Iris Ministries under the leadership of Rolland and Heidi Baker has commissioned a group of Iris missionaries to carry the love and glory of God through Central and South America on a one year missions trip. This blog is the documentation of that journey.
Cumuatillo, Mexico Friday, September 30, 2011 . Revival in the Streets
Our team has just made it to an RV park an hour north of Mexico City. Jesse, Tanya, Zoe and I, along with a few other team members have decided to stay back with the vehicles while most of the team left on a bus this morning for a three day journey into Mexico City where they will minister in the slums, see the sights and attend a church service on Sunday morning. We have a rrived here after a long day's journey from the Guadalajara area where we experienced Holy Spirit parties and revival in the streets.
Visiting the Mixteco People
While we were with Andy and Karyn Pricer from Fire Ministries in the Guadalajara area, our team was able to go with them to a part of town that only Mixteco people live. It was awesome visiting another indigenous people group. We went door to door just meeting the people, handing out CD's with the Bible and songs in their language on them. We prayed for the sick. One lady that Sarah, Jesse, Caitlin and I prayed for was completely paralized on one side of her body and received a complete healing and now has feeling on that side of her body once again. We shared the gospel with many and loved on the Mixteco people of that area.
Revival in Cumuatillo
Two days ago we traveled a few hours south of Guadalajara towards Mexico City with our new friends where another couple from Fire Ministries are missionaries. We had an open air meeting in the street near a church that an awesome young man named, "Candy" is the pastor. I got a chance to help lead worship in Spanish. Then Ben shared what God had laid on his heart. Jesse gave his testimony. At least five people came forward to receive Christ. Then we asked people to come forward to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The streets were filled with revival as the Spirit of God fell upon everyone. Many spoke in new tongues. There were words of knowledge about people who were suffering with pain in different parts of their bodies. Those people also came forward to receive healing. The streets rejoiced at the testimonies of these healings. Our team continues to carry revival fire through Latin America!
After leaving the comfort of Eden Resort in La Cruz, we headed south to a small town named Cofradia, where we stayed at a missions base run by the wonderful Jay and Faith from Washington. No sooner had we arrived than Jay took the time to explain where we were, who they are, where we would be heading, the people group we would be ministering to and a rough idea of what that might look like. Words can not express how much I appreciated such simple communication with our team, in five months I can not think of many others who have been willing to provide such basic context to arriving mission teams and it made a noticeable difference! If only all mission bases could be so practical. So, we were about to minister to an unreached people group known as the Cora. Descendants of the Aztecs, the Cora live very traditionally amid the Nayarit mountains and generally rely on witch-doctors to treat illness or resolve life’s challenges. They speak a tribal language, also known as Cora and despite limited exposure to catholicism, are largely unfamiliar with the gospel. We were ready.
The humidity of Cofradia was like nothing I have ever experienced. We have no idea what the temp was but the humidity alone felt like breathing hot steam. I did not know my body was capable of sweating so much as within minutes of showering and changing, our clothes were once again soaked through. After a hot, restless night the team headed up into the mountains accompanied by Jay and a Mexican team from Culiacan. The Mexican guys spent our four days together laughing continuously which added a lot of light heartedness to our outreach, very different to our experiences in Mozambique! They shared their great senses of humour with us which as Kiwis, Rowan and I totally appreciated. Turns out sarcasm is an international language.
As we headed into our six hour journey, the conversation in our pick up was slowed to a standstill. It became impossible not to notice the absolutely stunning mountain scenery towering over us. My impression of Mexico has always been hot, dusty townships from the 1700s. Suddenly we were surrounded by lush mountainous ranges and incredible wildlife. Higher and higher we climbed until cloud surrounded us on all sides. For the first time in days our clothes became dry and I would have quite happily slept roadside if it meant we did not have to return to the heat and humidity below us. As we drove through the clouds and the mountain vistas continued to open up around us, it became clear just how remote we were. There was not a visible township as far as the eye could see. In their place was some of the most dramatic cliffs, mountains, plains and wait for it…a canyon. I had no idea that Mexico had it’s own version of The Grand Canyon! I suspect not many people do. Through the courtesy of Jay, our team was treated to breath taking views of this incredible canyon complete with waterfall and soaring eagles. The place was unreal! No wonder the Cora people had no desire to integrate with modern society…these people obviously know a good thing when they see it.
