(Letter to our prayer partners, February 15, 2004)
Before setting out this morning for Monjas, a very remote Quichua village about an hour and a half from our apartment, we decided to put on our blue jeans (not your basic typical Sunday morning attire), and it was a good choice. A shirt and tie, or a skirt and heels would have created instant suspicion and probably would have lumped us in with Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. We picked up our helpers Eduardo and Daniel and started out. Along the way, we were treated to the sights of a newborn lamb with its mother, at least 10 different varieties of chickens, a runaway burro with its owner about 1/4 mile behind and incredible mountains covered in eucalyptus trees and native wildflowers. The road itself, however, should have posted a warning sign: “Do not start this journey in your truck unless your bladder is completely empty!” It was rough!
We arrived a little before the previously scheduled time of 10:00 a.m. (typical North Americans that we are), and immediately noticed that there were very few adults in sight. Slowly but surely over the next hour we were able to determine that there had been a death in the community and that all of the adults had gone to the wake, so the date for Steve’s seminar had been “changed.” (Hmmmmmm). The woman who seemed to be “in charge” had, though, collected a sample from her cow for Steve to check for parasites, but since he had planned a lesson on mastitis, he didn’t have his microscope with him. We kept hearing sounds coming from the partially-constructed Catholic church nearby, and at 11:00 a.m. about 35-40 children and young people poured out having just finished their catechism lesson for today. Water balloons were suddenly everywhere as the boys attempted to terrorize the girls. This is a very common practice in Ecuador during the days leading up to Ash Wednesday. Water balloons, water guns, buckets full of water — whatever is handy is used to soak as many victims as possible. For some reason, this is considered to be great fun right now, making it treacherous for “strangers” to walk on the streets and sidewalks. It will all end abruptly on Feb. 25th, but until then, it has to be endured). Anyway, we were a source of unabashed curiosity, so we were immediately surrounded and stared at. While Steve, Eduardo and Daniel were communicating with a young man about another date for the seminar, it occurred to me that HERE was another possibility for English classes. Sure enough, when I mentioned it to the children gathered around me, they were all eager for classes like that, and I was even told that I could use the pitiful little 3-room schoolhouse building for that purpose. Unlike the teenagers at Cachigalguay, these young people have had NO previous English study, so I’ll be working with some eager “blank slates!” To our knowledge, there are no evangelical Christians living in this community, so start praying now for our return trip there on February 29th.
For our trouble, we were rewarded with lunch. We were directed to a room in the small community building and were given individual plates piled with boiled potatoes and topped with pieces of cuy (guinea pig). Lucky me. My bowl had the entire roasted head with its mouth wide open and eyes and teeth staring back at me!! There was also a side dish of habas (like big butter beans but with a thicker skin). Since no one was dining with us, it was easy to share my bowl with Eduardo and Daniel, plus it is very common to put leftovers in plastic bags to take home for later. According to the guys, the cuy head is particularly “rico” (delicious), so we were ALL happy with the sharing situation, and now their wives won’t have to prepare supper — thanks to the bagged up leftovers. Oh yes, when the food was being brought in I noticed that one of our spoons was dropped in the dirt outside. It was quickly picked up and brought right on in. I wonder which of us ended up with that one?
Did we accomplish the goal we set out to meet when we left home this morning? Did Steve teach about mastitis in cows, and did Eduardo lead a Bible study? Did anyone pray to receive Christ? No. But, we added another layer to the relationship that we are building for future sharing of the gospel in that community. No one said this was going to be easy. Somehow, though, we all came back feeling very positive about the possibilities. Remember. Animal health and English classes are just out tools, our “hooks” if you will, for building bridges. God will provide the open doors.
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
I heard a sermon on that verse once and took notes in the margin of my Bible. The 4 points were: 1) It’s God’s work. 2) It’s good work. 3) It’s guaranteed work. 4) It’s a growing work. A good reminder for all of us, don’t you think?