Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Thoughts….

October 31, 2008

Growing up I was never allowed to participate in Halloween festivities. I am not entirely sure why except I remember my parents saying something to the effect of “satan’s holiday”. When I was younger it didn’t bother me too much because, to be honest, I was scared of the whole ghosts and goblin thing. As I grew older though – Jr High - I felt that I was missing out on something and desperately wanted to join in on what I saw as a fun time hanging out with friends, dressing up and collecting candy. I didn’t understand why other Christian families allowed their kids to participate while I was banished to the house on that evening.

In my adult years I have thought many times about my view of Halloween. My husband’s mother always made him elaborate costumes and sent him out the door in search of untold amounts of candy. And now that I have kids of my own, I am expected to be the authority of such subjects so that I can pass on a Godly heritage to my offspring – a job that I take very seriously.

When we were in the states we always attended a Halloween alternative on October 31st. Kids dressed up and spent the evening throwing balls at tin cans, jumping on trampolines, and bowling down empty plastic coke bottles in the Family Life Center of the Baptist Church. The prize for “trying your best” was….candy. We joined right along with the other Christian moms and dads who were “taking a stand against the evils of Halloween”. Deep in my heart I wondered if it was enough. Sure we never saw miniature Freddy Kuegers or satans at the church party but kids did dress up as Spidermans and witches – both aren’t very godly characters. Instead of going door-to-door the kids went from game station to game station collecting candy. And instead of calling it a Halloween party is was cleverly known as a Fall Festival.
Halloween hasn’t reached Paraguay (yet) and for that I am thankful. For the past three years I have actually forgotten about the holiday until sometime early November when I checked the calendar to find the date for Thanksgiving. This year, however I have thought about it more. Perhaps because next year we will be back in the US with all the tomb stone lawn decorations and the witches perched at the grocery store or perhaps because I am seeing my friends’ children dress-up and attending Halloween parties…I mean, Fall Festivals through the wonderful world of bogs and Facebook. My kids don’t even know that America celebrates a holiday the end of October. They are not missing out on anything by living in rural Paraguay. Dressing-up? My kids are constantly donning costumes from their dress-up box, attending dress-up birthday parties, and using their imaginations to pretend to be someone they are not. Candy? Well, we do have plenty of candy on this side of the equator that is for sure – just look at the kids’ teeth that live around here.

As I read articles for and against the celebrating of Halloween I found some interesting things. I had never known the deeply disturbing and evil roots of the holiday which included a bonfire of human sacrifices to the gods ensuring the sun to rise again in the summer during Samhain (pronounced Sah-ween) at the end of summer (Nov. 1), a Celtic festival. Samhain was a time when the division between the two worlds became very thin, when hostile supernatural forces were active and ghosts and spirits were free to wander as they wished. During this interval the normal order of the universe is suspended, the barriers between the natural and the supernatural are temporarily removed, the side lies open and all divine beings and the spirits of the dead move freely among men and interfere sometimes violently, in their affairs (Celtic Mythology, p. 127). Halloween is a festival of the dead, and represents the "end and the beginning of the witch’s year. It marks the beginning of the death and destruction associated with winter. At this time the power of the underworld is unleashed, and spirits are supposedly freed to roam about the earth; it is considered the best time to contact spirits" (Halloween and Satanism, P. Phillips and J.H. Robie, 1987, p. 146).

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious…witchcraft…these who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. Galatians 5:19-21

Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the LORD your God. Deuteronomy 18:10-13

Many early American settlers came from Ireland, Scotland and England, and they brought various beliefs about ghosts and witches with them. German immigrants brought a vivid witchcraft lore, and Haitian and African peoples brought their native voodoo beliefs about black cats, fire, and witchcraft. By the end of the 1800's, the United States had developed a variety of regional Halloween customs. The Christian church established a new holiday, All Saints' Day, also called All Hallows'. Hallow means saint, or one who is holy. The evening before All Hallows' was known as All Hallows' Eve, or as it came to be abbreviated, All Hallow e'en. This name was eventually shortened to Halloween.(Encyclopedia) Instead of trying to abolish the pagan Halloween customs, people tried to introduce ideas which reflected a more Christian world-view. Halloween has since become a confusing mixture of traditions and practices from pagan cultures and Christian tradition. (

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2

Are the symbols of the Halloween season evil (or rooted in evil practices) - witches, monsters, ogres, vampires, ghosts, ghouls, goblins, devils and demons? As a believer I am called to:

Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22

Have nothing to do with fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
Ephesians 5:11

Are believers compromising when celebrating Halloween even though our American culture and other Christians say it is ok?

