Wednesday, January 30, 2013

When True Hopelessness Meets True Hope

Would you travel like this for a total of 16 days to bring the Gospe| to your family?

Sometimes I don't even want to get out and go to church when 
it's raining outside, for goodness sake!

But these men right here? They're passionate. 

They're passionate about their Savior and they want everyone to know it. 

I think that they have a passion that most of us may never fully comprehend this side of Heaven. 
And I think it comes from the fact that they know true hopelessness

A hopelessness that greeted them every morning when they woke up as a child to the wails of another mother whose baby died of a disease that--unknown to them--is preventable with the proper treatment. 

A hopelessness that echoed throughout their village while the witchdoctor chanted loudly all night and smoke plumed up from another concoction of who-knows-what but they still had disease and the food was still scarce. 

A hopelessness that stared them in the face each time conflict arose with that neighboring tribe. 

But then they met Hope. And things changed.

They met Joy. And life has never been the same.

They met Peace. And they can sleep at night.

They met Grace. And they can't help smiling.

They met Mercy. And they will never, ever be the same.

After a change like that, how could they NOT go? 

No money. That's how.

The only thing that kept them from going sooner was funding. 

But that's where our awesome, faithful, generous, 
Christ-loving friends came in!

Thanks to donations, these men were able to travel to their village for the first time in months to share the Gospel for the first time in EVER. That's right. 
This was the first time that this village as a whole had heard the Truth. 

And it came from their OWN people, in their OWN language. 

That, my friends, is b.e.a.u.t.i.f.u.l. 

More on this story coming soon. Thanks for being a part of our team by giving and praying! 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Answer Was "Everything"

As she carefully climbed into the canoe, she felt the little baby squirming in her belly. It would not be long before she would meet this tiny person and everyone knew it. That is what prompted this last minute trip downriver to an unknown place filled with strangers.

All she brought with her were the clothes on her back, a few personal items, and a pet monkey--you know, the essentials. Gratefully, a few family members tagged along as well, otherwise it may have seemed like too much for her. After all she was practically a kid herself at sixteen years old.

Arriving at the |ndigenous Seminary site after a long day and a half on the river, she was met by staring eyes and whispers in languages she could not understand. They led her to the tiny room where she would sleep along with ten other people--and give birth to her first child.

When Richard met her, she had been there for a couple of days and it was very evident that she would be going into labor at any moment. He asked Lolo, one of the local pastors and a good friend, what her story was. Lolo explained that he had met her on his trip downriver to the Seminary just a few days prior. They lived just off the river, but far away from any medical facilities should something go wrong.  It made sense to bring her to the Seminary where they were closer to civilization, especially since this was her first baby. The family agreed and they made the journey, a little apprehensive since they would be the only ones from their tribe there.

As expected, just two days after Richard arrived, she went into labor. Initially the baby was breech so there was concern, but there was a midwife there who was able to turn the baby and the delivery went smoothly.

When Richard asked if there was anything she needed, the answer was, "Everything."

Let's take a moment to imagine what must have been going on in this girl's mind:

She is in a place she has never been with people she has never met surrounded by languages she does not speak about to give birth to a baby for the very first time in a small "box" of a room and she has absolutely nothing for this baby except some used towels that were cleaned in river water and dried by the sun. It is hot and humid. Bugs are biting. 

Personally, I cannot imagine what she was feeling. Some would say, "She is used to the heat and humidity and bugs and pain." I would argue, "They do not get used to it. They just learn to deal with it."

I had Raegan here in Brazil just a couple of months ago and I thought that was hard. 

I am a wimp, people. This girl is a beast! And she could be my little sister!

I digress...

After finding out her needs, Richard went to town and was able to purchase the basics: a blanket, diapers, wipes, vitamins, shampoo, and a few outfits. The total cost? About $120.

Most of us spend much more than that on baby clothing alone! This will likely be all that she has for a long time. In fact, she was reusing the disposable diapers by removing the cotton lining and using the outer plastic. I didn't even know that could be done....

