Tag Archives: Paraguay

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.

IMG_0974.JPG

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.

 

 

Advertisements

Day 13 – Good to the Last Drop (of Paint)

Today, Saturday, was our last day of painting.  For our devotion this morning, we read Revelation 21:1-4; 23-27 where John talks about the new Jerusalem.  The new Jerusalem will include the glory (Amplified version: splendor and majesty) and honor of many nations.  We have been given a foretaste of this by visiting Paraguay. Many things are different here than in the U.S., but we have learned to enjoy the beauty of the land, the slower pace of life, and the friendliness of the people here.  Each of us should take home something from our time here that has touched our life that we can share with others.

Oscar had requested that for our last day we concentrate on applying a second coat of paint on the exterior walls.  Besides the exterior walls and posts, the interior stairwell also requires painting, connecting the two floors in the old building with a common color.

We also applied a little additional trim where needed and finished cleaning up by taking down the painter’s tape (i.e. making the obligatory soccer ball), wiping the floors where possible, and finally cleaning our equipment so it would be usable the the next team or individuals.

By Noon we were finished.  There wasn’t enough room in the car for all of us, so Brian volunteered to take the bus and Steve volunteered to ride in the car.  Rod and Sarah decided to go with Brian for the bus experience.  We bid farewell to the school, the local store owner, and headed toward the bus stop.

Just before the bus stop, Brian noticed that one of his favorite empanada shops was open (It had been closed due to construction for most of the week) so we had to stop for a snack there.

Finally, we got to the bus stop and after about a 15 minute wait our bus came.  Our bus was air conditioned so we were charged extra 3,300 Guarani apiece (about 60 US cents).  There wasn’t room to sit, but we stood and enjoyed the roller coaster effect.  As with Brian and Steve’s bus this one veered off the main road and went through some of the neighborhood side streets.  Having learned from Brian and Steve’s experience, we stayed on the bus and eventually it turned back onto the main road and dropped us off at the entrance to the Las Garzas neighborhood.

We had just stepped off the bus and navigated around the huge mud puddle that tends to form at the corner, when a horn honked at us from behind.  It was Blanca, Marcel’s sister-in-law going to the Quinta for the kid’s camp.  She offered us a ride and dropped us off at Oscar and Karen’s street.  Karen prepared us fried mandioca (like french fries only better), as well as rice and beef for lunch.

After a brief siesta, we drove to “Stock”, the grocery store and filled up our cart with things we wanted to bring home.  The grocery store was well-stocked with Zucharitas (Frosted Flakes); however, the gluten free section with only two items seemed a little thin compared to the U.S.

In the evening Oscar drove Rod, Sarah, and Brian to the Bañado church, which we had worked on repainting after a flood two years ago.  We arrived early to church and the gate was still locked, so we did a little shopping and took in the neighborhood sites while we waited.  When we arrived back at church three minutes before the service was scheduled, the front gate was open and we were greeted warmly by the people there.

The Bañado area is one of the poorest in Asuncion.  It is also next to the Rio Paraguay which tends to flood every so many years.  The land is in a flood plain and the government looked the other way and allowed people to come and live there.  Now, however, the government would like to extend the boulevard by the river in downtown Asuncion North (as well as South), shore up the flood plain and move the people living here into government housing.  According to Oscar this plan is not going over well with the Bañado neighborhood and they are fighting against it.

At 7:30 there were only about six of us in the church, but once Frank showed up and began playing the guitar our crowd began to swell.  We ended up with about 16 adults and several more children.  Everyone sang heartily and the cement floors seemed to provide excellent acoustics for the room, making the music sound like we had double the crowd.  Pastor Alberto is the regular pastor here, but tonight Pastor Oscar led the service/discussion.  He recounted the story of Naaman from 2 Kings 5:1-14.   Naaman was a captain in the Syrian army.  Syria had taken over Israel at the time and Naaman had an Israeli maid who waited on Naaman’s wife.  The maid told his wife that the prophet in Samaria (Elisha) could cure Naaman’s leprosy.  Naaman went to Israel to find the prophet to be healed of his leprosy.  Eventually he found Elisha and was told to go wash in the Jordan seven times and he would be healed.  Naaman was upset by this because the Jordan river was not known as a beautiful river (Editor’s note: any similarities with the Rio Paraguay are purely coincidental).  Eventually, Naaman’s servants persuaded him to go and fulfill the simple request that Elisha had made of him and he was healed of his leprosy.  Today, we don’t need to go searching for a great prophet to heal us of our leprosy (sin).  We can go directly to Jesus.  Just as Naaman only needed to obey a simple request to be cleansed, so, we to can be cleansed from our sin by coming to Jesus and fulfilling his simple request for obedience.  We can have our leprosy (sin) taken away and be healed completely.