For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?" 2 Corinthians 6:14,15

Halloween is a time for innocent kids to dress up and have their pictures taken to be hung on a wall or placed in a photo album for the next generation to see and laugh. Who couldn’t resist giving candy to pudgy- fingered toddlers and angelic-faced princesses when asked “Trick or Treat”? Halloween holds fun memories of decorating pumpkins with silly faces and watching It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
Halloween is also a time of increased activities of vandalism and disregard for the property of others, reports police officials everywhere. During Halloween you must now beware of poisoned candy and fruits booby-trapped with razor blades and needles. Such threats are so real that many hospitals offer free X-rays of Halloween treats in order to prevent children from being harmed. Halloween is a time when parents have to shield their children’s eyes from blood and gore and devilish monsters who appear on billboards, TV and at their doorstep. Those who oppose Christ are known to organize on Halloween to observe satanic rituals, to cast spells, to oppose churches and families, to perform sacrilegious acts, and to even offer blood sacrifices. Who but Satan could inspire such monstrous actions? (

Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. John 3:19-20

Is there an alternative? I can choose to glorify light and life instead of evil and darkness. I can promote giving rather than receiving and building up the church instead of acts of vandalism. I can celebrate God’s might instead of supernatural powers. Since All Saints' Day on November 1st is a Christian holy day I could honor the Christian saints by reading stories of their tremendous faith to my kids throughout the month.

My verdict? After all I have read, let’s just say that it isn’t looking good for Halloween - whatever form it may take.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour. 1 Peter 5:8

The kids making Halloween cookies last two weeks ago which very well may have started me thinking about the whole idea of Halloween...thus the blog entry above....

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

As Iron Sharpens Iron

October 29, 2008
2008 SIM Paraguay Ladies Retreat

Almost a year ago Jean (my San Francisco team-mate) and I did a bible study called Freedom for Mothers. Weekly we met to discuss what God was teaching us and pray for specific needs in our family plus the other mothers in the community. The material was life changing and it was an added bonus to be able to share it with my dear friend, Jean. We were sad when the study finished and wanted to continue the communion together. The idea came to us – why not pick a study and invite the women on the Paraguay team to participate. Since most of us live hours from each other we couldn’t meet regularly but we could encourage each other in our walk with the Lord on the phone or by e-mail or when we did see each other. All the women decided to participate and we chose a book by Nancy Leigh DeMoss called Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free. As “icing on the cake” we decided to have a retreat to share together what God is doing in our lives.

I spent the past Thursday through Sunday with 11 amazing women. We stayed in a German run hotel outside of Villarrica. Our three rooms were next to each other off a private hall. Each room had a twin bed, a double and a single bed, a large bathroom and a long table. They also all had a living room separated by a half wall with chairs, a sofa, a coffee table under rug and a TV. There was no shortage of food – neither from the wonderful German meals or from our homemade assortment of snacks. I think each woman brought something chocolate that that constantly called our names as we passed by the table in our room/meeting room.
I was a bit nervous during the planning stage of the retreat because I wanted everything to be perfect. I am convinced that the sign of a good leader is their delegating skills and delegating is what I did. I shared a devotional thought the first evening and Alyssa led us in worship. Friday morning Sarah led our discussion and Jean led the afternoon one. Saturday we sang and then Fiona led the third session. Saturday evening Vonni led the last session to wrap things up. In each session we discussed the lies addressed in the book. Some of the discussion points were controversial or very personal. During the sessions (and in the weeks before the retreat) I prayed Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” We spent time in prayer too - either in small groups or one on one. Sunday we had a worship and prayer time (led by Rachel) and we left for home after lunch.

