By Joanne Highley
What a glorious privilege it was to minister and teach in Peru! When Sue Higgins had first approached us about doing a seminar in both Lima and Iquitos, we were overjoyed. Because Wil Merino, who is a native of Peru, had told us about his country and how he had ministered there, we had always had an interest in this amazing country. It was to our loss that Wil was unable to go with us because of his work, but Dick and George and I made up the team to carry our message of freedom to Peru. At first, it seemed that a pastor in the Virgin Islands would finance our expenses, but that did not work out and we believed we were to foot the bill for our transportation and materials to give to the people. So we were off on March 1 to fly to Lima, stay the night and fly on to Iquitos to do four days of celebration, teaching and counselling with the people of the Amazon. Then we would fly back to Lima to do a three-day seminar at Pastor Lonzoy's church.
The flight was very easy in that there is not any time change. I was amazed to see that it is a straight shot down from NYC to Lima. I had never flown so far south and what a pleasure to have our clocks the same, giving us freedom from the kind of jet lag we have experienced going to England or the West Coast of America. We did fly for eight hours from 4p.m. to midnight. Young people from Pastor Lonzoy's church met us and escorted us to a taxi which took us to our hotel for the night. We were in a rough section of Lima at the intersection of five major arteries of traffic. My room was just over the street below, which made the trucks and cars seem very close, but I was so sleepy, I feel asleep right away. George had a water bug crawl over his face in the middle of the night, but he was able to get up and kill it! Thank God for small favors. The major thing you miss in Peru is hot water. The temperature outside is not terribly hot, just hot enough that the cold water feels invigorating. The people from the church were concerned that the hotel would not be "good enough for us", but we all were very grateful for a bed and for the warm welcome of our brothers and sisters in Christ who put themselves out to meet us in the early hours of the morning.
We flew the next day on a lovely Chilean airline called LAN to Iquitos. This city of four hundred thousand people is in the middle of the Amazon River and has only one roadway going in and out of it. The rest of the transportation is by boat or by plane. When we landed at the airport, there were a number of officials awaiting the flight with drug-sniffing dogs to check our luggage for drugs. The first thing you notice about the airport is the open quality of the building because you are now in the tropics.
We stood waiting for our luggage and suddenly a large group of native dancers appeared in costume of some Peruvian tribe. The two back lines of dancers were dressed in colorful loin cloths and body paint. The front row was made up of two men in only bikinis and body paint and two topless women in bikinis with body paint as well. They were accompanied by a small group of percussion players who kept up a strong rhythmic beat. They danced for a full 20 minutes while we began to see our group who were smiling and waving to us across the expanse of dancers and spectators. It was quite an initiation to that part of Peru. We saw nothing else like it after we went to be with our Christian family there.
We were able to walk to the hotel where we were to stay and it was lovely, much like you would find in America, except for the water problem. The first night, no water at all and the rest of the stay, only cold water. We have no idea of the things we take for granted here in America. Regularly I thank God for water and envision the glory of the Living Water flowing from the Throne of God. And the streams of Living Water flowing from inside us to water the world.
The first evening in Iquitos was the celebration of the first anniversary of Pastor Luz Soldana's ministry at her church in Iquitos. We rode on an old bus into the deeper areas of Iquitos along with the natives of that region. We saw the extreme poverty of these people and the weariness on the bodies and faces of the people indicating the pressures of this life. We stopped at a place that would be their version of a mall which was a number of rudely built stalls, each selling various products of food, drink or small products to the people. We looked at one stall where a fruit and milk drink was being served in a plastic bag with a straw in it. Of course, we were leery of eating anything that had not been bottled or approved for us to eat. We went on to the pastor's home, walking down a dirt road with drainage ditches on either side which contained raw sewage. Her home again was of rough-cut timber with no finishing on the inside. But the Spirit of God was powerful in the faces of the people and they welcomed us with hot soup and one of those delicious plastic bag drinks. We were feeling more at home and, though we could not speak the language of most of the people, we felt their love and appreciation for our coming.
