Monday, March 05, 2007

This Had Been Our Home, from BIMI World Magazine



This is an article that we had written for our missions magazine last year. I thought it might explain our situation a little better for some of you who do not know us.


by Clint Vernoy

From the window of the Cessna 206 aircraft we took one last, long heart–wrenching look at the jungle village that had been our home. Circumstances beyond our control had forced us to leave a decade of work in the jungles of Venezuela. How do you simply fly away from ten years of working to learn a language…to establish a home, and to build relationships with some of the most precious people on earth? We had shared our lives with theirs, mingling our joys and sadness. We had become family with these Indian tribesmen through the blood of Jesus Christ! Through tear–stained eyes, we said good–bye to our Ye’kwana family, and the village they called Chajuraña.
Before we moved to the village, we had ministered for 8 years in the city of Barquisimeto. During those years, God was preparing us for the more primitive, tribal ministry in the jungle village. (The nearest town from Chajuraña is a two–week trip by canoe or a two-hour flight by mission plane.) We first visited Chajuraña in 1994 to preach the Gospel and to see churches planted throughout the Caura river valley.






Now our journey had unexpectedly brought us back to where it had all begun.
Our wounds were still fresh as we visited the church in Barquisimeto during a Wednesday evening service. Political tensions between the US and Venezuela had escalated in the expulsion of all missionaries from the jungle villages. We were expelled from our jungle ministry, and the future of our airplane was in question. That evening, as my wife and I read through I Thessalonians 2 with the believers in Barquisimeto, God’s Word spoke to our hearts in a very pointed and personal way.
From the window of the airplane, a disturbing thought had plagued my mind–was it all in vain? A businessman might say, “yes.” At first glance, it seemed that the costs were greater than the benefits. But God would have the final word. Right there in verse one, Paul reminded me of what I already knew… “For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain.”
No, it was not in vain! It was not in vain because we left something in that jungle village that could not be expelled with us. We were as verse 4 says, “allowed of God to be put in trust with the Gospel.” What a precious gift was entrusted to us to deliver to the people of Chajuraña! God used us to carry the Gospel to them! We were not the first. Cederico and Florinda Eddings of the Orinoco River Mission had spent years there in the 70’s struggling to minister under extremely primitive conditions. New Tribes missionaries, in other parts of the jungle, had worked to translate the New Testament into the Ye’kwana language. The hearts of some were ready to receive the Gospel while others were hard and needed patience and love to prepare their hearts for the Good News. When the Eddings left, they saw some fruit, but not as much as they had desired. Regardless, they too realized that their time was not in vain.



We were reminded of how precious our new friends had become to us when we read in verse 8, “ye were dear unto us.” We found it necessary to not only impart the Gospel but to share our very souls. Often times in a tribal situation, because of language and cultural barriers, words alone are not enough. One must become the very Bible that they read. The only way for them to comprehend the love of Christ is by seeing it lived out in a person’s daily life. That is not to imply that it came easily.
To the contrary, we found the words of verse 9 to ring especially true, “for laboring night and day.” We found living among them to be more demanding than we had ever imagined. Not only were we forced to build a house from materials totally alien to us, we also had to experience first hand the rigors of malaria and other tropical diseases. At the same time we were raising our four young children without the convenience of electricity, running water, or for that matter–floors! We have seen first-hand the tremendous toll that jungle illnesses can have on missionaries. Our co–workers were forced to leave tribal ministry after experiencing many bouts of sickness. I was of necessity the preacher, teacher, doctor, dentist, pharmacist, midwife, airstrip builder, village mechanic and carpenter. On a regular basis we were awakened at night to attend to the sick or to deliver babies.


So, why did we do it? Again, Paul’s words in verse 12 echo our hearts cry…“That ye would walk worthy of God.” Our motivation for being in this ministry was so that we could preach the Gospel to the Indians and see their lives changed by the power of the cross and the work of the Holy Spirit. As Paul also said in I Thessalonians 1:9, we saw many who “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” Even as I write this I can see their faces, Ye’kwana men and women who left their heathen ways and now “walk worthy of God.”
Ramon – He heard the Gospel for nearly 40 years before he believed and became an example of faithfulness.
Luis Milano – He was the worst drunk and womanizer in the village with four wives and nearly 30 children. He came to know Christ after the death of his Christian son.
Petra – She was the wife of the witch doctor. She was the first believer in the village and prayed for years that someone would come and teach her more of the Word of God.
Magdelena – Through her own death, she became a witness to over 500 Indians from other villages.
Space does not permit me to tell each and every story, but you can someday hear their stories in Heaven.



We do thank God for the privilege of being His witnesses among these people. It is a fearful thing to be the one called upon to deliver God’s message to men when they do not have God’s Word written in their own language. That’s why the words of verse 13 were especially applicable to us: “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” We have seen the power of the Word of God and the work that it brings forth in the lives of the people when they receive it, whether it be from our mouths or from the written page. For this reason, while we are still allowed to remain in the country of Venezuela, we feel strongly that we should dedicate ourselves to the unfinished work of translating the Old Testament into the Ye’kwana language so that they may read it for themselves.


Verse 14 also resonated in our hearts: “for ye have also suffered like things of your own countrymen.” When President Chavez decreed that evangelical missionaries must leave the tribal areas, Indian believers began to suffer at the hands of their own countrymen. The missionary pastors that were forced to leave are often the only medical help available to jungle tribes. Missionary pilots are also no longer allowed to fly the sick to the hospitals. Two natives from our area have already died needlessly because of this decision. There is no longer medicine available in the dispensary, as this also came through mission donations.
At this time, missionaries are not allowed to minister in the tribal areas. We understand Paul’s experience in verse 16: “Forbidding us to speak.” In most cases the Christian Indians are also cut off from each other due to lack of communication and transportation. Additionally, many mission bases are being converted into military posts. There are psychological operations in place for the purpose of re–indoctrinating the Indians who have been under missionary influence. They are being told to return to their old ways and religion. In our last church service in Chajuraña, Victor, the pastor, said, “They can take the missionaries out of our village, but they cannot take the Holy Spirit from our hearts.’



