Day 12 – Painting, Fishing, and More

For our devotion this morning, we read Revelation 21:1-4; 21-26.  John said that all the nations will bring their honor and glory into heaven.  For the last week or more, we’ve had a chance to get a foretaste of what Paraguay can bring to heaven.  We hope that everyone has had positive experiences with the local culture and can identify contributions that we will one day experience in heaven.

There are several outdoor walls that require white paint, primarily around the soccer court.  The “planter” in the courtyard next to the soccer coat, parts of the stage behind the second soccer goal, and the short “wall” running along the side of the soccer field all need to be painted today.  The men begin work on this, while the ladies work on applying the second coat of paint to the final three upstair classrooms in the new section.

Marcello came and told us that he was going to make us a special lunch and he fired up the barbeque grill shortly after 10 a.m.  Soon the wonderful smoky smell of asado was filling the air.

By Noon, we completed painting the remaining classrooms and soccer field walls and sat down to enjoy Marcello’s asado.

After our meal, Oscar and Karen took some of us to the “Cerro”, a hill over looking the city with a monument celebrating the overthrow of the dictatorship in 1989.

In the afternoon, Nestor took the boys fishing.  They rented a row boat near the Quinta and used lines with no rods to cast for fish.  The biggest catches of the day were two catfish, but even the smallest successes were celebrated.

In the evening Oscar took the guys to the Bañado church for services.  On the way there we stopped to visit and old friend.

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We had repainted the Bañado church back in early 2015 after it was flooded.  After years of flooding in this region the government has decided to resettle all of the residents and rebuild the river bank.  They will also extend the Costanera walkway/roadway along the river through the existing Bañado residential area.  The church will be given new property in the resettlement area as well.

We always enjoy coming here.  Although the church is small, the members sing heartily, and welcome visitors with warm embraces.  You always go away feeling blessed.

After services, we return to Oscar and Karen’s for a snack of empanadas and chorizo sausages.  For the boys this is just a snack, as they are soon on their way to meet up with Marcello for a last chance to eat at Miguelito’s, a local “fast casual” restaurant chain.  For those of us from the States, this is our last “hurrah”, because our plane departs at 4:30 a.m.  Once again it will be difficult to leave and return home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 11 – Finishing the Soccer Field

This morning Daniella led the devotion on Hebrews 11:1-3. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”.  We often glibly say we have faith or encourage others to have it.  Faith is not going against common sense.  It is not hoping for the best.  It is not a leap into the dark.  Faith comes from knowing God, knowing his character, knowing His word, and obeying his Word.  Obedience is what demonstrates faith.  The heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11 (Abraham, Abel, Noah, etc.) were obedient to God.  When our faith is weak, we need to spend time in God’s word and obey it in order to strengthen our faith.

We worked on putting the finishing touches on the soccer court by painting the goalie lines and the goal posts.

We painted the wall behind the goal posts as well.

We also continued painting the remaining upstairs classrooms, and Marcello ordered and picked up empanadas for our lunch.

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By the end of our work day, the soccer field was looking good.

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So, we went home to play more volleyball….

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…and eat chorizo for dinner.  Tomorrow, we plan to finish the second coat of paint on the remaining upstairs classrooms and work on painting the exterior walls around the soccer field.  Then it will be time for those of us from the U.S. to prepare for our departure flights on Wednesday morning.  It’s hard to believe our time in Paraguay is already coming to an end.

 

Day 10 – Sunday Service & Sightseeing

Today is Sunday and we gathered on Oscar and Karen’s front porch for singing and the morning service.  Oscar had the message in Spanish and Gabi translated it into English as he spoke for our benefit.  He spoke about how we have the responsibility to give life, because we were spiritually dead and have been given new life by God.  He read from  from I Peter 2:4-10.  We need a cornerstone to build on and Christ is that stone.  We personally need to be lively stones in order to build on Christ.  Stones come from a dark quarry.  The raw stone has to be cut from the quarry.  A large piece is broken off with a sledge hammer and it is broken into smaller pieces which all have to be cut with a machine to produce the stones used to build a house.  God’s word is the sledgehammer that breaks us and then God cuts and machines us into something beautiful.  Every year we find out that there are still things he needs to cut away things from our lives.  He fashions us into strong and beautiful stones so that we can be used to build His church.  Jeremiah lamented that even gold had lost its luster (Lamentations 4:1-2) when the people forgot God and were taken away to Babylon.  Jeremiah told them to return to the old ways and they would find rest for their soul (Jeremiah 6:16).  At Christmas time, Oscar polishes his sliver candlestick holders.  It takes a long time, but they end up looking like new.  God wants us to have that freshly polished luster in our lives.   God sees us as precious gemstones that he polishes to retain their luster.  We need to keep returning to God even as King David did in spite of his sin. We need to gather up the scattered stones and build an altar to God as Elijah did when he fashioned the altar out of the 12 stones representing the 12 tribes of Israel (1 Kings 18:30).  God wants to make us into lively stones.  We can’t be held back by out past, we have to look forward to the future in faith and trust that God can make us into lively stones.

