Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How I Became the Village Idiot

How I Became the Village Idiot


The weight of the baby sitting on my hip grew more uncomfortable. I turned and looked towards the path leading from the grass air strip into the jungle. I could still see the two bright heads of my son and daughter bobbing along amidst a crowd of dark haired Indians as they excitedly followed the villagers to the river bank.
My eyes returned to the child in my arms and to my oldest daughter, Jackie, as she stood loyally by my side, holding the diaper bag and other baby supplies, she was slapping at the gnats buzzing around her neck and arms, standing upon one small foot at a time so that the other was free to rub away the annoying gnats biting on her ankles. I blew light puffs of air on to my sleeping baby’s face, trying to keep the gnats from waking her.
My husband was half in, half out, of the small Cessna MAF aircraft which had brought us here. I could hear his conversation with the American missionary pilot, Steve Robinson, arranging the date for our next flight, our next contact with the outside world. He grabbed a few bulky bags from the ground and herded us to the side of the air strip as the plane taxied off to return to its base in Puerto Ayacucho. My husband never looked back at the plane, but began trotting off down the path to join the others.  With one last look, I saw the pilot dip his wings in a salutary wave to us as he flew off.
The dirt path led us towards the rim of jungle on the bank of the Chajura River where a dugout canoe awaited us. It was surprisingly cooler, though still humid, under the jungle trees. I could hear the sound of the river, the sound of rapids above the quiet voices of the Ye’kwana Indians. I could hear my own children speaking in English to one another. The closer we came to the bank, I saw that it was muddy from a recent rain, how was I going to climb down this bank with a baby in my arms?
I must have looked perplexed as I tried to locate my husband for help. He was already in the canoe stowing supplies so as to keep them safe and dry. I took my first halting step down the slippery, red mud and looked into the face of an elderly Ye’kwana grandma meeting me with up stretched arms ready to receive my baby. She gave me a slow, timid smile, revealing no teeth and bright eyes. I gladly passed the one year old baby to her and she nimbly scampered down the bank and into the canoe. I still had to figure out how to maneuver myself down the muddy slope, but eventually I managed to arrive in one piece…my sandals had not fared as well!
My husband had already seated the children and ushered me to my place of honor, a small spot left available on a branch limb which had been jammed and wedged into the dugout canoe.
And we were off.
This was exciting. The roar of the motor attached to the back of the canoe had awakened Baby Jayde and she was wide eyed as she took in the shore line. The water was a dark, murky, greenish grey and the air smelled moldy. The jungle smells were new and exciting and would soon permeate everything, including our skin. But in this moment it was a novelty to be enjoyed.
The canoe was brought to port and the Indians light-footedly disembarked barely causing the canoe to tip one way or the other. I looked up to see that yet another muddy bank awaited me. Oh well, get ‘er done! This bank was not just muddy, it was scummy! We walked and slid along a stretch of jungle mud that was green with an algae growth. It felt like the skin that used to form on my mother’s home made chocolate pudding as it cooled. The children and I had taken our shoes off and were walking along, using our toes as grappling hooks in an attempt to stay aright. Of course, they loved it. Granny still had my baby. We followed our Indian friends into the center of the village~ the soccer field. Upon entering the clearing we saw that we were to be greeted by all the villagers, young and old. . They were lined up single file, the entire length of the soccer field. Indians with outstretched hands waiting t meet us and take us into the round house situated in the very heart of the village. The round house, or churuata, is the geographical as well as philosophical heart of each Ye’kwana village and to be invited in is no small thing!
I had been to Indian villages in the Amazon of Venezuela before. I had even spent several weeks at a time in different villages among different tribes, but this was different. This was not a visit. No, this was permanent. We were moving to this village and planned to spend the rest of our lives here. Raising our family of four, building a Christian community of believers, this was a lifelong commitment.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