After the service, we stayed and visited for quite a while.  It was nice to feel the results of the air conditioning units which were installed two years ago (while we were here painting) working.  Sometime around 9:30 we had to say our farewells and leave for dinner.  We arrived late at Dom Dario’s home for a supper of empanadas, fish, and other Paraguayan delicacies.   After supper, we bid them good night, and headed home for a good night’s rest.

Day 12 – What is Gamuza?

It was an exciting day for us as we finished with painting the classrooms and ready to move to the exterior walls and try out our new color, “Gamuza”.  I always thought the names for paint colors were cryptic, but first “Arena” and now “Gamuza”.  I would describe Gamuza as a medium to dark tan color; whereas, Arena is closer to a light tan with a more yellowish appearance.  Regardless, it is now our job to paint the exterior walls and posts Gamuza.  The posts holding up the second story of the school classrooms are all painted in two different colors. The upper layer is white and the bottom layer is, well, for lack of a better word, “Gamuza”.   We begin by taping around all the posts and walls where the current paint line changes color.  Then we roll out the new paint and attack the walls feverishly with our rollers and paint brushes.  By lunch time we are close to finishing the first floor exterior painting except for the trim.

Pastor Pedro and his wife, Marti bring us an elegant looking dish for lunch.  It is like a Swiss steak with a vegetable “white sauce” served with mash potatoes and rolls.  As usual we are famished by lunch and make a gallant effort to do justice to the cook by leaving no leftovers.  Alas, as on most other days, we make a valiant effort but reluctantly fall short and leave the cook some leftovers.

img_0565

After lunch, we have our devotion from Hebrews 11:1-6.  According to the Amplified version of the Bible, Faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things we hope for (and the proof of things we don’t yet see).   The Greek word translated evidence or assurance also means “title deed”.  A title deed shows that we own something (e.g. a house or a car).  The title deed represents our legal claim to the asset.  In this case faith represents our proof of ownership or claim on the reality of our hopes, even when we can’t yet see how they will come to pass.  Often, when we seek to do something in faith, we are tempted to become discouraged when things don’t go as we hope.  When we started this work team, we were hoping for more people, yet the enthusiasm of those who committed to this project buoyed our hopes and when we arrived in Paraguay we found Gabe and Hadassah ready to help us.  The Lord brought just the right team together and we’ve experienced a lot of blessings this week because of it.  We can’t let discouragement overcome us, we need to accept the “title-deed” to be as valuable and as real as the physical asset it represents, and step out in faith trusting God to realize our hopes in Him.

After lunch we completed painting the exterior wall and railings of the second floor  Gamuza and completed the trimming as well. This leaves us tomorrow to paint the portion above the tape line a different color and add any second coats needed.

After finishing painting, Marcello took us to Mercado Cuatro (4) a giant “flea market” type of shopping center in Asuncion.  Sarah was able to purchase a maté thermo and a bombilla “straw” so that she can make tereré (the cold version of maté, preferred in Paraguay) at home.  Brian and Rod settled for a an old favorite, a blended strawberry-peach fruit juice from the juicing stand at the market.  For supper we got take-out from Miguella’s, which was closed when we tried to stop there earlier in the week.  We took Gabe’s advice and ordered the Lomita Arabic, a large wrap loaded with beef, chicken, bacon, a fried egg, tomato, lettuce, and maybe a few other things we didn’t notice.  The boys took theirs to share at the young men’s group meeting.  Our time in Paraguay is swiftly drawing to a close: there is only one more day of painting remaining, then comes Sunday services and a farewell luncheon, and by Monday we need to pack for our afternoon flight. In retrospect, the time all seems to have went by so quickly.

