Tag Archives: Iglesia Adonai de Las Garzas

Day 14 – Last Call for Paraguay

After another late night of visiting, we awoke with a start to find out that it was 8:30 a.m. already and church was scheduled to start at 9:00 a.m.  Thankfully, we only had to shower, change our clothes, and make our way to Oscar and Karen’s front porch.

After singing, Pastor Oscar shared the Word from Ezekiel 3:15-21.  Earlier in chapter 3, Ezekiel was given a scroll to eat.  It was very sweet when he ate it, but it became bitter.  He went to see the captives by the river.  At first he just sat with them and didn’t say anything for seven days.  We all have had difficult experiences in life or know of others going through them.  We need to learn from Ezekiel.  He just went to these captives/slaves and sat down next to them showing empathy for them and feeling what they felt.  When people brought the adulterous woman to Jesus, Jesus showed empathy for her when everyone else was attacking, pointing fingers at her.  Jesus understood her soul. Ezekiel understood the pain of the captives’ souls. This is what God wants us to do with our neighbors.  Love them, feel their pain, and keep sitting with them.  We aren’t called to be on the rolls of a church.  We are called to be Christ’s servants.  We are called to take God’s word to our neighbors.  This means starting by listening to them and drinking tereré with them. This is how we start to share Jesus’ love with them.  We can visit them in the hospital even if only for an hour.  It means so much to them.  Be the one who is bringing the “Good News” to them.  Ezekiel had a difficult message to bring.  There would be consequences to him if he didn’t bring the message.  If we don’t bring the message to our neighbors, we will be held responsible also.  People may not always be happy to hear the gospel, but we can’t stop.  We need to keep visiting them day after day.  I (Oscar) wasn’t always happy to hear the gospel.  Sometimes, I wanted to run from the person who was bringing it, but eventually, I accepted it and was converted.  We must confront sin, but always, pick up and forgive the sinner. Always be merciful to people and seek restoration and healing.  We can’t make excuses for our weaknesses.  Like Ezekiel we have been called to become weak to win others to Christ, but Ezekiel did not remain weak, he arose and taught and exhorted them.  We need to go forward as Ezekiel did with a forehead like a rock (vs. 9) to free others who are in danger of death.  God knows our hearts.  He knows if we don’t want to go and are making excuses.  We want to hear Him say to us “Come, faithful servant, enter into your rest”.  So let’s love others, not just in word, but in Spirit.  Let’s show God’s love to our neighbors, to our children by showing empathy.  Let’s all be towers for God like Ezekiel was.

After morning service, some of went to lunch at a churrascaria.  Besides the many different kinds of meat, there was a buffet with many other dishes and salads.  There was also a dessert bar, and the traditional pineapple coated with cinnamon and sugar.

And, let’s not forget the free entertainment: keyboard and accordion duets for some and soccer/rugby on TV screens for others.

Our next stop was Asuncion’s newest mall, the Paseo La Galeria.  The mall is built between two uniquely shaped towers.  The stores seem to be mostly high-end and the prices are very expensive.  Prices in many shops were listed in US dollars and/or Brazilian Reais, with some in Guarani, but it seemed like the primary target audience was well-to-do tourists; although the food court appeared to be doing a brisk business with help from the locals.

We found two shops that sold local Paraguayan goods, the rest were mostly large global brands.  After mostly window shopping, we bought some items from the Super Seis grocery store in the mall, where prices were comparable to elsewhere in Paraguay.

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Arriving back in Las Garzas, Brian was excited to find a soccer game taking place in Pastor Pedro’s back yard.  The temperature hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit today, but that didn’t stop the young men and boys from enjoying their football (soccer) games.   We finished the evening with a late dinner at Karen and Oscar’s home and then the young adults went over to spend some time at Gabe and Hadassa’s house.  Sadly, tomorrow we are already scheduled to begin our trip home.

 

 

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Day 10 – Las Garzas Church Ground Breaking Service

Sunday morning we gathered on Oscar and Karen’s porch before 9 a.m. for prayer meeting.  Church services in Paraguay generally start earlier than in North America in order to avoid the heat of the day.  At 9 a.m. services begin with a call to worship and singing.  Oscar has the sermon from Ephesians 2.  He talks about how today we are here to dedicate ground to the start of a new church building, but that there is a more important church building that we need to be concerned with. Our personal spiritual temple/church building is what needs to receive our primary attention.  Many people are reluctant to go to a physical church building for services, but if our personal spiritual church building is founded on Christ, others will want to come and spend time with us seeking help for their spiritual needs.  He has seen many beautiful church buildings in his travels, but a beautiful building means nothing if the people within have left their personal temples fall into spiritual disrepair.  For a church to grow it must be filled with members who are actively working on their personal spiritual growth and on growing spiritually together.  This is what makes a church building beautiful and what makes people want to come to the physical church building.  This is what will make the Las Garzas church beautiful and bring praise and honor to God.

