Despite Persecution, One New Jungle Church Starts in a Tough to Reach Place

Hi everyone!

I’m back in the U S of A, having gotten home from Guatemala in time to enjoy the 4th of July with family. Hope you had a wonderful time celebrating our nation’s birth with friends and family as well. Now that I’ve been home a week, I better get with the program and share some of the highlights from our latest trip to the jungle with a team from First Baptist Benbrook, Texas. I’d like to share one story and several pictures that capture a few snapshots of our time there.

From left to right, the Benbrook team consists of Cody Lawrence, Joe Velasquez, Tim Tucker, and Pastor Todd Pylant. Leading the way is German Tzi, the director of missions for a Kekchi Baptist Association of churches. This week, we hiked to four out-of-the-way places to encourage new believers in the start-up of new churches. On our first day, German took us to a mountain village called Volcan Semux.

From left to right, the Benbrook team consists of Cody Lawrence, Joe Velasquez, Tim Tucker, and Pastor Todd Pylant. Leading the way is German Tzi, the director of missions for a Kekchi Baptist Association of churches. This week, we hiked to four out-of-the-way places to encourage new believers in the start-up of new churches. On our first day, German took us to a mountain village called Volcan Semux.

After about an hour and a half hike, we got to the village and learned that in March, four families came together to start a church there. However, a couple of people in the community vowed to burn their houses down if they proceeded to start the church. Read the rest of the story below. Here, German makes introductions and shares what we would like to do together with them. Note that they have worked on building their meeting space out of lumber they cut from the jungle with chain saws.

After about an hour and a half hike, we got to the village and learned that in March, four families came together to start a church there. However, a couple of people in the community vowed to burn their houses down if they proceeded to start the church. Read the rest of the story below. Here, German makes introductions and shares what we would like to do together with them. Note that they have worked on building their meeting space out of lumber they cut from the jungle with chain saws.

To break up the story-telling time, we paused to play. Realizing that our original plan to play soccer was not practical because of their mountainside location, we improvised. (Ever chased a ball down a mountain?) So we decided to run relay races up and down part of a trail. Here the children showed the adults how it was done. Later the women and men took their turns!

To break up the story-telling time, we paused to play. Realizing that our original plan to play soccer was not practical because of their mountainside location, we improvised. (Ever chased a ball down a mountain?) So we decided to run relay races up and down part of a trail. Here the children showed the adults how it was done. Later the women and men took their turns!

With squeals of laughter, the ladies ran to hand off of their hankies to their teammates! Even with their long skirts, these ladies ran fast!

With squeals of laughter, the ladies ran to hand off of their hankies to their teammates! Even with their long skirts, these ladies ran fast!

Tim and Joe gut it out on the trail as the red team holds their lead!

Tim and Joe gut it out on the trail as the red team holds their lead!

After sharing faith stories, this young man asked if someone would help him become a follower of Jesus like the others in this new church. Here, German is leading him in a prayer of salvation as we prayed together with him.

After sharing faith stories, this young man asked if someone would help him become a follower of Jesus like the others in this new church. Here, German is leading him in a prayer of salvation as we prayed together with him.

Before leaving the church at Volcan Semux, a couple of people asked if we had any medicine for some cuts and burns. Here Tim and Joe are pulling out some band-aids and antibiotic ointment to put on several wounds. Every village we visited asked us if we had any medicine or medical supplies on us. We felt helpless seeing how, in these more remote places, small ailments and wounds can turn into a big deal when not adequately treated.

Before leaving the church at Volcan Semux, a couple of people asked if we had any medicine for some cuts and burns. Here Tim and Joe are pulling out some band-aids and antibiotic ointment to put on several wounds. Every village we visited asked us if we had any medicine or medical supplies on us. We felt helpless seeing how, in these more remote places, small ailments and wounds can turn into a big deal when not adequately treated.

“If you don’t stop building this church, we will burn your house down!”

