Friday, September 11, 2009

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot comprehend it. John 1:5

Whew!! What a trip! I just got back from the border of Bolivia, where we visited a PAZ youth ministry.

Can you imagine a place darker than this?

Mothers regularly pimping their 12-year-old daughters to truck drivers in order to put food on the table. Young men selling themselves as male prostitutes to finance their addiction to “óleo”, a deathly combination of cocaine, acetone, and tobacco. Witchcraft. Thievery. Suicide. Murder. On arrival in Guajará-Mirim, these stories and more landed like lead in our hearts.

Guajará-Mirim is a dusty Brazili
an town on the northern border of Bolivia. Its main products are drug smuggling and prostitution, hidden thinly under a quiet veneer. A young team from Samaritan's Purse Canada had come to help with construction and evangelism at Chadash, the PAZ outreach center there, and had requested that I come to facilitate and help them with translation.

We were met by PAZ pastor Júnior Rocha, and his wife, Vângela, who head up the Chadash ministry, which reaches out
with training, love and evangelism to the young folks of the community. The center attracts young people through special youth services and sports, and church members offer classes in guitar, computer operation, and handicrafts. Those who have been rescued grow through discipleship and cell groups, and soon become leaders, reaching out with the love of Jesus to others.

The battle is great:

Take the story of Gleen, whose addiction to óleo and other drugs had reduced him to bare survival, had turned him into a thief and a prostitute, and had destroyed much of his brain. His family had become desperate, even afraid of him. But God got hold of him through a girl he was attracted to – who invited him to the youth service. There he was surrounded with the love of Jesus, and wanted more. He is now a smiling faith-filled young man, who leads a cell group and disciples several young people.

Or, take Lucilene. The arrest of her husband had left her in deep depression, with a voice in her brain insisting that her only way out was to kill her children and then herself. She sought the help of a psychologist, but each session only left her more depressed. People shunned her – except some young nursing students, who reached out in love. When they invited her to the PAZ church, Lucilene came, and soon noticed that after each time she came, she felt better. Covered in the prayer of the saints, she gave her life to Jesus and started discipleship with Vângela. When I met Lucilene, she smiled easily, looked me in the eyes, and bubbled with the joy of the Lord and love for her two children.

The team and I had come to share
testimonies as well, and to encourage the church. We worked hard in the blistering heat, building bathrooms for the PAZ Church/Chadash Outreach Center. But, I'm not sure who got blessed and strengthened more – us or the people of the church!

Two heavenly principles took over:

1. Those who come to bless, get blessed more than they can im
agine, and
2. Where it is darkest, the light shines brightest.

So, by t
he time we left, ALL involved had been strengthened, encouraged, loved, and edified. The team was a great encouragement to this small church. The simple fact that the team had come so far to bless them, in the middle of nowhere, moved them and challenged them to greater outreach around themselves. Tears flowed when we left.

We tha
nk God for your prayers for this mission, and for our family. One day, you'll see the results of these prayers – in heaven, if not before!

Christ with you,
Betty Best (for Don)
Project AmaZon
Santarém, Brazil

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Softening our hearts

Dear Friends,

We hope you are well and enjoying each day to the fullest.

We were really blessed over the past few weeks by a wonderful team of medical students who came down from South Carolina to run free health clinics and share the love of Jesus.

I (Don), along with some other PAZ missionaries and health staff, accompanied the team during their first week here, running clinics in the small river town of “Prainha,” (“prahEENya”--means “little beach”). The town sits on the north side of the Amazon River, about 14 hours downriver from us.

We saw over 600 patients during the week, predominantly women and children! God used the experience to break my heart anew, seeing the physical suffering and spiritual emptiness of so many people up close and personal. The world works day-in and day-out to harden our hearts and make us cold to those around us who are in need. But the Lord, by His Holy Spirit, strives to keep us tender-hearted and vulnerable.

Working alongside each of the medical students, I got to translate for about 120 Brazilians who visited the clinic over the six days we were there. (The PAZ missionaries rotated in our translation assignments.) In the picture I'm working with Ian as he helps a family with their health needs.

It just breaks your heart to see these anemic, pot-bellied kids infected with worms and skin rashes, to meet 45-year-old women who look 70 because they’ve been laboring alongside their husbands in the jungle cutting trees and hauling hardwood planks, to meet patient after patient who have treatable conditions – like high blood pressure and diabetes – but can’t afford to buy the medicine.

The team went on to attend patients in five other communities, attending a total of over a thousand patients! Please pray for these Brazilians who live out in the middle of nowhere. Pray both for their spiritual and physical condition. Please pray also for these visiting medical students as they return home to a hectic schedule and their residency assignments.

We’ve also been blessed this past month by a visit from Carolina, who works with Samaritan’s Purse Canada in support of Project AmaZon’s water filter project. As you probably know, PAZ uses the water filters as a means not only to save lives, but also to open doors for the Gospel and church planting. To date, we have placed more 8,000 of these filters in homes and schools across the Amazon Basin.

Last but not least, we were delighted to have our good friends, Vu and Sheryl Nuygen, a beautiful and gifted couple, visiting us from Chicago. They were here with their young daughter, Lan, to see if the Lord is leading them to join the mission full time. (We pray so! We need ‘em!!) Thank you for your prayers for them, especially for discernment and provision!

Please continue to pray for us as a mission to grow in the Lord and to always be attentive to His voice and calling. It’s easy to fall into the busyness of the mission, and we need to actively be seeking Him.

Pray also that He would fill us afresh every day with His Holy Spirit and break our hearts anew for the Brazilians that He places before us. They are the very reason that we are here!

May the Lord bless you and fill you with His joy, discernment, vision,
and triumph as you serve Him and His Kingdom!

In His service,

Don Best

Project AmaZon
Santarém, Brazil