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Mission of the Heart Column

Mission of the Heart Column

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Published by Steve Buttry
This is a Des Moines Register column I wrote following publication of a 2000 series about a mission trip to Venezuela following the December 1999 mudslides.
This is a Des Moines Register column I wrote following publication of a 2000 series about a mission trip to Venezuela following the December 1999 mudslides.

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Published by: Steve Buttry on Jan 15, 2010
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01/15/2010

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This column followed the “Mission of the Heart” series.
Copyright 2000 Des Moines Register Reprinted with permissionMarch 25, 2000 SaturdaySECTION: METRO IOWA; Buttry Stephen; Pg. 6BHEADLINE:
Mission to Venezuela changed many lives
By Stephen ButtryRegister Religion Writer El Pauji, Venezuela -Only a miracle could have brought Yvonna Stephenson toVenezuela. She's sure of that. Stephenson felt called to join the mission from First Assembly of God in DesMoines, but she could not afford the $1,200 needed up front for each member of amission team. She could not afford even the lesser amounts for her passport,shots and spending money. "I flat out didn't have any cash to put into this trip whatsoever," sherecalled, riding a van through the Venezuelan countryside. Stephenson was among 60 Iowa missionaries who ministered to hundreds of Venezuelans for a week in February. The missionaries and their hosts in Venezuela were wonderfully hospitable toDes Moines Register photographer Gary Fandel and me. We accompanied them andproduced a four-part series that was published earlier this week. Our "Missionof the Heart" series told the collective stories of the group's work in theaftermath of December's disaster. Today I'll add some personal stories: 
Yvonna Stephenson
 After hearing about the needs in El Pauji at First Assembly's missionsconvention last October, Stephenson was sure she should go. She just didn't knowhow that would be possible. Friends solved one problem almost immediately by saying they would watch her 8-year-old son. Other friends paid for her travel and other expenses. When she received the first few checks, "I cried. I have never been sotouched in my life," she said. "I know that I was supposed to go on this missiontrip." 
Juan Madriz
 Juan Madriz, a former drug dealer who lost a leg in a gun battle, now runs
 
Impacto de Dios (Impact of God) drug rehabilitation center. At evening devotionsduring the Iowans' visit to El Pauji, he told about his escape from disaster. The rising water trapped Madriz and the patients at his center on a rooftop,joined by people from nearby buildings. Madriz prayed, "My God, don't let medie." He said God told him, "Don't worry about yourself. Worry about those thatdon't know me." He told the crowd on the rooftop, "The only way that we'll be saved in thisplace is that everybody accept Christ as savior." The people fell on their kneesand prayed for salvation, from their sins and from the cataclysm. Soon huge tree trunks and other objects got snagged immediately upstream,making a wall that diverted the flow around the building. The crowd on therooftop raised their hands and praised God, Madriz said. 
John Palmer
 The Rev. John Palmer, pastor of First Assembly of God, accompanied one of hiscongregation's mission trips for the first time. He had preached overseas beforeand done mission work privately with his wife, Debbie, but never with a teamfrom the church. The mission team's puppet shows brought back memories for Palmer, who startedhis first church in Athens, Ohio, 25 years ago by holding puppet shows andgiving out coupons for free hamburgers. "That's how we started a church," Palmer said. "We started with children." This Sunday the church will celebrate two anniversaries: Palmer's 15th aspastor in Des Moines and 25 years of marriage for the couple. The celebrationwill include a 10 a.m. roast of Palmer between the two morning worship servicesand a 6 p.m. service followed by a reception. 
Lenin Jose Romero
 The Iowans were amazed by Lenin Jose Romero, known locally as Neco, or Cripple. He was born with deformed legs that in adulthood are barely bigger around than the handle of a shovel. The visitors regarded him first with pity,then with awe. Often sitting on the ground while he worked, Neco pitched in with theAmerican work crews, digging dirt and mixing cement. He felt possessive of the4-year-old Fuente de Vida School, where a niece is a student. "I started openingthe holes for the foundation," he explained through an interpreter. "I helpedput up the columns. I helped mix the cement."

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