Miracles & Memories // Stories From Abroad: CAMBODIA ’17 – Part 4

Well, I have officially been ministering in Thailand for over 3 weeks now… and have just now found time to catch you all up on what happened during the main week of ministry in Cambodia. Its definitely a late update, but you know what they say – “Better late, than never.”

And So It Begins.

The first day of ministry with Global Ventures started like you would expect, bright and early… like “6:55am breakfast meeting” early… I have never really been what you would call, “a morning person” so this particular aspect of ministry has been a struggle for me. Praise God there is was overabundance of coffee in the city of Phnom Penh. Seriously.

Even though I prefer to start my day a little later, I was just as excited as the other team members for what I knew was coming, as we headed out to minister in schools and village communities across the Takeo Province. 5 days of ministry were ahead of us and were guaranteed to provide incredible encounters with people who had never experienced the one true and living God.

As a GV team leader, I had the honor of leading an amazing group of people – who would eventually become “un Mexicano”, “Deux Québécois”, “three Americans”, and a “Soytry” (“Soytry” being the name of our translator). This all came from our teams hysterical moments where my French speaking team members (Karl and Christine) tried to teach me French… Let me tell you, it was not a pretty sight. And then my American girls (Emily, Courtney and Hannah) were perfecting, Mario’s English accent and he would help their Spanish… Then Soytry would help us all with our Khmer. Needless to say, we were a very culturally diverse team – and I would regularly have to count to make sure everyone was with me before we would leave, thus the multilingual counting – “un Mexicano”, Deux Québécois, three Americans, and a “Soytry”.

Rise Up And Walk.

My team headed out for day one and what would be an incredible day of ministry. One of my favorite encounters happened when we were sharing the Gospel in a tiny village community. As we were ministering on healing, a lady came up to us and asked to come to her home nearby and share with her husband who was sick in bed.  As we wandered into this tiny home, we found Cheam Him, a sweet man who had been practically bed-ridden. For 20 years he had suffered from intense back pain and as a result struggled with being able to walk at all. My team was able to minister to him and truly share the love and power of Jesus Christ. After prayer, Cheam was up and walking without pain by the power of God! It was absolutely incredible.

This amazing story was just one of the many encounters we would see over the next few days.

 

Pictured above, Mario (my team member) is praying for Cheam Him and then helping as he began to walk.

An Unexpected Soccer Game.

One of my favorite memories happened unexpectedly on our third day of ministry. Usually we are on a tight schedule ministering in one school after the next with limited time in between each school. This day, we happened to arrive early at our school. Since the teachers and Director hadn’t arrived yet, but the students had, I got to really interact with the students and simply “have fun”. Karl, and myself found some students who were kicking around a soccer ball. In an attempt to pass the time and just “be” with the kids, we joined in on their fun.

 

Now I’ll be completely honest, it was very clear, very quickly, that I had limited soccer experience and Karl was by far the better of the two of us, but regardless of experience, I had a ridiculous amount of fun with these kids. And the fact that I was literally running around in the afternoon heat of Cambodia, (which I have often likened to what I expect Hell to feel like) and I wasn’t passing out, counted as a major victory in my book – a few years ago, this would not have happened…lol! Needless to say, the students loved it as well and by the time we were doing the actual Gospel presentation, we had already become friends and they quickly and excitedly received the message of Jesus that we shared with them.

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Karl and I, and the boys who taught us a thing or two about how to really play soccer… 

That’s all for today, but tonight – later tonight, I will do my best to finish out my stories from Cambodia so I can begin to share with all of you, all that God has been doing in Thailand – believe me, it is worth waiting for!

Jamie Lynn Sivak Signature

IF YOU MISSED PART 1 – EXPLORATION & CHANCE ENCOUNTERS PART 2 – MINISTRY MOVEMENTS & MIGHTY MEN, OR PART 3 – OF SKIRTS & SALVATION, BE SURE TO CHECK THEM OUT!

For more info, check out Global Ventures.