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After morning service, we spent time visiting on the porch with those who remained and then drove to a churrascaria for lunch.

In addition to the salad and pasta bar, we had beef, chicken, pork, and pineapple served to us as our table.  Those of us who were more daring even tried the tongue and chicken hearts.

After eating, Oscar gave us a tour of “old” Asuncion.  The original downtown features a park where vendors sell their goods to the tourists.  There is also a statue of Jacob wrestling with the angel there (Genesis 32:24-32).

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Next we drove by the Presidential Palace, the equivalent of our White House, except that the President doesn’t actually live there at the moment.

Next we stopped at the Coastanera, where the Government has created a beach and walking path along the Paraguay River in the downtown area.  Due to the heat we didn’t spend much time using the walking path.

We also drove by the “Paraguayan World Trade Center” buildings and the fancy new building that holds their latest mall.  After that we headed home for a siesta.

For dinner, Joel and his family came over to Oscar and Karen’s home and brought us hamburgers for supper.  We ate out on the porch and managed to get in some soccer time with the little kids afterward.

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Finally, we closed out the night with a rousing game of Uno (following Paraguayan rules).

Day 9 – Dog Days of Summer

There seem to be a lot of dogs roaming the streets in Paraguay.  This morning we found the one pictured above roaming the streets with a tie.  Oscar and Karen were gifted two new dogs today, so suddenly they have three. 

Jordan had the devotion this morning on dealing with worries and doubts in our lives.  In Philippians 4:6 we are commanded to be “anxious for nothing”; however, the anxieties of life often seem to overtake us.  We become anxious when we don’t find our contentment in Christ.  A young convert approached an older believer and asked him what he did when he felt anxious.  The older believer answered that he focused on counting his blessings and he soon forgot his anxiety about other things.  This advice mirrors the remainder of Philippians 4:6: “by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God”.

Today the weather felt extremely hot even when we first arrived at the school at 8:00 a.m.  The temperature was only in the high 80s, but the humidity was approaching 90% and the “feels like” temperature was 100 degrees.  It was not the best day to be working some more on the soccer court, but more detail work was still needed.  The young men worked on taping around the court stripes and painting the lines white and yellow.

Meanwhile, the young ladies, continued their work on the upstairs classrooms in the new section of the school.

The young men completed painting all of the lines except for the goalie circles and one of the end lines.  The hot sun dried the paint in a hurry and by the end of our work day, the field looked ready for a soccer game.

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By Noon they had finished the first two classrooms, and applied the first coat of paint in the third classroom.

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For lunch Oscar took us to Archi’s Supermercado, a grocery store with an attached cafeteria.

After a hearty lunch, we went back to Oscar and Karen’s for a siesta.  After the siesta there was time and energy for more volleyball.  In the evening, the weekly youth service was held on Oscar and Karen’s porch.  After singing, Gabi preached on Galatians 6:1-10: We always reap what we sow, but when we plant we must do it consistently and faithfully.  We can’t make a New Year’s resolution to have devotions every day and then only do it for two and wonder why we didn’t get results. We can’t let others opinions deter us from spiritual progress.  If we make a commitment to come to church we can’t make it conditional on my friends being there, or the right pastor or the teacher being there.  We need to focus on the ministry that God’s called us to and commit to this no matter what.  At church everyone is called to serve.  Just showing up and checking church off our “to do” list is not enough.  We need to be at church, be reading the Bible, and be praying because we want to have a relationship with God, because we want Him to be at the center of our lives. If we’re focused on TV or PlayStation, that’s what we’re sowing and that’s what we’ll reap.  If we’re focused on developing spiritually, that’s what we’ll reap.  If we plant the right seed in our own lives, we’ll bless others.  We don’t always see immediate results, but God promises that we’ll end up with a rich harvest if we sow the right seed.  In 2018, we need to help each other be accountable.  We know there will be difficulties during the year, but at the end of the year, we’ll be able to see that we’ve grown, if we trust in God’s grace to lift us up even when we’re down and if we’re committed to grow in Him.