 

Day 11 – Bus Adventures

After a good night’s rest we had mostly recovered from our trip to Iguassu Falls.  By the time we got back to school it was time for lunch. We had an excellent polenta served with a beef stew.

img_0548

After lunch for our devotion we read Psalm 93.  Verse 4 from this Psalm was posted on a plaque at Iguassu Falls.  Just yesterday we had heard the thundering waters and witnessed the power of their might, but today they were just memories, albeit it, powerful ones.  Nevertheless, the postscript on the plaque, “God is always greater than all of our troubles” is what caught our attention today.  Hadassah related that when they returned home last night the water was out at their house.  After the long trip home this made her feel very discouraged.  Then she read her “verse of the day” which was I Peter 5:10: But the God of all grace …….. after you have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, (and) settle you.  The little tests of life have an eternal purpose for us in perfecting and strengthening our faith.  Too often, we focus on these tests and the things that went badly during the day.  If we always seek to find the blessings that God has provided during the day and are thankful for them, it will make our tests easier to bear and ensure that they work the perfection in us that God is seeking.

img_0549

After lunch we went back to work painting the second story classrooms in the new building with a second coat of paint.  Unfortunately, once again, the paint fumes in the first classroom did not vent well, and Brian ran down to the local ferreteria (English: hardware store) and bought us some masks.

img_0550

These helped some, but Brian and Steve still found the old fashioned t-shirt tied around your face worked the best.  Thankfully, the second and third classrooms seemed to have much better ventilation and the paint fumes were much less noticeable.

img_0551

By the end of the day, we finished repainting the three classrooms, and we removed the painter’s tape.  Gabe taught the “newbies” the Adonai school painting tradition of creating a soccer ball out of the used painter’s tape.

After briefly admiring our completed work, we left school for the day.  Brian and Steve walked down to the “Lambaré Mall” to make some purchases and to use the gym there.  Brian is an enthusiastic proponent of the local bus system, so the plan was to take the bus back to San Antonio where they could get dropped off at the secondary road leading to the Las Garzas neighborhood where Oscar and Karen live.  Oscar told them that they could take either the 32 or the 38 bus to get home.  After they finished their workout at the gym, they went outside and waited for these buses, when neither arrived in the time period that they expected, they walked back to the stoplight at the entrance to the suburb of Lambaré and after about a 15 minute wait caught one of the buses indicated.  It so happened that one of the other passengers sitting next to them on the bus spoke English, so he and Brian became engaged in a conversation.  Suddenly, Brian realized that the bus was no longer on the main road but was taking a side journey through another neighborhood.  Because he was no longer sure that the bus would take them where they wanted to go, he and Steve exited the bus at the next stop and spent another 15 minutes walking back to the main road between Lambaré and San Antonio.  At this point they tried to text Rod, who missed their text, and eventually sent a Snapchat to Hadassah who just happened to pick up her phone and see it.  Gabe was sent with the car to pick them up and bring them back to Oscar and Karen’s.   Needless to say, Brian did not convince Steve to become a raving fan of the local bus system.

img_0559

For supper Karen made us “vori vori”.  “Vori” is a Guarani word (the native Paraguayan language before the Spaniards came and still spoken today) meaning “little balls”.   It is basically a chicken soup with matzo balls that is sprinkled with cheese or spices as per the consumer’s discretion.  The temperature dropped to 77 degrees Fahrenheit today after hitting a high of “only” 91 degrees, so a soup was appropriate for such a “cold” day in Paraguay.  We agreed that it hit the spot for us.

Day 9 – The Sighting

One of the sounds of Paraguay that always thrills me is the sound of horses hoofs clopping on the cobblestone streets.  Unfortunately, these sounds and the accompanying horse-drawn cart making them, are becoming rarer.  Several years ago, at least once a day a street vendor would drive by the school shouting “Sandia” (watermelon) or “Pina” (pineapple) and selling his wares from his horse-drawn cart.  Nowadays, if a street vendor comes by, he is usually pulling his wagon with some version of a modified motorcycle.  Today, however, I heard the traditional clip-clop sound and went rushing to the gate (which was locked of course).   When I finally escaped the security system, I was able to catch up with the drivers of the vehicle and snap a photo.  While the two young boys weren’t selling anything, they were making stops at different houses in the neighborhood, probably to pick up recyclables that they could turn in for money. In the quickly modernizing world that is Paraguay, it was great to be reminded of the way things used to be.