We arrived to a very quiet farm-like community which seemed like something out of National Geographic. We were welcomed by a local family who have hosted Jay and his visiting teams on previous occasions. Understandably, the Cora people seemed shy and quietly spoken. We watched as they ground corn by hand to make us delicious corn tortillas and the team was treated to their traditional woodfire cooking. The whole community smelled of woodsmoke and it was hard not to feel at peace amongst such a gentle people. Or so I thought. As we spent more time with the Cora our team was shocked to see the local children physically beating kittens, puppies, piglets and generally any animal within reach. I saw a kitten being dropkicked, puppies pelted with rocks, dogs beaten for no reason with canes…this made it hard for me to connect with the local children, who otherwise seemed peaceable and innocent. More than once I had to supress an overwhelming urge to intervene, reminding myself that we’re not in a position to correct people we know nothing about. The concept of animals being cute and domestic is very western and not appreciated by many third world nations, to whom these animals are dangerous, unpredictable and not to be approached.
Unexpected violence aside, the team ran a children’s program the day after we arrived. Thanks to Jay’s careful communication, we were able to present the gospel message to the Cora children in a way that honoured the cultural customs. Being a shy and reserved people, the Cora are likely to respond to direct questions with whatever answer they think you would like to hear, regardless of it’s sincerity. With this in mind, we were careful not to ask the villagers if they would like to accept Jesus, but instead told the children that if they would like Jesus to be their friend, they could pray with us so he could come to live in their heart. Unexpectedly, around 30 adults also asked for prayer saying, “We would like to be friends with Jesus too.” What an outcome!
Unfortunately, the tendency to agree with any direct questions meant that some villagers responded to questions about healing positively, regardless of any improvement. It seemed not all of our team members were aware of this custom which resulted in a couple of proclaimed healings which may have been genuine, but which Jay felt were just as likely to be the Cora upholding their cultural tendency to agree. Situations like this remind me how sensitive we need to be both to the Holy Spirit, and to the culture we are ministering to before testifying to the miraculous. Being so remote, it will be hard for the villagers to receive much follow-up to their decisions, although after sixteen years in Mexico, Jay and his family are very aware of the little that CAN be provided to the Cora in terms of discipleship. I can not help but think that the violent behaviour displayed by Cora children is symptomatic of the social issues plaguing indigenous people groups around the world, no doubt hiding beneath their quiet, peaceful exterior. Sadly, Jay confirms that alcohol and domestic violence are indeed part of Cora village life, yet more reason to pray that the life changing love of God sinks deep into the hearts of these new believers.
The Salvation of Almost an Entire Village of Unreached Cora People
We headed south of Mazatlan toward Guadalajara and had scheduled a three-day outreach in the mountains of Nayarit among the unreached Cora people group. Pastor Hector from La Cruz as well as some others from that area and Culiacan accompanied us to Cofardia, at the base of the Nayarit mountains where we met up with Jay and his family. Jay is an American missionary with Alternative Missions and has been living here for sixteen years. After spending the night at their base camp, we unhitched the tent-trailers, left the RV’s and packed into our two 4X4 vehicles and a couple of other pickups heading four more hours east into the mountains to the unreached Cora village of El Congrejo. It was an awesome drive with breath-taking views as we climbed from sea-level to nearly 7,000 feet. The last couple of hours were on really bad roads only passable by 4X4.
When we got the El Congrejo, we met with a man of peace named, “Magdeleno” and his family, who Jay has begun to develop a relationship with over the past five or six years. The Cora people are the descendants of the ancient Aztec people and were the last people to be conquered in all of Mexico. Their facial features are strikingly indigenous, as are their clothes, culture and way of life. The Cora are animists, some of whom have mixed with Catholicism where it has been introduced. We heard that they were a very guarded people and resistant to the gospel, but we didn’t experience this in the village of El Congrejo. In fact, the very first night we saw four young women give their lives to Christ at Magdeleno’s home…the very first converts in that Cora village!
