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 Brazilian 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 imagine, and
2. Where it is darkest, the light shines brightest.
So, by the 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 thank 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!
Serving Christ with you,
Betty Best (for Don)