« The Gospel is all about spreading God’s love, in the name of Jesus, to all creatures great and small, human or unhuman. Glory be to God.»
Such is the statement of faith of Beryl Baker, this little woman with a huge heart.
An English-trained nurse, Beryl has spent nearly 40 years as the only hope for medical treatment for around 18000 indigenous people of the Chaco region of Paraguay.
The scrubland Chaco covers over half the total area of Paraguay and its semi-arid climate varies from severe droughts to even more severe floods, cold winters and torrid summers. This area lacks all basic infrastructure and modern amenities, and is bisected by the Trans-Chaco highway. Beryl has to travel 300 kilometres down this pot-holed road to reach Asunción, the capital, for supplies of medication or if she needs to take patients to hospital.
In Asunción she visited the Anglican Cathedral and it was there that she met George Caspescha, a former member of Neuchâtel Church, who encouraged us to support Beryl’s work. Since then we have been glad to be able to help with the provision of medication, operations and car repairs. Further strenghtening Beryl’s connection with Neuchâtel, Beryl attended Sunday school many years ago with our friend and late pastor Rev. Roy Farrar.
Based on a ranch, over the years Beryl has been able to build a brick dispensary, receiving patients who have walked from miles around, as well as visiting all the outlying regions herself, spreading the good news of the Gospel to all she meets.
As well as actively supporting the health of the vast community through clinics, Beryl also invests her time in training local health promoters who work with her in clinic and outlying areas. Training and education is a vital part of Beryl’s work to care for not only acute health needs but also to improve the general health of the population. Sourcing basic medication and supplies such as antibiotics and analgesics is problematic due to geography and poor national infrastructure. Other challenges include climate and maintaining essential resources such as vehicles.
Beryl is active in supporting the local Church at Rio Verde and leading services there. Her caring also extends to the vast amount of animals who surround her hut and share her life.
If you would like to donate to support the work of Beryl Baker in Paraquay, please contact us. Alternatively you can deposit directly into the Neuchatel English Church bank account and email us with instructions:
UBS, Place Pury, Neuchâtel.
- Account number: F28003141
- Sort Code: 0290
- IBAN: CH25 0029 0290 F28003141
News from our friend Beryl in Paraguay
You will find the latest news from Beryl below. Older updates are archived and linked below
Tim Curtis Link Letter no.37 October 2020
Greetings from Rio Verde in the Paraguayan Chaco.
It’s good to be back after a slightly longer than expected time in the UK for home ministry.
I had good flights back to Paraguay. I was accepted for a Paraguayan government-chartered “repatriation flight” for the last leg of the journey, as there have not been any commercial flights into the country since March.
I completed the mandatory 14-day quarantine at a government-approved “health hotel” and tested negative for COVID-19 once before leaving the UK and again seven days after I had arrived. We were only allowed out of our rooms to collect our meals during our time in quarantine. The room was comfortable, with an en suite bathroom and air conditioning, but it was a relief to be let out of quarantine after two weeks. I give thanks that I was able to return and for the help from my travel agent in Asuncion in getting together all the relevant documentation for the journey.
Back in Paraguay, my first impressions were that traffic was quite subdued in the capital city, Asuncion, and the shops and supermarkets less busy than usual. Everyone was wearing face masks in the streets and in the shops. There were hand washing facilities outside of every shop and business, hand sanitiser, and somebody to take your temperature.
After I had the car serviced in the city, I drove up to the Chaco on 28 August. Once in Rio Verde, everything struck me as exceptionally dry. In fact there was some unexpected rain in mid-August which eased the drought situation in many communities, so thank you for your prayers, which were promptly answered! Although there is no water in the house, there is some in the translation office underground water storage tanks which is sufficient for washing and showering. I am able to buy drinking water at the local supermarket. Please continue to pray for rain.
The house was just as I had left it, my books were fine and not eaten by termites or nibbled at by mice as feared, and the Bibles in the translation office were also fine. My colleague Victor Gonzalez had seen to it that the house and office were kept clean. I am continuing to look after the centre and I am able to work in the spacious translation office building.