The evening was exciting because the church was filled with people who had come to appreciate their pastor and to welcome the two pastors who had come from the Virgin Islands to teach and preach at the conference and the three Americans who had come from far away. There were lovely cakes made especially for the celebration, and the rafters rang with their singing and praising God. These were faithful people who had met God and found in Him new life. The loud praises of the people and their wonderful songs were glorious. The pastor would say regularly "ah su nombre" and the people would reply "Gloria". They were proclaiming glory to the name of Jesus in shouts of praise with raised hands and hearts. One of the pastors from the Virgin Islands gave the message and we all gathered around Pastor Soldana to lay on hands and pray for her. It was a great evening. We were put in what they call a motor-taxi to be taken to our hotel. This is a hybrid of a motorcycle and a two-wheel axle in the back with a plank over it. No seat belts! We started down that dirt road and almost capsized on an incline! My prayer life increased immediately! But we arrived safely home and had a good sleep to get ready for the opening day of the seminar.
The next day I put on my buzz-off suit ( treated with insect repellent) and put cream all over my body to repel any mosquitos. I really looked like "Out of Africa" with that outfit. Then we met with the entire team for prayer and pictures before loading our material on another motor-taxi to go to the location of the seminar. This was a large church equipped with a kitchen and a large stage. The enrollment for the seminar I found out was 120 people coming from all around the Amazon. Some of them had paddled their boats for three days to get there. They came with nursing babies and small children, young and old alike. There were 25 pastors in attendance. We were amazed at the response to this seminar. Pastor Soldana had entitled it "Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment" We could not be happier with her choice of titles. That is our major message.
There was quite an accomplished worship team to lead us in songs of praise. A very good drummer, guitarist and keyboard player plus a singer to give us accompaniment for our singing. The pastors from the Virgin Islands spoke in the morning sessions while our team was counselling some selected people. The first counselee we had was Pastor Soldana. We were very impressed with her humility and deep desire to have counsel. She had come from a background of harsh discipline and physical abuse, drunkenness and black magic on the part of her father. She had had a hard life, but heard the call of the Lord to preach. She is a very talented singer and preacher. We were privileged to minister to her, pray against the generational curses and demonic power and cleanse her from old ungodly reactions to pain in childhood. She was encouraged and blessed. We continued to counsel leaders of the church and members of the pastor's family for the three mornings we were there. It was a total blessing to see the power of God move as we ministered. There were many tears and breaking of strongholds. We want to go back to train the four people who have pledged themselves to be counselors for that church.
The kitchen staff was a marvel to behold. They were feeding all those people three meals a day and they remained cheerful while turning out delicious meals that we were blessed to enjoy. Moses, the pastor's son, is a chef, and he prepared beautiful dishes of fish, plantains, soups and salads fit for a major restaurant. The fruit and avocados were right off the tree and full of flavor that only that kind of ripening can provide. We were so blessed to have his watchful care over our food and drink. As we would sit at the long table and eat, the majority of the people would be sitting on the steps or the ground eating bowls of rice and a piece of bread. The children would come to stare at me. They probably had never seen such a tall woman who was so white with white hair and blue eyes. I was a strange creature to them. But they were very loving and well-behaved.
Sue Higgins and Pastor Soldana gave the people some medicine for their illnesses and we gave them our teaching material. They were so appreciative of any help. We taught from our syllabus two hours in the afternoon and two hours in the evening. We would teach for about an hour and then ask them if they had questions about our teaching. They had very good questions and we were able to give them understanding and instruction about how they can deal with the pain of their lives and the generational strongholds of their background. They were so patient and attentive. It was very touching to be there and be used of God for these dear people.
One afternoon the Lord led me to pray for the entire congregation to break strongholds of witchcraft, illegitimate birth and fornication. The power of God fell with power amid shouts of praise and uplifted hands. We all knew that He had broken some bonds of generational sin and demonic power. We rejoiced together as we saw the glory of God descend on this group. We had seen so much evidence in counselling that these were strongholds in the majority of the people. God moved to break down the enemy's hold on their lives. We want to go back and train people to do this and to set the captive free.