After spending the night in the village, we woke up, had breakfast and then hiked to the waterfall to have devotions. From there half of our team hiked further to the bottom of the waterfall while the other half went door to door, giving each of the forty families tickets that they could redeem later that evening when we were to show the Jesus film in the Cora language. The Mexican brothers who accompanied us had brought bags of food and clothing to distribute to each Cora family. We had interpreters with us as most of the Cora people don’t speak Spanish. I learned a few Cora phrases such as, “Aine pana,” which means, “Hello. How are you?” The Cora would giggle as I attempted to speak their language with them conversationally. We prayed for quite a few sick people as we visited the Cora in their homes.
We had invited the families to attend a children’s program we were to hold at 3pm. I believe that all of the children of that village came out. Our team sang songs with them, played games with them and then portrayed the heart of God through a skit. When Roberta and Guillo asked how many of them wanted to receive Christ, both children and quite a few adults raised their hands in response…about 40 in all. It was amazing to hear this once unreached people ask Jesus into their hearts! We gave out stickers to the boys and hair bands to the girls. Then we distributed the food and clothes to each of the families. They were so grateful to us. The Cora live very simply and don’t have the luxuries that even many others in Mexico have. We then attempted to show the Jesus film in the Cora language, but the DVD we were given to use seemed to be scratched pretty badly. So an awesome Mexican singer and songwriter named, “Aurelio,” sang some of his original worship songs and again preached the gospel. Almost all present received Jesus Christ publically. This is an incredible phenomenon! Almost the entire Cora village of El Congrejo had given their lives to Christ within the two days that we were with them! Our team also prayed for the sick into the night. One man’s eye that was blurry for one year cleared up instantaneously.
What our Iris Latin America team set out to do from the beginning is coming to pass. We are carrying the love and the glory of God to the darkest places and to the remaining unreached people groups of Central and South America, partnering with other churches and organizations who will continue to minister when we have gone.
Today we are in La Cruz, Mexico. With some help from our Mexican team leader Maria, we have been fortunate to discover an RV camp/health resort where we are having a little recovery time. It was only five days ago we left for Mexico and if you had have told me we would all be taking a break by Monday I would have said it was unnecessary. Just as well we didn't know about it, because five short days later our team is wiped out.
We spent a few days in a remote township called Pesqueira where we ministered with a local church. Having arrived on Mexican Independence day, we were told not to expect many people at the church, or to anticipate much response to the service as most families would be celebrating at the village square in the next town. Wrong. The church was packed out and 45 people accepted Jesus on our first night, what a way to arrive!
While in Pesqueira, Rowan and I agreed to 'be the food people' for our team of twenty. I realised this would be a lot of work but feel strongly about eating well over the course of the year purely for sustainability. It's one thing to lose weight living off rice and beans in Mozambique, but to do that for a year or more would spell disaster for our team so we figured we would do what we could to load everyone up on fruit and veg. With help from our team accountant and a translator we made our first trip to a Mexican supermarket. We are experimenting with a budget of US$20 per person per week to see how far it gets us, which is actually a lot in Mexico. Our simple supermarket trip to stock up on the first weeks' food was a headache and we had to draw the line at three days worth. We have very limited storage, small, unreliable fridges, no pots big enough to cook for twenty, constantly changing cooking facilities and lots of unannounced extra mouths. On top of these challenges, we discovered the supermarket was not stocked with what we thought were Mexican basics. Like tortillas. Or refried beans. Turns out Mexicans don't buy these products because they are generally handmade at home. Even our plan to buy bulk rice failed as the largest available packet was a 1kg bag. Clearly, we are no longer in the US.
Despite the hurdles and the learn-as-we-go cooking, our team has been incredibly gracious and understanding. Ten weeks in Pemba is enough to change anyone's definition of good food which is working in our favour! If you're the praying type, please pray that Rowan, Elizabeth and I would be able to cook nutritious, satisfying food under challenging circumstances and miraculously feed extras, which so far we've been able to do :)
We left Pesquiera for what we thought was roughly a twelve hour drive to Culiacan. It dragged into sixteen hours and I had no idea that plain old driving could be so stressful! Allow me to illustrate: having all experienced Iris Harvest School, our team are very flexible. We realise that under third-world circumstances, plans are continuously changing and we are used to that, we are familiar with long days or skipping meals, we've coped with intense heat, diarrhoea, mass confusion and language barriers. In committing to this outreach every one of us knew this was what we are in for, so it really takes a lot to get the team unsettled. Having left Pesquiera before 7AM, we finally got to bed in Culiacan after 1AM, and every one of us had had it. Our team leaders Jesse, Christian and Tanya are experienced missionaries that have faced incredibly tough circumstances and even they confided they were being stretched.
