My family and I just spent a little over 2 months in Bariloche, Argentina working with Eric & Mindy Trent to reach Israeli backpackers who typically frequent the area from January to April. Things did not go as we had anticipated, and there were some unforeseen trials. At one point, we simply couldn't wait to move north to Peru.
Over the years, I have crossed paths with a few ministries that have tried to reach Israeli backpackers in both South Asia and South America. Some start out real solid with the Gospel as THE priority, good work is done, and we have supported the efforts. But, then someone gets the bright idea to make the strategy more complicated (e.g. let's DO the Gospel instead of preach it, whatever that means), and before you know it, the Gospel is only A priority. Apart from acknowledgement of this Ephesus problem (cf. Revelation 2:1-7) and repentance, the end will not be pretty. I saw such an end in Manali, India once where I had heard about a "good ministry" built upon a coffee shop platform. I popped into the place a few years ago, and the Gospel was nowhere to be found, NOWHERE. The atmosphere was so worldly and the ridiculous music so loud that I fled into the night. Everything was social justice garbage and NOTHING of the Messiah. It was discouraging.
While down in Argentina, I began asking myself if THE priority was becoming A priority and whether or not I could even recognize the entropy. There simply weren't the encounters I had expected, and confidences in the platforms we had purposed to use were shaken. It was discouraging. But then, great encouragement from the Lord came in the form of an accusation, an insult. A guy says to me: "You know what your problem is, you can't be around someone for five minutes without sharing the Gospel. We don't have to always be sharing the Gospel because we do the Gospel." Perhaps I should have been insulted, but I wasn't. You see, I had been wrestling with the Lord over whether I had been faithful in the encounters He had given me down in Argentina to faithfully share the Gospel. Obviously, something had been done right, for to be accused by those who claim to "do the Gospel" of sharing the Gospel too much really is an accolade.
My friends, anytime you hear talk about “doing the Gospel” in the context of criticizing those who preach it, watch out! When a mouth speaks such things, the heart leaks dark things. This, my friends, IS the Gospel:
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again ithe third day according to the scriptures (I Corinthians 15:1-4).
There is only One who has DONE the Gospel, and it is He who commands us to PREACH IT. Let’s be faithful to do so. I feared I had failed down in Argentina. A guy’s accusation spoke otherwise, and to God be the glory.
Argentina was thorny, but the Word of God did go out to both Jew and Gentile.
An Israeli girl, was asked about her fondest memory from that past week. In front of a bunch of people, she declared: “What was most special to me was meeting the Boyd Family and hearing things about the Bible I had never heard before.” She left with a New Testament.
One really tall guy just got out of the IDF, came through Bariloche once and heard the Gospel and then again a second time. He tracked us down knowing we were Christians. In the end, he left with a New Testament and later wrote: “You are one of the most interesting people I have ever met, pleasure hanging out with you!”
Two businessmen from Israel attended a friend’s wedding in Buenos Aires and flew out to Bariloche for a few days of hiking. They were stranded at a trailhead at the end of the day trying to thumb a ride. A brother picked them up and invited them to a Passover Seder the next evening. They showed up and heard the Gospel. Both took Hebrew-Spanish Tanakhs and were very grateful.
One night, Eric and I cooked a big spaghetti dinner for eighteen people. There was also plenty of shakshuka. I recall stirring the sauce with an open Tanakh on the counter declaring aloud how Messiah was God and how He would be pierced (Zechariah 12). Some of the Israelis standing by listened and asked good questions. They all took Hebrew Trekker Tracts and were very grateful for the hospitality.
Once, Jamie sat at a table with a young man from the north of Israel, and she spoke with him for what seemed like hours. He left with the New Testament . . . I really could go on and on.