In the afternoons we had free time. Some slept (we stayed up way too late each night), some read (enjoying silence), some swam (the weather was great) and one day I ran. In the evenings we enjoyed wonderful fellowship while exchanging recipes, telling love stories, recalling embarrassing moments (it is amazing how many embarrassing moments were tied into our love stories!), beautifying ourselves with nail care and lotions and watching movies.
Something that made the retreat extra special was the American goodies. My church in Harlingen, Texas and one of Jean’s supporting churches and Cheryl Cox, one of my good friends sent gifts for each of the women. They actually sent so much that Jean and I were able to divide it out into 6 smaller gifts – one rested on their pillow as the arrived at the hotel, a gift bag was placed on their seat before each session and one night we had a grab bag. The ladies truly were in awe of all the familiar chocolates, the scented lotions and sprays, the note cards and pens, and teas, coffees and cocoa mixes. As they looked at the treats all I could say was that we serve a God who delights in delighting over us. He is lavish in his love!

We all enjoyed getting to relax and taking off our many hats: wife, mother, teacher, cleaning lady, and cook! I am again reminded how amazing the women that I work with are and feel so blessed to minister side by side with them!

I think all the husbands survived without the women folk around. Jeff did great. He followed the meal plan I laid out and the kids followed their chore chart. Ginny made me lots of card and wrapped up presents from around the house (gift giving is definitely her love language). Micah – our budding artist - also gave me a picture…except his was scribbled in permanent marker on the kid’s wood closets. Life goes on......

A side note: One day when Ryan saw me reading the bible study book Lies Women Believe he said, “Mom, I didn’t think there was any lie that you didn’t believe that is why I always tell the truth.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Leishmaniasis follow-up

Check my August blog called Leishmaniasis to find out the first part of Karaî (Karaî means Mr.) Sixto’s story.

October 5, 2008

SENEPA came out to visit Karaî Sixto and to administer the Montenegro skin test for leishmaniasis. They warned that the test could give a false negative result in an elderly, malnourished person whose immune system wasn’t working properly. Well, if anyone would be a false negative it would be him. After 36 hours Jeff went to his house to read the test and found it negative for leishmaniasis. The leishmaniasis medicine would be free for Karaî Sixto but would cost the health department $2000 for a couple months of treatment. So even though he has symptoms and Jeff is pretty sure he has it, the health department won’t do anything about it because of his negative reading.

While some of his symptoms were pointing towards leishmaniasis, other symptoms (the bumps on his forehead and palate, his loss of eyebrows and his nasal stuffiness seemed to point toward leprosy. We stopped at the Mennonite (leprosy) Hospital on our way to Asuncion and Jeff showed doctors there Karaî Sixto’s pictures. They were 100% sure that he has leprosy. They will be in a nearby town November 4th and they want to see him for a complete exam. They gave Jeff the man’s first month’s pills so that he could immediately begin a multi-drug treatment for lepromatous leprosy.

Jeff and I went to visit Karaî Sixto today. His leg wound is worse despite Jeff’s attempts to clean and keep it covered. I praise God for my servant husband who again picked out the maggots while I shoed the flies away. His Achilles tendon is now exposed and necrotic. There is another wound forming on his right heal. It’s about the size of a quarter and very deep. Jeff said, “Karaî, do you see these maggots?” Karaî Sixto stuck his fingers in the hole and pulled out a finger full! I guess the answer is, “Yes.”

We gave him the news about having leprosy but with his lowered mental status, I am not sure how much he understood. We gave the medicine to a hopefully responsible relative passing by and asked him to give Karaî Sixto 2 pills each day.

Sixto's house

It just gets worse and worse

Jeff cleaning out Sixto's wound

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Toad Dissection

Saturday, October 18, 2008

What’s that green stuff?
Is that his poop?

These are just some of the comments I heard from the seven 5-9 year old missionary kids Saturday morning as Jeff dissected a fat toad on our kitchen table. What a fun way to learn about organs and muscles! The kids loved opening up the stomach and seeing his dinner – flies, beetles and even a piece of a blue balloon.