We drove in heat above 40 degrees, where even our air conditioning couldn't help. There was no time or facilities for meals so we did what we could with sandwiches and road-side watermelon. One car was stopped by police for a vague reason that kept changing and it was clear they were looking for a bribe. The team prayed they would have a change of heart which they suddenly did and after announcing a huge fine for no apparent reason, they spontaneously lost interest and let the car go! After arriving exhausted sometime around 10:30 PM we then spent almost three hours negotiating city streets with trailers, campers and RVs trying to find our local contact who was unable to give us a street name. The city was absolutely crowded with balaclaved police teams and road blocks, obviously something dramatic was going on. It's the closest I've ever come to a war zone and it had us all on-edge. We finally arrived in one place and they informed us the location had changed and we were to go to another. We braved the road blocks to go to that second location to find that, despite saying otherwise, they did not have parking space. We took ages to park our complicated vehicles only to be informed dinner was in another part of the city...the night dragged and dragged and dragged. We were very hungry. Very tired. And very hot. Our team's nerves were frayed and still our team leaders remained selfless and willing to serve every one of us.
Jesse and Tanya Gellatly and Christian Jung are some of the most likable people we have ever met and have a natural gift with people. Despite their own exhausted, frustrated and hungry states they took the time to greet and encourage our hosts in spanish, reassure the team and press on through the chaos to find us food and sleep. The guys were inspiring. All of our leaders served tirelessly driving, parking, reparking vehicles and negotiating over the phone for literally hours. I am so grateful for such willing team leaders and it's a relief to know our decision-makers are very experienced and aware of team needs. I could not think of better people to be leading us through the spiritual highs and physical lows of this outreach and we are already dreading Christian's departure to be with his family in a few short months. God! Replace him with someone equally amazing!
Senior people make great subjects for portraits. They don’t smile much, though. (Photography by Rowan Sims)
Revival is breaking forth here at our first stop in Pesqueira, Mexico. After a few hang-ups at the border in Nogales, our Iris Latin America team finally arrived late in the evening on Wednesday. We were greeted by Dany and the beautiful Christ-followers at “Centro de Fe, Esperanza y Amor” with an awesome dinner of local-style tacos.
We hit the ground running the following morning, which we were informed was Mexican Independence Day. The inhabitants of Pesqueira come from all over Mexico and are mostly indigenous speakers of Triqui, Zapoteca and other languages. The church here goes house to house using large mp3 players with the New Testament in the over 300 languages of Mexico to determine what language each family in this area speaks. After gathering this information from each family, Dany then duplicates CDs with the gospel in their indigenous language and brings it to them so that they can hear the story of Jesus and respond. Our team collected money to purchase 1,000 blank CDs for the ministry here. After a time of worship together as a team, we accompanied the local Christ-followers in going house to house to help with the survey in five separate groups. It was an amazing time! We also prayed for many people. We led one woman to Christ right there in her courtyard. We also prayed for the sick and saw them recover. One boy we prayed for had some form of conjunctivitis and his eyes were red and watering really badly. He was one of the cutest kids I have ever seen, with an amazing smile even in the midst of his eye irritation. Only five hours later we saw him at the revival meeting we held and his eyes were completely normal and had totally cleared up!
