An Open Heaven

In Monte Castillo 

Being here two full months you visit many villages and have the opportunity to see and do many things. It’s been an incredible blessing and certainly one I could of never earned, nor deserve.

Of course, I’ve been to San Pablo, La Legua, Los Polvorines, and so many more villages, but it seems to me as I look back it is Monte Castillo where I kept going back to.

I went for food delivery multiple times, I went to meet the farmers and walk the bean fields. I delivered a donkey to a home, I handed out jewelry and then of course there was the clean water project. There was also a fiesta, a dinner, and a late night cab ride to. And then there was me being mistaken for a professional photographer, not only by the real professional photographer, but Fr. Joe’s Family. Which is so funny to me! Each moment a true movement of God’s grace playing out in my life.

I wonder which moment changed and transformed me the most. Was it my little Valentino? Surely a moment where the kingdom of God broke in and Jesus was in the midst. And who knew buying and transporting a donkey could be so much fun. So many laughs in the back of the truck that day. But it wasn’t just these moments. There were so many more, and yet, it was in Monte Castillo where I saw God move the most. His majesty has suspended me in a place of awe, sheer awesomeness and wonder.

It’s some what strange now for me to look back, as I see things so differently than at the beginning of my trip. I realize each time I was invited to out to this village was by other missionaries. Going out to this village was never a part of my plan. Many days I thought of doing something else, but I went anyway. For one thing driving out to Monte Castillo is no easy task. The ride is long, dusty, hot, and bumpy no matter what vehicle your in.

Yet, I constantly heard Lisa, come join us. Lisa, you are welcome to come. Lisa, you go with Annie today. Lisa, you should just come. Come on Lisa just come…. Over and over again I heard these words. Then toward the end of my trip I thought I wouldn’t go back, but somehow it was water in the middle of the desert calling me back.

In the end it wasn’t anyone one moment, but a collection of moments in Monte Castillo that truly showed me something new. “Lisa, a baby died you must pray.” And then I often heard these words. “Lisa, you are a magnet for these kids. They just run to you.” “Lisa, you’re impressive, how is it you get them to listen and line up like you do.” “Lisa, you captivate them and keep their attention. What do you do?”

Well, for one thing it’s not my Spanish that captivates them – that’s for sure! For I’ve completely failed in that department. My apologies to all my Peruvian friends. In the end it’s not what I say at all, but what I try to do.

I always try to see them all, love them all, and touch them all, just as Jesus would do. I always try to touch each child’s head and say a quick blessing. Kids just want to been seen. They desire love just like we do, only I think their hearts are much more open than all of us adults. They’re like sponges, and we are often more like rocks.

After many trips to Monte Castillo I began to see something new. I offer to be the photographer for the morning. Me behind a camera, who knew. Initially, it was just to help out with the clean water project, mostly because I really I didn’t know what else to do. I could see it was difficult for them to be talking and taking photos at the same time. So I said, “Would you like me to take pictures for you.” “Would you?” I hear back. “Of course,” I say. Now I’ve been told I don’t take good pictures, but thought I could help anyway.

Everything looks different behind a new lens. It’s focused, clear, and somehow the gap of any distanced is shortened when you adjust the lens. I could see light and dark. The sun and the shadows. All shapes and sizes. So many smiles, but despair and loneliness too. Being the photographer definitely showed me something new. For there were many, dark faces that needed Christ’s light.

It was through the camera lens I saw this woman singing in the worship group at the Fiesta. I knew nothing about her life other than the darkness of her face that said, she needed Christ’s light. I heard God say “pray with her”. So I walked right up after the fiesta and gesture with a smile like a do, but for this first time things weren’t working out so well. She didn’t understand what I wanted to do. Then, suddenly I’m rescued “Lisa, do you need help?” Thank God I’m thinking.

“Yes please, can you translate. Tell her God wants me to pray with her.” And so I do. When she opens her eyes. She says, “How did you know? I needed that today?”

The translator tells her it was the “The Holy Spirit. It was God who knew.” She smiles with a few tears in her eyes and gives me the hug that always says “today that prayer was my saving grace”.