The night before Ryan misspoke and said, “I cannot wait till we digest a toad!” and the night after the digestion…I mean, dissection Joshua prayed, “Thank you God that we now know what a frogs insides look like and that he eats our balloons.” Even 2 year old Micah wanted to participate in the action – tonight he came inside with a frog clenched in his hands.


Ginny and Tyler collecting toads

The eager learners - if only all science was this fun to learn

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Encuentro Sunday

October 19, 2008

Today was a beautiful day as we gathered for church. Once a month we meet at a believer’s field for a special day called Encuentro. At 8:30 the women begin chopping the vegetables and meat and peeling the mandioca for lunch. Then we all form a circle under a big shade tree and begin to sing as Tony plays his guitar and Jeff the piano. We always have a time of group prayer and sharing. Today Jeff and Emiliano, a Paraguayan believer, shared and Pedro presented the gospel. We had a good sized group of about 60 people. Some were new faces and some were the “old faithful”, and a lot were children.

Mid-morning we pour and pass terere and enjoy fellowshipping. The kids love playing tag and hide-and-go-seek. Sheep and cows come to graze and drink from their trough the same one we use for baptisms).

The giso (soupy stew) that has been boiling in a big pot while we were worshipping is ready by noon for us to enjoy. Children eat first, followed by the men and finally the women. After lunch we gather back under the tree for the Lord’s Supper.
Today we got home at 3:00 tired, hot and sweaty but very encouraged. Jeff and I tell each other about meaningful conversations we had and discuss who we need to visit this week. The field is white unto harvest but the workers are so few….

Encuentro Sunday

Singing at the encuentro

Kids at the encuentro


The gift that keeps on giving

The kids decided to give Micah a rabbit for his birthday since he loves Ginny’s rabbit so much. They all agreed to pitch in 5 mil (about $1.00) for the pet and Joshua graciously agreed to help him feed and care for it. They picked out a black and white one and named it Reader Rabbit. It will be the gift that keeps on giving I think because as soon as we got home the rabbits began doing their “rabbit thing”. I marked 28 days on the calendar.

Micah with his birthday present - Reader Rabbit

Friday, October 17, 2008

Pancake Supper

Saturday, October 11, 2008

I had 7 Paraguayan girls over to my house Saturday to make pancakes. They seemed to have a lot of fun. I let them mix the ingredients and pour the batter on the griddle. Most had never heard of or tasted pancakes (a staple food in our house!). All the ingredients can be found here except maple flavoring for the syrup but we used vanilla instead. I am always so impressed by their initiative. You would think that 7 extra people in my kitchen would be chaotic and overwhelming but they organized themselves almost assembly line style – some prepared the batter, some cooked the pancakes, others washed the dishes and another dried.
As we sat down at the table I noticed that the girls were either not eating or they were using their hands to picking up the pancakes – being very careful not to cause the syrup to run off - while their fork sat untouched. My team mate whispered to me, “If there’s no knife then they think it is finger food.” I went inside and brought out knives. Immediately they began cutting the pancakes and using their fork.
I asked the girls to come up with a metaphor (it took me a while to explain the concept because I didn’t know how to say metaphor in Spanish!) comparing Jesus and/or our relationship with him to anything on the table. For example, the sugar and the water were once separate but once boiled it became one syrup, just as our life and Jesus’ life becomes one. We had fun talking about the sweet syrup and the sweetness of Jesus, tasting pancakes for the first time and hearing about Jesus for the first time, the white cream and the clean lives we should live.
I told them that the Bible says we should hunger and thirst for righteousness. If I went all day without eating I would be starved for food come evening. If a feast was then put before me I wouldn’t just pick at the food, eating only the crumbs. I would be eating big mouthfuls and eating everything I could. In our lives too we need not to settle for a little bit of Jesus. We need to be so hungry and thirsty for Him that we take every opportunity to learn more about him, read about him and talk with others about him.
I pray that these (now non-believing girls) will develop a hunger and thirst for things of God; that they will not just settle for a little religion but they will truly desire to taste the feast that God has set before them. Pray with me for these girls whom I have weekly contact with: Noemi, Venus, Kati, Rocio, Cynthia, Gisella (and her two sisters), Shirley, Tati, Romina, Dolly, Marta, Bernadina, Virginia, and Laura.

