Isa. 2:3 …and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths:
Twenty four years ago God called a young couple to the mission field. God had chosen the pathway for our lives and ministry. He has also chosen to change our path at times in ways we had not foreseen. We are the Vernoy family and for the last twenty years Venezuela has been our home.
We went to Venezuela following God’s leading. Our first path led us to the city of Barquisimeto.
It was necessary that we establish churches, a bible institute and a camp ministry. We began working with the Carlos Arce family and as we learned from them, and worked with them, we saw many of these goals come to fruition to the glory of God.
It was our desire to train Venezuelan pastors to do the work of God. We were able to help establish a Bible Institute and be involved in the beginning stages of this great ministry.
The first year started with eight students. That was 18 years ago. On June 25th 2007 we graduated over 12 seniors with an enrollment of over 100. Since it’s inception almost 50 have graduated into the ministry.
Many of those men who have graduated over the years are now pastoring churches that they have started. Out of the church where we first worked in Barquisimeto there are now 8 organized churches and 20 missions. Now, each of these eight churches has Bible studies of their now and are now helping to start other churches.
Other ministries were begun also. Men's camp, Ladies camp and youth camp which has allowed for the spiritual growth of the church families.
After ministering for 8 years in the city of Barquisimeto, God showed us a new path for our lives that we knew nothing about.
We were lead into the jungle ministry among the Ye'kwana indians. A new language, a new culture, a new way of life. God’s purpose for directing us down this new path was
that we might teach the Way, the Truth and the Life to the indians of the Chajura river.
We worked to established the Good Hope Baptist Church and to train Pastor Victor Hernandez, for the working of the ministry. Along with the bible teaching in the church , God also gave us a medical and aviation ministry through which to reach the indians in various villages.
We learned to deliver babies, pull teeth and stitch wounds, to name a few. The church grew in numbers and in grace. We were able to train the Indian believers to travel with us to other villages to evangelize and hold medical clinics, as it was our hope to establish churches in at least three new villages.
But once again our path was changed. We were forced to leave the jungle ministry before we could see these plans come to pass.
Political pressure from the government of Hugo Chavez has caused most all mission work among the Indians of Venezuela to cease. We do not always understand why God allows our paths to be blocked, but we do know that he will show us a new path.
Even though we were not allowed to remain in the jungle ministry that does not mean that God has stopped working among the Ye´kwana. During our last service in Chajuraña, Pastor Victor said, “They can take the missionaries out of our village, but they cannot take the Holy Spirit out of our hearts,” He went on to preach of the need to follow in the footsteps of the missionaries and to practice what we had taught them. Saying that we, the missionaries, had left our footprints that they might follow the right path which leads to God.
Since our departure from the village in Dec of 2005, the believers continue to meet and preach the Word of God. New souls have been added to the family of God. The Annual Pastors Seminar was held last year in the state of Amazonas, and for the first time all teaching was done by the Ye´kwana pastors, attendance was the best in years. They have taken the responsibility and are carrying it well. They are walking in His pathways and we rejoice for them.
The Ye’kwana Christians are continuing even under difficult circumstances, often cut off from one another and under pressure from the government to return their old ways they are thankful that missionaries have left them with the word of God in their language so that they can continue to follow God’s path. They have continued, on their own, to stay true to their faith. It is their own faith and not one imposed upon them or else they would have abandoned it. Instead, they are sharing their Christian faith with others.
But what about our path now? Where would God lead us?
We have prayed long and hard seeking God’s will for our future ministry. Our hearts were broken that we could not continue to work among the Ye´kwana, but we also accept that God’s path is best.
We have had our eyes opened to the needs of the country of Paraguay. The independent Baptist churches of Paraguay are few and in need of training. We have peace in our hearts to go to the country of Paraguay and begin again. Pray for us as we go to a new country to begin a new work. Establish churches, train pastors and reach the youth of this generation that they may be prepared to reach the next.
We now realize that God allowed us to spend time in Barquisimeto in order that we might be able to take what we have learned and done there among the Venezuelans and reproduce that among the Paraguayan people.
In our last annual Independent Baptist Conference of Venezuela we saw what God has done in the country of Venezuela in raising up national leadership. The attendance was over 3000 each evening. We were able to look out and see trained pastors and lay workers, many of whom had at one time been our students. We witnessed Venezuelans committed to reaching their country, we have even seen some attempt to minister among the tribes as much as the government will allow. We realized that while there is still much work to be done in the country of Venezuela, there are now national pastors able and willing to meet the challenge.
And so ends our path in Venezuela.
The new path God has shown us is one of rich rewards. We will be relocating to Asunción, Paraguay in the summer of 2008. At that time we will be joining fellow BIMI missionaries Brian and Jackie McCobb who happen to be our daughter and son-in-law. The McCobbs are the only BIMI missionaries serving in Paraguay at this time, so there is a great need as we begin this foundational ministry of starting churches, discipleship training, Bible Institute and camp ministries.
The pathway before us is new and exciting we are anxious to see what God will allow us to be part of. Although right now we do not feel our path leads to another tribal work, we are aware of the great need among the tribes of Paraguay and our prayer is that we may be involved in the training of Paraguayans who will then reach out to the tribes.
Pathways, we do not know the many twists and bends that may be ahead of us but we do know God will guide our steps even when we can not see, even when we do not know where the path ahead may lead us in this life.
We know where our final destination lies...and that is enough!