Once again, I find myself invited in to dine in a new way. This time for dinner in a home in Monte Castillo. Instantly, I’m panicked and ask “Are we going to get sick?” I hear back “Your gonna find out real soon, you must eat.” I completely understand the response and the why. And so with caution I begin to eat, because who wants to spend the next full day in the bano! Certainly, not me.

At some point I stop worrying because, let me tell you that was some good hen on my plate! I trusted God would work out the all details of any illiness, as I spent ten months praying this piece of scripture “they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” Mt 16-18. Turns out, I didn’t get sick just felt a little off a day or two. God is good and praying His word works. In fact, it has power people.

Once again, I find myself invited to go to Monte Castillo. The week before was the dropping of the corner stone and a blessing for water treatment building. So this particular day we are going to see how digging is progressing. Only, I’m not feeling called to a shovel, but to the water once again.

So I watch and listen through the lens of this fancy camera which I don’t own. It’s an experience of Jesus’s love I see that they really all need. For faith in Him is all they have out here, but with the high price of poverty something too for them is dying on the inside. I see as clear as night and day. It’s a touch of Jesus’s hand that says “I see you, I love you, I am with you.”

So I leave the lunch table and head on over to the kids I see. I sit down on the curb and before I know it the two or three is quickly multiplying. A small crowd of little girls are gathering around me. Immediately, I share the spanish I know and then say “no más”. No more, that’s it. They seem to understand.

One of the same girls is present from the other day. She gestures to the miraculous medal bracelet she’s wearing, it’s my bracelet I gave here the last time I was there.

So once again I begin to teach them the Hail Mary in English, that’s what that tell me to do. I quickly reminder from the other day how easy is to get tripped up again and again. As I recite, I have to stop, start, and slow down often, as they are not able to repeat certain words.

We complete one full decade and now I’m thinking what should I do next. Pray over them I hear the Lord say. I begin to model what I want them to do one by one. Demonstrating one girl to sit next to me, open their hands and lay them on their lap, take a deep breath, close their eyes, and just relax.

Some how only God knows, but this works amazingly well with what little Spanish I know and what little English they know. I saw unbelievable grace. I’m still in awe today. So one by one I pray. It’s when they open their eyes that I know they were touch by the hand of God. They smile, they laugh and breathe deeply. Some fight back a tear or too. I wasn’t sure what God was gonna do, but now I know He’s doing something very powerful this afternoon.

I watch one little girl literally transform and transfigure before my eyes. She goes from looking terribly sad to smiling with joy. I now see peace in her eyes. I remember to tell each one “Jesus te ama, mucho, mucho, mucho!” They all smile in delight.

Slowly the crowd around is growing. Some are now are running to grab and tell a friend. Then I see the most amazing thing happen. There were several girls who received left over cake from our lunch and they wouldn’t share. I gestured to one of the girls who received prayer to share and at first she hesitates, but I smile and encourage and suddenly she’s willingly to do so. I see the most incredible thing. She gives each girl with no cake a forkful. When she’s done there was basically nothing left for herself. That’s all grace.

I’m in such awe, I have no words. For I know I’m witnessing amazing grace in this place. They are laughing and smiling. Theses girls who didn’t seemed to all be friends are now friends as they shared a similar experience of God’s love.

Lunch wraps up and we must go. So I give hugs and say my goodbyes. For I know it might be some time before I see them again, if ever again.

We all walk back to the water treatment site and the digging commences. I take a few photos, as the workers have made quite bit of progress. I put the camera away as I hear God say, “Pray with that little one.” He’s sort of wondering around by himself. He’s dirty, lonely, and looking very sad. His nose is running and he has no shoes on. He’s just kicking whats ever in the sand with his little toes. I don’t know why, but he’s not smiling or playing with the other boys I see hanging around.

Clean Water Project by Vera Aqua Vera Vita see link at bottom of page.

So once again through some poor Spanish, some good modeling skills, the the rescue of another boy, and the grace of God these two boys figure out what I want to do. By this time I have two or three other boys around me now.