© 2017 JAMIE LYNN SIVAK ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Of Skirts & Salvation // Stories From Abroad: CAMBODIA ’17 – Part 3

This summer my travels have taken me back to one of my favorite areas of the world, Southeast Asia. I have spent the past 2 ½ weeks as a part of the Global Ventures (GV) Set-Up Team. During this time, I served as one of the key leaders, helping to pave the way for the incoming GV teams. Over the course of my time, I have had the awesome privilege of working with amazing people here in Cambodia from our partner church, New Life Fellowship Cambodia. (You can read all about them here)

I have been able to take part in various areas of set-up, focusing most of my effort in scheduling local schools (along with my friend & GV intern, Bailey Neff) where teams will get to share the Gospel.

(Here are a few of the pictures from our time visiting schools and scheduling times for the GV teams to come and present the Gospel. Special thanks to Bailey Neff for capturing this sweet moment I had connecting with some of the little girls.)

After many days of hard work, the main team has finally arrived in country and we now number 51 people. 51 people who have been trained through GV leadership and are now ready to hit the streets (or in this case, dirt roads) and take the Gospel to the precious people in a village province, roughly a 1-3 hour drive from Phnom Penh.

For Bailey and I, the excitement each of the team members is feeling, is only multiplied. For us the ministry that is about to take place is the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work put in by GV staff, and the last 2 ½ weeks of work we helped with, here in country. Bailey and I have stepped foot in almost all of the schools and villages that the GV teams will share the Gospel in. We have walked where they’ll walk and smiled at the precious adults and children who they will now bring eternal hope to. In a lot of ways, we had the amazing opportunity to walk in shoes that John the Baptist might have worn, preparing the way. We were forerunners declaring that someone else would come after us, with a powerful message that would forever change things.

And the hour is almost here. As team members are turning out their lights to get some much needed rest before the ministry starts, I can’t help but be filled with pure joy and anticipation at what all God is going to do over these next 5 days. My heart can truly only guess at the amazing things He has in store for these people who are quickly stealing my heart.

I have so much to say to all of you and I struggle to find the words to express it all. The truth is, I too, should probably be turning out the lights and saying goodbye for tonight. Before I go though, I want to share one more encounter that Bailey and had just a week ago.

A Badly Designed Skirt, a Restless Heart, and a Refusal To Walk Away…

On one of our final days in the village, scheduling schools, our translators (and friends) took us to a place where we could get lunch. We pulled up to this quaint little place, filled with hammocks, where we were instructed to sit back and relax while our chicken & rice was prepared for us. While I love the laid back, “enjoy each moment” culture; I also happened to be in a skirt. Although my skirt was completely appropriate for the work I was doing, it was not quite designed to lie in a hammock. So I tried to sit near the hammocks in a lady like fashion, but that quickly grew old, so I began to wander. As I did, God began to pull my heart towards several kids buying snacks nearby at a roadside vender. I couldn’t leave them there. I knew that the school nearby was not one we would be bringing a team to. And unless something happened, they would not get the opportunity to hear the Gospel, at least not from us. What if no one ever came to them? I couldn’t just sit back and do nothing. So I returned to where my translators and Bailey were waiting.

After explaining to them what we must do, Soytry (one of our translators), Bailey and I, returned to speak to the children. As we approached, the group of kids quickly grew and the more we shared, the more children appeared. In just a few moments, the three of us had introduced ourselves, met all of the children and shared the most powerful story anyone can ever hear. We told of Jesus’ birth, His life, death and resurrection. And then we shared what this story could mean for them. In an instant, we brought hope to complete strangers. Of the 39 who had gathered, 33 children and the vender, prayed with us, declaring Jesus Christ as their Lord. All it took was a badly designed skirt, a restless heart and a refusal to walk away from those in need. I hated having to wear that skirt, but I am thankful beyond words for opportunity I was given to share with those children.

This moment, was just one. Just one single moment of one single day – and through it, lives have been forever changed. And as undeniably awesome as that moment was, its only just beginning. The next 5 days are literally going to help transform countless lives throughout this nation. I am so blessed to be here and humbled at all that God is doing.

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(Pictured above is a quick shot I was able to get, right before Bailey and I, led these children in the prayer of salvation – it was absolutely amazing!)

I invite you to come along with me over the next few weeks, check back from time to time and experience all that God is doing in Cambodia. With that, I guess I really must say goodnight – for now.

Jamie Lynn Sivak Signature

IF YOU MISSED PART 1 – EXPLORATION & CHANCE ENCOUNTERS OR PART 2 – MINISTRY MOVEMENTS & MIGHTY MEN, BE SURE TO CHECK THEM OUT!

