Thursday, February 22, 2007

Miracles In Copper Canyon - Part 2

After our service on Sunday, we prepared to go get our visas. Beautiful weather, and a bustling city made this a exciting outing. All went very smoothly, and amidst the huge city we even managed to find a store that exchanged money. Thus began the challenge of thinking in pesos when buying things rather than dollars - not too hard, as one peso is worth about a tenth of a dollar.

After arriving back at the mission base, we had to wait for Pastor Tomas who was finishing up his church services. He pastors two different churches, and that among other delays prevented us from leaving until about 3:30 that afternoon. Two pickups completely filled from top to bottom with our supplies, plus a 15 passenger van made an interesting looking train. The huge amount of supplies caused us a bit of nervousness as we considered the inner border crossings where we could easily be searched. Much of what we had could have looked suspicious, and we were praying that nothing would be confiscated. Back-packs filled with disassembled chainsaws, boxes filled with spare parts, and huge rubber-maid totes filled with our food was all essential to our mission, and we could spare none of it. Amidst other vehicles being stopped and searched, we experienced miracle #4 as the border guards waved us all through with scarcely a glance! What a blessing! The same was repeated at a further border check, and we were praising the Lord for His provision!

Shortly after these crossings, we faced a new challenge as we picked up a trailer loaded with more building supplies. A 16-foot trailer with 14 feet of steel beam sticking out the back made for an extremely unstable load. We had a six hour drive ahead of us that day, but we knew it would take us significantly longer with our maximum speed being barely 40mph. Any more than that, and the trailer would start to dangerously weave and bounce. One of the guys got the brilliant idea to stop at one of the many piles of rocks alongside the road, and put a couple thousand pounds in the front of the trailer to balance the weight more evenly. As soon as this was decided though, all the rock piles we had been observing for some time suddenly disappeared. We drove for several miles in search of more, but all to no avail. We finally stopped in a small town, and decided to try placing our food totes in the front instead. Praise the Lord, it balanced it perfectly, and we continued on the rest of that day without incident!!

We arrived at the Taramuhara mission base about 10:30 that evening. High in the Sierra Madres, it was cold, and we were very grateful for the propane heaters provided for our rooms. Despite that, there was no water heating system, so anyone wanting to shower had to brave the frigid, icy water. Laura was one of these brave ones, and I was going to follow suit, but the water had either been shut off, or we had used it all by then! I was almost grateful!! It was so cold that by morning the water left on the bottom of the shower had small ice crystals in it!
The next morning we experienced a partial answer to prayer when it was told us that one of the mules had been found. Regardless of the dissapointment, we were not discouraged, and even found it in us to try to discover who it was that only had enough faith to pray for one!! :-) Spirits were high that morning as we loaded the mule and one horse they could spare into the trailer. We were off by 7:30 or so, and hoped to hike into the canyon yet that afternoon.

We experienced yet another driving miracle from the Lord in the winding, rural mountain roads of Mexico. I was riding in the van which was leading our train, and we passed a very slow moving pickup. The truck after us did the same, but pretty soon we realized that the third truck had not followed. Our walkie-talkies soon alerted us that the man in the slow truck was drunk and trying to run the third pickup off the road. If I remember correctly, a mountain slope was on one side, and a steep drop off on the other. Every time Sam would try to pass, this guy would get angry, throw beer bottles at them through his open window, and try to shove them toward the edge. Eventually Sam and his crew were able to get past, and once again we saw the protecting hand of the Lord!

About 6 hours later we reached Creel, the last town we would go through. I was under the assumption the whole time that Creel was very high, and it was just a few miles from there to the rim. I was correct, but didn't realize that the last 14 miles was on a steep logging road along the rim of the Copper Canyon and the adjoining mountain ranges. We unloaded at the bottom of this road, ate some lunch, dropped off the horse trailer, and then tied the horses to the back of the pickups. All three vehicles then proceeded to drive for three hours along a very treacherous trail. This was like no other road I've been on in my life. Most people in the states would only drive on such a thing with a four-wheeler, if even that much. It was unbelievably steep in places with ruts a foot deep, or rocks an equal height. Again we witnessed the protection of the Lord through that ride. The canyon rim had gotten snow a few days previously, and in one spot it hadn't melted. On a curvy, steep hill, it was extremely dangerous. Those of us in the back of the pickups were instructed to walk behind, and those in the van had to all climb in the back to give weight to the rear tires. It was packed snow and very slippery, with a 400 foot sheer drop off on one side. A very slow speed, much prayer, and the mercies of the Lord brought us through safely. It was by far probably the most hair raising 20 minutes in the whole trip! (In the picture, notice the vehicle at the top.)

