Madelle Payne, MAI’s Vice President of Ministries
When God touches a life, the ripple effects often continue…on and on. Orfa Gomez is a young woman from the Guarani tribe (pronounced Gua-ra-knee) which spreads across Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.
Orfa’s grandfather was one of the first Guarani who responded to God’s touch, as a result of a Canadian missionary. His four sons personally translated the Bible into their tribal language. Today there is a strong church among the Bolivian Guarani, and Orfa’s father is the elder statesman among them. Though many of his people are illiterate, they know and love Jesus Christ.
Orfa, as a young single woman in a male-dominated culture, didn’t think she had much chance of affecting any ripple effect of change. But she could see the poverty, illiteracy and disease of her people—despite their spiritual life. When she heard of Community Health Evangelism (CHE) with its emphasis on God’s concern for the whole person, she knew her people needed this. It wasn’t easy, for the CHE lessons had to be “translated” into oral, not written, form with the help of other CHE leaders in the region. But her message was accepted, against all odds, and in time CHE began to have an impact in her area of Bolivia.
With God’s own missionary heart, Orfa began to look across the border and pray for the Guarani people in Argentina where the spread of the Gospel has been much harder and slower. Might God use the CHE strategy to reach those people too?
With the support of the MAI Regional Coordinator, she began to make trips into Argentina and found a warm interest in ten villages. They were open to someone who spoke their language and was “one of them,” and curious about the possibility of better health and economic well-being that accompanied this message of a God who loved them. So Orfa and several other CHE leaders planned to have a Training of Trainers’ seminar in December 2016, teaching young Argentine Guarani tribesmen to lead their own people in achieving physical and spiritual health.
Then shortly before the seminar, that open door seemed to slam shut. In one village where there had been eager interest, the non-Christian chief and the witchdoctor began to forbid Orfa’s presence, saying, “These new practices, like teaching children to wash hands, are not part of our history or our customs. We need to keep things Guarani!” In another village, a missionary questioned Orfa’s credentials. “She’s a woman teaching without knowledge” (i.e. she had not gone to seminary). Four of those ten villages seemed to completely close up to Orfa’s influence or entry.
In the midst of these pressures, Bibiana Mac Leod, the Regional Coordinator, called for a wave of prayer, asking God to break through these barriers. God’s people responded. And the seminar went ahead as planned despite opposition. Because of prayer, Isidoro, from one of the four villages that Orfa is not allowed to enter, was able to attend with his leader’s permission.
Because of prayer, the new believers who came learned much about God’s ways as they heard the Bible taught in storying form.
Because of prayer, one man sought out the CHE trainers to ask, “How can you help my family? We suffer from repeated cases of diarrhea. Can this teaching help to change that?”
Because of prayer, the missionary who had criticized Orfa actually attended several days and listened carefully to the teaching at the seminar. He is still evaluating the merits of what he heard.
Because of prayer, all of the attendees discovered a new passion for bringing transformation of body and spirit to the families and communities in which they live…despite the obstacles.
Now these young trainers have gone home to villages where authority figures frown at the “new teachings.” Orfa has had to return to Bolivia and the follow-up has been intermittent. Would you join in the wave of prayer and ask God to guard these new CHE workers among the Argentine Guarani? Ask him to make them strong and to make their words and actions powerful so that his Gospel and the transformation it brings would continue to have a ripple effect. For his own glory! Amen.