For your consideration

Dear Friends and Family in Christ,

It has been six months since I graduated from Bible College.  I have been in Paraguay since then, working and serving with my family as we try to start a new church in Ciudad del Este.
           My ministry goals are to one day work with troubled teen mothers and street kids here on the mission field of a third world country.  That ministry will involve a few more years of study to prepare, but it will be at least another year before I will be able to further pursue my studies due to paperwork.
God has, however, presented me with an opportunity to serve and also gain on hand experience that will help in my future ministry.  I have been offered and internship teaching English in a small Christian school attached to a home for high risk and troubled children here in Paraguay.  This Christian school not only serves the children that live in the home, but also low income families in the community.
           I will need to relocate to the other side of the country to a town called Itagua. The home will provide my housing on site in their compound.  More than just teaching English this ministry will allow me to be living and interacting with these children each and every day.
          I will, however, need to raise funds for my living expenses.  I know that times are difficult for many and money is tight, but my expenses will not be too high.  The fact that I am already in Paraguay means that I don’t need to buy a plane ticket!
          I don’t have much time to raise these funds since the Paraguayan school years starts the end of January.  If I can raise $400 a month I will be able to intern there and prepare for future ministry while serving these needy children.  I have already gotten to know some of these children while spending a few days at the home.
          If 20 churches or individuals would support me for $20 per month or 10 supporters at $40 each month for the year of 2013 I would have the funds necessary for this ministry opportunity, or if you would rather send a onetime gift that would also be greatly appreciated.  All funds can be sent care of BIMI to Missionary Clint Vernoy with a note that it is for ”Jewel’s little jewels” ministry.

How to donate/

          I will also be starting a blog so that those who partner with this ministry through funds or prayers can follow along as God works not only in my life, but also in the lives of these high risk children.  If you would like to see a few of the children at the home and hear some testimonies you can go to the following sites made by the Christians who run the home.

Thank you for your prayers and consideration.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Gastro-Geographical Linguistic Tour of Latin America

Mexico was the first Latin country I ever lived in. I loved Mexico because they make some great foods! I loved the enchiladas and mole! The tacos and quesadillas. I loved it all! But after  I spent a year in language school in Mexico I assumed I could speak Spanish in any Latin America country and it would all be understood. I made sure to learn the names of my favorite foods, because, well, food is very important to me!

So I knew a 'torta' was a sandwich and a  'tortilla' was a flour or corn flat bread. Beans were frijoles. I love to drink coke so I knew to ask for 'coca'. Pop corn, a good snack, is 'palomitas' which is easily remembered because it mean 'little doves'.

Good to go!

And then I moved to Venezuela. Suddenly, a 'torta' was not a sandwich but a cake! A' tortilla' was an omelet and beans were 'caraotas'. Oh yeah,' tacos'? Those are soccer cleats! Not tasty at all!

I learned new words for my favorite foods. 'Lomito' was  the best cut of beef.' Pasteles' were pastries. 'Perico' was scrambled eggs with onions, tomatoes, and peppers. I loved the 'panes with mantequilla' (bread and butter). Also it is best not to ask for coca! It is sold by the kilo and is a white powdery substance... one must ask for a 'refresco'. And popcorn is 'cotufa', so no more little doves.

Then I visited Costa Rica. I asked for a 'torta' and they said,"QUEQUE" (what? what?). I asked again, "Torta, por favor" and they handed me some cake, but said, "QUEQUE". Oh, like 'Cake' but said in Spanish. Gotcha! And passion fruit is not parchita but maracuya. ok then...

Then I moved to Paraguay where my favorite legumes are not 'frijoles' nor 'caraotas' but...habichuleas or porotos. But 'porotos' confuses me because here the popcorn is 'pororo'  Passion fruit, which I knew as 'parchita' or 'maracuya', is mburucuya. If I want bread and butter, I have to ask for cookies with lard! 'Galletas con manteca' is 'pan con mantequilla' (bread and butter).

Confused yet?

If I want a good steak, I don't ask for a 'lomito' because that will be a sandwich.  And a 'mixto', which in Venezuela would be a sandwich with beef, pork and chicken, is just a plain ham and cheese on  bread here.  'Perico', the scrambled eggs is' Bandera espanola'... but who wants to eat a Spanish flag???

Then we come to the 'yerba'! The 'weed' everyone uses every day in large amount. Its sold on the grocery store shelves and even strangers on the street will offer you free weed. In Venezuela 'yerba' is an illegal substance usually smoked by teens!  And no 'coca' or 'refresco' here, its a 'gaseosa' which sounds a bit repulsive!

And now we come to live on the border with Argentina where everything is different yet again. 'Yerba' isn't yerba but 'mate' and it must be hot and have sugar added!

When my husband went to the coffee shop in Argentina he ordered his usual 'cafe'.

"Would you like that with a  factura ( bill/check)?" they asked him.

"Well, yes, but when I am finished." he said.

"But Senor, don't you want your factura now, while your coffee is still hot?" They politely insisted.

"Ok, but I may wish to order a second cup of coffee and you will have to add it to my bill." he replies.

