What does it look like to stand firm? These past few days, I’ve traveled by motorcycle to different communities visiting agricultural and ministry projects with Samaritan’s Purse Bolivia. Some rides were 30 minutes; others were 1.5 hours. My jelly legs have no comprehension of the word firm.
I learned more about what it means this week while traveling with Eidel, a wonderful worker on our agriculture team, to analyzing the corn crops of various beneficiaries.
“Keri, let’s go visit a friend!” Eidel yelled as he started up the motorcycle.
We rode down the beautiful mountain to visit Pastor Johnny Gomez. As we walked toward his home, his chickens greeted us, or rather squawked at us, daring the foreign faces to rob them of the precious corn on the ground. Pastor Johnny welcomed me with a smile, which can be hard to find in the timid faces of Chuma people. His wife took my hand and thanked me for visiting.
“Can we see your corn?” I asked.
His wife gracefully led me down the steep hills to their plot of farmland. My eyes tried to take in all the mountain beauty as my head tried to calculate the time it must take to trek down. I watched as Pastor Johnny carefully stepped across the plots, showing me his crops growing in the dark soil.
While I know little about corn, Eidel seemed to be satisfied with the growth and the appearance of the plants. As Eidel explained some of the challenges farmers face, I curiously watched Pastor Johnny as he walked across his land. He seemed to be in a deep state of concentration as he walked among the colors of yellow and green. Suddenly, he broke three pieces of corn off the stalks and laid them in my hands.
“For you,” he said.
I was overwhelmed by the generosity and had no idea how to explain my gratitude. I managed to whisper thank you before asking him more questions about his life in Chuma.
I learned about his life as a pastor, farmer, husband, father, and carpenter. He laughed as his children played with the chickens and he told me about his church.
I asked him about his joys and challenges in the region. He told me about the difficulties of ministering to other communities—sometimes between two and three hours away and all by foot.
“It’s not easy,” he said. “But God is faithful.”
His words rang in my ears as we traveled to see his church. I watched him care for his flock with a similar patience and intention that I saw earlier that day when he walked in his fields. After the service, I spoke to another pastor who was eager to tell me more about Johnny.
“Keri, I wish I could explain all the work the Lord has done,” he said. “That man has great faithfulness.”
He told me stories of Johnny’s growth as an individual, his eagerness to participate in seminary classes with Samaritan’s Purse, and his fortitude in all aspects of life.
“He once was a timid man,” he said. “He received training with Samaritan’s Purse, and he now preaches with authority in his church of 50 members. He even ministers to other communities.”
With every story, it became clear that Pastor Johnny is a light in the town of Chuma.
A sweet smelling aroma interrupted the wonderful stories. I turned and saw Pastor Johnny and his family bringing plates out of a back room. They served the food to every person in the church.
I later learned that Pastor Johnny and his wife collect the small amount of food grown from their land and share that food with their church every month. As I smelled the sweet corn on my plate, I thought about the enormous generosity I had witnessed that day.
Pastor Johnny’s life is not easy. I have seen some of the challenges that lie in Chuma, and I’m sure there is much more my eyes do not see. However, in the midst of the challenges, there is a man who is standing firm in his faith.
My legs are often wobbly in life’s difficulties, but I hope I will always be able to always cry out Johnny’s words: “It’s not easy, but God is faithful.”