Sunday, March 27, 2011

Christmas Fellowship Lunch

Sunday, December 19th we had a small gathering with all of the brethren who had worked with us this year as Bible workers, on the launch, and in the upkeep of our airbase.

Some live in the Iquitos and Maranon area and weren’t able to be present. Others had prior commitments, so not 100% were able to come.

But with those present we had some wonderful fellowship. Each family brought a dish to share and in this way we filled the table with delicious foods.

We had a meditation about Christmas, reading from the counsel of the inspired pen.

Then we asked the blessing for the food and “we all ate!!” as reported by our beloved brother Miqueas Rojas.

Following our delicious lunch we passed out a small gift to each worker: and expression of our affection and gratitude for their support this year. (Translators note: the gift was the traditional Peruvian fruit bread call Panetone and the makings for hot chocolate, which is the traditional Christmas basket)

After all had received their gift they spent some time expressing their appreciation for the gifts and for all that God has provided in this year.

Pastoral visit to Pisqui River

The amphibious airplane took off from the airbase at 4:30 pm, Friday, December 17 for the Pisqui River. On this trip Bible workers Miqueas Rojas and Wilfredo Maynas accompanied our pilot Christopher Borcherding and I.

Our first stop, Nuevo Edén, was just a 50 minute flight. It is located close to the head of the Pisqui River and very close to a beautiful mountain range filled with vegetation.

The brethren, as well as the whole community, were waiting because an airplane landing is not a common sight.

Wilfredo has ministered in this community before and is well known.

As we received the Sabbath in the temple we meditated on God’s marvelous creation and the blessings that they have to be able to live in such a beautiful place. Something to appreciate here is the absence of mosquitos, which astonished us all but the brethren told us that this is the norm.

In the evening we presented the Cosmic Conflict video in the street for everyone to see. Then we had a meditation and went to bed.

Sabbath morning we visited some of the brethren followed by Sabbath School and church service programs. It was very nice. The Word of God strengthened everyone this Sabbath day and revived us with the blessed hope of the soon return of our Lord Jesus.

After lunch we boarded the airplane again because the brethren in the community of Charasmana were waiting for us. The flight from Nuevo Eden to Charasmana by airplane is 30 minutes but by boat it takes 2 or 3 days.

When we arrived we left our things in a house that was loaned to us and we went to the temple to have the afternoon meeting. Following the closing of the Sabbath we had a program in the street where we saw the video, Cosmic Conflict, and we made a call to the people there.

It was a beautiful night under the heavens full of stars as we closed our eyes to rest.

The next day at first light we readied ourselves to return to our base because we had a program scheduled for the Bible workers. The brethren saw us off in the port where we prayed for the Holy Spirit to always be with them.

The flight home only took 35 minutes because we had a tail wind that helped us. When we arrived our wives were waiting for us.

These visits this weekend were very nice. The Holy Spirit helped us to meet our objective which was to fortify their faith.

The Lord's Supper in Amaqueria

We left the air base at 3:30 pm, Friday Dec. 10th, for Amaquiría, this time by a different means of transportation. After almost a month and a half of not being able to fly our airplanes because of paperwork issues, the “Israel Alomía” (Cessna 182) warmed her motors. We had a little turbulence but praise God we arrived without a problem.

Brother Eli Dávila was waiting for me. We said goodbye to our airplane after unloading our cargo because our pilot had to return to Pucallpa to finish an inspection on the Lake Renegade airplane.

Once the airplane left we went to leave our things and began our scheduled visitation. It was sad to see the reality that some of our brethren have fallen away. In this area the draw of liquor is overwhelming various brothers and inappropriate romances are a problem among the youth.

In the evening we met to coordinate the following day’s Lord’s Supper and then continued with the visitation, all night long until breakfast.

Sabbath morning we had Sabbath school and then church service. Many of the brethren were going to participate for the first time so we explained the significance of these rites beforehand. After the services we had the foot washing rite.

Many brethren watched somberly because they wanted to learn how to repeat it. Then, asking the blessing, we reverently took the symbols of Christ’s flesh and blood, and ate and drank of it.