Two months ago, those were the words yelled by two Catholic men to the four-family church that was meeting in one of the huts of one of those families. Without rehearsing or consulting, the church stood together as one outside the door. One of the men spoke. “If you do that, you will have to burn all of us together. We will not fight with you. However, we feel compelled by God to continue.”

Witnessing the situation, several Catholic people who knew the agitators came alongside and stood with the church. “If you are going to burn them, you will have to burn us too,” they said with conviction. “You know that our church does not teach this.” With that, the self-appointed accusers turned and went home.

Reluctant to say much, this man listens as German told me how these new believers stood firm in the middle of persecution.

Reluctant to say much, this man listens as German told me how these new believers stood firm in the middle of persecution.

Play. Story. Eat. In Action

Thankfully, since that incident, there have been no further threats. And German wanted us to share with the new believers how out of a glad and open heart, the congregation could play, share stories, and eat with people in the community to win them to Christ.

We talked about how we liked to do something fun to open us up to hear stories about one another and about God. Not knowing who was a part of the church and who wasn’t, we didn’t realize that we had engaged several outside of the church in our relay races and by the time we got to sharing our stories, about half a dozen ladies and several men joined us in our discussions.

While sitting around to hear the stories, one woman hung her baby from a beam to rock her to sleep.

While sitting around to hear the stories, one woman hung her baby from a beam to rock her to sleep.

Todd shared the biblical story Jesus told of the four different soils where gospel seed was sown. To communicate, I translated Todd’s English to Spanish. Then German translated it from Spanish to Kekchi. I was amazed at how patient the people were to listen. Fortunately, the story resonated well. Their whole existence depends on planting good seed in fertile soil to produce their crops of corn and beans and other vegetables to survive. Soon they peppered German with comments and questions. At the end when we talked about how we ride bulls of commitment to God after hearing God speak to us, we shared our commitments. The general commitment from the people was that they wanted to be fertile soil that God might use to plant seeds of faith that would sprout and multiply. They asked us to pray for them, that they would be a church of “chabil choch”—fertile soil. I made my commitment that when I got home, I would ask my prayer partners to pray that very prayer for them—that they would be fertile soil and that God would multiply mightily through them all over this mountain.

10:02 PRAYER

Please pray for the new church in Volcan Semux. Pray that they would joyfully multiply as they live out their faith in their village. As you see other pictures below, please pray that gospel seeds in the other places we went would find fertile soil too and that many would come to know Christ through the spiritual friendship and witness of our friends.

ENGAGE

I made a promise that I would tell the story of this new church in Volcan Semux and invite you to pray for them. Would you pass the word on to ask for others to pray with us? If you haven’t already done so, set your phone alarm to go off at 10:02 am or pm and remember to pray Luke 10:2…that the Lord of the harvest would send forth laborers into his fields that are ready to be harvested.

INVEST

Several of you have given sacrificially of late and greatly encouraged us. Thank you so much! Your continued partnership keeps us going. Keep those cards and letters coming!

CLICK HERE FOR THE EASY BUTTON TO INVEST.

By the way, next week, July 18-25, we have a team from LifeQuest Church in Belton, Missouri, heading to Guatemala to work with several of our PSE groups in the Santa Rosa de Lima region. Stay tuned for more news.

Love y’all!

Steve

PS…check out more pics below! These guys from Benbrook were great!

In this village in Raxaha, Todd and Cesar turn the rope while Joe and a Kekchi boy try to jump together.

In this village in Raxaha, Todd and Cesar turn the rope while Joe and a Kekchi boy try to jump together.

Lorenzo, the pastor of the church at Ochul Choch meets us on the path to head up the mountain to his church. The village has about 15 families and all but one has been won to Christ. Even with that success in their village, they are not sitting on the job. In the past couple years they have started 3 other churches.