As I have mentioned to some of you, COVID-19 cases have been rising very quickly in Paraguay over the last six weeks, and there are reportedly over 30 cases in Rio Verde, which only has several hundred inhabitants. Several of my colleagues have tested positive or have been exposed to the virus, and so are in isolation. Various restrictions have been reintroduced by the government in the Mennonite colonies. For the moment, most trips to indigenous communities have been suspended, as some of them are in semi-lockdown, or local leaders have closed their access roads. The death of a visiting Toba indigenous pastor a few weeks ago from COVID-19 in one of the communities near us in Rio Verde brought home to everyone how serious the situation has become. There have been no pastoral retreats since March and we are not sure when these will take place again. We would value your prayers for wisdom as to how to continue to support the Chaco churches and pastors during this continuing coronavirus crisis. Please pray also for the president, the government, the doctors and nurses and healthcare workers as the pandemic begins to hit Paraguay with full force.
There is good news regarding the much needed improvements to the Trans-Chaco Highway. Tarmac is just beginning to be laid down on the second carriageway north of Rio Verde. A 12km section extending to near where Beryl Baker lives will soon be completed.
Another piece of exciting news is that the first and main stage of the new aqueduct project, a 200km-long water pipeline running from Puerto Casado on the river Paraguay to Loma Plata, has been completed and opened by President Mario Abdo Benitez. It has cost 100 million dollars and taken eight years to build. It is hoped it will benefit the towns, farms and ranches in and around the Mennonite colonies as well as the nearby indigenous communities. It will also be extended to take water to the town of Mariscal Estigarribia, and as far south as Lolita, very near El Estribo, home to a dozen or so Enxet communities.
September is Bible Month in the Hispanic world. It is celebrated in September because the first Bible in Spanish, the Reina Valera, was published in September 1569. It is known as the Biblia del Oso, the “Bear Bible”, as the illustration on the cover showed a bear trying to reach a container of honeycombs hanging from a tree. It was translated by Casiodoro de Reina and revised in 1602 by Cipriano de Valera. The Reina Valera became the most widely read Protestant Bible. For the Catholic Church, the celebrations in September recall St Jerome’s translation of the Vulgate into Latin. The first Scriptures in Enxet or Lengua, as it was then known, were the Gospels and Acts published in 1911 by the British and Foreign Bible Society. The importance of the Bible in the daily life of so many of our indigenous brothers and sisters is a reality, and one only has to look at the messages of encouragement and comfort from the Bible on social media to be reminded of this. Give thanks that for so many people, the words “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth”, from Psalm 119:103, are a source of strength and comfort.
Once again, many thanks for your support and prayers.
With love in the Lord Jesus
Paraguay: rain. Mission partner Bev Richardson asks for continued prayer for rain in Paraguay. Pray for enough rain to fill the waterways, but not so much that it causes flooding. Pray too as St Andrew’s College and Chapel reopen using a hybrid (digital and face-to-face) approach, that this would help as many people as possible.
Letter from Eileen Hollingsworth; Date: 10 September 2020 at 20:24:35 BST
I had a lovely call from Beryl this afternoon. Beryl was in Asunción and she had spent the morning making sure everyone had her new phone number. She was speaking to me on Whatsapp so no charge to Beryl. Her vehicle was now starting properly and she had driven down to the capital for five days. Her problem at her
Asuncion house was the large sliding gate on her garden behind which she keeps the car safely. The gate had come off its runners and it fell on Jorvy her caretaker who looks after the house in her absence. Beryl had managed to get it secured and her friend Sylvia was going to organise a team of people to try and get it open again and put it back securely on its mounting.
Rhett is hoping to visit the ranch again and in the meantime most of the workers and their families will stay on the ranch. Like here in the UK the Covit 19 infection rate has gone up and there have been more deaths. Beryl at Rhett’s request is getting the supplies for the workers and their families but she does get help from the workers and the staff at the shops to unload the supplies. The schools are all closed and even in Asunción the churches are closed and Beryl can see the services on the internet.
The biggest problem is no post getting through from the UK and although she can get money from the ATM in Asunción she cannot access her bank account on the internet and check the balances on her account.