Oscar Preaching at Las Garzas
Oscar Preaching at Las Garzas

After Oscar finished preaching, there were special musical numbers and testimonies. Then we reassembled next door to the new church property. Oscar asked that anyone participating in the ground breaking should realize this means more than just digging a shovelful of dirt.  If means that you are going to be personally dedicated to supporting the Las Garzas church and its congregation.  He asked Alex from our workteam if he would be willing to dig the first shovelful.  Alex was glad to do so.

Las Garzas church sign in front of building lot
Las Garzas church sign in front of building lot
Alex Breaking Ground at Las Garzas
Alex Breaking Ground at Las Garzas

Tranquilino, one of the local members who had given his testimony earlier, also came forward to dig a shovelful of dirt and Karen read a passage from Ezra’s dedication of temple in Jerusalem.  Then Tranquilino took a large rock and placed it in the ground signifying the laying of the cornerstone from the scripture reading in Oscar’s sermon this morning (Eph 2:20).  Tranquilio was the first convert in the Las Garzas outreach.

Karen reads from Ezra
Karen reads from Ezra
Tranquilo
Tranquilo

Finally, all the children gathered around the cornerstone to have their pictures taken.

Children at the Dedication
Children at the Dedication

Sunday afternoon, we ate lunch at the Quinta.   In the late afternoon, the boys participated in the weekly soccer game at the field behind Pastor Pedro’s home.  For Dinner, we were invited to Pastor Dario’s house.  Before dinner we sat in the front yard in a circle talking and drinking tereré.

Sharing Tereré
Sharing Tereré

When it was time for dinner, we all crammed into Pastor Dario’s dining room for another evening of good food and good fellowship.

Dinner at Pastor Dario's
Dinner at Pastor Dario’s

Day 3 – Sunday Service at Las Garzas

Sunday morning dawned early for most of our group who packed into Don Dario’s van and left before 5 a.m. for the 5 to 6 hour trip to Iguazu Falls. Those of us who had been to the Falls before, stayed behind for Sunday worship service with the Las Garzas congregation which meets on Oscar and Karen’s front porch.  Oscar and Karen began this outreach in their neighborhood several years ago and now the congregation has grown to a point where they plan to build a church in the open lot next door.  Groundbreaking and a special dedication service are planned for next Sunday.  We are looking forward to it.

The morning service began with prayers and then singing.  The two Pastor Oscars each preached in Spanish and the service lasted a little over an hour and a half ending at around 10:30 a.m.

The Argentinean Pastor Oscar & his family
The Argentinean Pastor Oscar & his family

After the neighbors went home, we cleared the chairs from the front porch and had lunch there with the pastors’ families.  Mangos are in season here now and Karen served us milanesa (a breaded and fried meat) with a mango chutney sauce along with sides of rice and coleslaw.  The mango chutney ingredients included a hot pepper, giving it a nice finishing “kick”.  It was delicious.

Milanesa with Mango Chutney Sauce
Milanesa with Mango Chutney Sauce

After lunch, we attempted to use the Wifi at Oscar and Karen’s home.  Unfortunately, it was very slow, especially when multiple people tried to use it at once.  In the afternoon we drove downtown to attempt some souvenir shopping at the open air market there.  Unfortunately, it had just rained and most of the local vendors had closed up shop by the time we arrived, so we changed plans and drove to the local “American” mall instead.  The Mariscal Lopez mall/shopping center is an upscale mall that appears to cater more towards the average tourist than the average Paraguayan.  Since it was another hot afternoon, we stopped in a food court for some of the local ice cream, which is sold by the kilogram here.  We packed six different flavors (including Peach, Americana, Dulce de Leche, Chocolate, and Coconut) into two 1 kilogram containers and proceeded to devour most of it.  Afterwards, we briefly browsed the stores, most of which you could find in the U.S. or Canada.

Mariscal Lopez Mall
Mariscal Lopez Mall

Later that afternoon, back in the Las Garzas neighborhood, Brian and Dan joined in the weekly soccer game at Pastor Pedro’s home.  In the evening we met up with the Iguazu Falls group at “The Plaza”, a local park within walking distance of Oscar and Karen’s home that also includes some local fast food stands.  Unfortunately, when they arrived at the entrance to Iguazu Falls national park, the waiting line was two to three hours just to get into the park. They decided to turn around and come home instead. They did get to see the rural Paraguayan countryside along the way including the oversized ant hills and the tidy Mennonite farms.  They also were able to experience eating chipá (a Paraguayan bread made with the local sour cheese). Our first work day would be coming bright and early tomorrow morning, but for tonight we pulled some tables together, feasted on the giant hamburgers sold by the Lomerita, and shared today’s adventures.

