross the rivers on small ferries. We were making good time. The plan was to arrive at a tourist camp to rest and spend the night, then go to the P village the next morning.

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Click photo to expand; use back arrow to return here

I started thinking about being that close to the P village (it was about 40 minutes from the tourist camp) and not maximizing my time with them. I wasn’t sure if I was strong enough to go straight there, but time-wise, it seemed the better thing to do for their sake. It would give me one more day with them. I told Russ that I thought I should probably just go straight to the P village and spend the night there with them. I had a hammock and I knew they would take care of me, but the fact that I needed a decent bathroom was a little bothersome as I knew that once I got to the village, finding a private place in the woods would be difficult with over a thousand visiting P’s in the village. As I deliberated, we came to the fork in the road. The other truck was waiting for me to take me straight to the village while Russ and the others would go to the tourist camp. As I was stalling, wondering if I should just go get some rest and use a proper bathroom, I missed the opportunity to make a decision. While I took 20 seconds to deliberate, Russ put my bags in the other truck and said goodbye. David and others could tell I was deliberating and asked if I was okay. In my mind I wasn’t sure, but the words just came out, “yeah I’m good” and off I went to the village thinking, “whatever… no big deal…”. I guess I was just trusting that it was God who was guiding me. That might sound a little wishy-washy, but I just acquiesced to how Life was leading and trusted it to be God’s leading in that moment – walking by faith “let go and let God“.

We got to the outskirts of the village and there were guards with a road block at the village entrance. They were P guards with uniforms. They knew of the dangers pending for us North Americans with guerilla terrorists and common robbers in the area and so they posted guards at the village outskirts. I think they may have done this just for us. They stopped our vehicle. They had two way hand held radios. They called in to the village and notified them of our presence. The village was not expecting me till the following day. When the guard with the radio saw that I was in the back seat, he informed the village that I was there too. They said, “what?!“, the guard had to repeat it several times till it sank in… “yes, he’s right here, right now, not tomorrow… he’s coming into the village right now… Get ready what we had prepared to do when he arrives… he’s on his way in right now!!!

Overhearing the conversation, I perceived that they had prepared something for me upon my arrival. I felt a little bad for surprising them (taking them off guard) with an early arrival, but that’s the way the Lord had worked it out, so on we went. As we drove into the village (Casildo, Fernando and I), we saw a large group of people gathering together near a big mango tree. They were motioning to us to come forward into the group, but at the same time making stop motions with their hands. Casildo, our driver, didn’t understand these signals so he said, let’s just get out and walk in on foot. They immediately asked him to get back in the truck and to drive forward to the crowd. What they wanted was that we pull up to the crowd but to not get out. They wanted to surround the vehicle and give thanks to God for our arrival in a formal prayer. The leaders from each sector of the P nation in Venezuela were called forward to form a circle around the vehicle holding hands together. There may have been 50 of them. As the circle was formed, one of the local leaders had a bullhorn mic and prayed thanking God for our arrival and asking His blessing on the 3 day conference which was about to take place. Casildo, Fernando and I were kind of blown away and touched by their faith and gratitude. Such reverence for God. It blessed us and stirred up the same reverence in our hearts. I learned much from their simple faith this trip. In many ways it seems much greater faith than my own.

After they prayed for us, they invited me to get out of the truck and to greet the people. They passed me the bullhorn mic. What was I to say? I had not prepared for this moment. I’d never experienced such a thing, let alone anticipated it. But I complied, stepped out of the truck and said hi.

It was a warm moment to feel their love and joy for me. I’m still humbled by it. But much greater than that was to realize this love and joy is not really for me but rather for God as it is a reflection of their deep love and joy for the One who I represent to them. This still moves me today. This must be the mutual encouragement Paul spoke of to his fellow believers in Rome when he said, “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established — that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.” Romans 1:11-12

After the initial greeting was completed, they excitedly led me to the house they had prepared for me. Yes, you remember they actually made me my own house. Again, their love and appreciation for the gospel and for our Lord Jesus reflected in their acts of kindness. I learned later than there were about 20 P’s who over the span of 3 months gave freely of their time, some of them traveling from quite far in Venezuela to collectively build me a house to stay in. A house to stay in for 3 days. They milled the lumber by hand with a chain saw. They fabricated square posts and beams again by hand with a chainsaw. Where did they get the tools? Who paid for these materials, gasoline for the chainsaw and gasoline for the motor boat? Who’s boat or boats were used to collect timbers and palm? All this financial and labor sacrifice was done in love and faith, prior to my arrival.

They led me to “my” house with excitement to give me this gift. The Lord spoke a truth indeed when He said, “it is more blessed to give than it is to receive“. I had seen a photo of this house which Russell had sent me previously, but I had not seen the finished product. I had not felt the cool of the shade or smelled the smell of fresh cut wood and palm leaves. They led me inside and presented that place to me. Again I was touched… humbled, but received their gift fulfilling their joy, and then in that moment, they continued on to the back end of the house and revealed that not only had they made me a house, they made me a shower and toilet room with running water! It was dedicated to me and they guarded it from the use of anyone else. I immediately thought back to the fork in the road earlier that day when I was hesitant to come to the village that afternoon, needing rest and a bathroom. That unseen Hand had guided me to the village as He had all things that I would need, prepared for me already. If I might add… that bathroom and that house was far nicer than the ones at the tourist camp.

Click photo to expand; use back arrow to return here

Click photo to expand; use back arrow to return here

Click photo to expand; use back arrow to return here

Click photo to expand; use back arrow to return here

After all the challenges I faced this trip to get there, I was witnessing in real time the Hand of the Lord, bringing me into a very remote and difficult place to get to. You had a big part in all this, in many ways. I hung my hammock in ‘my’ house, used the bathroom, took a shower and relaxed for a spell as the evening fell. Such was day one. I had arrived.

Click photo to expand; use back arrow to return here

Click photo to expand; use back arrow to return here

As the dust settles from this trip, something begins to solidify in my mind from the subconscious parts to the conscious, that is, this calling which God has called me to. I never sought to be this person sent to the P’s. At times in my life I both desired and contemplated leaving it. Today Paul’s words come to mind,

For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” 1 Corinthians 15:9-10

The scriptural term for “missionary” is “apostle”. Though there were 12 primary apostles, there have likely been millions of apostles sent out into the world by our Lord Jesus to spread his light in specific places. I am realizing more than I have before that I am by God’s volition an “apostle” sent to the P’s. It is a “grace” given. The Greek word “grace” which Paul so often used is “charis” which primary meaning we understand as “grace”, God’s unmerited favor toward us. Yet there are several other shades of meaning to this word which can be translated with other English words depending on the context. One of them is “gift” and Paul uses “charis”, somewhat as a play on words, in place of “spiritual gift”. Rather than gift (Gk. dorea), he says grace (charis). One example of this use is in Ephesians,

…of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power. To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places…” Ephesians 3:7-10

I feel a small portion of what Paul likely felt a full portion, this ‘grace’ given. It is grace because no human being is given a spiritual gift (to be used for the benefit of others) by their own merit. But by the grace of God we are all what we are. It is an honor to be treated by the P nation with such gratitude and given such a platform to be heard with such open and hungry hearts. “I” was blessed, to be sent to them. It was God’s grace to “me“. It has shaped my life and at the same time He has used it in their lives. This is His grace. Though I do not deserve this calling, it is my calling and “it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” 1 Cor 4:2 so along with the great honor comes the greater responsibility to be found faithful and to faithfully use the platform given to me to glorify Christ and to speak His truth without pretense.

More to come soon,