Greetings to you from Bolivia!
To say that the last two weeks have been turbulent, would be an understatement. Wednesday June 2nd started like any ordinary day. I was happy to be working with Julio again, who is one of my best language helpers. He had been working away from the community for several weeks, but now was back and ready to start working again checking recently translated portions of the Old Testament. During a break, it was obvious there was something heavy on his heart, and he asked if he could share something with me and the other missionaries. Julio then began to share about what had happened while he was gone. The man who has been leading the church here for several years and is considered the spiritual father to most all the believers here in Taperillas (Pascual) came secretly on three different days to Julio's house to proposition Julio's wife. Come to find out this has been a re-occuring problem going back many years. Later that night together with some of the other leaders in the church, we confronted Pascual. He immediately got very angry and defensive, admitting that he had committed an "offense" but insisting that it was not "sin". We left very discouraged and unsettled about the whole situation. The next two days were like a dam bursting with other women in the community and the church coming forward with awful stories of situations involving them and Pascual. The man is nothing short of a predator..."a wolf in sheep's clothing." The culmination was Julio's brother, Pablino finding out from his wife that Pascual had forcibly assaulted her many times. Pablino then, in a fit of drunken rage, beat the daylights out of his wife for hiding it from him for so long. So there were a couple days where we were involved in doing all we could to protect Sofia from her husband until he settled down. Pablino has suspected for a long time Pascual has been wanting to be involved with his wife, but has been powerless to do anything about it as Pascual was unquestionably the leader both in the church and the community, with considerable power. As a result, he stopped serving the Lord and retreated into the bottle. When confronted with these new allegations, Pascual admitted they were true (as casually as you might admit to running a red light) but refused to confess it as sin, instead reverting to blaming others. The community, after finding out, held a meeting where they unanimously voted to expel Pascual and his family out of the community. The church in Camiri (that is the church that considers Pascual one of their workers) after hearing of the situation dispatched some of their elders here and after two days, Pascual finally broke down and confessed his deeds as sin. He has been put under church discipline by them...he may no longer teach or even pray in public. This man has caused incredible suffering for both his own family and the many families he has violated. As well, the church here in Taperillas has become an object of scorn to unbelievers. Unfortunately, this also seems to include Martin, who hasn't since returned to work with us. Please pray for him. For the believers, I can't quite describe just what they are going through, other that to say they are reeling. There has been alot of tears since this all came out, and right now no one is desiring to meet together to worship.
The lessons we have been learning have been numerous. Sin left to its own course is incredibly destructive. Having it finally exposed and rooted out is necessary and freeing, but tremendously painful and in this case causing many to fall. We are seeing alot of "collateral damage".
On the bright side, it has been encouraging to see the change in both Pablino and Julio. Their countenance is noticeably lighter and both Pablino and Sofia are wanting to get right with each other and with God. Today I worked some with Pablino and we had just an excellent time together in the Word. Everyone is hurting, but there is the spark of hope. Although the church is at an all time low right now, we are hopeful that the opportunity will come to begin again (probably once Pascual is gone) with them from the beginning, laying scriptural foundations in Simba...something they never have had. Pascual, for all the charisma he had, really had no concept of teaching foundationally and it has showed in both church life and lack of personal understanding of the Gospel. And it was he who was behind most of the problems we have had with the church this last several months. We are prayerfully optimistic that the Lord is wanting to begin a good work here and bring good out of the horror that has transpired.
Please pray for us and what is left of the church here. As well, please pray for our national co-worker Felix..Pascual is his father. He is really hurting...torn between loyalty to his father and the rightness of all that happened in exposing and dealing with his sin. He is taking an informal leave of absense for awhile. Please pray too for his mother Miguela (Pascual's wife), who is suffering greatly. She & Pascual must leave the community as soon as their harvest is in.
We pray that this finds you well and encouraged in the matchless grace of the Savior...the only thing we really have going for us when you think about it.
Love in Christ,
Bill, for us all