The Dregers

Moving Forward Together

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Biggest Thing I Learnt

Judah at an orphanage

Judah at an Orphanage

Have you ever paused to think…and realized it’s been a while since you paused to think?  Stop for a moment.  What has led to this specific instant?  What decisions have you made?  Are you where you thought you’d be?  Where you want to be?

One of the most dreaded questions for someone returning from a missions trip has got to be “So, what was the biggest thing you learnt?”  Many reasons could be given for this dread, but I think it boils down to that we rarely pause to think, to take stock of where we are, how we got there and where we are going…and this unfamiliar exercise can be overwhelming.  Our task-oriented culture may foster productive lives, but sometimes we forget to cherish the journey rather than just the destination.

“Never his mind on where he was…What he was doing” – Yoda

Soccer in Paraguay

"Stick Futball"

And I think this is the biggest thing I took from my time in Paraguay: They value people.  When someone is talking, they actually listen rather than just nodding while reading a text on their cellphone.  We could stand to value people a little more.

So as I jump into ministry out at Lone Prairie Camp this summer and life begins to spin again, I hope I can remember that the ripples left by a life are relationships not accomplishments.

If you would like further updates about the ministries Power to Change is involved with in Paraguay, be sure to check out my Dad’s blog.

Posted May 6th, 2010.

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Well, tomorrow I am heading home.  This trip has been a whirlwind tour of ministries and today was no exception.  We moved from a Story Keepers showing (an animated children’s movie about Jesus) to a soup kitchen and finally to an orphanage.

There are many stories to tell, but I believe I need to sleep.  Sleep deprivation seems to have weakened my immune system sufficiently for some annoying flu bug to take up residence and hopefully sleep will help me recover.  I will attempt to write a more complete post tomorrow on the plane.

A boy

A boy I met at the orphanage

Posted April 27th, 2010.

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The Simple Things

Removing a Roof

Working together after the Tower of Babel

Running water truly is a marvel of our time.  Even more amazing is hot running water as becomes painfully evident after a few days of cold showers.  Thankfully whatever the issue was (the hotel staff patiently explained the issue to me…in Spanish…), it was fixed today and I just had a most enjoyable shower.  And showers are very important when you have spent a large chunk of the day helping do construction.

Building an outhouse

Building an outhouse

What would you think if you read “Building Out House” on your schedule?  Would you expect to be building-out a house or building an outhouse?  Today apparently it meant both.

Tearing down a wall

Out with the old...

After a visit to a soup-kitchen (more information in a later post), we went to help upgrade a house.  Cobbled together pieces of wood gave way under the stroke of the one hammer, soon to be replaced by brick walls.  I’m not sure exactly what I did, but the rest of the construction team spent much of the time laughing and it seemed to coincide with my hammering creating flying debris.

Making cement in the mud

Making cement in the mud

Questionable engineering, bare wires and other hazards kept the work interesting.  It’s amazing how spending some time with a family who’s plumbing consists of a toilet and a faucet reveals hot water to be the luxury it is everyday.

Tomorrow is my last day in Paraguay and it promises to be a busy one.  Once again, the day starts bright and early and it sounds like I’ll be visiting 3 separate ministries.

Posted April 26th, 2010.

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Talking on the Telephone

Boy doing actions to a song

Head and shoulders, knees and toes...

I had the opportunity on Saturday morning to participate in a community event put on by Transformando – a follow-up event to what they call a ‘mini’ festival.  Let me clarify a few points about that sentence.  First, this did not feel like a great opportunity at 7:30am.  I know this isn’t really that early, but I’m not a morning person and it’s been a series of early starts.  Second, a ‘mini’ festival apparently involves 5-7 thousand people which isn’t all that ‘mini’ in my opinion.  These festivals involve puppets, clowns, bands and speakers but are small relative to the 30-40 thousand people festivals which Transformando also hosts.

Boys reading a booklet

Reading a Power to Change Booklet

When I arrived an hour late (not my fault, I promise), they were still finishing setting up which fits with my experience thus far with Paraguay time.  A sound system and a puppet theater decorated as a castle became the central attraction for the neighbouring community.  Children laughed as the clowns struggled to do actions during the songs and were captivated by the blue puppet talking to God on the telephone.  Children are is many ways the same regardless of their culture and needed to be constantly shooed away as they tried to peek inside the puppet theater.

Gustavo entertaining the crowd

Gustavo Entertaining the Crowd

The coolest part of the morning was watching our usually quiet chauffeur transform as he led the event.  I think one of the coolest things in the world is watching someone who is in the middle of God’s Will and it seemed evident that this is the case for Gustavo.  Very little matters when we find that most unsafe place – “He’s not safe, but he’s good” (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis)

Posted April 25th, 2010.