We ended the day with a pizza party for supper and finished cleaning up the dishes.  Now we can get some rest after another busy day.

 

 

 

Day 8 – Back to Work & Mercado 4

Each morning we begin our work day at the school with a devotion and time of sharing.  Today, Hadassah led the morning devotion by reading from Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To everything there is a season”. “God is with us each day in all the seasons of life”. “We need to focus on living for him each day”.  “Ultimately, he is in control and lives within us to take care of us wherever the day finds us”.  “He may open other doors in the future, but today we just have today; let’s live it to the fullest for Him”.

 

For the boys, the day begins with sweeping up around the soccer court, so that we can paint the perimeter of the court.  The temperature is supposed to hit 95 degrees Fahrenheit today, so we want to maximize work on the court this morning while there is more shade.  They manage to clean and paint the perimeter of the court and add a second coat of paint to the court as well.

 

The girls are back to work painting the upstairs classrooms.

 

The Noon meal consists of meatballs, potato, and sweet potato with rice.  For dessert, Brian and Jordan find a local Helado shop and bring us back a big bucket of ice cream in multiple flavors.  By the end of the day the boys have finished painting the perimeter of the court and adding a second coat as well.  The girls have finished all of the upstairs classrooms in the original building and started on the upstairs classrooms in the new building.

We stop work at three o’clock in order to get to the Mercado Cuatro and shop before it closes.  The Mercado Cuarto (a.k.a. Mercado 4, Mercado Municipal 4) is a collection of shops spread over several blocks in Asuncion.  From an American perspective it is a giant flea market.  Our primary objective for today is to find a “termo” (Tereré thermos) and to experience the unique culture of this place.  Marcel, an accountant at the school, takes us there and leads us through the maze of shops.  We find a suitable termo for Jordan and move on to enjoy the sights.

We find a few other items worth purchasing and end with a stop at what we call affectionately call the “juice ladies”.  They serve ice cold freshly mixed juice drinks which really hit the spot on 90 degree day.  With the temperatures in the 90s again today, this was a welcomed break.

On the way back to Oscar and Karen’s home, Brian talked Marcel into stopping at an empanada café for a snack.  While we were stopped in traffic, a man selling chipa  (and balancing it on his head) came by, so we bought some chipa as well.  Chipa is a Paraguayan/Argentinian sour cheese bread, usually made in the shape of little balls or  shape of a bagel with the cheese baked inside.  It’s great when it’s hot and fresh, and also served cold as a snack for anytime during the day.

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After arriving back at Oscar and Karen’s we begin a series of volleyball games in the Las Garzas church yard next door.  We play until it is too dark to see even with the lights and we finish with a supper of Milanesa sandwiches that Karen has left us because she and Oscar are working at the kid’s camp being held at the Quinta.  Around 10 p.m. we are all exhausted from our long day of work and play and we retire for the night.

 

Day 7 – Trip to Iguazu Falls

This morning the bus was ready for us to leave at 4:00 a.m.  We had a total of 21 people in our group.  While most of us fell back to sleep, the bus wound its way eastward following mostly two lane roads through small towns and the Paraguayan countryside.  We arrived in Cuidad del Este (City of the East), around 8:30 a.m. and immediately ran into traffic vying to cross the bridge into Brazil.  Because we were a busload, the police routed us through a separate route from the auto traffic.  Cuidad del Este is a hotbed of commerce especially in black market goods.  The road to and from the bridge is lined with vendors hawking their wares on both sides of the road and even in the median.  When you stop at the traffic lights, they will approach your vehicle and attempt to engage you directly.  When we pulled up to customs a young boy approached us selling garlic.  We bought one and got a huge smile and a big “thumbs up”.

The news from customs was not as good.  Technically, you need a visa to go into Brazil; however, in the past there has been little to no enforcement of this for traffic heading to the Falls.  They told Oscar we could enter Brazil, but that we could be deported if caught without a visa.  Oscar led in a prayer for God’s protection and we moved on.

Arriving at the Iguazu Falls visitor’s center, we encountered large crowds and long lines.  Fortunately, you can now purchase tickets at an electronic “ATM” like machine and the lines are very short at these.  After you buy your ticket, you then get in line to board the bus to actually get to the Falls themselves.  Fortunately, the lines are mostly shaded, because temperatures are expected to be in the 90s (Fahrenheit)/30s (Celsius).