This past Friday night, an encounter from two months ago and 3,500 miles south bore fruit. Eric and I had spent time with a young man who initially seemed hostile to anything concerning the New Testament or Jesus Christ. I noticed him mocking during prayer over a meal, like Ishamel at Isaac's weaning (Genesis 21). But, after we took him hiking up to the top of Cerro Campanario, he warmed up. His words went from "I cannot attend a Messianic Passover seder," to "Maybe I will come to that Messianic seder and see what it is all about." He showed up and clearly heard the Gospel, took a New Testament, and asked many questions. A few days later, he moved north, and it was discouraging to find that he had left the New Testament under his pillow. In the weeks that followed, I messaged the guy a few times and told him we would be up in Huaraz, Peru for a couple of months and to look me up if he ended up through town. I doubted anything would come of it and was content to close the book on Argentina when we finally bused over to Chile and moved north ourselves through Santiago and on to Lima.
Yesterday was weird. The Trents and Bishnu really needed to rest and acclimatize after bussing up from sea level the day before. My family and I were exhausted from a 5,100 ft. climb up to a lake a 15,000 ft. the day before. None of us expected much out of the day and decided to just putz around town and shop ingredients for a big Nepali meal. While the ladies were at the supermarket, they heard some folks speaking Hebrew and at Bethany's behest chased them down. They took some tracts and received this handmade dinner invitation I had made in Hebrew for Israeli backpackers. We had already posted a few around town and wondered if my poor Hebrew made any sense or if anyone would ever respond.
Completely out of the blue at 4:00pm, I get a message from the young man who had left his New Testament under the pillow down in Argentina weeks and weeks ago.
Hey Jesse. How are you? I arrived in Huaraz some days ago and just got off the incredible Huayhuash Trek. I guess I have a few days here before I leave to my next destination, so we can meet!
Excited and a bit taken aback, I invited him to come eat Nepali food at our apartment and informed that Eric would meet him in the main plaza around 7:00pm. So, we shopped to cook for 6 adults and 3 kids. Around 6:00pm, the rice cooker stopped working, so I ran out to search for one. On my way back, the guy we had met in Argentina messaged again and asked if he could bring a friend. And immediately thereafter, I got a message from the people who got the dinner invitation earlier in the day. I guess the Hebrew did make sense. They wanted to come. So instead of meeting one young man in the plaza, Eric met four . . . but we simply didn't have enough food and the cooking gas ran out with pots literally simmering on the stove!
Needless to say, there was a lot of last-minute prayer for the Lord to multiply the food as He did the loaves and small fishes and to help us solve the propane problem. He answered the latter almost immediately through the help of a downstairs neighbor. Within 15 minutes, a guy was outside the gate with a full tank on the back of his motorcycle. He came upstairs, changed it out, and collected approximately 11 dollars. Wow, that was easy! A few minutes later, Eric came back with four hungry Israelis, including the guy who had left the New Testament under his pillow about 3,500 miles south.
It proved a glorious night! The Gospel was clearly proclaimed over challah bread and Nepali daal bhat. Moreover, these children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were astounded to hear from a Nepali born into Hinduism things concerning their God and their Messiah. We didn’t have to disguise or beat around the bush about anything, and within five minutes of arrival, the conversation went to Messiah. One of the four had gotten into trouble as a youth and had spent some time in an Israeli jail. He was fed up with the rabbis and all the mitzvot, religious tradition, and religious hypocrisy. Dumbfounded that he had met a group of Gentiles in Huaraz who loved and supported Israel, he asked how he could have forgiveness and how to know Messiah. We talked for what seemed like hours, and the conversation even to the rooftop under a blanket of stars while he smoked a cigarette. At the end of the night and though his friend politely refused, he gladly accepted a Tanakh and a Hebrew-English New Testament. Later, I got a message from him that read: "Thank you, I had a wonderful experience. I will read the Bible."
All the while, our friend we first met in Argentina sat at the table with Bishnu and Eric. He asked question after question after question, and I was amazed to watch the three of them flipping back and forth between the Old and New Testaments. The hour was late when he and his traveling partner finally left, and he was so glad to get that New Testament back. His friend received one too.
Oh, I almost forgot. Everyone was stuffed, and we put up enough leftovers for lunch the next day. What a great way to begin the season here in Huaraz!
I couldn't wait to get out of Argentina and get up here, but now I miss that place and can actually praise God for the trials. You see, without those hard times, I don't believe Eric and Mindy or Bishnu would even be here, and I really don't believe last night would have even trans. Viva Argentina!