|Sharon and Pastor Rufino teaching a class during 5-day training
In spite of low attendance due to the river water level which prevented several families from coming in, we had an amazing 5-day training! The emphasis was on discipleship and evangelism. We taught people how to write a brief testimony of how they came to Christ, how to explain the Gospel to unbelievers and how to lead someone in a prayer to accept Jesus as Lord of their lives. We also had the privilege of having Pastor Dale Hewitt and Greg Abernathy from Grace Church of Fredericksburg, VA join us to teach all of the Christian growth and discipleship material. The purpose of the classes is to help young believers understand what the Lord has done for them and then be able to share that with others.
To help facilitate this we broke off into pairs (pictured above) to practice sharing the testimonies, the salvation message and leading someone in a salvation prayer. This process greatly helps reduce the intimidation that people feel when trying to share their faith. The more prepared and comfortable they are the easier it is for them to tell someone what the Lord has done. This is vitally important for the Shawis on the Shishinahua River because when the river water is too low and we can’t get in they must be able to share their faith with clear understanding and conviction of the Holy Spirit. Our goal is to bring them to a point where they are the evangelists and disciplers of their people and we are just brothers and sisters who help them in their work of the Lord. We have already seen this begin to happen in some of the villages. One man has been holding regular Bible studies in his home for his family, in-laws and anyone else that wants to join them. Ignacio, a man in another village asked us to help him build a “house of prayer” so that he could invite the neighboring villages on either side of him to come to church, which we finished the basic structure in May. A man named Nilton, who came to the training lives in one of the neighboring villages of Ignacio and has identified him as a leader and contact person for ongoing meetings in the new house of prayer. Nilton also expressed a desire to start Bible studies in his village as well. There are many other incidences like this happening among the people in different villages as a direct result of what God has done in their lives which stimulates a desire to know Him more. These are the beginnings of the rumblings of a mighty move of the Holy Spirit as we continue to train and equip the villagers with as much knowledge, practice and prayer as we can give them. Please continue to pray with us for the full manifestation of the saving grace of our Lord in these communities so that they can be the advocates for the rest of the villages that have yet to hear.
Immediately after the training we went to Maria’s village of Varadero so that Pastor Dale could perform a joint wedding ceremony for five couples. Maria is the Shawi missionary who has been working with me for 6 years and co-pastors a church in her village.
The Shawi culture does not have wedding ceremonies as we do in the States. Instead they come together through an agreement with the parents of couple. In the past these “unions” were arranged by the parents and not necessary motivated by a love relationship from the couple. While this is still the case today more couples are together because they chose to be rather than because of an arranged union. When the Shawi come into Christ however, they have a desire to be married in the eyes of the Lord through making a public confession of their commitment to their spouse before God and the Church and so they often ask for a pastor to marry them. This was the case in Maria’s village where five couples from her church wanted to get married and so when Maria asked me if Pastor Dale could do the weddings we were very eager to accommodate them as is pictured above.
This is one of the five couples that got married, Jonie and Alcidia with their daughter. Although they have been together for a few years already they have just now gotten married. For special occasions the Shawi women paint their faces, hands, legs and feet with a black ink that comes from a plant and lasts 7 to 10 days. Their skirts are handwoven and the necklaces are made of tiny beads that are strung together to make very intricate designs as shown in the elaborate necklaces that Alcidia is wearing. The headdress of the women and the criss-cross torso fitting for the men are pom poms woven together and often the women add colorful bird feathers to further adorn their headdresses.
After the wedding ceremony there was a time of refreshment and later an evening church service to celebrate the events of the day. Some of the Shawi women choreographed some dances that they often use as part of the worship in their regular church services. This is very unusual for Shawi women to be so publicly demonstrative but again, it is the result of a changed life that has been set free by the power of Christ and we were so privileged to be able to see this.
As if the weddings and church service were not a tremendous enough experience for us we also had the privilege of baptizing four new Christians from Maria’s church the next day! It was a very full time of ministry and opportunity to express the love of Christ to our Shawi brothers and sisters. I want to thank all of you so very much who stood with us in prayer during this time. Every event was extremely significant and will produce lasting and abundant fruit to years to come. God bless you in your part in this ministry and please take the time to give praise to God for what He has done through you in this amazing work.
Forever In Him,
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