Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:00

Letter From the Herfst Family

Written by Ken and Jackie Herfst
This is the continuation of a report of a visit to Chirramos, deep into the interior, where missionary Herfst attended an Independence Day celebration with Santiago, his helper. They were able to witness to the Gospel and are now on their way back from a physically exhausting trip, rejoicing that they could bring the Gospel. Pastor Herfst continues his report.

We are not without hope. One of the influential leaders of the community and the Roman Catholic group has recently been coming to our services on the Lord's Day. He also asked to attend the Bible Institute that began in May. He has been working hard to catch up and expresses a real interest in the course. He and Santiago often talk until the wee hours of the morning when the former is in town. Another man, formerly from Chirramos, but now from Tres Cruces, has come to know the Lord well. His life demonstrates a remarkable change: one that people have sat up and taken notice of. It is a change which he gladly attributes to the sovereign grace of God. Truly, the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to all those who believe! We rejoice in the fact that God's grace is invincible! There is no heart too hard, nor entrenched in superstition that He cannot transform.

We finally reach the summit and are rewarded with a magnificent view of 'the other side of the mountain.' Black storm clouds loom menacingly on the eastern horizon. I make radio contact with my wife and we agree on a time when she can pick us up on the mining road that passes through Chi Santiago, another aldea. After a refreshing drink of "masa" water (yes, at this point even "masa" water is refreshing!) we carried along, we are on our way again. The previous Sunday we spoke with Juliana, a young woman who had bought a Bible from us a year and-a-half ago, and who gradually came to attend our services on the Lord's Day every other week. We had arranged to visit her on our return to Cubulco. As we make our descent, we realize that it will be a race against the clock to reach Juliana's house before the rain reaches us. We quicken our pace and for a while we half-run, half-walk. It's no use: the rain wins. We stop briefly to put on rain capes before resuming our trek.

Juliana and her mother are waiting for us and greet us warmly upon our arrival. We are offered a drink and after some small talk, I take out my Bible and turn to Ephesians 2:1-10. Since beginning the services on our porch about a year ago, we have been studying the Gospel of Mark. Our purpose has been to understand who Jesus is and how one receives the salvation that is found in Him alone. Juliana professes to have put her trust in Jesus and has asked to be baptized. Today I am eager to ensure that she understands the basics of the Gospel. We talk about our natural condition before conversion: what it means to be a sinner and how the enmity of the human heart against God manifests itself.

Ephesians 2:4 is one of those glorious passages of the Bible that so wonderfully high-lights the undeserved grace of God and so I talk about what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. And to think that such great salvation is ours solely by faith in Jesus Christ! To avoid misunderstanding, I seek to emphasize that faith is the means, the instrument, by which we receive the salvation that God so freely offers. Ultimately, it is not our faith that saves us, but Christ Who saves us by faith. Juliana is basically bi-lingual, but once in a while I ask Santiago to translate into Achi to ensure that she understands. We use examples from her surroundings in an attempt to make the truths of Scripture clear.

Finally, we look at the passage to see what God has saved us for. While one can never be saved by works, Scripture clearly teaches that the result of God's grace is always good works as an expression of gratitude. They are acceptable to God because He Himself is the Author of them. Furthermore, we have been created in Christ Jesus for such good works.

Throughout our discussion, I try to stress the centrality of union with Christ in God's way of salvation. Everything flows from union to Christ. As I speak I'm amazed again at the wonder of salvation and the greatness of our triune God. Everything fits together so well; it is so God-exalting. No human mind could ever have dreamed up such a way of salvation--guilt-grace-gratitude. No matter the culture, no matter the location: it summarizes the message of Scripture.

Meanwhile, the rain has been steady. There is some suggestion that we should wait until the rain passes. They insist that it should let up any moment, but as a sailor's son, I beg to differ. Looking at the sky, there seems to be no immediate prospect of that. Santiago notices the torrent that is now racing down the path beside the house to the valley stream and we decide we haven't got a moment to lose. Mountain streams can swell very quickly, making it impossible to return to town. Besides, Jackie is on her way in the pick-up and we don't want her to be stranded.

We quickly get our stuff packed up and after the appropriate good-byes, start down the trail. Walking is difficult, as the water is rushing down the same trail. I don't even try to avoid the water any more: I'm soaked from the knees down. As we reach the valley stream, it has swollen, but we can still cross. We climb the other side of the valley and meet the pick-up at the top. I slither into the driver's seat and we head for town. We drive through two streams with the water as high as the doors. The closer we come to town, the rain subsides. In town, only a few drops have fallen.

It has been another eventful trip. When we left Pachijul to go to Chirramos, we had turned to take one last look at the valley before going over the ridge. A beautiful rainbow arched over the valley, framing the simple stick homes. It was an unforgettable sight and one I will always cherish. The rainbow: sign of God's promise! He is ever faithful to His promise. That is our encouragement as we bring God's Word and distribute Bibles. May God hasten the day when these people living in remote valleys may place their trust in His faithful Word and in doing so enjoy the prospect of eternal life that comes by faith in Jesus Christ.

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