This morning Sarah read 2 Corinthians 8:12 and shared how when she first considered coming to Paraguay she was concerned about her ability to perform the physical labor required by the work and her lack of Spanish knowledge;  nevertheless, she had a conviction to come and saw how the Lord used her willingness and faith to make this trip possible through seemingly small, incremental progress.  God can use any willing heart to turn small gains into big victories.

We set back to work on finishing the upstairs classrooms in the new section. The last room is exceptionally large compared to the others and required additional time.  By lunch time we had completed these rooms except for the trim.

After another filling lunch, we continued with the trim in the new upstairs classrooms and began applying a second coat of paint to the old upstairs classrooms.

The new classrooms also had problems with their ceilings sagging and not properly fitting into the bracket that was supposed to hold them in place.  With some delicate twisting procedures in the one room, we were able to snap the ceiling back into the bracket.  In the other room, Brian added a few nails to hold the bracket in place and make the ceiling appear semi-level again.

img_0314

No job is ever complete until the clean up is done and painting is no exception.  Cleaning the equipment at the end of each day is time consuming and messy.  The good thing is in the Paraguayan heat no one ever feels too bad about getting splashed with the cold water.

After cleaning up for the day, we returned to Oscar and Karen’s house to freshen up for some evening tourist activities.  We headed downtown using Karen’s GPS.  Suddenly the GPS voice came over the speakers, “turn left at M…….C……..Donalds”.  For a moment we were dumbfounded and then all laughed as we realized that we were supposed to turn left at McDonald’s, obviously, a key road side marker in Paraguay.  When we arrived in the old section of Asuncion, we browsed through a number of shops selling Paraguay’s signature goods (e.g. hammocks, knitted clothing, fancy tatting, etc.) as well as the requisite postcards, key chains, and refrigerator magnets.  After meeting the needs of our inner “tourista”, we drove a few more blocks to the waterfront development across from the Hall of Congress and the Presidential Palace.

In what had once been a “favela” or slum area on the Rio Paraguay, the government relocated the community into near by government housing, trucked in sand, and turned the former favela into a beach area.  They also added wide walking/biking/skateboarding  paths along the beach and created a large boulevard running next to it for car traffic.  At first glance it looks very nice.  Unfortunately, the Rio Paraguay is very polluted so no one is allowed to swim in it, and the garbage keeps washing up on the edge of the beach.  The other not so nice component, is that the government has proposed extending the boulevard all the way into and through San Antonio along the Rio Paraguay.  If this is done, they will reclaim the river front land from the Quinta and replace the Quinta’s current sunset viewing deck and boat slip with a boulevard and walking trail (sigh).

After we spent some time utilizing the walking trail and viewing the Presidential Palace (from just beyond the security perimeters and away from the armed guards), we drove back south toward San Antonio for dinner.  Our first choice in restaurants proved to be closed, but we returned to the Plaza (a park in San Antonio) with its festive Christmas displays and lights for a dinner at one of the food vendors there.

The food was tasty, inexpensive, and filling; nevertheless, we still saved enough room for an ice cream stop on the way home.  It had been a full day, but now it was time to rest up for tomorrow’s annual trek to Iguazu Falls and the dreaded 3:30 a.m. wake-up call.

Day 7 – A Day of Rest and Sweat

We spent another morning sleeping in, still trying to work off our sleep deprivation from 2016 and recover from the hot weather.  The Las Garzas church gathered at the Quinta to use the pools and the sports court; however, with the temperature at 99 degrees Fahrenheit the pool was the more popular choice.

img_0236

The previous day when we stopped at Pastor Pedro’s home.  He told Brian that the Lambare church was having services on New Year’s Day at 6 p.m.  At 5:30, we left with Karen to go to Lambare for the service.  When we got there the only person at church was someone cleaning the church.  He told us that the service was really at 7:30 p.m.  With an hour and a half to burn, Sarah suggested that we go for ice cream.  So we drove down the street to the “Lambare Mall” to find the mall closed except for the North American beacon of capitalism, McDonald’s.  The drive through was packed, so we parked and went inside.  The lines inside were long as well.  We ordered several “KitKat” flurries and had to try out some of the specialty menu items that we don’t usually see in the States as well.