Making pancakes together

Introducing Paraguayans to pancakes

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Third Time’s a Charm

Jakubo Medical Mobile Clinic
Monday, October 13, 2008

It was our third attempt at planning this mobile clinic. Two weeks in row it rained so hard Saturday that the roads were too muddy on Sunday to travel, forcing us to cancel our trip. But yesterday morning as we loaded our family and Paraguayan believers into the van we praised God for beautiful weather and a chance to share the Good News in Jakubo, 20km from San Francisco.

Pedro and Juan grew up together in Jakubo. They worked side by side clearing and planting fields. Juan was a Christian and continually modeled Jesus. I am reminded of the scripture in Isaiah – my word that goes out from my mouth will not return to me empty – because years later Pedro remembered Juan’s testimony and he made a decision to follow Christ. Pedro moved to San Francisco with his family and kept his new found faith silent for years until the Holy Spirit’s pressing became too loud to ignore. Pedro and his wife have recently been baptized and Pedro has turned into an incredible church leader.

In February Jeff approached Pedro and asked where we should have the next mobile clinic. His response was, “Let’s go to my home town. I am ready to tell those I grew up with about Jesus.” We had a wonderful clinic. It was incredible to see Pedro sharing his testimony and praying with “his people”.
Yesterday was our second clinic in Jakubo and it was again a blessed time. After we set up, we formed a circle with the waiting patients. First Juan (who is now a pastor in that town) shared, then Jeff spoke, and then Pedro preached. It was the first time to have a mobile clinic on a Sunday. Pedro’s logic was - everyone works Monday through Saturday so Sunday is the only day the sick can come. There was no shortage of patients – Jeff saw close to 40 people (ranging from heart murmurs to infected feet to UTI’s) and I did countess labs.

While Jeff was seeing patients the believers shared their testimonies. The crowd listened very intently. It has been awesome to see the believers mature in Christ through sharing and teaching others. The spirit of the Lord was present and so I can only believe that people’s lives were changed.

It had been a long day but before we left the town Jeff was asked to do a house call. I was not prepared for what I saw. As we walked up to the wooden house I saw a very thin, pale lady with unkept coarse black hair and a toothless grin sitting on the porch. Around her fingers she had tied string and around her wrist was a chain. As I went to greet her with a kiss on either cheek I had to remind myself not to breath. The pile of human feces next to her was pungent even from a safe distance. On a different part of the porch her brother, wearing a soldier’s hat roamed around muttering and laughing to himself. He too had a chain wrapped around his wrist. The son explained that they are often chained to something because they are prone to get violent and they wonder off and get lost. He said, “We have to work and sleep we cannot be out searching for them every day.” As Jeff tried to get a handle on the situation he explained about the spiritual world and the strong works on satan and the even bigger plan of salvation. In the end, Jeff diagnosed both with schizophrenia and gave them a prescription. It will be interesting to see how they respond. We prayed for the couple left for home.

Jeff said he felt as though we were living in Bible times – lots of animals and agriculture, carts pulled by yoked oxen, attending lepers, and now seeing patients in chains.

Mobile clinic in Jakubo

Pedro sharing from the Word

Jeff sharing at the clinic

patients waiting to see the doctor

Monday, October 13, 2008

San Francisco Ára (Saint Francisco day)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Yesterday was our community’s patron saint’s day. Because it rained all day yesterday the parade was postponed until today. We woke up to little homemade Paraguayan flags stuck into ours and our neighbors fence posts marking the parade path. I have included pictures from last year. The Saint Francisco is kept at the church but on this day he is held high. The ladies in brown robes are Franciscan nuns.

The Saint Day parade begins

Our town saint coming down the road in front of our house

Our San Franciscan nuns

Happy Saint Day, San Francisco!

