Chapter 3: Into the Impenetrable

I don’t exactly know how the pastor from Nueva Pompeya heard I was back in Argentina, but he drove the seven hours into Resistencia to see me again. He had heard about the episode of temporary blindness that had overtaken me back in the USA. He wanted to talk about it. I was still not interested in talking to him.

The last time we had a conversation he had warned me about a warlock that was trying to put curses on me. In spite of my recent experience that concept still did not fit neatly into my theology. I was just not in the mood to listen to a lengthy I told you so speech about witchcraft and the bogeyman. Out of politeness however, I agreed to meet with him.

mate    When he arrived at Alberto’s house I invited him in and prepared a mate. Mate is a green tea that Argentines drink together whenever they want to have a serious conversation, or just about any kind of conversation for that matter.

Anyway, the first thing this guy said to me when we sat down without any of the normal preliminary niceties was, “When you went blind you also smelled burning palo santo wood, didn’t you?”

Palo Santo burning  I responded, “Yes, I smelled something burning. Come to think of it now, it did smell like palo santo wood. What I want to know is how did you know that I smelled something burning?”

He said, “I know that curse. I also know who was putting it on you. Just like I told you he wants to keep you out of the Impenetrable.”

My mind started racing. I had not mentioned smelling anything to anyone when I lost my sight, not a single solitary person. I thought, “This guy is just way to weird. How could he have possibly known about the smell of something burning in my office two weeks ago, back in the USA, right when all that stuff happened? How does some warlock out there even know I exist anyway?”

Before I could sort it all out he started talking again. “There is a place out past Nueva Pompeya called El Nido de Satanás, the nest of Satan. It’s where all the shamans, witches, and warlocks go to do their rituals to receive powers from the devil. I believe that you are appointed to go with me, along with another pastor to bust up their nest.”

This guy had now officially crossed over the line. He was deep in the territory of strangeness, which I wanted no part of whatsoever. I made several unsuccessful attempts to find a semi-polite way to end the conversation. It went on for over an hour. Eventually he stood up to leave and said, “I’ll see you in Nueva Pompeya.”

I was committed to go to the meeting, but the last person I wanted to see there, was this particular pastor.

The next couple of days were filled with meetings and preparations for the trip out to the event. I was invited, along with Alberto, to ride in a six-passenger van owned by a Russian descent friend of ours named Carlos. Carlos owned a trucking company, and had traveled the road to Nueva Pompeya many times. He also had a relative that was the pastor of a church in Castelli where we could stay after the event.

Castelli is the closest real town, only about ninety-five miles away. It is also where the paved road ends. However, from that point on it should not be thought of as a normal dirt road. When the road is dry it is covered with dust, which is so powdery and deep a low riding vehicle can get bogged down and stuck in it. It seeps in around the doors and windows that can easily keep out the rain. A few hundred yards must be left between you, and the vehicle in front of you, just to be able to see the road and breathe.

Road wet    When it rains this dust quickly becomes six to sixteen inches of mud, which is slicker than ice. Only a four-wheel drive vehicle stands a slight chance of getting through. It becomes almost impossible to safely travel so local officials will often barricade the road. They also do this to protect the roadbed from being torn up by trucks leaving deep ruts. If they close the road you are just stuck until everything dries out.

At the time, the Argentine census bureau had estimated the population of Nueva Pompeya to be 804 inhabitants. On September the twelfth somewhere between three and four thousand people converged upon this small isolated village to ask for, to give, and to receive forgiveness.

Everyone brought their own provisions including water. It had not rained a drop in over eleven months. We realized that the infrastructure and available supplies would not be adequate for the huge influx of people.

We arrived a couple of hours before the event was scheduled to start. Carlos parked his van near the plaza where a stage had been built for the meeting. I needed to stretch my legs after the long ride so I went out exploring on my own. At the edge of the village I took a well-worn trail off into the bush. I wanted to be alone so that I could pray and ask the Lord about why He wanted me to be there. I had no responsibilities or role to play in the meeting other than an interested observer.

thorn tree I walked along the path until it came to a low depression, which had obviously been a river many years ago. The trail then split to the left, or to the right. I could see through the trees some sort of structure about three hundred yards down toward the left. I headed in that direction. Some of the trees in the middle of the riverbed were a foot in diameter and had razor sharp thorns growing out of their trunks. I couldn’t even imagine how a monkey could climb a tree that was so well defended. I later learned that the Toba and Wichí hunters had used these thorns as arrow points.

bridge chaco   The structure turned out to be a bridge for the main road out of town toward the southwest. I climbed up the steep bank, and walked out to the middle of it. It was easy to imagine a time in the distant past when this river was filled with water, fish, and the laughter of Wichí children swimming, and splashing around to escape the intense heat of summer. I stood on the bridge for quite some time looking down the riverbed and the road back toward the village. I began to uncontrollably weep. I had a growing sense that I had been called here to witness something of great significance, but that I would not understand why for many years to come.

My heart and spirit were overwhelmed with this thought and cried out. “Oh God, heal this land and cause the rivers of blessing to flow once again. Let the rivers be filled with water, fish, and the laughter of children. Lord, if this land is really under some kind of a curse, let that curse be broken, and let us see your blessings rain down from heaven. Let us see with our own eyes your divine intervention on behalf of these people and this place.”

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