The Journey Continues // Stories From Abroad: PARAGUAY ’17 – Part 2

My first night in Paraguay was spent in The Casita, a two-room guest cottage that doubled as a schoolhouse for the Ratcliffe children. I was both humbled and honored to stay in this beautiful place, especially knowing that the Ratcliffe family, which consists of Peter & Evi, along with their six kids, were staying just a short distance away in their two-bedroom home. You heard me right… eight Ratcliffes, and two bedrooms.

Grace For The Space.

My first thought upon seeing their home was how warm and inviting it was. Then I learned this amazing family managed in a two-bedroom house with one bath. My next thought – Dear Lord Jesus! How is that possible?! I couldn’t share a bathroom with my two brothers growing up and I always had my own bedroom. Currently, I live in a three-bedroom house… by myself. Okay, not completely alone – I do share my space with two huge dogs, but still. To say that I struggled with feelings of guilt is an understatement.

Pictured above (left) is the entrance to The Casita and (right) is the view from my bed – it was absolutely gorgeous and unexplainably peaceful.

What amazed me though was that they never complained. Not once. The five oldest kids (two boys and three girls, age two to seventeen) share one room and baby Naomi, sleeps along with her parents in the other. And they all make it work. How is that possible, you’re probably asking? The conclusion I have come to, is that when God calls you somewhere, He ALWAYS gives the grace needed to fulfill His work.

One of the things that I feel truly sets this family apart from others, is that they believe – each of them, that God called them to the nation of Paraguay. These kids weren’t forced to give up their lives in Oklahoma because their parents were “called”. They were “called” right alongside them. It’s undeniably evident in the sacrifices these children willingly made and continue to make daily so that the people of Paraguay can come to know Jesus.

I wish that I could give an account of their story, the epic journey of one family’s unyielding faith and God’s unending faithfulness, that brought them to Paraguay nearly three years ago. That will have to wait for another day, and for me to persuade Peter that their story truly should be written and published for all to read.

And We’re Off!

I woke early the next day and joined the Ratcliffe kids for a quick breakfast before we finished loading everything for our journey to the Indigenous. Our vehicle of choice, the 22-year-old Toyota Land Cruiser. Okay, this was the only option. This baby had seen a few miles in her life. And although she was still trekking on, she was definitely moving at a much slower pace than she probably traveled in her prime. Her AC had long since quit and the engine had a few minor issues, but she got us where we needed to go.

the-land-cruiser

Pictured above, Old Faithful – it really is time to let her rest.

Insert PRAYER REQUEST here:

In all seriousness, this family really needs a newer vehicle to enable them to continue the work they are doing. If you believe in prayer, please pray and believe with us for God to provide the vehicle needed. – Thanks!

**And if God speaks to your heart about financially helping with the purchase of their next vehicle, please send me an email to jamielynnsivak@gmail.com and I can send you more information about getting a donation to them directly.**

Back To The Story…

Our first stop was to pick up some of our team, Pastor Sergio and his 25-year-old daughter, Joana. After a “quick” three-hour lunch, (what can I say, Pastors know how to talk…lol) we made our way to purchase the needed supplies for the first three of our outreaches.

buying-supplies

Here we are waiting to check out with our four shopping carts full of supplies. Left to Right: Pastor Sergio, Joanna, Emily and me. Peter was taking our picture.

Then we were on the road again. We traveled for hours. I lost track of time, but can say that we easily drove for 4-5 hours. The sun had long since gone down as the paved roads ended and we began winding through the seemingly endless dirt roads. After some time, we finally arrived at what would be our base camp for the next three nights, the home of our main contact and the heart behind the outreaches, Pastor Cipriano.

Here we were in the middle of the jungle in the black of night. Okay, this may not actually be classified as “jungle” terrain, but that’s what if felt like… Pastor Cipriano led me, Emily, (Peter’s oldest daughter) and Joana, to the room we would share for the next few nights. When they opened the door, the bugs that had congregated at the entrance to welcome us, overwhelmed me. Let’s be honest – I cringed a little. Not so much at the accommodations, but all the creepy-crawly things that wanted to join me. I was thankful though for electricity and running water. Things could be worse after all, I could be in a tent with the bugs and have no electricity or water.

my-bed-ciprianos-home

Above is my room/bed at Pastor Cipriano’s.

After a series of introductions and a late meal, I gave in to the exhaustion from all of our travel and found my way to my bed. It was hot and humid, but I was still in American mode and determined that no mosquitoes would feast on me that night. So I doused myself in deet and wrapped myself in a bed sheet – head to toe. After about two minutes, I was dripping in sweat and my missionary mode kicked in. “Forget this!” I thought, as I threw back the sheet and decided to trust God to not allow my body to become a buffet for the mosquitoes. It was late and tomorrow would be a busy day. With that, I closed my eyes and drifted off into a deep sleep… I had no idea what tomorrow would bring, but whatever it was, I was going to be ready.

pastor-cipriano

Here I am with Pastor Cipriano. As usual, I tower above the locals…
***BE SURE TO CHECK BACK OVER THE NEXT FEW WEEKS AS I CONTINUE TO PUT PEN TO PAPER, SO TO SPEAK, TO SHARE ABOUT THE DAYS THAT FOLLOWED. I PROMISE, YOU WON’T REGRET IT! 
If you missed Part 1 – The Arrival, be sure to check it out!
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© 2017 JAMIE LYNN SIVAK ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The Arrival // Stories From Abroad: PARAGUAY ’17 – Part 1

It’s been a while since my last post and a lot has happened. In the time I was away, I did a few small things like traveling southward a wee bit. My travels took me all the way to Paraguay where I had the amazing opportunity to partner with some of the greatest missionaries in the world. No, I don’t know all missionaries in the world and therefore my opinion might be a bit unjustified, but trust me on this one.