For more info, check out New Life Fellowship Cambodia and/or Global Ventures.

© 2017 JAMIE LYNN SIVAK ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Ministry Movements & Mighty Men// Stories From Abroad: CAMBODIA ’17 – Part 2

It has officially been two weeks since my return to Cambodia. And although I have been terrible at updating all of you, I have a really good excuse… work. Lots of work, and sometimes in life, I have found its best to just live in the moment, enjoy the adventure and then go back to record it all.

The past two weeks have been filled with work, of course, but also an incredible amount of fun. I am continually amazed at how different and complex, people around the world can be, but when it comes down to it, we really are all alike. In every country that I work in, as a part of the Global Ventures team, we always work with local contacts; these can be local Pastors, church members or full time missionaries.

Not Just a Ministry, but a Movement.

This time we have been partnering with not just a single church, a system of churches (both in the main city and throughout villages), church plants, cell groups and local bible studies – all of which are working together to truly impact the Kingdom of Cambodia. New Life Fellowship Cambodia, is an amazing church planting movement that not only has churches in operation, but also multiple areas of outreach ministry. One of their programs helps impoverished or orphaned children out in the villages, another program works specifically to provide a better future for children and families living in the slums or dump grounds. They have leadership programs to train up Cambodians as well as their own internship program. The list of things they are doing for this nation could literally go on and on.

I am truly in awe at all that they are doing to help change a nation. And what is truly powerful is that it is not just several westerners running everything. Cambodians are paving the way and more are being continually prepared to transform their own nation with the power of the Gospel.

For more info or to help partner financially with New Life Fellowship Cambodia (NLFC), you can check out their website at http://www.cambodiaoutreach.org/.

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From left to right: Veasna, me, Bailey and Pastor Somnang – read on to find out more about these guys. 

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Soytry (above in yellow plaid) along with Bailey, me, some more local volunteers, and some super excited school kids. Read on to hear about Soytry.

Mighty Men and Hearts of Gold.

There have been three amazing men of God, that Bailey and I have had the privilege of working with consistently during our time here; Pastor Samnang, Vaesna and Soytry all of whom, are staff in the NLFC Missions Department. We’ve been so blessed to get to work with many other local pastors, but these three men have been the driving force in helping Bailey and I accomplish all that we need to do, to prepare for the incoming Global Ventures’ (GV) missions team.

Pastor Samnang has been the “make it happen” guy, literally an unseen force in the darkness. He hasn’t been out with us each day in the villages, but he has still continually worked on our behalf and is constantly making sure that we have everything we need.

Vaesna and Soytry though, these two, are a completely different story. They both work just as hard as Pastor Samnang, but they have been faithfully by our side each and every day as we would go and meet with directors of schools out in the villages to arrange for GV team to come and present the Gospel to the students. Vaesna and Soytry began as our mouthpiece to the world, our translators, converting our simple English into eloquent Khmer. They not only served as our translators, but also our guides. And somewhere along the way, as hearts pursuing the same purpose usually do, we became friends. And not just “Facebook friends” but actual tangible friends, the kind you look forward to seeing each day and enjoying being with. Their hearts truly beat to help the people of their nation – just as Bailey and my heart beat as well.

Working with these guys has not only been inspiring, but undeniably fun. Every day, Bailey and I laugh – sometimes until we can’t breathe. Humor is something that has deepened our friendships. Vaesna and Soytry have us singing songs and as a result, we have ended up with a theme song (Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah”) – that one tune we find ourselves unable to stop singing. And we’ve had times of signing worship songs that are incredible. My favorite moments by far, have to be the random opportunities they will take to quote Joel Osteen’s opening monologue to his church members. “This is my Bible. I am what it says I am. I can do what it says I can do…”

Vaesna is a gentle soul. He found out that we like coffee and not only does he make sure we get coffee every time he sees us, but he always pays for it. And when we have tried to discourage him from feeling like he needs to do so, he all but argues for the right to buy us coffee. He is kind and generous. The thing I love most about him is the love he shows for his wife and daughter. He talks about them often and is quick to share pictures. And he absolutely adores his little girl. She is undeniably beautiful with the cutest little black curls you’ve ever seen.