When we came to the last night at the end of our teaching all the pastors and Pastor Soldana lined the stage and sang a beautiful song to us in appreciation of our coming. We were presented with beautiful wood carvings as a token of their love. I received an owl which signified wisdom, Dick received an eagle devouring a snake to represent conquering evil and George received a beautiful wooden bowl to signify feeding the people. We were greatly blessed. They brought us up to the front with the pastors from the Virgin Islands and prayed over us all with great power. Then the entire congregation came by one at a time and hugged us all. These are very warm and loving people who won our hearts. We will return to do the Lord's will in their midst.
We were able to walk to the airport the next morning and there met the pastor of the church where the seminar was held. He told us about a church in San Martine, Peru, which would like to have us come to hold a seminar. This is a church of 1000 members so we would like to be used to teach and minister there. Also the pastors from the Virgin Islands invited us to come there to teach in the coming year.
We were met in Lima by Pastor Lonzoy who took us by taxi to his home where we would stay for the last three days of our stay. This was a lovely church building that had been constructed by Americans years ago. The church sanctuary was on the ground floor, the offices and Sunday School rooms as well as a large fellowship hall were on the second floor and the pastor's living area was on the third floor. There was also a roof area that they are working on to have open-air meetings on the lovely cool evenings that bless Lima.
We fell in love with the Lonzoys. The five children are all talented and full of intelligence and life. The eldest son, Mishael, who is 24 years old, is a very talented guitarist and singer who leads the worship for his father's church. He is learning English and we had some lessons together to practice pronunciation. Jonathan is a very talented drummer and accompanies the worship as well. He is 22. Both of these lovely men will be going to Argentina next year for college because they can study there without tuition charges. Anthony, who is 14, is very loving and welcoming and loves to care for his sister, Natalie, who is 3. She is truly a performer and one day when we were sitting on the roof to enjoy the breezes, she put on some sparkly bracelets, brought her toy music box and danced for us for about 10 minutes. She is a delight and loves to sit at her little desk and draw pictures. Samuel, who is 13, is a Christian rap singer and is very good. We were delighted. by these children and we felt like we were family because of their great ability to make us feel at home.
Esperanza, their mother, is a wonder! She is a tiny woman who has suffered a serious illness for two years and could not get out of bed, but the Lord healed her and raised her up to serve and bless her family and those who come to their home. Her cooking was very delicious and we were so blessed by her tender and gentle spirit.
Pastor Lonzoy was not sure what he had on his hands when we arrived. He had been in Argentina ministering and had not been able to read our material that we had sent him. He wondered what we would say about this controversial subject and wondered what the reaction of the people would be who would attend. Jonathan had made a very professional flyer to advertise the event and many people were coming from various churches. But after the first evening's teaching, Pastor Lonzoy, who is a teacher in his church's seminary in Lima, could not appear without holding our material and urging the people to take it and read it. He was a staunch supporter of what we teach and wants us to return to teach counsellors in the near future. One woman who attended who is a missionary to Peru had tried to minister to some women in the church who had lesbian problems but she did not know what to do. We gave her our 20 CD Counsellor Training set and she held it close to her heart and thanked us for it.
One very touching experience came when a 14-year-old girl came to ask for help because her father, who had been very loving and always at her side, had to take a job that required him to travel. During those times of travel, he became involved with another woman and had had a child by this woman. This caused many fights and arguments between the parents and the other woman was trying to get him to move in with her and marry her. This young girl knows God and believes in Him to help her family. We prayed with this lovely young woman for her father and mother and her 9-year-old brother. We called in Pastor Lonzoy and asked if he would meet with her parents for marriage counselling and he agreed. The next night the girl's mother and brother came to the seminar and we met them. The boy is very bright and full of life. He became friends with Dick and has e-mailed him since we have returned. But the great thing that happened was on the last night we were there the father came to the seminar with the family and we taught on breaking strongholds and being made clean before God. George gave his testimony and it was anointed. We praise God for how he works in His people's lives.
We can only praise and thank God for this trip and look forward to our return to minister and train these lovely dedicated people who are so appreciative and kind.