Many of the medical suppliers are closed but Beryl is continuing to see her patients. The church Indians are staying in their villages and there are less infections because everyone is being more careful with their personal hygiene.
Tim Curtis is now back at his home in Rio Verde but the drought is still causing a water shortage and bottled water is being bought for all drinking water purposes.
Beryl can hold services and Bible studies for the women on her veranda.
Please pray for an end to the drought. Pray for the people in Asunción who have a curfew every night from 8 pm till 5am the next morning. Pray for all the children unable to go school. Pray for Beryl herself that she will remain in good health and she will continue to get her medical supplies. Pray for the continued supply of good internet connections to enable her to keep in regular contact with her friends and colleagues and with contacts in the U.K.
Prayer by Thomas Merton from the app Lectio 365 (21 4 20)
Give me the strength that waits upon you in silence and peace.
Give me humility in which alone is rest,
And deliver me from pride which is the heaviest of burdens.
And possess my whole heart and soul with the simplicity of love. Amen
On Monday, 31 August 2020 Timothy Curtis wrote to Julie Faggan with the latest news of Beryl :
Thanks for sending me Beryl’s newsletter. I got back to Rio Verde on Friday, after completing my 14 day mandatory quarantine at a government-approved “health hotel”- I will actually be based in Rio Verde, and only do occasional trips to Loma Plata for shopping and paying my Wifi bills. I will most likely be working about a week each month in the Mennonite town of Filadelfia, helping out with the Northern Enlhet Bible translation in my role as consultant. Otherwise I will be based here at the Anglican Centre. Visits to indigenous communities are on hold at the moment because of a local outbreak of coronavirus.
I have not seen Beryl yet, but I had some telephone conversations with her when I was in quarantine. The reception / signal etc was terrible, and I could not understand everything she said. Anyway, the WIFI is up and running again here in Rio Verde, so she is always welcome to drop in to write emails and to have a cup of coffee.
I have had to buy drinking water, which fortunately is available in the local Rio Verde supermarket. There is still some water in the translation office water storage tank, so I am able to use that for showering and washing dishes and clothes.
I will keep you updated
On Saturday 29 August Julie writes :
Beryl had travelled to Rio Verde to the petrol station/supermarket where reception is good, so was able to access her emails and ring. At the ranch, problems with communication as usual, though it is good at 2 am!
The corona virus has come to the area. Pastor Augustine held a celebration anniversary service; the visiting pastor had the virus and it has now spread. The visiting pastor has sadly died. It means people are back in lockdown.
Rhett has been to the ranch, driven here by his wife Mari. (A huge answer to prayer – thank you Father God.) Rhett has returned to Asuncion now. Beryl spent some time with him; he is well and has been checking the cattle and buying hay. Rhett doesn’t want his people leaving the ranch (54 of them including the families) nor anyone coming on to the ranch. Beryl has just been doing their shopping for them and for herself.
People are turning to the Lord. The women are holding daytime prayer meetings with bible readings. Initially they were organised by PastorVictor but since the lockdown Beryl has been leading them in her house or on the veranda. The men are at work and then too tired by the end of the day. However, weather is very hot, in the 40s even though it is winter time, and it is still very dusty from the road works so a struggle to continue. The tarmac is
due to be laid soon.
Although there was a 32mm fall of rain that has brought some grass back, all the water tanks are empty. Beryl buys mineral water to drink for herself but has to boil any other water she needs. The wild animals are coming closer to the water holes, pumas and leopards, occasionally taking sheep. There are no wild animals near Beryl, apart from the ones that live there, that is, alligators and anacondas, who are not a problem. One of the dogs was given a new home quite a distance away but returned on day 3. What to do with all the dogs continues to be a problem.
Tim Curtis returned to Paraguay and spent two weeks inquarantine. As there is no water where he lives and works near Rio Verde, he has gone to Loma Plata to work. Pray for him as he adjusts to the new situation with the virus and restrictions. Pray that post has come at last including an important communication from Beryl’s bank.
Pray Beryl has time to write a news update for CMS England and Ireland so that others can join in prayer.
Pray for continued protection for them all. Pray for rain. Pray for a functioning vehicle. Beryl’s car engine is now the problem, the ranch manager Tito says, so there is urgent need for a replacement vehicle still.