This is just a glimpse into normal life for the |ndians. Two days later, this girl was down by the river washing clothes. There is no time to take it easy when you are basically surviving from one day to the next.

So what does this mean for us? How should this affect us as Believers? What can we do?

Those are the questions we asked and this is what we came up with:

We cannot take away the humidity and bugs. We cannot provide a comfortable, relaxing environment for all |ndians to give birth. We cannot insure that they will all have a midwife standing by in case something goes wrong.

But we can show as many as possible the love of Christ with our resources and prayers.

We are praying over starting a ministry for "Stork Baskets". These would be baskets filled with some of the "essentials" for a new baby and Mama:

-CLOTH diapers
-reusable wipes
-vitamins for Mama
-a small water purifier for Mama
-a snot-sucker (you know what I'm talking about... I don't know the technical name!)
-nail clippers
-etc., etc., etc.

The cost would be about $120.

Some of the items will be more practical to purchase in country, others could be donated.

The goal? 
Shower these women with the love of Christ by helping meet some of their basic needs.

This may not seem like a big deal to some, but for these women to see that complete and total strangers love them enough to give sacrificially on their behalf--it speaks VOLUMES. And what's more, it opens the door to sharing the motivation for our giving: the Love of Christ.

Will you pray over this with us? 
Will you share this with your Sunday School class and your Women's Ministry? 

Let's pretend these are our babies being born, and love them accordingly. 

"For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother's womb. I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well."
Psalm 139.13-14

Indian girl who gave birth to a precious baby girl at the Seminary. Her husband is to the right. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Again

Today I am joining Lisa-Jo and others for the 5 Minute Friday where we are given a word prompt and write for just 5 minutes simply for the joy of writing. No editing or backtracking necessary. No need to be perfect. Just words freely flowing from my heart.

Wasn't it just yesterday that we did this? It seems like it. But really it was almost five months ago that we stood in an airport and hugged through tears and "I love you's". Only now it's the reverse.

I'm the one staying here while my Mama leaves to go back to the place I called home for 25 years. 

And we do it again. 

We say good-bye again because this is where I live now. This is where I raise my family. I do it again because God has my heart here. 

We say good-bye because these Indians have to say good-bye again. Again to the babies that they gave birth to that die from preventable disease. Again to their dreams because they live in a vicious cycle of hopelessness.

So I choose to endure the hard because really this is joy. This is the joy that I have, to serve these people. 

And while it's hard sometimes when I feel overwhelmed (again) and I just want the old comforts (again) and I struggle with the same selfishness in my heart (again), I know that it's hard that makes me more like Christ. And when I am more like Christ, I can love these people better. And when I am more like Christ I can give them the same hope that I have--the hope that one day we will never have to say good-bye… again.

An Indian family says good-bye to their baby who died from dehydration. Oh, that they would never have to do this again!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Five Minute Frida: Cherished

Today I am joining Lisa-Jo and others for the 5 Minute Friday where we are given a word prompt and write for just 5 minutes simply for the joy of writing. No editing or backtracking necessary. No need to be perfect. Just words freely flowing from my heart to yours.

She must have been terrified as she pulled up to the bank in that canoe. The labor pains were already starting, but she had no way to communicate that aside from the groans. When she went into labor, she was only sixteen. Surrounded by Indians from another tribe, in a place she had never been, with people she had never met… and in the most vulnerable state she had ever been in.

And when that baby was born, through blood and tears and sweat and pain, it was cherished.

It was cherished by the same God who cherished my two babies who entered this world surrounded by those I love. 

We serve a God who cares about us so intimately and to think, imagine, He loves these people I serve with a holy love. These Indians He sent His Son to die for.

These Indians He cherishes.

And I pray that I can love them this way. That I can wake up each day and cherish them because God cherishes me. I am His daughter after all.

