God Is Mysterious in the ways He works, answers prayers, and teaches us. This is my observations of what has happened so far and testimony of God’s faithfulness through it all.
In the past month, we have been invited over to someone’s house for a meal on three different occasions. Our first invitation was to the house of Ruben and Lucia. Their son goes to the Cerritos school that we teach at. It was a wonderful contemporary Paraguayan meal with their whole famly. They prayed for us. Second we were invited to the house of Charles & Tessi. Charles is the man who drove me to the hospital weeks before when I had my incident. We had a wonderful Paraguyan asado meal with their whole family. They prayed for us. The most recent invitation came through Maru, our co-worker / english teacher / fellow church member / friend. She is part of the Intervarsity group here in Paraguay. We mentioned our encounter with Steve and Sheri Tengan previously. They are missionaries here through the Intervarsity organization which Maru is a part of and thus the connection with us. We had wonderful home-made pizza that we shared at the home of one of the members of the Intervarsity group. These invitations were amazing answers to quiet hope-prayers we had about needing fellowship relationships.
The Jovenes (youth) here are explosive. This past week they had their FIRST annual hipop competition at church as one of their saturday night meetings. It was amazing. Here are the guests that were invited. A man who opened a center for orphaned kids to teach them hipop and to give them self-esteem and hope. They go and compete in competitions. He brought many of his students to this event and some of them were in the competition.Two local but well known Paraguayan hipop groups came to perform and share the message. The speaker was a well known youth pastor. The Jovenes that night took charge of many aspects of this event to make it happen. I was the camera man. The groups were amazingly good. I will soon get the images and perhaps some clips from that night. After the competition and performances, before the winner was announced, the speaker showed a few short video clips and one short story about Jesus healing a posessed man. In the video the story was, more or less, straight from the Bible, but the scenes itself were very artistic, contemporary and emotionally charged version of the story. After that the pastor gave a short message and invited people to accept Christ as the one who can save from the uncontrolled, lost, seemingly demon-posessed life. I believe that many people prayed the prayer of repentance and acceptance. I hope that they have taken the next step to walk in faith. The winner received a trophie. I am amazed at what God has done through this event. It goes beyond my understanding of what the form of evangelism could be.
School has been the toughest part of the whole experience for me. In specific, it was my 8th grade english class at Cerritos. After much praying and thinking and consulting, I believe that God has answered my prayers. First off I was given understanding of why they are that way. I was told that in general, children here, when they are young, are not really disciplined at home. The parents on the most part leave them alone. When they come to school, they encounter authority figures who behave differently. School requires them to follow strict rules and regulations. They have to learn how to listen and follow. Secondly, through this tough experience, I learned the importance of prayer. In truth, I can say to you that on days that I have prayed, the classes would be better. It was so much better that I was able to survive through it without getting hurt emotionally. I was so thankful to God for protecting me in this way and giving me wisdom. Weeks of that went by. Next, I consulted the principals and other teachers about this matter because it kept on continuing and the class was not improving. Principal Mario spoke to me a few times and gave me many great advice concerning how to teach the students here so that I do not lose control. All of the advice he gave me were so basic and seemingly too small to make any impact, but I willfully followed his advice knowing that he is the authority. They worked GREAT. The two tactics I used were: arranging the chairs in an organized way and writing the names of good and bad people on the board. I can’t believe it. The class that was once so wild that they would walk in and out of the room, come up to the board and write things on it while I’m teaching, go into the corner and read magazines while I teach, not do the work assigned to them. . etc etc. . . became one of my best behaving classes. I really think that God is really amazing. Thank you so much for your prayers. Please keep praying for our work at school.
