It seems like much of 2020 was spent trying to return to Paraguay. In February, I entered Paraguay, planning to start the ALMA missionary training school at the new campus outside of Asuncion. Katana Baya, one of our main leaders in Africa, arrived from Kenya to help shape and direct the new school.
Anthony and Cindy Holland also came to teach the first two weeks in the new school. Anthony and Cindy are an American missionary couple who have invested their lives in different nations worldwide, teaching a course on Christianity's foundational teachings. They teach their course in such a way that those who pass through their class are also able to teach the course to others. Students also started arriving from different parts of Paraguay.
I wanted to visit a few ministries in Brazil who had offered to send students to our new school. So, as Katana and the team were preparing to start the school, I decided to visit Brazil for three days. When I came to the "Friendship Bridge" that separates Paraguay from Brazil, the bridge seemed deserted. Nobody was crossing. I went ahead and walked over the bridge and entered Brazil.
I may have been the last person to cross the bridge that month. After meeting people in different parts of Brazil, I came back to the border and found that it was closed entirely because of COVID-19.
And so I was stuck in Brazil for three months. Flights were canceled. I couldn't enter Paraguay, and I couldn't leave Brazil. I spent my time praying, studying, and writing. I finished a book on spiritual warfare, "Open Heavens- a Biblical guide to high-level spiritual warfare."
Finally, after three months in Brazil, I was able to return to Belgium and my family. After a month in Belgium, I traveled again to the U.S., Kenya, Mexico, and back to the U.S. Finally, in November, I was able to enter Paraguay once again.
When I finally arrived back in Paraguay, I wasn't sure what I would find. Only four students were able to attend the school because of the COVID Crisis. Katana was still in Paraguay because the airlines canceled all his flights. Anthony and Cindy had remained in Paraguay for six months, after which they finally found a way to return to the USA.
I was very blessed to find the school in good condition and the people in good spirits. The students used their time well. Every morning, they were up at 5 am, spending an hour or two in prayer. Every day, they went on evangelistic outreaches in the community. They were very attached to one another and the vision of the school. A real team had formed during the times of COVID 19.
I taught in Paraguay for one month, and then we released the students for their winter break. I spent a lot of time meeting with Katana and Robert and Cynthia Gomez, Paraguayan leaders in our school. Together we prayed and planned for the future.
We began taking the entire school around to different churches, presenting the school's vision, and recruiting new students for the upcoming 2021 school year. It was a great time. Finally, we released the four students, though they plan to return to take the classes they missed during the 2020 year.
I really saw God's hand on the trip. I saw the team come together, and the new school started on a solid foundation. I saw God give us many connections throughout Paraguay.
Two years ago, I was with Katana in the Chaco, the northern part of Paraguay. This is where the German-speaking Mennonite colonies are located. One day Katana insisted that we go to one of these Mennonite towns and worship on the streets.
And so we went and worshiped on the streets for two hours. We prayed for the town and the vision. One couple came up and spoke with us while we were worshiping, but otherwise, we didn't meet many people.
In December, a meeting was arranged for us in the same town to share our vision. We met in a man's house who called together several other people to meet with us. After talking for a few minutes, the man said, "I think I met you before…" It turned out to be the same man that we had met on the streets a year earlier.
And so a connection was made, and a meeting was planned with the German-speaking Mennonites of the area. I believe the connection with these Mennonites will be important for the school's future as we make plans to send missionaries into different parts of the world.
On every trip, in every place, I saw God's hand this year. It was a good and blessed year. I believe 2021 will be even better!
Anthony and Cindy Holland, ALMA teachers and leaders of REAP International Ministry.
A widow living by a brook in Paraguay daily looked out over a picturesque 30-acre campus. She and her departed husband Richard Gwinn had built this campus as a missionary training center and called it ALMA (America Latina Misiones Al-Mundo; translated as Latin American Missions to the World)
In July 2013, I was somewhat frantically making plans to start the first class of Ukunda Missions School in Kenya. It seemed like there were so many missing pieces, so many things needed to come together before we could start the school at the end of August.
This week at ALMA, our students started their second Altar Week of the year. This entire week is given to prayer and fasting, from morning to night. Students ask God to give them clear directions for the future; they ask him to deal with any issues in their lives which He wants to burn away because those issues are keeping them from fulfilling His purposes for them.