When working in a country where severe poverty is a daily reality for so many, the church often confronts serious needs among the members. In most cases, a love offering and a love basket (a week’s worth of groceries) are given and the church has helped meet that need. When it is a more serious health crisis, several offerings are often collected to help. Individual Christians will also step in when they can. Where the need surpasses the capacity of the local church, we attempt to help through our benevolent fund. In this way we partner with the local church to meet the social needs of the new Christian community.
In most cases, the issues are resolved rather quickly, as the person has his or her surgery, or recovers in a matter of days or weeks. This specific ministry has been a critical component of our overall outreach and evangelistic efforts over the years at it has demonstrated in a practical way the Christian love we feel for our family in Christ. In this ministry we always work with and through the local church so as to prevent creating a dependency among the recipients. The goal is always to help the person and the family and then move them towards self-sufficiency and then on to being able to contribute to help others as they were helped at one point.
Recently we have encountered a situation that has broken all of those models and we have struggled to know how to respond. Noelly and her family have been one of those long-term families of hard workers and faithful members of the church. Noelly and her daughters have been our cooks for work crews and camp events for some time. All of the children have studied or are currently studying at Colegio Peniel (the Christian Day School). The grandfather was one of the founders of Biblical christianity in Colombia during the darkest days of persecution. They seemed blessed in so many ways and we have been blessed to have them as members of the local church.
About three years ago, the father (Noelly’s husband) started to miss church and before long had devolved into drunkenness a became abusive with his family. As he spent more and more of his money on his vices, he began to abandon his family financially and socially was well. Before long, he appeared at the house only occasionally to get clean clothes and beat his wife and children in one of his drunken rages. We helped her start a tamal business to support herself and family. That was going well, until she started to develop a significant problem with fatigue and found it difficult to lift and do the hard work required of the business she had started.
Since they did not have health insurance, they put off visiting a physician and simply asked for prayer in the church. But then her fatigue devolved into a creeping paralysis and feeling the panic of the situation, she went in for tests. She has since become nearly totally paralyzed, needing help to dress herself, bathe, and even eat. Her diagnosis has been everything from lupus to scleroderma. With treatment and therapy, she can regain a significant degree of independence and has even helped again with cooking at several camps and work crews. In the photo above Noelly (the lady on the left) was cooking for the Bethlehem work crew. But, without the constant medication and therapy, she soon loses mobility and is again confined to bed and needing constant care.
The church has helped as much as they can and we have done the same. But the cost of long term care has surpassed our benevolent fund income and the ability of the local church as well. That leaves us with the choice of attempting to do more, or simply watching her atrophy and die, leaving behind four children between the ages of 6 and 20. At this point we turn to you and ask two special favors: if you can help with love offerings for our benevolent fund, please do so to help Noelly, and other possible cases such as hers, and even more critically, please place Noelly on your prayer list. The greatest blessing for her and the church would be for the Lord to heal her and restore her to her family. In these two ways we can partner together in a ministry of love and concern and so demonstrate to the world that we are one in Christ!