Soon it will be Easter. Everyone at church must be busy with something. Here, it is like that as well. This Easter, the church is putting on a play called “Passion of Christ”. It is the stage version of Christ’s story starting from the last supper to His resurrection. There are many prayer meetings and special services happening as well. In Paraguay, the week before Easter is called “Semana Santa” which translates to “Holy Week”. Some places do not work this whole week. Other places work till Wednesday. Lucky for us, we get Thursday and Friday off. Students are asking us what we are doing that weekend. I told them I don’t know, but I feel we will be preparing for Easter Sunday as the holidays were intended. I have also heard that the Catholic influences here are strong and that people do not eat meat a few days before Easter. They eat bread instead. The interesting thing is, the bread they eat is called “CHIPA” It is a certain cheeze bread that I believe is particular here in Paraguay or South America. We are told that on the final few days before Easter there will be many people on the street and on buses selling chipa like there is no tomorrow. That will be interesting. There are many vendors on the street and on buses, but to see them all selling chipa would be quite a site. So we have two early morning prayers, stage background + props to make, posters for the play to make until the day of the theater, Sat & Sunday. It has been very busy, but that is to be expected when Easter comes around. I hope that everyone will have a truly blessed Semana Santa.
Ytororo (1,2) church will go into full swing after Easter. The construction has been scheduled to start the second week of April. Due to being tired and stressed, I have not been able to attend the Ytororo services on Sundays so I do not really know what is going on in the classes. However, from what I have observed, they are teaching the story of Daniel. They are on the part about Daniel and his friends refusing to eat the King’s food. It has been 4 weeks and they are now just about to go into the next topic. There are about 6 faithful jovenes members who come. 3 are teachers, one plays the guitar, the other is in charge of stationary, the other is in charge of setting up the snack and drinks. Annie has been put in charge of making crafts. As for me, what do I do there? I don’t really know. I have not yet received any specific task by Pastor Freddy. Most of the time I have found myself praying for the church as I walk around, observe, and take pictures. I really hope that once the church is built, it will be a place where not only kids, but the whole Ytororo community can worship God. Please pray for the Ytororo church and people around it.
Dengue is still a big problem here. We have been seeing people in our church, in our school getting dengue. There is always at least 1 or 2 people we know that has gotten dengue in a week. Some of them has gotten it for their second time. I am so thankful that Annie and I have not yet gotten the dengue fever. I thank God that we did not. Thank you for your prayers. Please continue to pray for our protection.
Looking back at three months, I see us now starting to settle in just a little bit. We finally were able to use the kitchen cupboards to store our dishes and cups. We still can not use the drawers because we are not comfortable yet, but I’m sure the time will come. Most of the huge and unsanitary bugs are now all gone. We are now somewhat comfortable with riding the bus. We can now with ease get to all of the places that we normally go. We have now also purchased our second bottle of bleach, cleaners, vegetable oil. We have also invested in purchasing a spray that makes the air smell good. Perhaps I have not yet talked about our bathroom situation here. It is not as bad as a hole in the ground in a shack outside with bugs crawling all over, but the toilets here cannot take paper, so all of our papers go into the trash can, so it smells bad. It took us 3 months to actually go out and purchase an air freshener.
I have also realized how fast we had to adapt. During the past three months, I thought we had alot of time to adjust and to adapt, but when I see it in number, It has been very little time. I thought about just basic commitments we have here. Here is what went through my head.
Spanish lessons for almost every day (For this month only).
Attend Church ( Sun 8:00am – 12:00pm ) – started doing the offering songs.
Started participating in the jovenes meetings ( Sat 5pm-9:30pm ).
Started participating in pastoral team meetings ( Sat 8am – 10pm ).
Ytororo starts ( Sunday 3pm – 5pm )
School starts ( First time teaching. M-F 6:00am – 1:00pm ),
Sunday school starts ( Sunday 8:00 – 10:00 )
Praise practice ( Tues 4pm – 6pm )
I thought to myself. Wow. Everything happened so fast one thing after another. I am thankful to God that we were able to adjust fairly quickly. It has been very busy and tiring. Especially because the language. Please pray that we will have the strength, joy, and wisdom to do this work. And also pray that we will be able to learn the language enough to really connect with the people we encounter.