Day 11 – The Day of Rest

This morning, Brian and Dan left for the airport and we had church on the front porch of Oscar and Karen’s home. As of December they have raised approximately $5,000US of the $20,000US needed to build their new sanctuary on the lot next door. Karen is hopeful that by next December there will be a work team project related to the new church building. Although I have been referring to this as the outreach in San Antonio (the town’s name), this specific neighborhood is called Las Garzas and the congregation is formerly known as Iglesia Nazarena Adonai de Las Garzas.

Oscar Preaching
Oscar Preaching

At the morning service, Karen led the singing and played the guitar. We sang several songs in Spanish including “How Great Thou Art” and “I Surrender All”. Sis. Blanca gave the status of the fund raising for the new church building and then shared a testimony. Her daughter Rosie is a special needs child who has had a lot of medical problems. She used to ask God why her child was born this way. One day she saw other children with more problems and she asked God to forgive her for questioning Him. Rosie was able to make it through 6th grade, but she was on dependent on medication which had side effects, and the future did not hold many options for special needs children here. When Blanca was able to give her heart to the Lord, she also turned Rosie’s condition over to the Lord. Eventually Rosie was able to come off her medication and she has a gift for music that she has been able to develop and use. The ministry of education recently posted thirty job openings. One hundred and fifty young adults applied and Rosie was selected for a position starting in January. Even though we face difficulties, when we turn them over to the Lord, He keeps us in His care.

Don and his wife
Don and his wife

Oscar had the sermon, preaching from Amos 8:10-17, Jeremiah 1:6-16, and Jeremiah 15:15-21. God has a personal calling for our lives. When he calls us to something, he will do it. Amos was called because Amaziah the priest was not bringing God’s message to the King or the people. Amos’ message was not a “feel good” message, but it was from God. Amaziah was trained as a priest, but Amos was only trained as a farmer. Yet, like David, who was only
a shepherd when God called him, God took Amos and used him. If we have a strong relationship with the Lord, God will use us no matter where we are. Jeremiah was called of God before he was born. God loves those who don’t know so much (Matthew 11:25). When God calls us, he will give us wisdom and it will be evident in our testimony. Remember this this year when you are going through tests and trials. Moses spent 40 years in the palace and then 40
years being prepared to free God’s people. God told Moses that He would free Israel and asked Moses to walk with Him and join Him in this mission (Exodus 3:8-10). God means time spent in the desert to form us. We shouldn’t try to jump ahead and escape the desert. We need to remain and allow God to form us into precious stones. God touched Jeremiah’s lips and put the words to speak there (Jeremiah 1:9), but later on Jeremiah began to complain about his suffering (Jeremiah 15:15). We too, can be tempted to complain. We can become proud of our own knowledge. We can recite what we think we’ve done for the Lord, and how we wish others would convert or change, but God comes to us and says “if you convert, if you change, then I will restore you.” Often we want others to convert (or change), but we don’t want to convert or change ourselves (as God has asked us to do). God doesn’t call perfect people, he calls imperfect people to perfect them. If we want to receive God’s promise, we need to be obedient and submit to His will first. In Ephesians 1:4, it says that God chose us before the foundation of the world to be His children. He has called us to be holy, not famous. No one can overcome us if we are chosen and leading holy lives. God is looking for those who are willing to listen to his Word, to be humble and obedient. If we let God purify us, he will use us in this new year as well. He has a purpose for us and will always fulfill His promise.

Luis cooking Sunday Lunch in Oscar's Asado
Luis cooking Sunday Lunch in Oscar’s Asado

After services, Luis and Oscar fired up the Asado (a.k.a. Barbeque grill or Smoker) and Luis began cooking chicken for lunch. Luis spent 5 years in prison during the time that Oscar and Karen worked in the prison ministry. After Luis was first released from prison, he had difficulty adjusting to life outside the prison, but he has been faithfully attending the outreach here and bringing his children.

Lunch
Lunch

Luis' Daughter
Luis’ Daughter

After lunch, Edson led us on a walking tour of the neighborhood. We walked through Oscar and Karen’s neighborhood, past the “garbage river”, which smells like garbage (or worse), and on to “The Plaza” which is a small park with nearby food vendors and shops. Edson and his friend stopped to utilize the playground and some of our group joined him. Then we went on to some of the local shops where Edson helped translate so we could negotiate deals on our souvenirs. Finally, we circled around and ended up back at Oscar and Karen’s. For supper, we walked to Pastor Dario’s home in a neighborhood just off of the main route we drive every day from San Antonio into Lambare. We were invited for 7:30 pm and visited in the front yard and on the front porch until after 9 p.m. when we were called to dinner. Dinner is always served late in Paraguay, usually between 9 and 10 p.m. On special occasions like Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, it can be pushed until as late as midnight.
The Teeter-Totter at the Plaza
The Teeter-Totter at the Plaza