Shalom from Patagonia! Gloria al Dios for muchas oportunidades en America del sur!
Thank you for your continued prayers for Mindy and me as we continue to labor here in South America. The past four weeks have been busy and very fruitful. Multiple Hebrew-English New Testaments have gone out to various guests, Gospel tracts have been distributed to hikers along various trekking routes around San Carlos de Bariloche, and we have had opportunity to open-air preach to the public. Great Commission opportunities have been numerous, and we rejoice at how many guests have come through hearing the Gospel.
Israeli backpackers have steadily transited through The Shelter since the beginning of the year. Aviv and Yav. a young Jewish couple, stopped in on a Monday evening. They told us they had met in Southern Patagonia and had been traveling together. They heard about The Shelter from some friends and were curious. After enjoying a nice meal with the team, Yav and Aviv decided to stay for the remainder of the week. That same evening, I laid out the Gospel message to Aviv. As we washed dishes together, he asked about what kind of people we were. My response was simple: “This is a place that shows travelers the love of God through hospitality.” I then explained to him how our model of hospitality is modeled after the early Jewish churches in the Book of Acts. As the conversation continued, I was able to talk to about my faith in Yeshua, explaining that He is the Jewish Messiah that Israel has waited for who came to this world to liberate us, both Jews and Gentiles, from our sin. Aviv listened intently and asked some meaningful questions. I’m amazed by how God can take a simple scenario and turn it into an opportunity to share the Gospel. Later that week, at the setting of the sun and the start of the weekly Jewish sabbath, we hosted a Shabbat meal with a Bible study. Aviv later told me that the things shared during the Bible study reminded him of the conversation that we had earlier in the week, and we were able to continue our discussion. The next morning, Aviv received a New Testament as a parting gift. He was very grateful and promised to read it. Please pray for Aviv as he seeks Messiah in the Scriptures.
Mindy had an opportunity to share the Gospel with Yav, Aviv’s traveling partner, as they were walking down the streets of downtown Bariloche. Yav talked about how uncomfortable she felt around “religious Israelis.” She saw the bondage that comes with Rabbinic Judaism and wanted nothing to do with it. This gave Mindy an open door to talk about her own faith, a faith based not upon religious works, manmade traditions, or the opinions of religious hypocrites . . but a relationship with Yeshua, the Messiah. Yav listened, and a seed was planted. She, too, received a New Testament upon her departure from The Shelter.
I remember another encounter, in particular, that presented a unique challenge. A young Israeli named Shai stayed with us for a week. He was not very vocal about his beliefs and claimed “I’m not into religion.” One morning, he and another Israeli guy, Aron, had a question about “pastors” in America. They wanted to know if Christians rely on them in order to get to God. We quickly grabbed a piece of cardboard and proceeded to draw out God’s plan of salvation, illustrating how we do not rely on anything to get us to God apart from Yeshua the Messiah, God’s only-begotten Son.
Later that night, Shai took a New Testament. I saw him thumbing through it nonchalantly and sat down next to him. His questions were geared more toward understanding what the New Testament actually is. He didn’t know anything about the contents of “this Book.” I pulled a Bible off the shelf and then explained the various letters and books that make up the New Testament. We started with the four Gospels and went all the way to Revelation. I explained that the Gospels were Jewish eyewitness accounts of when Christ walked the earth. We covered the Book of Acts, testimonies and exploits of Jewish eyewitnesses who walked with Jesus, and the Epistles of Paul, a former Pharisee and religious rabbi who had a personal encounter with the Messiah after His resurrection. And then, we got to the Book of Revelation and it’s things to come. Overall, it was a different kind of encounter, but Shai was grateful and very intrigued. He heard truth that he had never heard before.
It is such an exciting thing to give a Hebrew New Testament to one of our Jewish guests. And, when they receive it with an open and grateful attitude, we rejoice all the more. Sadly, however, there are those who stay at The Shelter and ultimately reject God’s Word, despite the “no strings attached” love and hospitality they are shown. Notwithstanding, the Gospel of Messiah is ALWAYS communicated with all who come through the doors. I am reminded of an older Jewish man named Omar. He stayed with us for four days. Omar is the grandson of a “rabbi” and very hostile to Christianity. He stated that we could never “convert” him (In this, he was 100% right: we don’t convert people, nor have we the power to do so. We simply declare the truth. Only God and His Holy Spirit can convert the heart of man). As he prepared to leave The Shelter. I offered him a copy of the New Testament. He refused to take it, and no amount of pushing would have changed his mind. His abject rejection reminded me of the stern words of our Lord when he told His disciples: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6). Once the Gospel has been shared multiple times and the Holy Scriptures have been freely offered, the only thing left to do is shake the dust of rejection off our feet and WELCOME THE NEXT GUEST!
Last week, the guests at The Shelter were few. When this happens, it’s time to go out and find more people to invite back. Mindy and I hiked up to the amazing vista atop Cerro Companario Monday afternoon to distribute Gospel tracts, do a little open-air preaching, and meet Israelis to invite back to the guesthouse. Regrettably, we did not find any young Israeli travelers; however, there was a large tourist group of elderly Jewish folk enjoying the view. We seized the short opportunity as they all prepared to leave and offered Hebrew Gospel tracts. There must have been at least fifteen people in the group, and eight tracts went out. After these left, we preached a bit to the crowd that enjoying the scenery. Most people listened intently, and some Christians were very encouraged to see our boldness. I praise God for the opportunities that were given that day.
Later that same week, Mindy trekked out to Refugio Jakob with two other female volunteers. The girls were able to distribute Gospel tracts to the various hikers on the trail, most of them Argentines. While Mindy and the group stayed at the refugio, they spoke with a man from Buenos Aires. He only spoke Spanish but one of the volunteers who speaks Spanish was able to translate for Mindy. The man pointed out the Big Dipper to the girls and Mindy replied to this man that she knows the God who made the stars that they were gazing upon. Mindy told him that he too could know this same God as she offered him a tract. The man accepted it and was thankful for the gift. Although no one encountered returned back to stay at The Shelter, seeds were scattered about, and God’s Word never returns void. And, He brings about the increase.
Reflecting back, it’s amazing what has transpired since we arrived less than two months ago. So many opportunities have arisen to tell others, both Jew and Gentile, about the One “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7). Without Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah, and His sacrifice, we would have no reason to be here in Argentina. Without His blood, there is no good news to tell these travelers as they schlep along in South America. I hope the encounters shared here are an encouragement to all who read them. It is not our own strength that enables us to do these things, but it is God alone who strengthens us. As Paul writes in II Corinthians 3:5, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.”
Thank you for your continued prayer and support for Mindy and I as the work goes on here in Patagonia. Continue to pray for our guests here at The Shelter, not only for those who have stayed here, but also for those who will stay tomorrow, next week, and next month. And don’t forget, all this experience, we hope to duplicate in South Asia later this year, when the Israeli backpackers start showing up on that Hummus Trail.
We are excited that Jesse Boyd, FPGM President, and his family will be joining us down here on March 15th. We will rendezvous in Chile when Mindy and I have to make our visa run, and we will work together until they head north to reach the Israeli backpackers again in Huaraz, Peru and we head east for Ladakh and Kathmandu. There is a lot involved keeping two missionary families on the field, and your support is needed. Please pray about contributing to this work . . . “testifying to the Jewish people first, and also to the Gentile nations, repentance toward God, and faith in Jesus the Messiah (Acts 20:21).”
To the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob be all glory, honor, and power!
Eric & Mindy Trent, Colporters