Once you are allowed to board the bus, it takes about 15 minutes to get to the stop where the Falls start.  When you leave the bus, you walk down a trail that leads you to an overlook with a picturesque 180 degree view of the Falls.  The first time you come you spend a long time just staring at the view; however, you still have another mile and a half of Falls’ views to go before you reach the end of the trail and the ultimate view.

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Along the trail, you encounter many interesting sights besides the Falls.  Along the trail there is a well worn plaque with a Bible verse (Psalm 93:4) posted in English and a postscript: “God is always greater than all of our troubles”, signed with the initials “MB”.  Interestingly enough, the Matterhorn in Switzerland has a similar plaque with Psalm 111:2 written in German, and a postscript in German which roughly translates to: “God’s power to help is so great that he always has a way and a provision for you”.  This is also signed with the initials, “MB”.  It would be interesting to know who “MB” is and if there are other plaques like this throughout the world.

Another common encounters along the walkway are different wildlife sightings. we saw several monkeys and coatis (a.k.a. quatis in Portuguese).  Iguanas are also common along the trail.

The culmination of the hike is the final set of waterfalls and the ability to walk out on a concrete platform and be surrounded by the power and the sounds of the rushing waters.

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If you walk all the way out to the end of the concrete walkway, you are almost guaranteed to be soaking wet by the time you return.  Fortunately, it feels good because of the heat and you dry quickly in weather like today’s.

After we take the Falls bus back to the visitor’s center, we load into our charter bus and begin the long trip home.  The traffic is again intense crossing back over the bridge between Brazil and Paraguay and it takes almost an hour just to get back to Cuidad del Este.  Once we exit the city, the road turns into a four lane highway for a while.  The government is working on converting all of the two lane road between Asuncion and Cuidad del Este into a four lane highway, which would theoretically shorten the trip to 3 hours driving; however, unless they also expand the lanes in Cuidad del Este and on the bridge to Brazil, the travel conditions for actually getting to the Falls will continue to be slow and difficult.

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Finally, around 10:30 p.m. we finally disembark at Oscar and Karen’s house.  It was a long day, but always well worth it to see one of the wonders of God’s creation.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 6 – It’s Getting Hotter

The effects of the New Year’s Day thunderstorm are starting to wear off and the temperatures were predicted to reach into the mid to high 80s today.  We picked this inopportune time to have the boys begin work on painting the soccer court where they quickly began to feel the heat.  They completed one paint coat on the court and then decided it would be better to wait for another day and more shade to complete the rest.

Brian had the morning devotional on Isaiah 43:18-19.  After listening to Oscar’s sermon on Sunday where Oscar talked about the need to repent and forget the bad things that happened in 2017 and to start over with a fresh slate for 2018, Brian came across these verses in Isaiah.  God says he is doing a new thing whether or not we perceive it.  We should forget the former things, because even in the desert God is making streams for us. In Philippians 3:12-14, the Apostle Paul talked about how he forgot the things that were past and focused on the those things that were in front of him in order to press forward towards the goal of the call that God had given Him in Jesus.  For 2018 we can help sharpen our focus on spiritual matters, by setting appropriate goals.  In order to be effective goals need to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART).  Setting goals and evaluating our progress towards them on a regular basis can help us to stay focused and promote spiritual growth in 2018.

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While the boys were busy with the soccer court, the girls began work on painting the upstairs class rooms.

In spite of the heat, lunch time quickly rolled around.  We enjoyed a lunch of chicken and spaghetti.  We ate quickly and had time some “siesta” time as well before returning to work.

After lunch the boys finished the higher trim needed in the newer classrooms with the higher ceilings and the girls finished painting the first coat of paint in four of the upper classrooms.

For dinner, we were invited to Blanca’s house which is near the Quinta and within walking distance of Oscar and Karen’s home.   We sat outside and feasted on empanadas for the main course.  When we thought were too full to eat anymore, we still found room for a piece of delicious chocolate pudding sponge cake which was served for dessert.  We were also joined by a another visitor who crashed our party.

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Unfortunately, we had to start saying our goodbyes rather early (around 9:30 pm), because we all had to catch the bus to Iguazu at 4:00 a.m. the next morning.

"For the people had a mind to work". Nehemiah 4:6