Some of the children from surrounding villages on the rim.
Despite the danger, the ride was beautiful! About an hour into it, I got thoroughly sick of the van, and went to join a few others in the back of one of the pickups. With a cooler for my seat, sleeping bags and soft luggage around me, and the back of the cab to rest my head against, it was the closest thing to a lazy boy I had all week! Plus it made an excellent vantage point to take pictures! Mountains ranges as far as my eyes could see, rugged, yet extremely lush and beautiful. It was during the last two hours of of vehicle ride that I learned of the 70,000 Indians in the canyon - the majority of them completely unreached with the Gospel. In my next post, I'll give a little bit of the amazing background history of the Taramuhara's, and the conclusion of our first day in Copper Canyon! I anticipate sharing it with you!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Miracles In Copper Canyon - Part I

The beginning of this new series has been titled thus as a testimony to what God did for our team of 21 in the space of a little more than a week. Would the world call them miracles? Maybe not some of them, but to us they were evidences of a loving, caring Father, who ordered each of our steps in a way that brought Him glory. Some of the things that happened probably won't be impressive to you - they weren't to us at first either. It's in hindsight that we see the hand of God made strong for each of us personally. It was often after the fact that we realized what danger we were in, and how the Lord protected us. What seemed to us a jumbled pile of puzzle pieces have now fit together to show us an awesome picture of what God is willing to do for those who trust Him. It is Jesus I wish to lift up, not our accomplishments or hardships, or even the thrilling stories of missionary life. These are but superficial details, given for the purpose of showing what God did for us. May He receive all the praise and honor!

Our meeting as a team happened Saturday at 4:30am, Feb. 3rd. Wiping sleep out of our eyes, we were able to exchange names, and I realized with dismay that I was the only girls amidst 15 other guys. We were picking up Laura Brent on the way - the only other girl from the US, but there was still 4-5 hours before I would have the privilege of a female companion! That was a bit of a weird feeling! :-) Anyway, we managed to get all of our luggage thrown into the back of a 18-ft. utility trailer, and were off by 5:00am.

Miracle #1 happened just an hour down the road. We were just hitting the outskirts of Denver, when one of the guys recalled that he had left his backpack at the church. No big deal, except his passport was in it. He had no other identification, so we turned around to get it. We are praising the Lord that he remembered it when he did. Another hour down the road would have put a huge delay in our travels, and farther down still, he would have had to stay in El Paso, TX the whole time we were in MX. The truck pulling the trailer couldn't go as fast, so us in the 15-passenger van decided we would run after it. We were thankfully able to catch up to the truck about 8 hours later and continued our trip together.

Miracle #2 was a clear demonstration of God's hand over the van we were driving. No more than a few minutes into our trip we realized the transmission had serious problems. When explaining to someone how much it was slipping, they predicted that we wouldn't even make it to NM. The Lord has different plans, though, and the van held up the whole trip!!

Miracle #3 could be summed up as safety amidst the 60+ hours we drove, but there was a couple different incidents so I'm going to give them separately. Nearing the border of CO and NM, we ran into severe weather. The sky was perfectly clear and blue, but the wind was blowing the large snowdrifts dangerously across the road. Complete white-outs coupled with the icy roads made driving treacherous. We watched in awe as accidents were happening all around us. In a 20 mile stretch we saw between 12-15 vehicles in the ditch, including a complete semi-truck turn-over. We experienced not so much as a slip, and were praising God as we came out on the other side completely without incident!
The overturned semi.

Pastor Tomas

We reached El Paso, TX that evening about 8:30 where we met Pastor Tomas and the rest of our team who had chosen to fly into El Paso vs. Dever. He is the man who has been working among the Taramuhara's (pronounced Tat-a-ma-da) for 17 years, and was our team leader from there on out. The trailer we were hauling was loaded with boxes of donated food for the Tarahumara's, and to the best of my understanding, we didn't have the proper permits and abilities to bring it across the border. We unloaded it at a shed there in El Paso that a previous team had built just for that purpose, and then left it at a church that Tomas pastors. From there we had an uneventful border crossing, and reached the mission training center in Juarez about midnight. They had supper waiting for us, soft beds, and cold rooms. Yes, cold! That evening the thermometer on my alarm clock read 47 degrees right before I gratefully climbed into my thick sleeping bag!

