EXTREME TEAM TRIP TO THE AMAZON BASIN
One team member shares reflections on the work.
By Richard (Rich) Black
“Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.” Psalm 96:3-4
It doesn't get any clearer than that, does it? This describes what the Father wanted to be done as myself and seventeen other men left our families and followed Him into the heart of Ecuador. This also describes exactly what He did as well! His glory was told and experienced among the nations; His wonderful deeds were seen firsthand among the peoples.
At this very moment, He is greatly to be praised and feared. He has truly shown Himself strong among the nations.
Thank you for your prayers and support, both of which God used, and is using, to make His name great among these precious Ecuadorians. It would take me a very long time to share with you all that the LORD did during our time there, and some of it, there are no earthly words that would describe it. But I will share some blessing and glory stories with you, so that your faith might be made strong, that you might love and reverence God in a new and holy way, and so that your heart might be broken for those who have never heard of His love and concern for their life.
I and many others on the trip experienced significant warfare from the enemy before our leaving for Ecuador. This served as encouragement to us that indeed, God was about to change lives, bringing life and freedom to those held captive. As we left Birmingham, AL headed to Quito, Ecuador, you could sense in a strong way that the LORD, the Captain of the armies of Heaven, was placing a special hedge around us, going before us and behind us as well. We landed in Quito, went to bed, woke up and traveled some 9 more hours by four wheel drive bus and trucks to the interior of Ecuador to where the Indians lived. Once there, we set up out tents in a circle, built our fire, and something very special happened.
It was drizzling rain, yet there came a small break during the night as we were warming by the fire. We sensed the Lord wanted us to begin by ministering to Him, singing and declaring His love and truth. This probably would not be the first thing a "mission agency" would tell you to do. It didn't make much "evangelistic sense" to come into a village of Indians who among them, as we found out, was one believer, and gather around a fire and begin pouring our hearts out before the LORD in passionate worship and adoration. But it made perfect sense to the Father, and if you haven't learned yet, it is best to be about the Father's business. As we worshiped Him through prayer, guitar and song, I began to pray, and God clearly showed me in my spirit what was going on at that very moment - He had assembled the worshippers to go out ahead or the army in battle, tearing down strongholds, softening hearts, preparing spiritual ground, preparing the way of the Lord. At that moment, I expected God to do great things - but as I would soon find out, not great enough. We worshipped on into the night, with the villagers watching in close range, and then turned in for the night.
The next morning, we set up to begin washing the children's feet. We got stations ready to wash their feet, put lotion on them, sprinkle some baby powder on them, and place socks and shoes on many feet that had never known shoes before. Before we began, though, we gathered all the adults of the village together to ask their permission to wash their children's feet and to share the gospel with them first. These adults ranged from younger aged adults to one old man who had to be led down to where we were meeting because he was too weak to walk. They gave us their permission to wash the children's feet. Then they, every single one, gave their lives to Jesus Christ. These adults even begged us to "tell them more" of Jesus, and to make sure they were asking Him to save them in a right way because they were so serious about wanting to follow Him. One man said, and understand they had neither bibles nor prior knowledge of Christ, "I felt like I was walking around blind in darkness, and now I can see." Does that sound familiar?
If that wasn't enough, we had the privilege of washing the feet of all the children in the area, and sharing the gospel with each one. They were very accepting of us and very open to the gospel - so much so that several hundred gave their life to Jesus. That night after a long day, we once again gathered around the fire. Only this time, we gathered to teach them worship songs, songs sung directly to God. They sang them with love and unbridled passion, as the American church could only hope to do.
It was a span of time I will never forget, as heaven was opened above us and God's love and joy felt almost as a warm winter coat. As I said before, it really just can't be put in human terms.
During the week, we traveled up and down the mountains to villages of other Indians in the same situation as the one with which we were staying. These trips would take anywhere from 45 minutes to hours, and were extremely dangerous as we were inches from the edge of 1000 foot drop offs and hair pin turns. God's protection was very evident. And in every village, 3 in total, we were graced to see the same thing each time - an open heaven and open hearts, ready to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ. His kingdom was truly at hand.
There were two personal experiences that I will share with you though.
They are precious and almost too sacred to share, but I will share them with the hope that your heart will softened by Christ. One blessing I walked into was a woman over 80 years whose only shoes were plastic. She lived in a hut with no floor but dirt. She had sticks for walls and a roof, and sticks for a bed. She had potato sacks for covers and a fire beside her on the dirt. We were led to her house by another villager.
She was not there at the time of our arrival, but when she heard we were there at her house, she came running down the hill. She came into her home and sat down. I took off her shoes, and felt her hard, worn feet on my hands. As I began to wash her feet with my cloth, her feet were also washed by my tears. She began to cry out, thank You Father, thank you Father. She was a believer, but a believer that was all alone, with no one but her daughter. Everyone else had died. And she came to know the truth that day that God knew her as well. He knew her lying down and her getting up, her going out and her coming in. And He knew she needed shoes. And He sent some people from over 2000 miles away to give them to her. She knew that day, in a real way that she was special to the Father. As I hugged and kissed her, that broke my heart in a way I can not describe. I will never forget her beautiful feet and her tears of joy.
The second experience was one I will never forget as well. I had made friends with many of the kids in the village during the few days we were there. They had my heart, and they knew it. Only a glance from them would send me their way to play with balloons, or sing songs, or play with a soccer ball, or clap and sing and act goofy. The day we left, one of the girls was hanging back, somewhat near my tent. I heard the Lord clearly say to my heart, "Give her your pillow." So I called her over.
We smiled, and I asked her if she knew what a pillow was in broken Spanish. She said no. So I got mine and showed her what it was and how to lay your head on it. I asked her if she wanted it, and she shook her head yes. I gave it to her and the look in her eyes I will never forget.
She began to cry and ran off to her house with her pillow. I turned and wept, for obvious reasons. I wept mostly because I wanted to give all I had to these people, but never knew if I'd see them again. I wept because we are spoiled in America. I wept because God had once again broken into depths of my heart and declared Himself Lord and Lover of my soul. I wept because I had new brothers and sisters who I will spend eternity with.
I know this is long, but I don't apologize for it. It all needed to be said. You are all important enough to me that I wanted to make sure I shared certain things with you. And I've learned to live life with no reservations, wildly in love with the One who is madly in love with me.
And I pray each one of you will receive whatever it is the Father imparts to you through this. And by all means, whatever He says, do it!
Do it with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
Oh, and more thing I need to share. If you know me at all, you know I am not a "numbers" type of guy. But this number needed to be shared - 600.
This is the number that was surpassed in the number of people who gave their lives to Jesus in the 3 days of ministry. Will you take time to worship Him with me? May the Lord bless each of you.