So I begin to pray with this little one. Once again, I witness the transfiguration before my eyes. Suddenly, he starts touching his belly and tickling it. He then falls to the ground and is smiling and laughing very loud. I ask him, “caliente (hot)?” No, he shakes his head. “Paz (peace)”. No, he shakes his head, but yet he can’t stop smiling, laughing, and touching his belly. All the other boys are wondering what’s going on, but also tapping me to be next.

I know God is doing something amazing in this moment. By now I have about ten or twelve boys gathered around watching him. Then I say “electricidad (electricity). He responds “si, si, mucho” and continues to laugh.

Now, I’m laughing out loud. I can barely control myself from smiling, as this was an unbelievable site see. By far the cutest thing I’ve ever seen in the sand in Peru! When he finally stops laughing. He has a smile on his face. He looks like a totally different boy. I touch my finger to his heart and I say, “Jesus te ama” and I see the hugest smile on his face. And I just hug him.

By now all the boys want prayer. Even though the small group is slowly growing they all remain peaceful and respectful of one another and me. By God’s grace I think each one knew they would have a turn. So I pray. No, other boy has the reaction the first little boy did, and that’s totally ok. Besides the Spirit blows where the Spirit blows scripture tells us so.

So the boys wait, and patiently I pray over each one. Overall, I see many smiles, and then watch one boy catch a tear before no other boys can see him. Yet, I know God touched something deep in is heart. Some of the boys run to grab other friends to come.

When I’m finished, the first little boy comes up to me and gestures putting his hand on his head and says, “dos” (two). He’s still smiling and I can’t resist so I oblige and pray with him once again. He just can’t stop smiling and giggles again. When I’m done with the group, I tell them all “Jesus te ama.” In a masculine wave with their finger pointing to the sky, they all respond loudly “si, si.”

Then something I didn’t expect happens. One boy gestures to another boy to pray. Suddenly, these boys are lining up and one is praying over the rest and modeling me. It was quite impressive and so important to see. I was glad they understood prayer is not just for the Padre or another adult. One is never to little to pray. I encourage them, smile, and give them a thumbs up.

In the end I don’t know what they see, but I know it’s not what I do at all. For it’s one who dwells in me that they all see, it’s the living water inside of me. The person of Jesus Christ. His light, His love, and for me mostly certainly His joy.

When the day comes to an end. I know without a doubt I stood on a mountain top and witnessed my own burning bush. It was an encounter with God like I’ve never seen before. So powerful. So powerful. So very powerful. So very personal. I wanted to keep it all for myself. Yet, I know that is not our faith and so here I am writing this for all of you. And trust me, I know this is stretching some of you. I’m so cool with that.

We sometimes forget we live and breathe under an open heaven and that includes me. In scripture we read “At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.” Mark 1:9-10. As you continue to read on in Mark, no where does it say heaven closed up. No place. Heaven is open to us all.

When Jesus was baptized by John, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. It is then Jesus begins His ministry and lives a supernatural life. That same open heaven and supernatural life is available to all. Each and every one of us, not just me.

When the guys from the water project invited me. I guess I too was like the woman at the well. It was in the middle of the day and I had no idea I’d see Jesus that day. Trust me, I too left my bucket in at the Monte Castillo well. And just like the woman at the well I’m telling everyone I see! Some how His smile, His light, and His touch comes through me. It’s all Jesus not me. It’s all grace.

Water is beyond symbolic in the spiritual life. I could write a whole post on water, baptism etc. However, I came to an understanding and witnessed that day that even clean water can’t sustain and quench ones life and soul. It’s always Jesus who fills our soul. It’s His life in the supernatural drink of the Holy Spirit that springs living water for life.

Does the well you drink from give you life or something else? For there’s only one well that gives ever lasting life. That includes both this life and the next. That’s life in a intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.

For information on the clean water project in the village of Monte Castillo or to donate go to Vera Aqua Vera Vita’s website or Facebook page. https://veraaquaveravita.org/#slogan-section

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