Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

Letter From the Herfst Family

Written by Ken and Jackie Herfst
Dear Friends,

Greetings in the name of our faithful Saviour. It is indeed His faithfulness to us despite sins, failing and shortcomings that encourages us to return to Him to obtain mercy and grace to help in time of need. What a privilege to know and proclaim something of the unsearchable riches of such a Saviour!

By now most of you will know that Ken has recuperated well from his emergency appendectomy at the end of March. Although the ride to the hospital in Guatemala City was anything but a 'joy-ride,' John Otten did his very best and we arrived before the appendix ruptured. In the words of the surgeon, "my state was grave, but Someone was watching over me." We were conscious of and deeply encouraged by the prayers of God's people, both here and in North America. Ken has since resumed trekking and feels good.

The rest of the family is well. Kathryn and Justin accompanied Ken to Canada at the end of June as he attended some mission meetings. They thoroughly enjoyed visiting with family and friends. Home schooling has again begun in earnest and thankfully there is steady progress in this area as well. Jackie manages to cheerfully balance all the household duties with providing for the visitors who drop by, and as such, gives the steady ballast that makes a house a home. Her role--perhaps somewhat unsung at time--is vital to our ministry here.

Since the last letter, Mary Overduin has again joined us here in Cubulco. Although much of her time is taken up with Achi language study, she also teaches Sunday school and has weekly Bible studies with two groups of women who regularly attend our services.

We have formally begun the Bible Institute. About fifteen to twenty students attend regularly every other Saturday. We have had some wonderful times of prayer together and Ken finds a real bond with these Christians. Of special joy is the attendance of four ex(?)-Roman Catholic catechists from Chivaquito. Do pray that as they study God's Word they might be set free from the chains that still bind them. It is not unusual for them to still visit with the priest to ask his perspective as they seek for the truth. Growing up under the authoritarian system of the Roman Catholic Church is not something that one can easily escape. At the moment we continue very fruitful discussions and look forward to more regular contact in their own aldea with the whole group.

No doubt news of the attacks on North Americans suspected of kidnapping and dismembering Guatemalan children has reached you via the media. These rumours are widespread in Cubulco areas as well and some of our trekking has had to be postponed. In this regard we see God's sovereign hand in the commencement of the Bible Institute at this time. While we are hindered from going out, we are privileged to train Christians of various aldeas so that they can bring God's Word. We are in no danger, but do need to use common sense when walking in some areas.

The services on the porch continue to grow. However, one family, after attending with us for some time, suddenly were influenced to join another church. Nevertheless, for the most part, is encouraging to see their interest and discernment increasing. Due to the Holy Spirit's gracious influence and Santiago's winsome manner of evangelism, a man from the aldea of Tres Cruces has come to know the Lord and attends with us whenever he can. This aldea is the largest in the Cubulco area, consisting of some four thousand inhabitants, notorious for their animosity to the Gospel. The man, Domingo by name, wa steeped in the pagan traditions of the area but has become a new creation in every sense of the word. He is facing stiff opposition from family and neighbours. His father-in-law has threatened to remove him for the family land. Domingo, by God's grace, has been able to hold firm to his confession. We are hoping to establish a listening centre in his home.

In addition to our Lord's Day services, we may now also meet every other Friday night at Santiago's home, where we have begun sermons on the Old Testament. Having just begun, we are dealing with creation as the foundation of a Biblical world view. Recently a family from the reservoir area attended. The man is known in the area for his involvement in witchcraft. The message that night exposed the worship of the 'holy' earth and the sun for what they really are. This man regularly worships both. He confessed ignorance of the Bible and expressed interest in continuing to study. Time will tell.

The Roman Catholic church has stopped up its anti-evangelical campaign. Less people stop by the Book Table these days, as they have been warned by the priest not to ouch our 'corrupt' Bibles. Pamphlets are being distributed, giving their version of the sixteenth century Reformation. Luther, it is said, left the Roman Catholic Church because he wanted to marry. He discarded the Apocrypha (non-canonical books of the Bible) because he found pieces in them that he did not like, as they did not serve his cause. Consequently, we do find a greater degree of hesitation on the part of some.

Of real concern in the realm of nature has been the lack of rain. Clouds form on the eastern horizon--only to disperse later in the afternoon. Usually, the rain begins in May and continues in October or November. This year, the rains began late and stopped all together shortly thereafter. Most people have lost their corn crops and are faced with a bleak future in an already impoverished area. At the beginning of this month, rains have come again, so some will try to plant a crop that matures in three months. Many have no choice but to go to the coastal farms to work and thus pay for corn. No rain is falling there either, so there is some question as to how many will actually find work there. Meanwhile, the corn prices are skyrocketing.

As to the reasons for the drought, the possible answers are legion. Many see it as a judgment from God. For some it is because there are now more evangelicals than before and God is angry. They forget that some years ago when there were virtually no evangelicals, there also was a drought. Some insist that it is punishment for a woman who killed her newborn baby in a remote aldea some eleven years ago. There are others who, for all our remoteness, believe that the comet Shoemaker-Levy's collision with Jupiter has something to do with this. Image of saints are regularly carried up to the mountain peaks, where they are prayer to for rain. Others recognize the drought as a sign of the times and feel that the end of the world may be near. The drought has become a point of contact with some as we seek to bring the Gospel. Naturally, we hope that the rains continue.

As dependent local farmers are upon the Lord for rain and a harvest, so are we in regard to a spiritual harvest. It is encouraging to know that ultimately, it is the Lord's work and what He seeks is faithfulness rather than 'success.' At the same time, it does not make our work any less urgent. In fact, the 'success' we seek is that God be glorified in the salvation of the Achi.

Thank you for your prayers as we labour together with you to achieve this goal. With warmest Christian greetings.

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