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Sunday morning we visited more brethren who have been separated from the church for a number of years and we invited them to return. Then I had to board the M/V Cesar II which brought me back to Pucallpa with God’s protection.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Pastoral visit to Palestina and Libertad

The neighboring villages of Nueva Palestina and Libertad are six hours up the Ucayali River (south of Pucallpa). They can be found on the banks of the beautiful, 15 km. long, Tapishca Lake. We left Pucallpa at 9:30 the morning of Friday, Nov. 26th. The trip was uneventful except for the propeller work the driver had to do. We are now in high water season which means the river is full of debris that can damage the propeller.

We arrived at 3:30 the same afternoon, and brother Wilmer Valles, leader of the Nueva Palestina church, was waiting for me in the port. We greeted each other and he took me to the chapel, where I would be staying the night, to leave my things. Wilmer, Jose (another member of this congregation), and I then had a long visit.

Nva. Palestina’s congregation had once been very active. There were a lot of young people and their membership had reached almost 40 members, including adults and youth. But in this visit I found the sad reality that only 6 active members meet regularly. A good number of the former members have migrated to live in other communities in an effort to improve their conditions. Others, sadly, grew cold in their faith, and yet others returned to the evangelical church, leaving just this small remnant of 6 members.

It was really sad to hear these reports that afternoon; but, we also talked about many ways to improve the church’s situation. We had to end our conversation early because we needed to prepare for the soon-coming Sabbath.

The reception of the Sabbath was followed by our evening meeting. Later we had supper at brother Wilmer’s house: a delicious rice and fish dish cooked in banana leaf (patarashca de palometa y boquichico). Next I returned to the church to set up the mosquito net that the brethren had loaned me because I had forgotten to bring the tent this trip.

Rising early Sabbath morning I situated my bed and belongings and had my personal devotions followed by a delicious fish soup breakfast (timbuche de palometa y yulilla).

At the beginning of Sabbath School three brethren from Libertad, a nearby community with an Adventist presence joined us. This morning we rejoiced in the Word of the Lord and in His counsel. We also talked about how to continue with their missionary work in the community.

I was faced with a unique situation that day. Apparently one of the baptized brothers from Palestina has two homes – in other words he is living with two women. One is his legitimate wife and the other is his sister-in-law who is also his “woman”. Between the two he has 20 children. I had to intervene in the situation so I visited with the brother and afterward with the other church members. It is true. The brother continues his bigamous relationships even after baptism. I explained that he would have to enter into disciplinary action and would be removed from membership until he decided to resolve the situation. After giving him counsel from the Lord he accepted the discipline and said that he would begin to make the decision of which one to leave. We then began the process of his removal from membership as recommended by the Church manual. There are some very complicated situations in these communities. I ask the Lord to help him to make the right decision.

The church service was very nice. We talked about the Light that is the Word of the Lord and the need to always be connected to our Savior Jesus Christ so we are able to walk in this dark world without tripping and to be able to arrive at our final goal.

After leaving the service we had fellowship lunch with the brethren that visited us from Libertad. It was a pleasant visit while we ate, after which I grabbed my duffel bag and boarded the boat bound for Libertad with the brethren.

We traveled the half hour in a small boat to Libertad. The work here began in 2006 with 26 new brethren. The enemy hit this group hard, and with all of their trials there remains a remnant of 6 firm brethren. One of them is Segundo Eleazar Pinedo Rios who has a beautiful testimony that I want to share with you:

“I am 72 years old, and with all these years I can tell you that I have tried the world and its vices and it’s not what they advertise. I am native of Yurimaguas and our home was in the bush where I learned to be a farmer. When I was a young man I married and moved to the Aguaytia river area where I had many parcels of land in local produce. While I was prosperous and had a lot of money I wasn’t happy because I was a prisoner of alcohol and tobacco. All went well in the production of my land until the terrorism came and I had to leave all and run.