As she held that baby for the very first time, exhausted and overwhelmed, she must have felt it. That same feeling that God feels for her. I pray one day she will know it. One day she'll see that she is no less than those foreigners who snarl their noses at her. Who look down on her for her culture.

One day she'll know that she, too, is cherished.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Year, New Ministry Opportunities

It's amazing the changes that one year can bring!!

Many of you who have followed GCA's ministry over the last decade have seen God's hand diligently at work in Guayana, Guatemala, and Haiti through the ministry of aviation and humanitarian relief. You can read about some of the incredible things He has done over here on the GCA blog. 

In 2012, God connected our family (the Whittemores) with the Rice family to partner together to continue the efforts of GCA to reach the Nations with the Gospel!

Since many of you don't know us, we want to give you some background to introduce ourselves as well as get you caught up on the ministry that GCA is doing in the Amazon region. Hope you'll take a moment to catch up!

Our Story:
  • We grew up in Chattanooga, TN and felt called to missions at a very young age. All through our teenage years we traveled on mission trips with SCORE International as God continued to water the seed that He had planted in our hearts to serve on the foreign field.
  • After graduating from high school, we attended Word of Life Bible Institute in Argentina (2005-06) where God placed in our hearts the desire to reach the |ndigenous peoples of the Amazon. Returning back to the States, we completed degrees in Aviation Management (Richard) and English (Ashley).
  • We were married in 2007.
  • During this time Richard was engaged in aviation training. He spent several years flight instructing and is currently a commercial and multi-engine rated CFII (I don't know if I wrote that right!)
  • In February of 2012, he completed helicopter training with JAARS in Waxhaw, NC.
  • Our first child, Elliott, was born March 29, 2010.
  • In August of 2012, we sold everything back in the USA and moved to Brazil to have our second child, Raegan. She was born here on November 14. We are now in the process of applying for permanent residency here in Brazi|.

The Ministry:
  • Brazi| is home to the largest number of uncontacted people groups in the world. When we heard this statistic back in 2008, we had no doubt that's exactly where God would have us work. 
  • Our first trip to Brazi| was in April of 2009. Since that time, we have gone on several short term trips while raising financial support to move there full time. We have brought 5 teams, installed 3 water filtration systems, conducted medical clinics, built buildings, and taught in the Indigenous Seminary, all in an effort to serve the people of the region. 
  • Most of the locals are not keen on foreigners coming in, so much of our efforts over the last three years have been in an effort to build relationships and prove that we are there, not to exploit them, but to serve them. 
  • In January of last year, we were formally invited by the |ndigenous leadership to move to one of the vil|ages to serve and help disciple the people as well as become permanent teachers at the Seminary.  
  • We work closely with the |ndigenous Seminary which is run entirely by the Nationals. This Seminary runs each January and has grown to over 100 students from 4 different tribes. The Seminary is divided into four classes (First through Fourth Year). Many of the students travel for days by canoe just to participate. Many of the students hear the Gospel for the very first time during this time and while many of them cannot speak fluent Portuguese or Spanish (the languages the classes are taught in), the Holy Spirit works in such incredible ways that they leave changed!
  • While we do not have an active aviation program yet, the goal is to implement a helicopter program by January of 2014. We will be partnering with an Asas de Socorro missionary who is beginning an aviation program in the region. The helicopter will be used to provide medical evacuation in hard to reach areas in an effort to further build relationships among the tribes.
Current Status:
  • We currently live in Recife, Brazi| where our daughter was born. We plan to live here until our visa application process reaches a point at which we can move to the Amazon without impeding the process.
  • Richard is currently in the Amazon to teach for two weeks at the Seminary. 
We hope that you will stay connected with us as we move forward on this journey. We post frequent updates to Facebook and Twitter (@GCA_mission and @RichAshE_andR) as well as here on our blog. Feel free to browse some of the posts to get to know us better. 

We would love to hear from you! Write us on Facebook or e-mail us at 

God Bless!

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