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A Trip into the Paraguay Countryside – Part 2

Me drinking Tereré

Me drinking Tereré

Throughout the trip, our driver and interpreter could not seem to drink enough cold tea (called “Tereré”) and I think it was only because of the oppressive heat that we didn’t need to stop repeatedly for bathroom breaks.  Tereré is extracted from a cup filled with tea leaves using a communal straw-strainer combination which, whether rationally or not, caused me more pause than the unfiltered water used to prepare the mixture.  I was repeatedly assured that the tea has substantial medicinal value, so perhaps that (plus a decent amount of prayer) will keep me from getting sick.

Paraguayan woman washing laundry

Paraguayan woman washing laundry

So far the food here has been very good, despite each meal apparently needing to involve eggs is some way.  Even hamburgers have a fried egg as a topping.  When we arrived in San Pedro, they served a cornbread bun stuffed with ground beef which tasted kind of like a taco with … you guessed it, boiled egg chunks inside.  Corn flour is in many of the local breads and has a coarser texture than wheat flour.  The breads are relatively dry, but I definitely approve of the baked-in cheese.

A lake where a road once stood

Crossing the Red Sea

In the evening, storm clouds rolled in and a tropical storm pounded on the roof all night.  It looked like the rain would never end, but by midmorning the downpour subsided leaving streams where dirt roads used to be.  The Transformando team brought us along as they invited various families to evening Bible meetings before sending us on our way.  The drive home was slow going because of the various obstacles exasperated by the rain, but eventually we arrived back in Asunción, the capital of Paraguay.

Posted April 25th, 2010.

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A Trip into the Paraguay Countryside – Part 1

Car crossing a questionable bridge

Lush vegetation, red dirt and questionable engineering

Well, Paraguay is hot.  I know that is likely obvious, but I believe it is worth stating – Paraguay is hot.  We headed out to San Pedro on Thursday morning, bumping along dirt roads and the slightly more stable, though sometimes more bumpy, cobblestone roads.  The trip took about 4 hours and once I accepted the layer of sweat that is your constant companion during the day, the drive provided a nice overview of the Paraguay countryside.  Lush green vegetation was occasionally punctuated by scars left by fires set to clear the underbrush and the red soil I came to know in Africa quickly stained the shiny shoes of our driver Gustavo as well as everything else it touched.

Looking for cell coverage

Our interpreter looking for a cell signal

As seems to frequently happen, our interpreter Naomi (pronounced No-a-me) also served as our cultural guide.  Although her lack of farming knowledge was sometimes amusing, she graciously answered endless inquiries on topics ranging from the local education system to why she would carry 3 cellphones.  Naomi also helped me slightly expand my Spanish vocabulary while maintaining a clear focus on the main local language, Guaraní (pronounced /ɡwɑrəˈniː/).  If their laughter was any indication, I provided much amusement with my attempts to pronounce some of the words in their tonal language, especially as I stumbled over a number of unfamiliar nasalized vowels.

Looking for the "You are here"

Helping the lost missionary orientate

We received a warm reception from the Transformando juntos Paraguay team working in the San Pedro area.  Transformando is working closely with Power to Change, the organization who’s ministries I am in Paraguay to see and participate in.  We toured a school which had previously been shown the Jesus Film.  Both the students and the teachers where happy to see us and I watched as a class of grade 5 students proudly showed us the booklets they had received after the film.

Meeting a local pastor

Meeting a local pastor

After a quick shower with a disappointing about of agua, we rushed to an area pastoral meeting.  After waiting an hour (‘Paraguay time’ isn’t as precise as our North American, time conscious culture demands), the meeting began.  Transformando’s main focus in the area seems to be church planting and these evening meetings allow the local church leaders to support one another in their ministries.  Although I didn’t understand any of what was said, the participants seemed encouraged by the discussions.

There is another day to write about, but the local time is 2am and I believe I ought to go to bed.  Tomorrow I shall regale you with tales of cuisine, variable power and mud.

Posted April 24th, 2010.

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Bienvenidos a Paraguay

Jobs are rarely as glamorous as outsiders think.  Personally, I think this stems from our tendency to talk about the exciting bits rather than the long hours spent doing…well, boring stuff.  And missions work is no exception.  Sure, there are those moments when you are eating things that shouldn’t be categorized as food or flying down the side of a mountain on a motorcycle, but they are generally few and far between.  More often, missions work is like the last day has been – rather slow.  After roughly 24 hours of traveling, I am tired.  That is one of those statements that woefully understates the extent of a situation.  I was reading on the plane about another such statement “[Jesus fasted] for forty days…and at the end of them he was hungry.” (Luke 4:2)  And people say the Bible isn’t funny…

Anyways, I doubt flights with a touch-screen entertainment system and seemingly random meals counts as “suffering for the Lord.”  My dad and I have safely arrived in Paraguay and it sounds like the next 2 days will be very interesting.  The locals who have organized my schedule wont tell me what is in store other than that I am heading 5 hours out-of-town for an overnight trip that involves a river and mosquito repellent wont be optional…More details when I get back 🙂

Posted April 22nd, 2010.

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