Soytry is amazing. Much more dramatic than Vaesna but every bit as kind hearted. He has definitely kept Bailey and I on our toes. He is passionate about helping people and seems to really love children. A godly man, training to one day lead a church of his own in the village he has grown up in. We talked about him working with the church in the city one day, but he said he’d rather be out in the village among the people.

These two guys really have been inspiring. And I hate that our time together is quickly coming to an end, but I feel in my heart that what may be a temporary end to a project is not the end of our work together.

Ribbit Ribbit…

There are so many moments all four of us have shared and I wish I could share them all with you but there are just too many. I will share one of my favorites though.

So, they really enjoy eating frog. I however have not ever eaten frog and frankly, I don’t plan on ever consuming Kermit. They have teased me and offered frog quite a few times. You literally buy them 3 on a stick off of a roadside vendor’s cart. My response has been, a polite refusal. “Thank you so much, but I’m not really a big frog eater.” To which they respond, “No problem, frogs aren’t big. They’re just little things.” Okay, it may not be as funny to you, but I have laughed uncontrollably each time we talk about it.

I hope you have enjoyed getting to see a bit more into the lives of my new friends here in the Kingdom of Cambodia. Stay tuned. I have more to share in the next few days and soon the main Global Ventures team will arrive for 5 days of street ministry and mass crusades. We are bound to see thousands receive Jesus and miracles will happen as well – I can’t wait to share everything with you!

Jamie Lynn Sivak Signature

© 2017 JAMIE LYNN SIVAK ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Exploration and Chance Encounters // Stories From Abroad: CAMBODIA ’17 – Part 1

Back Again.

After nearly 30 hours of travel, my friend, Bailey and I, the designated Set-Up team for Global Ventures, finally found ourselves in Cambodia. As we left the airport, the familiar face of our translator and local contact, Samnang, was waiting for us. The last time I found myself in this nation was at least 6 year ago, and while I remembered Samnang’s face, to be completely honest, I didn’t really remember much more than that. I knew though, that he had been a vital piece of the ministry leadership team that we had worked with in the past. Even though my memory failed me, I knew that face and knew that if he was helping out the team this year, that we were in good hands.

After checking into our hotel, we quickly set out to the business at hand, and made plans for the work that needed to be accomplished over the next two weeks. After which, we said our goodbyes and Samnang released us for the following day, as it was a national holiday. Bailey and I, completely exhausted from the travel, returned to the hotel and found ourselves easily succumbing to sleep, as jet lag consumed us. And with that, the first official 3 days of our trip and come and gone.

Exploration and Chance Encounters.

After hours upon hours of sleep, catching up on what we had lost, Bailey and I, woke ready to take on the city of Phnom Penh, and see what trouble we could get into. Okay, I’m totally kidding, as a responsible representative of a missions organization, I made sure to keep Bailey and I, in safe areas and we totally avoided all signs of trouble. Seriously.

Our exploration led us to the nearby Russian Market, so called because years ago, there was a huge influx of Russian ex-pats in the area who frequented this market. Here you could find all the necessities, name brand clothing and shoes, probably all knock-offs, but a nice assortment nonetheless. Then you had electronics, power tools and food of all types. After wandering through quite a bit of this market, we found ourselves deep within where the souvenirs were located. To be quite honest, I had no expectations for today, just wanted to see if I could locate some inexpensive pearls. I certainly didn’t expect to meet, Sophya.

As we neared her booth, as many of the venders do, Sophya welcomed us and encouraged us to take a look at all of the beautiful things she had for sale. As she continued to talk to us, Sophya asked questions about where we were from. She spoke nearly perfect English and so conversing with her came easily. As Sophya opened up to us, Bailey and I began to share with her why we were really n Cambodia. She said that she too, like us, desired to do good and to help those less fortunate than her, to make a difference in the lives of her people and her country. I could see she was open and I began to explain the reason that we desired to help the people of Cambodia because Jesus had done so much for us. We shared the simple Gospel story with her and she listened intently. Sophya claimed that she had heard of Jesus and believed in Him. She said that she prayed to Him too. And with that, I took things further to share about the miracles we had seen around the world, I told of deaf ears opening, blind people seeing for the first time, and a child being completely set free from AIDS. As I did, you could see her eyes light up as though the news we shared was amazing – and it was.

Now this is the part of the story, where I would like to tell you that Sophya immediately gave her life to Jesus with a simple prayer, or that she had some dreaded disease that we prayed for and was instantly healed, but that’s not what happened. It would make for more of a “news worthy” story, but that’s just not how things went down.