Lorenzo, the pastor of the church at Ochul Choch meets us on the path to head up the mountain to his church. The village has about 15 families and all but one has been won to Christ. Even with that success in their village, they are not sitting on the job. In the past couple years they have started 3 other churches.

After a hard day of hiking to Ochul Choch, the team shares in a worship service. Here, Joe shares his testimony while Lorenzo translates it to Kekchi.

After a hard day of hiking to Ochul Choch, the team shares in a worship service. Here, Joe shares his testimony while Lorenzo translates it to Kekchi.

In Ochul Choch, Pedro and his family share a meal of the spicy chili soup with us.

In Ochul Choch, Pedro and his family share a meal of the spicy chili soup with us.

Pedro and some of his friends and family join together outside Pedro’s hut for this picture.

Pedro and some of his friends and family join together outside Pedro’s hut for this picture.

Here’s how we set up to sleep in a couple of villages. This is the fellowship hall of the Ochul Choch church.

Here’s how we set up to sleep in a couple of villages. This is the fellowship hall of the Ochul Choch church.

In the village of Ferial, we get ready to play soccer with a group of men and boys. After the game we sat on the field and shared stories. This opened up a whole group of unbelievers to the church that we were working with on that day.

In the village of Ferial, we get ready to play soccer with a group of men and boys. After the game we sat on the field and shared stories. This opened up a whole group of unbelievers to the church that we were working with on that day.

After playing soccer in Raxaha, we agreed to bring a team in the future for a four-team tournament. Here Cesar presents a ball to the organizer of the village’s soccer teams.

After playing soccer in Raxaha, we agreed to bring a team in the future for a four-team tournament. Here Cesar presents a ball to the organizer of the village’s soccer teams.

One evening, Cesar and German had a group of pastors meet us so that they could meet Todd and hear more of our Play. Story. Eat. methodology. Todd spoke to the men from 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 when Paul speaks about how our competence comes not from ourselves, but from God.

One evening, Cesar and German had a group of pastors meet us so that they could meet Todd and hear more of our Play. Story. Eat. methodology. Todd spoke to the men from 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 when Paul speaks about how our competence comes not from ourselves, but from God.

Here Cesar and German are speaking of the levels we work at when starting churches.

Here Cesar and German are speaking of the levels we work at when starting churches.

During the time with the pastors, we taught them to play the game of Connect Four as a way to highlight how they could use play in ministry. Here Todd shows them how to play. Since several pastors came from a long distance, they spent the night at the association so they could travel by day the next morning. We left at about 10pm. German later told us that the ones who stayed got so hooked on the game that they played until 1am!

During the time with the pastors, we taught them to play the game of Connect Four as a way to highlight how they could use play in ministry. Here Todd shows them how to play. Since several pastors came from a long distance, they spent the night at the association so they could travel by day the next morning. We left at about 10pm. German later told us that the ones who stayed got so hooked on the game that they played until 1am!

After playing soccer in Raxaha, the church ladies fixed us a meal of beans and eggs and tortillas. With no utensils, the custom is to use the tortillas to scoop the food into your mouth. Here Todd is getting another tortilla to help in his efforts!

After playing soccer in Raxaha, the church ladies fixed us a meal of beans and eggs and tortillas. With no utensils, the custom is to use the tortillas to scoop the food into your mouth. Here Todd is getting another tortilla to help in his efforts!

The last day we had to hike in the rain.

The last day we had to hike in the rain.

Part of the trail went nearly straight up and over a mountain.

Part of the trail went nearly straight up and over a mountain.

Here we made it to Sepoc, our final destination.

Here we made it to Sepoc, our final destination.

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! Romans 10:15

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! Romans 10:15

Before leaving the jungle, we took a moment to wash away the mud and the sweat from the morning hike and enjoy the waterfalls of Las Conchas.

Before leaving the jungle, we took a moment to wash away the mud and the sweat from the morning hike and enjoy the waterfalls of Las Conchas.