I went to live in Requena along the Ucayali River where I started a business selling sugar cane liquor. All the drunks from Requena hung out in my bar. Because I was also a drunk and didn’t want to put my business in jeopardy, I decided to buy a boat and work with it in transportation along the Puinahua River. This decision brought my ruin. I left my wife in charge of the bar but I didn’t realize that I was putting her in the mouth of the wolf. As I’m sure you know drunks are annoying and vulgar. After a year my wife got up the courage to tell me that she was leaving me for one of the men that frequented my bar. I was furious and wanted to hit her but she calmed me saying “what do you prefer, Eleazar? That I continue lying or that I am frank with you and don’t stay with you doing you harm?” With these words I didn’t have the desire to hurt her physically anymore. And this is how I left Requena. I sold my possessions and I came to the village of Libertad. I made my little farm and small house deep in the bush. For a long time I lived alone getting drunk to forget my pain. I went to community party after community party drinking and smoking until I would be lying in the middle of the path half way back to my home in the midst of snakes and wild animals. But God had a plan for my life and he was taking care of me even in these circumstances.

Even though I lived plunged in alcohol, inside of me there was a clamor that called me to change. Still in my drunkenness, I called out to God that delivers me from this, but I continued the same. I started to visit different churches in the nearby villages but none of them made me feel the presence of God. In fact, in some of them they danced and jumped like crazy people and in others their pastors insulted us from the pulpit saying that those of us there were demons. In 2006 the airplane from the Adventist church arrived in Accíon Popular. The couple, Alberto and Amalia Marin, shared the Word of God, showing the call of love that God is making to human beings. It was there that I felt that this was a church that preached a different message that until then I had not heard. I said to myself: ‘I am going to be a member of this church’. In this meeting they said that the next community they would visit was Libertad. Then, one Sabbath, while at home drinking I heard the airplane arriving in Libertad. I threw away my bottle and ran to the community. While I was running my body trembled from the effect of the alcohol. When I arrived the meeting had just finished and they were at the lake beginning the baptisms. I had decided to be baptized and still hadn’t received one Bible study, but I got in line and looked for the person recording names. This is how I was baptized. After I left the water my body that had been trembling from the alcohol was now tranquil and I returned to my house in peace. I proposed in my heart not to drink alcohol anymore. And so it was, with God’s help, that I kept that commitment. So much so that one day I was visiting a nearby community during their anniversary. I was standing there watching those dancing and some of my friends came and put a bottle of liquor under my arm. When I realized it was alcohol I said to myself ‘what am I doing with this under my arm?’ At that very moment I gave the bottle back to my friend and I left, realizing that I was putting myself in temptation.

This is how I began my Christian life. However, something that I hadn’t been able to let go of was tobacco. I no longer drank liquor but I always smoked cigarettes in my home. This was something that I continued after becoming an Adventist. But I am infinitely grateful to God for the invitation to the congregation of Libertad to participate in the ECLA (Laico training with Peru Projects) that was to be held in January of 2010. I decided to go to this event and after 3 weeks of training God worked a miracle in me in that I now understood many things that still needed to be changed in my life. And, thanks to the ECLA, when I returned home, I returned free of the claws of tobacco. Now I can say that every day I fight to be faithful to the Lord with all my being.”

This testimony of brother Eleazar is impressive - impressive because through his experience we can see that God acts in different ways to bring his children into His fold. For this reason we can’t limit conversion to any one method. God has different methods to touch the hearts of his children lost in sin.

The brethren of Libertad are very anxious to finish the Lord’s chapel. They have gone out to cut down the wood for the structure of the chapel. Our Air Program (Peru Projects) is helping them with boards to close the walls. This help is making their desire for a chapel a reality. They are doing the greater part of the work by getting the wood for the structure and are very happy to be well into their journey of raising their new chapel.

The congregation of Libertad is very active. Even though they are just a remnant they are sharing the Good Word with their neighbors and soon there will be fruits for the Glory of our God.

We pray for these two congregations on lake Tapishca that the Lord will continue guiding and fortifying them on the road to His Celestial Kingdom.