Sophya appeared to be truly touched by what we had shared, and although I believe she is in the place of believing in Jesus, but not letting go of the religion she was raised on, God still used us to speak to her. We asked if we could pray for her, for anything specific, and she really just wanted prayer more or less to be successful in all she did and to be able to continue to help people. And so we prayed.

Now the reality is, we were American tourists in a tourist city, in a market frequented by… Yep, you guessed it, tourists. Tourists are known to be people who have ample amounts of money to throw away on souvenirs. And yes, there is at least a 50% chance that this sweet girl had crafted her sales pitch over the years and was good at reading and meeting people exactly where they are to “make the sale”, I believe this encounter was more than that. I don’t fully understand why we encountered this girl, but I know in my heart that God was at the center of it – and where He is, powerful things happen.

Sophya

(Bailey, Sophya and me.)

Jamie Lynn Sivak Signature

© 2017 JAMIE LYNN SIVAK ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

All Good Things Must Come To An End // Stories From Abroad: PARAGUAY ’17 – Part 4

The days that followed were everything I expected and nothing at all like I expected, if that’s even possible. I knew, having served with Peter before, that we were certain to get the Gospel in the hearts of those who truly needed it. And so we did.

The next four days led our small team into a different village each day. The villages brought new faces and more hearts unknowingly waiting for the Gospel we carried. I was so challenged by each new face and the need represented. It was inspiring to watch Peter, Pastor Sergio and Pastor Cipriano, as they worked among the Guarani. You could tell that their hearts were divinely connected, in a passionate pursuit of these people, a passion that could only come from the very heart of God.

(Here Peter is passionately proclaiming the Gospel in the tribal language Guarani and then he and Pastor Sergio lead another one of the Guarani communities in the prayer of salvation.)

Her Name Was Diana…

On my 2nd day of ministry, I found myself in a new village with more precious people. This day was different; more challenging. I can’t really give a good reason why. Perhaps, it was the heat that seemed to engulf us as the sun beat down. The refreshing breeze we had enjoyed on day one, was nowhere to be found and the trees providing shade were very few. The little shade we did have was a valuable commodity – one that we gave to the people who had gathered with us.

As the meal for everyone was prepared, myself, Emily and Joanna spent time connecting with the people and loving on the children. When along came a dirty faced, messy haired, little girl with one of the sweetest smiles you can imagine… She was all over the place, chasing other kids and just doing what kids do – she was completely rambunctious to say the least.

At first she smiled but kept a safe distance. Before long, she made her way closer and closer, and the connection began. 

She smiled and I smiled and it was all down hill from there or uphill, depending on how you look at it. We didn’t speak the same language so communication was very difficult, but as Diana literally began to climb my leg like a tree trunk, I got the hint that this little girl wanted to be held. So I held her. Off and on all afternoon, Diana was either at my side or in my arms.

What did she want? Simply to be held. To be loved. To feel special.

I love how the Gospel gives to each of us what we truly need – LOVE. Diana was a little girl who needed love. I got to be part of not only showing her love as a compassionate human being, but we got to give her the true love of Jesus Christ.

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(Me and Diana – sharing some smiles for the camera.)

Three Times The Gospel: English, Spanish & Guarani…

 On our fourth ministry day, we found ourselves ministering to a community near a local school. It was at this site, that I was given the honor of preaching the Gospel. The only problem, I don’t speak Guarani – and my Spanish is definitely not what it should be… God had a way around that – Praise Him! As I stood before the crowd that had gathered, I began to share the simple story of Jesus. As I shared in English, Peter would then translate my words into Spanish, from there, Pastor Cipriano would translate Peter’s words into Guarani. It seems a bit extreme, but it worked! The people were captivated in hearing the English language and even though they couldn’t understand, they wanted to know what was being said, so they stayed and they listened. Through Peter and Pastor Cipriano’s translations, the people not only heard, but also were able to receive.

Not only did we pray for people to receive salvation, but we prayed for healing as well. One of the people that came up was a woman who had suffered with a terrible headache. She had received Jesus into her heart and was completely healed of her headache! We later came to find out that this woman was the village Chief’s wife. What a powerful testimony she now has among her people!

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(Here we are sharing the Gospel in English, Spanish and Guarani.)

