Sunday, October 10, 2010

Up the river along with pirates

October 4, 2010:

Because yesterday everyone was electing Ucayali’s president, we were unable to by meds and get our transportation for today. So today we will continue to pack and wait. I ended up getting the best birthday surprise ever! We had tostadas, cake, piƱata, and dancing. It was such a blast! They even decorated the place. We then had to pack the meds. We didn’t get to bed till 2 AM.

October 9, 2010:

I still can’t believe what happened to us…

Yesterday (October 8, 2010), about noon, we loaded our stuff into the boats and headed out towards home. Hanna, Rachel, Laura, Doc, Shirley, and I were in one boat. The rest of the gang was in the other boat. We were exhausted from the jungle beating (mostly the bites from the insects) yet excited to be going home. All was going smoothly and we had been traveling for about three hours. All of a sudden I heard a big bang! I was sitting in the very front with Hanna right next to me. Rachel was sitting in front of us, near the bow of the boat. When I looked to my left I saw a small metal, grey boat. In this boat I saw four men and one of them was jumping on our boat. The two men I got a good look at had double barrel shot guns. At this point Rachel had jumped towards Hanna and I. With her head down, she grasped onto our legs tightly and began to shake in fear. The one on the boat, who I assume was the leader, began to scream demands at our driver. He demanded that the boat get moved to the shore. He also stared to yell, “No me miren!” (Don’t look at me) At his command I closed my eyes and put my head down. As he continued to yell at us, I held on tightly to Hanna and Rachel, while telling them to close their eyes.

With his gun pointed in our direction, he started asking for money and anything valuable. Afraid to be shot, I kept my eyes closed and raised my arms over my head. I let him feel in my pockets. Of course he found nothing. He searched the other girls and then asked for cell phones. I knew I didn’t have any so I didn’t say anything. Hanna kept telling him, “No tengo nada, no tengo nada!” (I don’t have anything). As he was searching us, there was another guy towards the back of the boat going through our bags and asking for the Doc and Shirley’s money. Everyone forked over what they had.

The guy with the painted face, the head honcho, started to yell questions, like: Where are you coming from? What are you doing here? Do you have guards? Where is the other boat? Are there soldiers on the other boat? I never spoke a word and neither did anyone else except the Doc and his wife (Shirley). Shirley, at this point, was in tears and pleading for our lives. The painted guy would get mad at her and tell her to shut up. He would tell her that they weren’t going to do anything to us.

This whole time, I’m praying HARD. I’m praying for courage, strength, and most of all for our lives. I was telling God that my life was completely surrendered to Him. If it was God’s will for me to go, I would be ok with it. But I would prefer to stay alive and safe. I prayed this for everyone in the boat. As soon as I prayed for strength, I had this powerful feeling come over my body. It’s so hard to put in words, but my heart rate slow downed and I felt calm. “At times God may not calm the storm, but He will calm His child.” I strongly believe in this quote. When I would get a chance I would whisper to Rachel and Hanna, “Be strong, God is with us.” Not one moment did I let go of their hands.

Towards the end I heard one of the guys say, “Come on, lets go.” His voice sounded a little worried. Laura, in the back, saw the guys quickly grab Rachel’s, Hanna’s, and my bag and toss them in their boat. All that I had was in my back pack. Clothes, Bible, journal, water filter, bedding, and more. They were even so low to steal Rachel and my Chaco's. Seriously. Once they had all our stuff they zoomed out. When they had asked if we had soldiers on the other boat, the Doc told them that we had angels in the other boat. I strongly believe that we had angels in both boats. When the robbers saw the other boat they quickly took off without getting near to it. When they were gone I opened my eyes and only embraced my friends tighter. I immediately thanked God for keeping us safe and alive. We cried and only held each other close.

The rest of the trip was full of challenges as well. We encountered a spot were we thought they were ready to attack us for the second time. Down the narrow part of the river we ran into boats that had completely blocked the way. The whole time we were racing against the sun and hoping to get to the dock. We are convinced that the sun had set later than normal. Considering that the thieves also stole our gas, we were in another pickle. When we were nearing the dock our boat ran out of gas. So we decided to pray. When we finished praying for gas, our boat started up again and then took us all the way to the dock. God definitely worked miracles that day.

Exhausted and in shock, we unloaded the boats and headed towards the police station. Shoeless and confused I attempted to gather my thoughts together. At the station Doc filed a complaint and we then headed home. It wasn’t till midnight when we arrived home. This whole time Jenny had been calling and communicating with our parents. We made some ramen (because we hadn’t eaten since breakfast – we were starving) and for the next two hours we were all making phone calls and receiving them. We wanted to make sure to tell our families that we were alive and safe. I didn’t get to bed till 2 AMish.

Now I just continually thank God for my life. This has strengthened my faith, but I hope I don’t have to go through something like that again. My new prayer is that we may be able to get things figured out with insurance, our stolen belongings, and stolen documents. And that God will take fear away from our hearts so that we may continue to serve Him.

The three days of medical campaign in the villages was wonderful. Yeah it was super rough with the conditions, but to see the smiles of the people was worth it. Not only the smiles, but their friendship and hospitality was amazing. Many times we had to ask villagers if we could borrow their kitchen and they never hesitated to share with us. We made so many friends and it was sad to leave them.

They taught me a few phrases of their native language, introduced me to different fruits, showed us where to bathe, and all around helped us with anything we would ask for. I wish to go back into those villages and spend more time with them. The only things keeping me back are the millions of man eating bugs and of course the robbers. Every single one of us has more than 50 bug bites. Not even joking. There were three main bugs that feasted on our blood. There were big water flies, tiny mosquitoes that were quick and hard to kill, and HUGE mosquitoes that were the size of dragonflies. I wish I could post pictures of the week, but the camera with all the pics was stolen L

Today, I went to church and tried my best to not think about what had just happened. If I did, I would break down in tears. After church we went back to the detectives and looked at pictures of different criminals. Then when I got back home I was able to talk to my family and let them know what had happened. It was very relieving to talk to my family and let them know I was ok.


  1. God bless you all and the people you are helping. You have been, and will continue to be, in my prayers. Barbara Prowant

  2. What a great testimony to your faith.

  3. "He who called the fisherman of Galilee is still calling us to His service. And He is just as willing to manifest His power through us as through the first disciples." Desire of Ages pp. 296,297. God Bless You. We are praying for you. Sherrie

  4. God is definitely with you there, Steph. I don't know how to say it in any other way that doesn't sound overused and cliche, but we really are praying for you everyday. And of course we won't stop praying. Lots of love,

  5. It's okay to be sad, angry/frustrated/scared/annoyed, or ALL of the above. It's okay that this is hard. It's okay to feel whatever you are feeling. I'm sorry for what happened.

    You have support.
    You have love.
    You have prayers.