Pray that the prayer meetings and bible readings help thewomen grow in their faith and love for one another.
With love and prayers from Beryl, from a Whatsappconversation with her on 29/ 8 /20 from Rio Verde
Beryl referred to this passage from Lamentations ch 3 v21-24 :
Hope returns when I remember this one thing – the LORD’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise. The LORD is all I have, and so I put my hope in him. The LORD is good to everyone who trusts in him. So it is best for us to wait in patience – to wait for him to save us. (Good News Bible)
Or from the NIV ‘This I call to mind and therefore I have hope – because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself ‘the LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him. The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.’
Prayer letter, 13/07/2020
Dear Praying Friends,
I’m in Asuncion and have just joined in St Andrew’s service by Internet. Today Chris Hawksbee preached. Now for the long overdue prayer letter.
Deuteronomy 8.11. Be careful not to forget the Lord your God. Do not stop obeying his commandments. John 14.15.Jesus says “If you love me , keep my commandments : Firstly love God with all your heart, mind and soul & secondly love your neighbour as yourself.” Matt 22.37.38.
Paraguay is blessed with a Christian President and Minister of Health, both with common sense who from the beginning of the pandemic immediately imposed strict precautions to protect everyone. Up to this day only 20 people have died.
2 Peter 3.9 The Lord is not slow in fulfilling his promise. Jesus will return and the things that are happening are a sure sign that God wants everyone to be aware they must turn back to Him before it is too late.
Please remember in your prayers the desperate need for rain in the Chaco where so many people and grass-eating animals are without water. Wild and domestic lack food too. Pray for continued protection against Covid 19 and praise that so far the Chaco is clear of positive cases.
The health promoters . Lidia at La Patria. Narcisa at Estribo and Cirilo. Maria Teresa at Larrosa Cue . Norma at her home at the side of the Transchaco road. Arsenio and Lino at Makthlawaiya. Daniel Fernandez at 8 denero which is on the road to La Patria. Only 2 receive a government salary, a grave injustice.
Cirilo Benitezneeds special prayer as he has a badly infected foot which is taking a long time to heal because of his diabetes. He is 67 and serving the people at Estribo well in spite of being done out of his small pension by someone forging his signature. This month this situation should be put right, DV.
A 38 year old lady that I took to town from the ranch ranch died at her humble home at Limpio, a suburb of Asuncion leaving her tractor driver partner, a 10 year old son and a two year old daughter. The son is with his paternal grandparents while Noemi the 2 year old stays at the ranch with an indigenous family with whom she is extremely happy and well cared for. Her father continues with his work but does not live in the same location as his little daughter.
Please pray for the health situation at Rio Verde where the government health post has been dismantled with no one being informed.
Trips to the La Patria indigenous communities continue and over the past three weeks I have attended 204 patients all of whom had nothing too seriously wrong. The Anglican pastors at these places are very helpful.
Praise for a new Internet server and telephone number which is 595 994 397 526. Communication should now improve greatly.
The need for a new means of transport is now urgent as the present Toyota is having constant problems and flat tyres; the insurance has now expired.
Jordy is now supporting his mother, Graciela as she has no income due to the school not opening. 6 year old Jonathan is pretty bored by having to stay in most of the time and the TV burnt out during a power cut and he only can use his father’s Smart phone to continue with his On Line education.
Better and more frequent conversations with Rhett are a must. He is well and in Asuncion. He is now 80. After the 15th of this month when the quarantine rules are more relaxed he hopes to come to his ranch if his wife Mari will drive him to the Chaco. He hasn’t been there for a year.
One side of the Transchaco highway is rapidly advancing and the asphalt from Rio Verde onwards is almost at the entrance to the ranch. Praise the Lord for answered prayers in that the two lovely big trees at the ranch gate will not be cut down. Coping with the clouds of lime cement impregnated dust is a challenge. Very high winds sweeping this dust into the clinic and house makes everything filthy and some of the cats, dogs and horses have infected eyes from the dust.