Where Faith and “Crazy” Collide:

On February 15th, my dear friends, Peter and Evi sent me a message. This is what it said:

“Hi Jamie! Blessings!! Evi and I have you on our heart! We wanted to invite you to come visit us next month… does that sound crazy?”

Of course it sounds crazy I thought! You want me there next month!? Sometimes I’m very practical and other times I throw caution to the wind and go for it. On February 16th, after a little bit of prayer and a lot of reckless abandon, I sent the following message:

“Okay so…. drum roll please…. I’m gonna come to Paraguay!!”

I know. As I’m writing this, I wish my reply had been slightly more epic or poetic or something, but that’s all I’ve got. And with that, I set my heart and faith on getting to Paraguay and I had just 1 month to see God make it happen.

My goal: raise $4,200.00.

$2,200 – airfare, visa, travel, insurance, housing and food

$2,000 – expenses for outreaches to five indigenous communities

Exceeded Expectations:

Now, I have seen money come in over the years and I have learned that no matter where I start at, God is ALWAYS faithful to bring in whatever is needed to accomplish His plan. And this time would be no different.

After two weeks, I contacted my church. They had received some donations on my behalf over the past few months and were holding those until I needed them. I had no idea how much money they had for me. The initial discussion indicated around $2,000. I was overjoyed as this would cover almost all of my expenses and then we would just need to see about $2,000 more come in for the outreaches.

Then the check was delivered. I opened it expecting $2,000 and was blown away to see the check was not for $2,000, but for $3,700!! Almost the full amount needed for the trip and outreaches! I can’t begin to describe my joy at seeing God’s faithfulness! I totally expected it, but I definitely had a few nights spent telling God that I didn’t know how, but I knew He would. And He did! What’s even more powerful is that the donations received at my church were monthly to a certain degree and the check was made out for donations from September – January. I didn’t even know I was going to Paraguay until February and the money that was needed was already within my reach. God had met my need before I knew about it.

Now I still needed roughly $400 and before I knew it that money was in my hands. In the course of five days, I received donations to cover the entire trip and outreaches and then the money kept coming. I received $800 above and beyond the cost of everything!! I’m so thankful that I serve a God who not only provides, but exceeds my expectations EVERY TIME! (The extra funds will go towards my summer trip to Asia – which is a huge help in paying that off!)

Insert mini-sermon here:

GOD IS ALWAYS FAITHFUL. It may come down to the wire from time to time and it may look absolutely impossible, but that I believe, is where God does some of His best work. If you’re standing in faith and holding out for God to work a miracle in your life, keep standing. He’s working, and in His way, He’s going to do something that exceeds your expectations and gives Him all the glory.

Long, Okay “Short” Awaited Arrival:

After 4 weeks of planning, (what can I say, sometimes spontaneous trips are the best) 3 flights and roughly 20 hours of travel, I finally set foot in Asuncion, Paraguay on March 17th. I was greeted by the familiar British accent of my dear friend, Peter Ratcliffe and his precious little 7 year-old auburn-haired angel, Rebecca. I hadn’t  seen the Ratcliffes in nearly 3+ years and in this moment it felt as though no time had passed at all. I love how true friendships can withstand time and distance. I was overjoyed to see these two, but couldn’t wait to get to their house where I could wrap my arms around Peter’s beloved wife and my dear friend, Evi, as well as their other children. This reunion was long overdue!

After loading all of my luggage and suitcases full of gifts for the Ratcliffes, we were off on the two-hour drive from Asuncion (the capital) to Sapucai and the Casa de Ratcliffe or what I would soon discover was named the “Cottage of My Dreams”.

As we traveled with windows rolled down, (because the a/c doesn’t work) Peter and Rebecca brought me up to speed on the overview of what they were doing in Paraguay and what I could expect in the outreaches we had planned for the next week. Before I knew it, we pulled up to this quaint little casa set in a tropical paradise. Luscious fruit trees surrounded us and the smell of gorgeous flowers welcomed me in. And this paradise could never truly belong to the Ratcliffes if there weren’t at least a few animals roaming around. Chickens, hamsters and parrots were easily spotted along with “Simba” the kitten, “Smokey” the puppy and two beautiful horses who found their place among the Ratcliffe family.

Finally, I stepped out of the car and flung myself into the arms of each of the remaining Ratcliffes; Emily, Joy, Daniel and then my precious Evi! I can’t really describe the feeling – but it was sort of like finding something you value but didn’t even realize was missing. Then came little Joseph. He was born in Paraguay and so I hadn’t had the privilege of meeting him yet. And boy was it a privilege. He is by far the cutest thing I have ever seen, but more about him later. Then I met little baby Naomi the most recent addition to the family.

And with that, I found myself surrounded by people I truly cherished and while I really had no idea what was in store for the next 10 days, I knew in my heart I was exactly where I needed to be.

Pictured above:

First picture is me with the Ratcliffe ladies (all except baby Naomi). Left to right is Emily, Evi, me, Rebecca and Joy.

Second picture is Rebecca and Joy introducing me to their hamsters.

***Be sure to check back over the next few weeks as I put pen to paper, so to speak, to share about the days that followed my arrival to Paraguay. I promise, you won’t regret it!

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© 2017 JAMIE LYNN SIVAK ALL RIGHTS RESERVED