EDITOR'S NOTE: Every year, each of the four main regions of TWR's global ministry holds a national partners conference. Regional and international leaders of TWR join representatives of the ministry's national partners for a few days to learn from one another, encourage one another and report on how the Lord is moving in their respective countries and around the world.
Mariette Oosterhoff, marketing and communications director for TWR's Latin America and the Caribbean Region, blogs this month from the region's 2019 national partners conference, held this year in South America. Check in regularly this week for engaging updates.
There she was. She looked like any normal 30-something woman on any normal day. What we could not see from the outside, however, was the fact that she was on release from prison for a few hours to attend our conference and share her testimony.
“Thirteen years ago, I wanted to commit suicide,” she began her story. “The women [in prison] rejected me because of the crime I had committed. My sentence was 22 years behind bars. I was lonely and full of repentance. I thought I had lost everything. One day, I received an invitation to join the Women of Hope group on Monday morning inside our prison. I started to come. We made crafts, I still have the first one I made. I heard the gospel, I started reading the Bible. All these things made me forget about suicide.”
She continued, “When Jesus asked Peter, ‘Do you love me?’ Peter answered, ‘Yes, Lord, what can I do to prove it?’ Then Jesus answered, ‘Take care of my sheep.’ This is what Women of Hope has done for us in prison. I have changed. At this moment, I live in a different place. I am still in custody but was able to come here today. Like me, there are hundreds of other women in our prison in Asuncion who also came [to the Women of Hope group] on Monday morning. The Women of Hope group prayed with them and gave them words of life and hope.”
More Than Donors, They’re Part of Our Ministry
But how do we find the necessary funds to cover the expenses involved in “taking care of the sheep”? This was also an important topic at the Latin America and Caribbean partners conference. Ministry representatives from many cultures and economies exchanged ideas.
Ricardo Kroskinsque of RTM* Brazil offered a valuable observation as he spoke of the ministry’s recent gathering of major donors. “A donor is not a bank,” Ricardo said, “but he or she is part of our ministry.”
A representative of Radio Cultural TGN, TWR’s national partner in Guatemala, shared that the ministry needed to raise US$400,000 within 30 days to buy a frequency in the Huehuetenango area of the Central American country. Radio Cultural is among the three biggest radio stations in Guatemala. About 4 million of the ministry’s listeners contribute to the station, mostly in small amounts.
Listeners rallied to the cause and helped raise the money for the new station. One listener called and said, “I will ride six hours on my horse to the closest bank to get my donation to you.” Another listener said this: “How can I not make an offering when my bank is just around the corner!”
Radio Cultural director Stephen Sywulka said, “We managed to raise the full amount [by the deadline]. This was one of the most stressful and exciting months of my life!”
A Quarter Century of Service
A couple of evenings ago, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of our host, RTM Paraguay. Everyone was in their finery, and the women’s hair was specially styled by ladies who participate in hairdressing workshops provided as part of Women of Hope outreach.
At the event, I met Ernst Weichselberger and Gisela Walde, who were instrumental in the founding of RTM Paraguay, along with many more people involved in ministry. It was a festive evening, framed by Paraguayan dance and music.
Highlighting the occasion, TWR President Lauren Libby addressed the celebrators. Many people were recognized for having played a role in this beautiful ministry. Having ERF Medien staff member Claudia Schmidt in attendance was especially meaningful since ERF, TWR’s national partner in Germany, played an essential role in establishing RTM Paraguay.
Please pray for these Latin American and Caribbean partners of TWR. Each ministry has its own concerns and challenges. Pray that the challenges will not limit them in their ministries and that God will enable them rise above every obstacle.
Also pray for safe travels in the coming days as we all return to our home countries. Pray that God will protect us and bring us safely to our families.
* RTM is the Spanish equivalent of TWR.
Photos: (top) TWR Latin America and the Caribbean National Partners Conference attendees pose for their group photo; (middle right) Claudia Schmidt of ERF, at right, visits with RTM Paraguay's first director Ernst Weichselberger and family; (bottom right) a participant in the Women of Hope hairdressing workshop helps a conference attendee prepare for the special event.