And then the waiter brings him his coffee and a pastel (pastry) which is called a 'factura' (bill/check).

And yes, it would be best eaten with the hot coffee after all!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Food for thought

"Over-sensitivity is another trait at which generally marks the soulish (selfish desire driven people). Very difficult are they to live with because they interpret every move around them as aimed at them. When neglected they become angry. When they suspect changing attitudes towards them, they are hurt. They easily become intimate with people, for they literally thrive on such affection. They exhibit the sentiment of inseparability. A slight change in such a relationship will give their soul unutterable pains. And thus these people are deceived into thinking they are suffering for the Lord."  

Watchmen Nee

Saturday, January 5, 2013

As the demons danced upon our roof.

Many times in the jungle one is confronted with the reality of the spirit world. I know that in our modern society many do not believe in witches, demons, angels or even God, but this is not the case with the indian cultures. They know good and evil spirits exist and even interact with us mere humans.

The Ye'kwana culture is replete with myths and lores of the spirit world. Some are based on historical events and what their ancestors observed.

There are spirit beings as lowly as wee folk who play annoying pranks hiding things from you or troubling the hunting dogs, all the way up to "Canaima" who is the embodiment of our "Boogey Man". There is the often seen "wiyu". This is a spirit which comes after someone has died and tries to trick another person into accompanying the dead one. They even have a mermaid! And don't forget the terrible" macuchis"! My children even sang a song about the macuchis to tease each other.

macuchis gonna get you if you start to pout!
The macuchis gonna get you if you don't watch out!

Whatever the case may be, I have seen and experienced things that I often do not share as I fear people will think I have lost my mind. I have seen people who were visited by Canaima appear to be in a trance and die a few days later with mysterious bruises and bleeding. I have been touched by a demon possessed person, only to wake up hours later with the print of their hand burned into my flesh. I have awakened at times with a smothering feeling of heaviness only to find my husband awake and experiencing the same. Talk about a cold chill, to wake up at night and feel as if an elephant is sitting on your chest and the night is so black you can not see your own hand, but you know there is a presence there. At times like these, the only relief comes from calling out to God.

After building our house and finally getting a small generator to replace our Coleman lanterns, we learned of an interesting event that had taken place. We learned of it in a most unusual way.

One night, we were both awoken simultaneously by a strange rustling sound which seemed to surround our house. We arose from our hammocks to investigate and found our house to be totally encircled by indians. More importantly, christian indians!

My husband went out side and asked what was going on. Shyly, they explained that they were watching out for us as they had observed "spirits" dancing upon our palm roof. Then they proceeded to tell us of a story that had unfolded several years before our arrival.

The old witch doctor of the village, Manweda, had snorted the hallucinogenic drug which the witch doctors use to enhance their visions, and after several hours of being in a trance, he awakened to tell the village a prophecy.

In his vision, he said he had seen a strange, strong light glowing out of a building upon the small hill which arose at the edge of the village. No one lived there and it was not even cleared yet, but he said he heard a loud noise which came from the house as well as the light.

As is often the case, the villagers discussed what this could mean and had not a clue. Until we showed up and asked if we might build our house upon that very hill. However, we only used Coleman lanterns and had no generator or loud noises coming form our house for several months.

Until that night!

The whole village, unbeknownst to us, had met to discuss if this was the fulfillment of Manweda's vision. As they ventured out to see, the unbelievers were frightened by what they saw around our house.

Spirits dancing on the roof!

The Christians feared for us and bravely decided to confront the spirits on our behalf, knowing we were not knowledgeable or aware of the great danger we were in, due to the nature of the evil demons and the fact that we were so reckless as to have built our house with HUGE windows in every room. Surely, Canaima would come for us one night!

But this night, the christians surrounded our house and joined in prayer to God for our protection. They were amazed that we could all sleep through the night with the demons dancing above our heads. We finally awoke from hearing their muffled prayers on our behalf.

As we spoke to them, we were told of the prophecy the witch doctor had made of our arrival with the lights and loud noise coming from a non-existent house on this exact spot.

Could God use a witch doctor to foretell of our coming? I don't know, but he has used stranger things...such as Balaam's donkey!

Whatever the reason, the people of ChajudaƱa had welcomed us unanimously and the new christians were greatly encouraged that we were not bothered by the spirits. Soon they were opening up their houses with larger windows to allow for better light and air flow, no longer so afraid of the spirits!

No longer were they bound in the darkness and superstition that had enslaved them and caused them to live in unhealthy smoke filled, dark houses cowering in fear.