img_0238

The air conditioning wasn’t working very well on the sun facing side of the restaurant, so we were soon ready to pack back into Karen’s air conditioned car.  We got to church about the same time as Ray, a relative of Oscar’s drove up with his wife.  We have a long history with Ray.  He worked with Brian and his sisters one year helping to paint the school, and more recently, took us on a tour of Asuncion.

img_0254

We hung out in the courtyard between the church and the school visiting until it was time for the service to begin.  By this time, the temperature had only dropped to about 97 degrees and the humidity had to be near 99%.  I say that because soon after the service began, a large rainstorm struck.  It may have dropped the temperature some outside, but the net effect for those of us inside was a day of trapped 99 degree heat mixed with some of the most humid conditions we have ever experienced.

img_0255

After singing, Pastor Juan had a short devotional encouraging us to trust God in 2017, and to seek restoration if we have drifted from him in 2016.  Pastor Pedro, then had a service from Deuteronomy 28:1-14 emphasizing the many different ways that God promises to bless us if we will obey him.  He also read the blessing that God instructed Aaron to use to bless the children of Israel (Numbers 6:22-27).  All these blessings can be ours if we are just willing to be obedient to God’s will.  He promises mercy and blessings if we will just turn to Him.

By 9:00 pm the service was over and we were very sweaty.  Pastor Pedro came up to us afterward and noted that the church is in the process of collecting donations for a new air conditioning system.  I must say that we are all very motivated to contribute after the evening’s service.

 

 

Day 6 – New Year’s Eve in Paraguay

For New Year’s Eve, we slept in, something that’s easy to do here when the air conditioning is working.  We were invited to Pastor Dario and Marlene’s for lunch.  We had a delicious lunch and a short visit.

img_0182

After lunch, Gabe drove back to Karen and Oscar’s with Hadassah and Steven.  The rest of us walked and went to do some shopping. We found contact solution at a Pharmacy.  It also sold Zucharitas (i.e. Frosted Flakes) next to the more typical Pharmacy goods.

img_0183

We also found a roadside stand selling fireworks.  After much perusal of the goods, we departed with what we felt was a good selection for the night’s festivities.  We also stopped by the Plaza, a small park with food eateries that is usually bustling with activity at night.  During siesta time, however, it seemed mostly deserted.  We also stopped at Pastor Pedro’s house for a short visit with him and his wife.  We eventually found our way back to Karen and Oscar’s home.  The kids from church gathered on the front porch there and began working on a craft project.

img_0185

Around 6 p.m. the adults arrived and we gathered on the front porch for a New Year’s Eve service.

img_0193

Pastor Oscar had the evening service.  He began by paraphrasing Psalm 1:2-3.  The Lord promises prosperity to those who are in his Word day and night; however, this is not financial prosperity, but spiritual prosperity.  For the main meditation, Pastor Oscar read from II Samuel 24:12-15 where David had sinned and the Lord asked him to chose his own judgement.  David did not chose, but left the judgement to God.  Even though he was King of Israel, he was willing to humble himself before God and trust in His grace.  We need to realize, that even when  we’ve sinned, we can repent, and place our confidence in God because He loves us and is willing to extend us grace as well.  When God stopped the Angel from destroying Jerusalem,  David didn’t let out a sigh of relief and say “well I’m glad that’s over”, he continued to pursue repentance.   He purchased the threshing floor to offer a sacrifice there.  He won’t take it even though it was offered to him at no cost.  David had a heart of sacrifice and he knew that a sacrifice that cost him nothing was not a true sacrifice.  Tonight is the last day of the year, there is still time to repent, and begin the New Year with a clean slate before God.  This pardon is available to all.

img_0203

After service some of us walked down to the Quinta to view the sunset over the Rio Paraguay.  After the sunset, we had a good view of the crescent moon and Venus; we were also able to identify Mars from the reddish glow that it cast.

Meanwhile Oscar began preparations for another magnificent meal of asado, ribs, and chorizo.  We ate a late dinner on Oscar and Karen’s front porch and then as midnight neared, we proceeded to join the rest of the country in shooting off the fireworks which we had purchased earlier in the day.

Happy New Year from Paraguay!