We planned a revival meeting for 6pm at the church that we were going to invite all of the people who we visited house to house. We were told not to expect many to attend because it was Mexican Independence Day and they would be attending the fiestas instead. Six o’clock rolled around and against all odds the church building began to fill with hundreds of the people that we had invited from the surrounding area. Some of our team gathered all of the children that came with their families to play games outside. At the revival meeting there was a time of worship. Then Jesse and Ted gave some testimonies of God’s love and power. Then Jesse and I spoke words of knowledge about people who were feeling suicidal that very week and who had pain in their bodies. People responded to these words and we ministered the love and power of Jesus to them. After this Dany gave the gospel message. In response to the message 45 people came forward to pray and receive Jesus for the first time! The Holy Spirit party continued as they continued to bring the sick and diseased to us. Many people from our team prayed for those who came forward. I personally witnessed everyone that I prayed for receive a healing; from back and stomach pain to eyes being opened to see clearly! C’mon Jesus! Others wept profusely as we spoke Papa’s heart over them. It was truly Mexican Independence Day as the indigenous people of Pesqueira were set free body, soul and spirit!!!
We had planned some other activities for today, but because of the amazing revival that God is bringing to our first stop here in Mexico, we are going to do the same thing today; going house to house in other surrounding areas that we didn’t get to yesterday and hold another revival meeting tonight. I can’t imagine a better start to our Iris Latin America outreach.
In a few hours from now we embark on the latest World Missions Quest the Lord has assigned for us. Together with an Iris Ministries team of 25 men and women we are heading south to cross over the border into Mexico. We have our caravan of Suv's pulling tent trailors and small motor homes loaded and ready to roll out. We will be in about every country through all Latin America and the Carribean over the next year to year and a half. Many will not return but are going waiting for the Lord to reveal where He wants them stay permanently on the Mission field in South America. Our team is made up of young and older men and women from all over the world incuding; Australia, America, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Mexico, South America and South Africa. We All met in Mozambique Africa over the past years and experienced the outpouring of revival and miracles poured out in one of the very poorest countries of the world. It was there God captivated our hearts for His presence, the poor and forgotten, and revival for the nations. Now we set out carrying this glory into the darkest, most remote and unreached places of Latin America. We plan to trek deep into into the jungles and mountains, up the channels of the amazon to the river tribes, the Andies, and wherever God leads us where there are lost and broken people in need of His love. We do not feel qualified, comfortable or that we know what we are doing, but each one of us beleives that He is leading us, is with us, and will bring amazing transformation in our lives and in these nations as we step out in faith with what He told us. We desire daily to follow the Holy Spirit's direction, to flow as a family in the spirit daily worshipping in His presence, hearing from Him and making decisions together. Everywhere we go will be partnering with local pastors and churches to bless and encourage and reach out in their countries to those who still dont know Him. Please Pray for us... Many tell us we are crazy and the spirits of intimidation consistently move against us through voices reminding us of the impending danger and foolishness of our faith. AND WE WILL NOT SHRINK BACK BECAUSE HE WHO IS IN US IS GREATER THAN HE THAT IS IN THE WORLD! We are thrilled at the privilege of partnering with our Love and Life-Jesus Christ to see His Kingdom come and the enemies works obliterated. Come Lord!
by Jesse, Tanya and Zoe G. Iris Ministries
Overwhelmed and undone by the amazing Almighty One. This thrilling Life ride leaves me utterly dependent on the faithfulness of Father who blesses me with all I dont deserve and surpasses all my hopes with His radical love unfolding my destiny to be more than I ever dreamed
Here we go again, leaping off the edge of this cliff not knowing where it will end, but in your arms again. I didnt know I had these wings until i jumped to what could have been my end but now I soar to higher hights then I have ever been.
Jesse, Tanya and I have been pushing hard these last few weeks purchasing vehicles and getting them ready for our year long journey through Central and South America. God has given our team so much favor. Check out our fleet of missionary vehicles that we will be driving and staying in from the northern border of Mexico to the southern tip of Chile and through literally every country in Latin America:
OPEN HEAVEN: Our 1982 Chevy Camper Van/RV
SHEKINAH: Our 2002 Dodge Durango 4X4
GLORY: Our 1995 Coleman Pop-up Tent Trailer that will be pulled by SHEKINAH
NEW WINE: Our 1990 Ford Econoline Camper Van/RV
OVERFLOW: Our 1995 Chevy Suburban 4X4
SHALOM: Our 1993 Cobra Pop-up Tent Trailer that will be pulled by OVERFLOW
We have 3 Garmin 1450 GPS units w/mapsets for all of Latin America and the Carribean