This is the mission training school we stayed at in Juarez.

Our midnight supper.
Due to the late evening, we opted out of the early morning Mexican church service Sunday morning. Instead, we had our own worship service which proved to be one of the biggest blessings I received that week. Just the previous evening, we had received the disturbing news that the mules we were supposed to pick up Sunday evening had all been lost. They had wandered away, and we were now left with no way to bring the many needed supplies down into the canyon with us. I was not aware of this during my quiet time that morning, and I marvel at the promise God gave me before I even knew I would need it. Num. 22-24 is the account of Balaam, Balak, and the talking donkey. When Balaam tried to curse Israel at the request of Balak, nothing came out of his mouth but blessings. This is a picture of Satan's attacks against us as Christians, and the revelation that came out of Balaam's mouth is just what I needed that morning. Balaam said in 23:8, "How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the Lord hath not defied?" Satan's hand in this was obvious to each one of us, and that morning, by the grace of God, we were able to stand upon His promises that if He was for us, nothing could be against us. As each of us shared how God had personally spoke to us in this situation, our faith was built and we left that prayer meeting singing and rejoicing in the confidence that ALL was going to work out for good. Though we could not yet see God's answer with our physical eyes, Satan was defeated right then and there as we believed that God had heard our prayers. be continued.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A New Year's Plea

Lord, give me this new year a burning zeal for souls immortal; make me plead for such with earnestness intense, love strong as death, and faith God-given. Will the world cry "mad"? I would be mad. Such madness be my joy. For thrice it blesses - first my own cold heart, then glorifies my God, and straightway plucks my sin stained brother from the jaws of death."
-Charles Kingsley

Monday, February 12, 2007

Back Home

I arrived safely back in my own home about 1:00 this morning. Full of memories, stories of large and small miracles, and 700+ pictures, I look forward to sharing them with you in the near future! Your prayers were keenly felt, and I sincerely thank each of you who took the time to lift our team before the throne. God moved in awesome ways, and I can't wait to tell you of the many times where His hand was clearly seen! It may be a few days, but I will be back!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Destination: Copper Canyon, MX

In less than 12 hours I will be boarding a plane and heading to CO where I will meet up with a team of 16 other people for our trip into Chihuahua, Mexico. The Tarahumara Indians have lived in the region of the Copper Canyon for many years, and the particular tribe we will be working among has just recently become open to the Gospel. We will be hiking into the canyon with a mule train, carrying them food and building supplies, and constructing a school house while there. I just found out last night that I'm one of only three girls going, and we'll have all the cooking responsibilities! That will be quite an interesting experience, especially over an open fire! :-)

My feelings are many and varied, and I would earnestly covet your prayers for my time down there. This will be an extremely physically intense trip, and many things could make for difficulty. Drug trafficking is rampant at the rim of the canyon, and care is needed where we go. Mountain lions and rattlesnakes are prolific, and there are still remnants of cannibalistic tribes in the area. Prayer would especially be appreciated this Tues.-Thurs. when we will be doing the majority of our hiking.

I am greatly anticipating what God has in store for us there! Bringing light into an area so dark will hold it's challenges, but praise the Lord that His grace is sufficient to meet every one of them! May Satan's chains be broken, and his captives freed!

Needless to say, I will be absent for awhile! I anticipate sharing the Lord's workings and lots of pictures when I return! May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His sufferings! He is worthy!

Is my life more dear to me
than what He would have it be?
Would I gladly lay aside each dream I hold?
Would I count my gain as loss,
and take up my given cross?
Am I willing to be spent for Christ my Lord?

Count the cost of one so lost,
without hope and without God.
Death forever in a lake of flaming fire!
What's the worth of this whole world,
when compared with one lost soul?
There's a reason to count the cost!

It may cost me suffering,
in the service of my King;
it may be a lonely road I have to trow.
But to deeply know my Lord
will be my great reward,
I will gladly give my all I've counted the cost!!
-Deborah Wells