Each day gave our team the opportunity to make new friends – and get a few more selfies.

All Good Things Must Come To An End…

And just like every time before it, I came into this nation, blinked, and the ministry time was over. Fortunately for me, I had a little time left to spend with the Ratcliffe family.

During the little time I had left, I was so indescribably blessed to get to simply be with this amazing family. We laughed and cried. We talked, and talked, and talked some more. We shared our hearts; our hopes, our dream, the trials and challenges and together we looked forward to the journey ahead, as we all were, and are, continuing to simply walk out the plan of God.

Evi, the girls and little Joseph, took me hiking up the mini-mountain off the back of their land. We trudged through the forest and made our way to a clearing at the top. Here they shared with me of times they had come there as a family to simply be with Jesus. They sang praises that day and I got to share in another precious time with some amazing people.

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(Here’s little Joseph as we were singing to Jesus. Isn’t he the cutest thing ever?!)

I even got to spend time with the Ratcliffe girls, simply having fun. They loved to play games and be read to. And I loved getting to fill the “big sister” role to such amazing little angels.

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(Peter and Evi sure know how to make adorable children.)

After an incredible time in Paraguay, I found myself saying goodbye too soon. Hugs were given, cheeks were kissed, and promises were made that this would not be the last time I would step foot in Paraguay.

From there, Peter, Joy and Joseph drove me back to the airport. We talked and laughed along the way, soaking up the precious moments that remained. Then came the final farewell. Peter had dropped me off to go start the check in process, (Joy came with me and Joseph went with Peter to park the car). I was standing in line as Joseph came running up to Joy and me. “Not that one!” He said, pointing to the black ball cap I had worn off and one throughout the whole trip. “This one!” he said, handing me a bright pink Paraguay cap. He was so adorable, how could I possibly resist?! I immediately removed the black cap and replaced it with the priceless gift little Joseph had brought me. It was a little gesture from such a little guy, but he totally stole my heart… and all it took was a new hat.

Who knew? My love could totally be bought…lol! What can I say… gifts have always been my love language. 😉

pink-hat-joseph   (Joseph and my beloved pink cap.)

**Funny side story, I placed this cap in my backpack while going through security. Afterwards, I headed to the restroom and opened up my backpack to get out my cap and put it back on. And I couldn’t find it. I searched and searched and immediately started freaking out on the inside. I retraced my steps and did my best to communicate in broken Spanish that I may have left my cap at security – no luck. At this point I was crushed but there really wasn’t much more I could do. So I went to my gate, sat down and opened my backpack one more time… too my surprise, there it was! I almost cried – seriously. **

Although we avoided it as long as possible, the time came for final hugs. And with that I was headed home. So much had happened during this trip – way more than time will afford me to blog about and to be honest, a lot of it was things that God was speaking to me directly, things I’m not ready to share with everyone… yet.

I will return to Paraguay. It may not happen as quickly as I would like, but mark my words, my adventures with the Ratcliffes have only just begun!

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With that, I’ll leave you with this beautiful sunset taken before I left Paraguay.

 

IF YOU MISSED PART 1 – THE ARRIVAL, PART 2 – THE JOURNEY CONTINUES, OR PART 3 – WHERE FOOD & FORGIVENESS COLLIDE, BE SURE TO CHECK THEM OUT!

Jamie Lynn Sivak Signature

© 2017 JAMIE LYNN SIVAK ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

When Food & Forgiveness Collide // Stories From Abroad: PARAGUAY ’17 – Part 3

Sorry for the long absence, but these past few weeks have been jam packed with working two jobs and getting ready for my next adventure in Asia. I leave in just a few short weeks, so there has been a lot to do.

Before I head out again though, there’s still a bit more to my story in Paraguay.

PICKING UP WHERE WE LEFT OFF…

The next morning we rose with the sun. We gathered in Pastor Cipriano’s living room area for a quick breakfast and then the work began. We reloaded the SUV with the supplies for our first outreach, climbed on in, and we were off. Today would be the farthest we would travel from home base. With roughly 3 hours of dirt-road travel ahead, we had plenty of time for me to interrogate everyone and find out as much as I could about the country, the culture and the ministry that was about to take place.