Neri Sosa. Pastor Juan Sosa’s son, has again broken his leg. It has been pinned and he and his father are now back at Makthlawaiya. Urgent prayer is needed for them along with the diocesan office worker who drove them back to the Chaco from the indigenous people’s hospital at Limpio where Neri was in a non fumigated room after a positive Covid 19 patient had been using it. We pray that they have not contracted the virus.
The obligatory use of face masks is now being more strictly enforced with huge fines for people who will not conform with quarantine rules.
To finish as I started: Trust and obey as there is no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey. Thank you for your prayers. May the Lord bless you and protect you. Lots of love, Beryl.
An update from Beryl 29 6 20
- Give thanks Beryl was able to make contact from Rio Verde this morning.
- Give thanks there is no virus infection in the colonies though sadly it has been brought into Conception, now put back in lockdown.
- Give thanks that the community at the ranch is also free of it.
- Give thanks for Bernardino’s continued help, now working Saturdays too and grateful for work
- Give thanks that progress continues to be made on the TransChaco road, making travel much easier.
- Give thanks that Beryl, Trudy the doctor and Monica the vet who gives medical assistance, was able to travel to La Patria to provide medical care to the people there. Beryl saw 34 patients.
- Give thanks for Tito’s helpfulness. He is going to move the water heater from the clinic to Beryl’s house as hers has failed. Pray for success
- Give thanks that Beryl’s radio works well so that she can hear what is being decided about movement of people
etc. (Her phone line is unreliable still)
- for rain. Water is now getting in short supply again. The climate changing is having a big impact on the weather all round
- that Rhett may be able to come to the ranch soon to get up to date with matters there
that Beryl can find an electrician to repair her car. The engine runs well when it has been started. (It is not her spark plugs but an electrical fault. The man Rhett recommended is not an electrician)
- for Bernadino who has stopped his course in agriculture because there was a lack of any teaching
- for Beryl hoping to travel to Asuncion next week.
- for wisdom for the president and the minister of health. People are ignoring safe distancing (sounds familiar!)
Beryl sends her love and prayers
Praise Father God whose love is higher than the heavens, whose faithfulness reaches to the skies. May he be exalted above the heavens, his glory over all the earth.
Ps 104 v 4 and 5
Give thanks –
· that Beryl was able to travel down to Asuncion last Thursday. She expects to be staying till Monday
· that she has had good conversations with Rhett and that he sounds very well
· that Rhett has told Beryl she can have help from his friend in Filadephia with the repair of her car
· that a plumber was able to repair problems in her Asuncion house
· that she and the people in her area have been protected from the viral infection
· that because they all have to wear masks when they travel out, respiratory infections are rare at present
· that immunisations have resumed for the children, at the Rio Verde clinic
· that Beryl is up to date with paying her staff and all is well with them
· that thanks to good internet connection, Beryl was able to speak to Bev Richardson who is in Oxford waiting to get back to Asuncion, and working on line at present
· that Beryl was able to speak to Tim Curtis who is very grateful for this precious time with his father, in the UK
· that Claire Holmes is free of cancer after treatment
Please pray for –
· wisdom for the Government as they decide if they need to re-introduce restrictions because some people are ignoring social distancing and there have been new cases
· the post to get started again. The church office has re-opened but no post is getting through at present
· a terrible drought in the Chaco with a major river now dry
· for water supplies to communities in the Chaco, especially those needing Government water tankers to come
· for protection from water borne diseases for the people in the Chaco
· for one of Beryl’s cats in Asuncion that has cancer and may need to be put down rather than have treatment, a hard decision to make
Beryl sends her grateful thanks for all you do for her, for your prayers and your gifts
Julie on behalf of Beryl, based on our Whatsapp conversation yesterday.
Hopefully an email blessing – John 7 v 37 – 39. Jesus stood in the Temple, understood to be God’s dwelling place on earth by the worshipping community there, and announced loudly – ‘All who are thirsty, come to me and drink’. The Temple of God had moved and is now within.
Beryl update: 06/06/2020
Beryl update: 18/05/2020
Beryl update: 14/05/2020
Beryl update: 06/05/2020
Beryl update: 19/03/2020
Beryl update: approx 01/2020
Further updates and information can be found in our church magazines here