This morning we went shopping at Mercado Cuatro (4), or the world’s biggest flea market as I like to call it in jest. For the visitor it is a maze of indoor and outdoor shops sprawling over several blocks near downtown Asuncion. We passed by here on our bus ride home from Bañado the other day. Some locals claim they find great bargains here, others would do anything possible to avoid coming near it. Besides local arts and crafts,one can purchase clothes, shoes, and electronics (many of these are copies of name brand items found elswhere in the world.). Among the interesting shops we saw were
a fresh vegetable stand,
a fresh fish stand (evidently, from the Paraguay River),
a roots & herb stand (with someone available to grind these into a powder upon request),
and a fruit salad/fruit drink stand.
When we grew tired of Mercado 4, we stopped back downtown at the central plaza where local goods are also sold in a less crowded and more refined manner.
When we returned to the Quinta, it was time to paint there. Edson tried to paint with his foot by stepping in a paint tray, but we had Sam take him to the water spigot to clean up instead.
We are officially tired of painting now, but we keep going until the dining room and outside facade of the Quinta is painted.
Finally, we finish and take a dip in the pool.
In the evening we are invited to Pastor Pedro’s for a farewell party for his daughter, Marilyn, who is going to Germany for a month for school. Another nice evening, but time to start packing for tomorrow’s flight home.
Today we slept in so that we could say goodbye to the Canadian team before they left for the airport. Karen made us pizza for lunch and we all shared our final meal together before Kathy, Danny, and Alex left for the airport with Oscar.
The rest of us left for Adonai school for final trimming and cleanup work; however, when we got there the outside gate was lock. Don Dario called Karen who gave directions to walk to the janitors house and get the key. To make a long story short, by the time two of us found the janitor’s house, the janitor had already come to school and unlocked the gate, and the rest of the group had hopped the fence before the janitor showed up anyway. By this time it was about 1:30 p.m. We thought it was going to be easy to finish the trimming and clean up before 4 p.m. when Don Dario was scheduled to return. We finished the trimming relatively quickly; however, cleanup went slower than expected and our ride arrived before we were ready.
We returned to the Quinta to freshen up and get ready for Wednesday evening church services at Las Garzas. Two of the bulls had escaped from the neighbor’s property and were grazing on the street in front of the Quinta, so we stopped for pictures.
After singing, Oscar had the sermon from Isaiah 45:
Isaiah 45 talks about how God is the potter and we are the clay. I watched a potter make a vase once. He took the clay and removed all the impurities by running it through water. He begins by forming just small part of it. If at anytime the form is not turning out right, he clumps the clay back together and starts over. If the wheel starts to wiggle, he has to redo his work, otherwise the vase would turn out lopsided. When he’s finished forming it, he takes it to the oven, but even then if the smallest stone remains, it could the whole vase to crack in the oven and ruin it. When the vase comes out of the oven, it is painted and sold, where it becomes a decoration in someone’s home where it is displayed and admired. God asks us to go down to the potter’s house because he knows we are made of clay. He asks us to humble ourselves and change our ways. Sometimes we complain about this process. Job complained about the process he went through, too, but he also acknowledged that God had blessed him when times were good. Job was not understood by others and accused by them. When we are in this situation, we need to spend time with God finding the stones in our clay and removing them. He has to take away our sins to heal and free us from our past. The blood of Jesus is what can cleanse and heal us. When God adopts us as a son or daughter, he disciplines us. While we are perfect in Christ, each day we must submit to Him and go back to our potter to have Him work on us and form us. He forgives us and removes our iniquities from us as far as the east is from the west. He loves us and is full of mercy. If we see our children in danger, we would do anything help them and save them. God does the same for us. Today is a day of thanksgiving. Let’s praise God for who He is and turn this next year over the Him. We should all pray tonight and give ourselves up to Him and to his perfecting work on our vessels of clay.
The service closed with five or six prayers offered by members of the congregation who were inspired to pray. We then visited and fellowshipped on the porch. Afterwards, Oscar brought out sandwiches and we ate supper with those remaining.
After supper, we climbed into Don Dario’s van and Oscar’s car and went for ice cream. The ice cream (Helado) here is very rich and delicious. There is a good selection of flavors many incorporating the local preferred tastes (e.g. coconut, peach, mango, dulce de leche). The Ice cream and our time together tonight will be another good memory of Paraguay, but sadly, we now have only one full day left here.
Today is the last work day for the Canadian team whose return flight leaves tomorrow. Yesterday, when we told Oscar of our progress, he mentioned that the bathrooms could use painting. I know its been several years since we painted them. Christina says we painted them four years ago when she was last here. Kathy says she painted them once when she was here about 7 or 8 years ago. None of us recall it as being a fun job, especially on a hot day. The bathrooms have tall ceilings requiring a step ladder or some homemade contrived device to be able to reach the ceilings. The rooms get very hot, especially on a summer day when you’re hanging out in the “rafters”. And to top it off, the rooms don’t have a pleasant odor on hot days. Nevertheless, painting the bathrooms is the prime directive for today, along with painting the upper portion of the stairwell to the second story (also, a warm job on a summer day). For whatever reason the stairwell is also two-tone in the sense that the upper portion is a different color than the lower portion. I guess this is an extension of the two-tone color scheme of the outside walls. I doubt that most of the students notice the paint colors in the stairwell, but it does give it a nice look when it’s freshly painted and there’s enough light to catch the effect.
The ceilings above first floor walkway also need to be painted. Danny says that he painted these last year without a roller extension and it left him with very sore muscles. This year he has brought retractable extension rollers, so we are better equipped to tackle this job.