As we journeyed onward, Peter and Pastor Cipriano shared with me about the Indigenous of Paraguay. Many people have said that the Indigenous are a “hard people, very difficult to get close to, and almost impossible to successfully preach to”. They explained to me that some people even still refer to the Indigenous as ‘Animals’, seeing them as inferior and having little value.

Pastor Cipriano was different though. He saw these people and saw their need, the need for the Gospel. The Indigenous, a people who were overlooked and even forgotten by most, were at the forefront of his heart.

Pastor Cipriano had diligently gone in to several of the Indigenous communities as a forerunner to the Gospel, building relationships and essentially opening the doors that were once closed to foreigners, so that our team could come in and bring the good news of Jesus Christ. And today, we would do just that.

TWO PLACES AT ONCE:

As we were traveling, Peter and Pastor Cipriano mentioned how close we were to the Brazil border and that at one point, the road would actually briefly take us through Brazil. So of course, drawing from a previous experience where I stood with one foot in Nepal and one foot in India, I figured we should repeat history – this time, one foot in Paraguay and one foot in Brazil. So we did – and it was quite epic, at least I felt epic.

(Here I am standing in two places at once.)

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WHERE FOOD AND FORGIVENESS COLLIDE.

Ministry this week would come through huge meals, known to locals as the Karu Guasu. Peter explained to me that the Karu Guasu was “traditionally the time when the Indigenous tribes would gather together in order to put right any disagreement between tribes or families; a time of reconciliation! Every now and again, they would share a big meal together and make things right.”

How perfect! We are taking in a message of the ultimate forgiveness and reconciliation and sharing it through a meal that throughout their history has symbolized reconciliation for their tribes.

Peter shared this in his own blog and I feel it sums things up perfectly.

“This is a coming together of the indigenous culture and the gospel to facilitate a natural and then spiritual time of reconciliation. It is totally aligned with their culture and a wide open door to proclaim the eternal reconciliation from heaven through Jesus Christ!  In my view, what Pastor Cipriano does is brilliant, ingenious and a wonderful combination of physical and spiritual ministry.’

THE FIRST COMMUNITY.

As we arrived at the first community, there were people already gathered. And while you could sense a bit of curiosity, the people seemed to be keeping a cautious distance. That didn’t stop us though. We unloaded supplies and gathered some of the woman of the community to begin preparing the meal. There were tons of veggies to chop and lots of chicken to be prepared. Once everything was ready, it was all thrown together in a large pot and placed on an open fire.

As the food cooked, Joana, Emily and I, set out to break the ice and build some relationships with the children. We made a plethora of balloon dogs, swords and hats. We learned their names and did the best we could to make them feel special.

As the cooking was almost finished, Peter, Pastor Sergio and Pastor Cipriano gathered the community to sit beneath a large tree. Pastor Cipriano would take time to share the brief history and purpose behind a Karu Guasu (mostly for the children). Then they shared the Gospel, simply proclaimed what Jesus had done for us all and what they could do to receive the free gift of salvation. And just like that, we had new brothers and sisters added to the kingdom of God.

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After the simple message of salvation was shared and we prayed with those who wanted to receive, we shared about healing and prayed for those who were sick.

One of the most incredible things that happened during all of this, was that the Chief of this village/community, gave his life to Christ! And after doing so, was completely set free from the headache he had suffered from for a long time. This may seem like a small miracle, but the potential impact is massive. The Chief, the leader of this community, acknowledged his need for a Savior. He is ultimately the leader of his people and influences each of their lives. He has essentially become a catalyst for change among his community!

The Gospel is such a powerful force for change. And I have no doubt as Peter and his local team return for future follow up, we’ll truly begin to see these lives transformed!

(Pictured below is Peter praying for the Chief.)

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After the conclusion of prayer, the meal was served. The entire community ate together, the same way that you and I, might sit down to Sunday dinner with our families. It was a beautiful sight!

As things were wrapping up, we distributed some clothing that had been donated from a church (where Peter lives) along with fishing hooks and fishing line. Why? Because the need among these communities is great. And anything that can be done to help, is worth it.

Day one was a complete success in my books. I was honored to take part in helping Peter’s team and anxious to start the next day. Only partly anxious though – I know how these trips go, you blink and they’re over. So as anxious as I was to get to the next community, I didn’t want things to go by too fast.