We like Paul are “…being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart.” (Vs. 17) Although we are not able to be with our congregation in Chajuraña, they remain in our hearts. Even our youngest daughter has cried in church services wishing she could be in our Indian church. God has put a love in our hearts that goes beyond the physical separation. Not a day goes by that we are not thinking of them, praying for them. “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?” (Vs. 19) Whatever hardships we have experienced in the past, whatever difficulties we may experience in the future, we will never regret the years in Chajuraña at the Good Hope Baptist Church! The joy of seeing people come to Christ cannot be taken from us. Even if we had our doubts today, imagine the rejoicing we will share at the Second Coming of Christ. We look forward to walking on heavenly streets in the company of our Ye’kwana believers.
Over the years many people have questioned why we would isolate ourselves deep in the jungle to reach tribal people or how we could be happy raising our children in primitive conditions. Verse 20 says it all: “For ye are our glory and joy.” Any glory and joy that we have in eternity will far outweigh our past and present trials. The Ye’kwana people will never read these words but some of them will be in heaven with us – thanks to the prayer and financial support of people they will never meet in this life. For ye…Victor, Antonio, Maria, Magdalena, Joel, and my many other Ye’kwana brothers and sisters’ye are our glory and joy!






Update: This was written last year. I can not go into all the details for security reasons, but it is no longer viable for the indians to travel out and work with us here.

14 comments:

Penless Thoughts said...

Again thank you. What a wonderful testimony of the work of God. I love the way your husband wove the scripture verses into telling your story.

Frieda said...

What a great experiance you have had. Thanks for sharing and May God continue to bless you.

Jungle Mom said...

Thank you Penless Thoughts, my husband had a hard time writing this as it is painful to not be there.

Freida: Yes we have had great experiences and I am so glad we have done everything we have. Thanks for visiting, I see you around on some other blogs.

CONNIE'S THOUGHTS FROM THE HEART said...

That was just wonderful and it blessed my heart beyond measure. I know all things will work out to your good because you are called and love the Lord. May God bless and keep you. Connie from Texas

Beemoosie said...

First of all, thank you for visiting my blog. I am so glad you found me! Your story is amazing, I'll need a couple days and more time to figure out where you are at now, still in Ven. right? You and your family will be in my prayers and I look forward to visiting often.

Rancher said...

Hopefully Chavez will soon be gone and you can get back to the wonderful work you do for the Ye’kwana. I fear for everyone in Venezuela though, things will get much worse before they kick him out of power and then he may not wish to go. That could get really ugly so my prayers are with you all.

Jungle Mom said...

We are in Venezuela but not in the jungle. We will be leaving for a year of stateside ministry in June. In July of 2008 we will be relocating to Paraguay.

We have complied in every way with the restrictions placed on us in regards to withdrawing from the jungle. We may like it but they do have the authority and we are obeying completely.

AMAZING GRACIE said...

I had no idea that missionaries were under such constraints. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, given the state of the world.
It saddens me to my very soul that I take for granted the freedom I have in being able to worship here in the US, yet my attendance has been pitiful. The very first missionary story I read was that of the Elliots - I think I was about twelve. It made such an impact on me! Yet, as much as I know that there are people throughout the world that are being killed for daring to claim the name of Christ Jesus.
I trust that your year in the states will bring you refreshment and a new vision for bringing the gospel to those who hunger for it.
***Thank you for dropping by my site.
Sola Deo Gloria!
Gracie (a Christian in the Reformed tradition)

Joe Gringo said...

What a fantastic life you all lead, you are a true inspiration and are blessed. I'm so glad I was directed to your site, I work a long day, go home to a great wife and 3 kids, I don't get here every day, but will always try.

I have a request :-)

I work with a wonderful lady, her and her husband lost their 6 year old daughter nearly one year ago, her husband backed their truck out of their driveway and he ran her over, killing her. These are about the nicest people you could ever meet, their 3 little boys were outside and witnessed this. They are having a very hard time right now, the shock has somewhat worn off and now, I guess, reality has set in, their faith is keeping them going....barely. A needed prayer is needed for my friends Bill and Abby Simpkins.

Thank you.

Jungle Mom said...

Joe Gringo; I will be praying for your frinds,The Simpkins. My heart goes out to them!

The Preacher's Wife said...

Wow... I am awestruck. Chavez who is constantly touting his humanitarian heart on television and then expels those who are the only means of help to the most desperate of his people. I have been boycotting Citgo already, but I totally am now! :) I'll go a step farther and even put your button in my sidebar!

Janie said...

This was wonderful...you encourage me thousands of miles away every time I read your stories and hear of your work there. If you can say, where are you going to be state-side? God Bless!

The Preacher's Wife said...

Didn't see where to email you, but please visit my blog at www.thepreachers-wife.blogspot.com...I have a little something for you there..

:))

NspiredByFaith said...

What an amazing testimony. A good friend of mine's Dad has been a missionary pilot in Venezuela for some time. I'm wondering where he is now. He came and spoke to our youth group once when he was home for a short visit and he showed us some video of the work he does there. By the time the video was over there wasn't a dry eye in the room, and most of us wanted to go there and help! I think the work that you all do is amazing, and I think there will be a special place in heaven for missionaries. God Bless you!!