What takes us now only 15 minutes of travel from the village before La Bendicion took us three hours of pure adventure that first visit. As we struggled through the mud, blown tires, and jungle heat, we heard shrill ever-nearing shouts and then saw where they were coming from. One of the village leaders was riding out to where we were stuck. He was on horseback, shouting for the “doctor.” An urgency in his voice gripped our attention. He insisted that those waiting in the village for medical help could not wait and that the “doctor” (they thought I was) needed to mount the horse with him to save the town. One look at the parasite infested, skin and bone “horse,” and well, I chose our trusty vans, though still bogged in the mud.
Our first PBM visit to the refugee village of La Bendicion (The Blessing) was around 2001. With La Bendicion only having been formed for just one year at that point, there was anything but trust of this young (back then) missionary and the group from Coopersville, MI that I was intent on bringing to La Bendicion. Yet their great need pushed aside their fear just enough to allow us into their lives and to bless them.
Men from the village began arriving, and soon they were strung along a rope in front of our vans, while the mission team members pushed from the rear. Mud flew everywhere! This adventure was unlike anything we’d experienced before. Yet, so similar to what we’ve experienced many times since, as we follow God’s call reaching the lost and dying in the remotest villages.
We were greeted by the village leadership when we arrived. The leader’s deep concern for their people (the 66 families who called La Bendicion home) touched my heart. The distinct call from our Lord soon transformed into relationships that remain to this day. I remember well each leader. Among them was Oscar, a large formidable man, unlike his extremely thin counterparts. He led and served however he could. There was something about this man, despite his rugged exterior and demeanor. Especially when he introduced me to his wife and their children, he beamed with delight, as did his children when they looked up at their dad. Olga was among them, still a little girl.
That evening we did not finish the medical clinic in the old, dilapidated barn until nearly 11 pm. Facing yet another adventure to get out of the village and then a 2-1/2 hour drive back to our mission base, we were tempted, but could not leave this village and its precious people without sharing the Gospel through the Jesus Film, and our Lord’s word. Long after midnight, when the call finally came to give their hearts to Christ, there was immediate movement as men, women, teenagers, and children streamed to the front and went to their knees. There were a few holdouts, Oscar among them, for he was fast asleep on a few sacks of corn. I stopped in front of him, but rather than wake him, I felt only compelled to Pray.
Weekly Discipleship and an eventual church plant ensued in La Bendicion. Salvation stories continued to abound. So much so that if La Bendicion was the only focus of Paradise Bound, our mission would have been fulfilled. It took some years before our Lord opened the doors for PBM Mission Teams to build homes in La Bendicion as it involved the team living in the village. Our first time doing so, but certainly not our last. It took us a couple of years to gift each family with a new home, and what we hoped to be a Mansion in Glory, as we introduced them to the Savior.
When it was finally Oscar’s family’s turn, I knew that I would build his home, as Oscar had not yet invited our Lord into his heart, even after all these years. During the construction, an extraordinary relationship grew between me, my building team, and Oscar’s family. As well, my love for each child deepened immensely. Oscar, however, was running from all things spiritual. So had I for much of my life, which is likely why we connected.
When dedication day finally came, we presented the Gospel in one of its most beautiful forms, that of being lived out before them. All accepted! Except for Oscar. Yet the Eternal relationships formed with his family, especially Olga (being the oldest), were sure to eventually penetrate Oscar’s heart as he loved them deeply.
Soon after, Olga was married, and by the following year, she was close to giving birth to their first child, even though Olga herself still seemed a child to me. God’s providence would have it that not only were we building homes for families nearby Olga’s home when her time came to give birth, we also had a Physician’s Assistant on the Mission Team and a Nurse (Erin) with us on staff. Olga’s first child was born during the dedication of a nearby home, as that family accepted Christ Jesus as their Savior. A testimony to the deep relationship I had developed with Oscar’s family and Olga and her husband is her first child’s name, Daniel.
As time sped forward, PBM grew, and my responsibilities changed. Visits to Oscar and his family lessoned, though my Prayers for his Eternal destiny did not. Our Discipleship and Church Plant teams continued our Lord’s work, and they continued to share of a transformed village (all but 3 of the 66 families were now professing Christ as their Savior).
It wasn’t until the launch of PBM’s Aviation Outreach that I found myself yet again in La Bendicion seeking the approval of their leadership for an airstrip to be constructed within their village. It was then that Oscar shared with me his Salvation in Jesus Christ that came only weeks before…though his heart had been cultivated, planted, watered, and Prayed for, for years! He beamed with a testimony of the change in his life. Of Joy! Of leaving addictions behind! Of Peace for the first time, ever! The other leaders around him attested to this as well. His hug that day was and is forever memorable.
Oscar’s change was short-lived, or at least on this earth. Oscar passed away a short time later, holding true to his faith, but his precious family and I have the assurance that we will see Oscar again. More so, that he will be waiting with his huge rugged hands and massive arms extended to welcome me into Eternity on the day our Lord calls me home.
Olga and her husband now have many more children. I know that the work that our Lord has begun in her will be completed…unto the third and fourth generation. This family, like so many others, is my family…and yours!
Olga and her family are but one among over two hundred thousand souls touched through our Mission Teams, and you, our faithful supporters since 1997! Imagine with me the treasure that awaits those like you who follow a simple nudge (a call) within their hearts to help others in Jesus name…mattering not the mud we may encounter!
Imagine Oscar waiting, right alongside our Lord Jesus Christ, on that faithful day that our name is called, and we take our last borrowed breath. Though he tarried, Oscar was ready. Are you? The precious gift that he left his wife, children, and grandchildren was/is the assurance that he waits for them on those celestial shores.