***BE SURE TO CHECK BACK OVER THE NEXT TWO WEEKS AS I CONTINUE TO PUT PEN TO PAPER, SO TO SPEAK, TO FINISH OUT THE STORIES OF MY ADVENTURES IN PARAGUAY. I PROMISE, YOU WON’T REGRET IT! 
IF YOU MISSED PART 1 – THE ARRIVAL, OR PART 2 – THE JOURNEY CONTINUES, BE SURE TO CHECK THEM OUT!

Jamie Lynn Sivak Signature

© 2017 JAMIE LYNN SIVAK ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Encountering Miracles // Stories From Abroad: KENYA ’13

The amazing organization that I was a part of for 8.5 years, Global Ventures, is headed out to Haiti this week and I’m headed in a different direction the following week to Paraguay. Okay, same general southerly direction, but mine will take me a little further south.

As I was reminiscing about some of my memories with Global Ventures, I found a blog I had written during my time there, about one of the most amazing encounters I have ever had team leading on a GV trip. And in honor of #throwbackthursday, I wanted to share it with all of you.

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“Massive Miracles in Kenya”

Global Ventures – December 2, 2013

My team and I were on the outskirts of Mwingi, Kenya doing Gospel presentations at local schools. We had just finished a presentation at an elementary school when I noticed my co-leader Blake speaking to a woman I had never seen before. He called out to me to get our team and the equipment and follow him. The woman was the director of a nearby school and she had heard our presentation, so she invited us to come and share with her students as well. I personally love it when we are able to minister at unexpected locations, but this was not just any school; all the students were deaf and many were also mute.

Please understand, I believe in the power of God to open deaf ears and cause the mute to speak, but I had never seen an entire school healed before.  Honestly, I was a little anxious about how to proceed. How do you share the gospel with people who can’t hear you? I didn’t know how to make it work, but I knew we had to try.

I was amazed as Blake stood in front of the students and began communicating with them in sign language. I’ve known Blake for years and had no idea that he knew sign language. He greeted them and introduced himself. The student’s hearts instantly opened to our team. Next, one of the teachers who was fluent in English and sign language jumped in and started translating as Blake began to share with them the story of Jesus.

As he finished the story, Blake gave all of the students the opportunity to pray and ask Jesus into their lives. What happened next was possibly the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen: In complete silence and perfect harmony the entire school “signed” the prayer of salvation. I was in awe. Not one of the students heard the gospel with their ears, but they “heard” it with their hearts, believed, and received.

Caught up in this moment of perfection, I was startled when Blake turned around and handed everything over to me. I began to tell them of the miracles that Jesus worked when He walked the earth, and how He still healed today. I shared of His love, compassion, and power to heal. Then I prayed. It wasn’t an articulate prayer, I simply joined faith together with my team.

I asked the students to raise their hands if they could tell a difference in their bodies, but many of them didn’t raise their hands, they just began to run forward to our team. We tested them and watched in amazement as God restored hearing and speech to many students. There were so many of them being healed, in fact, that my team wasn’t able to test them all! We know, though, that at least 15 were proven healed, and truthfully I believe there were even more.

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Here are the students as we arrived.

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This was one of the students who prayed the prayer of salvation using sign language. He was 15 years old and had been deaf and mute from birth. We signed a prayer of healing and God opened his ears and he began to say his first words!

The Power of God has no limits!


 

On that day, I remember being blown away at the power of God and His ability to work through someone like me. To be completely honest, I didn’t walk into that situation fully confident of anything. The one thing I knew though, was that the power of God is real and His love for people in undeniable. I have seen it in my life and in the lives of countless people around the world.

I hope that encounter encourages you the way it continues to encourage me. God is capable of unimaginable things! If you are in a place in your life where you need a miracle, set your heart upon Jesus. He performed miracles while He walked upon Earth and He’s still performing miracles today!

If you’re reading this and have a need in your life that you would like prayer for, please comment or email me. I’d love to pray with and for you!

Jamie Lynn Sivak Signature

GLOBAL VENTURES:

For more information about missions and to get involved with Global Ventures, you can check out their website at GlobalVentures.tv. You can also follow them on Facebook at GLOBAL VENTURES. Do it, you won’t regret it! They have amazing, life changing trips and are always looking to take new people, just like YOU!

 

 

© 2017 JAMIE LYNN SIVAK AND GLOBAL VENTURES ALL RIGHTS RESERVED