As expected, the bathrooms are hot and odiforous. Each bathroom also has three shower stalls, at least one of which is in working order. The non-functioning shower stalls are used as storage areas or junk receptacles depending on your perspective. Nevertheless we persevere and complete both of the bathrooms except for the trim at the top of the ceiling.
At the end of the day, we only have trimming left to do at the top of the ceilings in two classrooms and one of the bathrooms, plus cleanup tasks. We are thankful to have finished almost everything before the Canadian team departs. To celebrate completion of our tasks, Christina has organized a Fiesta (party). Pastor Dario’s neighbor has agreed to host it and cook asado for us if we provide the meat. We gather around 8 p.m. and play volleyball or just visit while we are waiting for the asado to finish.
One thing we can never complain about is the love and hospitality that is extended to us while we are here. Everyone goes out of their way to make us feel welcome and provide for our needs – no one wants us to go home hungry. Tonight’s meal of chorizo sausage and grilled beef is no exception. About quarter after nine, we fill two large tables and sit down to another delicious meal shared with friends, neighbors, and brothers and sisters in Christ. A great way to end a day, any day.
Today, we were back to work painting at Adonai school. We did have some extra motivation today, when we realized that the Canadian team would be leaving us on Wednesday already. We also received some help from Sam, who had become friends with Lucas, who taught English at the school last year. He had come to our dinner at Don Dario’s house last night and offered to come and help. With Sam’s help and the extra motivation of the pending departure of the Canadians, we were able to make great strides toward completing our painting at the school.
We painted all of the outside walls on the first level starting at the church sanctuary all the way to the end of the original classrooms.
We painted the outside support pillars:
..including those in the cafeteria area:
Then we painted the walls leading into the bathrooms:
…and more classrooms:
….and the second story walls:
We painted high:
We painted low:
…and everything in between:
Blanca came to school and made us soup for lunch:
In the afternoon, we worked on the “great wall” (of the cafeteria\dining room). We had been dreading it due to its size and height, but it went quickly once we were able to get two ladders going simultaneously.
When we finished for the day, we had completed all of the outside walls and nearly all of the remaining classrooms. We went back to the Quinta tired, but feeling good about what we had accomplished. In the morning, Karen had told us we were having hamburgers for supper. The hamburger turned out to be more like roast beef, but it worked for us anyway.
We ended the evening with rousing group games of Apples-to-Apples and Bananagrams, and went to bed savouring our accomplishments for the day.
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.
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.
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.
Finally, all the children gathered around the cornerstone to have their pictures taken.
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.
When it was time for dinner, we all crammed into Pastor Dario’s dining room for another evening of good food and good fellowship.
Saturday morning we went to downtown Asuncion and drove by the Presidential palace (although recent presidents have not lived there). We stopped in the el Centro area (i.e. the Center) to go shopping for souvenirs. Paraguay is famous for its lace which is incorporated into wall hangings, table clothes, and various other items. Also popular are hammocks, real leather purses, tereré jugs and assorted accessories.
After shopping, we went back to Adonai school for more painting. We finished the first coats on two classrooms upstairs and part of a second coat on the 5th classroom downstairs in our abbreviated work day.
For lunch, Blanca came to school and prepared lunch for us in the school cafeteria and we ate it on the open air patio.
After work, we showered at school and visited in the courtyard until it was time for youth group. We met Lourdes who lived in Virginia for 20 years and moved back to Paraguay last year. She translated so that we were able to have a long conversation with Pastor Dario and his wife. Youth group consisted of praise and worship followed by a sermonette by Pastor Oscar from Argentina.
After youth group, Don Dario (our primary driver for the week) and his wife invited us all over for dinner. They live directly across the street from Oscar and Karen’s home. It was another warm summer’s night and we ate outside on their patio.
We had three kinds of Milanesa, fresh vegetables, and fruit for dinner. After Dinner, we were joined by the family’s pet parrots. It was another wonderful night of Paraguayan hospitality and fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
On the first work day of 2015, we arrived back at Adonai School to find Nestor back at work adding the new roof extension to the cafeteria dining area. While Alex and Dan went to help him. The rest of us began prepping the school classrooms for painting. Prepping the classrooms for painting consists of: 1) moving all of the classroom equipment (chairs, desks, cabinets, drapes etc.) away from the walls either to the center of the room or outside into the courtyard, 2) sweeping down the walls and corners to remove spiderwebs and other debris, 3) spackling any minor wall blemishes (while asking for “cemento” and Nestor’s help for the gaping holes), and 4) taping around the door and window frames, whiteboards, light switches, etc. Since the floors are ceramic tile, we have always just wiped up paint drippings instead of putting down any covering on the floors.
As we work there is always a continual angst over whether to execute to our perfectionist North American standards or to follow the local standards. Even spending the time taping the door and window frames is somewhat questionable. No one here seems to mind the “bleedover” getting on the door frames or window frames, but as North Americans we are not used to seeing this. Our goals here usually emphasize speed over quality. The children are out of school on summer break; consequently, now is the best time of the year to complete this work. According to Oscar, having freshly painted classrooms shows the parents that the school is well maintained and makes them want to send their children here.
By the end of the day, we have painted four classrooms with 2 coats of paint and started the 5th classroom. Unfortunately, the step ladder is missing, so we will still have to go back and work on trimming around the ceiling in the classrooms with the higher ceilings.
Meanwhile, Nestor and the roofers have completed their job:
For supper we went back to the Quinta, and had empanadas, accompanied by another beautiful sunset over the Paraguay River.