Friday, October 10, 2008


October 10, 2008

Last night Ginny, Joshua and Ryan tip-toed out of bed after Tyler was asleep in order to decorate his bed with balloons and birthday signs (this has become a tradition). This morning we sang Happy Birthday to Tyler and he blew out the four candles stuck into his breakfast crepe. He loved opening the Cars towel and the Yurtle the Turtle book and animal grandma and grandpa sent.

Two days ago several of Tyler’s missionary buddies were here for his Olympic themed birthday party. The kids threw the discus (a frizbee), the javelin (rolled up construction paper), had a ball toss. Each kid received a cookie medal with a frosted gold star on top. The cookie hung around their neck by a red, white and blue striped ribbon. I made a simple cake with the Olympics rings on top. As the kids said good-bye I gave them a plastic water bottle decorated with either a blue or red home-make cup cozy and paper medal hanging from it that said #1.

No shortage of kids at this party!

Birthday boy blowing out his candles

Tyler and David showing off their cookie gold medals

water bottle gifts for the kids

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mobile clinic—a practicum

Since we had 2 recent mobile clinics canceled due to rain, I decided to post about our very first mobile clinic. Jeff wrote that last year in a newsletter and SIM has now published it on their web-site: We are planning a clinic for Sunday. The forecast calls for rain.....

Alva sharing Christ

Helping with labs

On a cold winter morning, a handful of local believers and a few SIM workers embarked on a short journey to the community of Santa Ursula. It was to be our first mobile medical/evangelistic clinic. We began the day with a short talk about Jesus, and then as I attended to patients (45 in all), other workers showed the JESUS film.

Every half hour, the film was paused so believers from the nearby village of San Francisco (where our church is located) could talk about what Christ had done in their lives. Their testimonies were so captivating that many people stayed all day, even after patients had been treated, in order to talk further about what they had heard. What was the speakers’ secret?

Earlier in the month, our team in San Francisco had started a leadership training initiative, and our first course was a two-day workshop on evangelism. For the next two weeks, the students practiced their personal testimonies. No wonder they spoke with such clarity, power, and conviction! The clinic was like a practicum for the evangelism class.

Shady (pronounced Sawdee), a high school senior, spoke first. She told what her life had been like before she had met Christ a few months earlier, and how he had changed her. Many in the audience could relate to her pre-Christ life. Next came a father in his 30s; he, too, told how God had changed him and his whole family. In a culture where most husbands are unfaithful or absent, and most children are born to unmarried parents, his family is a bright light. A single mother told how God had transformed her life since she had come to him a few months before.

Each patient received a leaflet I’d written in the Guaraní language that showed clearly and simply how they could put their faith in Christ. When Shady saw one woman leave the clinic with a tract in hand, she asked if they could read it together. Several people gathered around as the Christian teenager and the very needy woman bent their heads over the pages.

Just as the woman was agreeing to pray to invite Jesus into her life, one of her many children interrupted and dragged her away. Shady approached her again later, and this time she had the great privilege of leading this woman, plagued by problems and sins, to Christ. The woman went home a new person, with the huge challenge of showing Christ to her large and troubled family!

The clinic raised awareness of the bi-weekly Bible study offered at the clinic location in Santa Ursula. And back in San Francisco, we’re offering courses on intercessory prayer, answers to frequently asked questions, and how to give a public evangelistic talk. The believers have enthusiastically embraced the mobile clinic as their own ministry—an opportunity to put their new skills into practice.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Car Update

Question: What weighs 41 lbs, costs $650, costs $160 to mail, and takes a weeks worth of labor?

Answer: Our new car part!

In light of all that has gone on with our car these past three and a half years, Ryan tonight prayed in all seriousness, "Lord, help someone to steal our car tonight."

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Home Sweet Home

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Our 4 day trip to Asuncion was extended to 10 days after our car broke down trying to get back home on Wednesday. Thursday all day we tried to call the bus line that went to San Francisco find out the departure schedule but could not get through. At first no one answered and then in the evening it was always busy. It wasn’t until 10:00 at night that we got through and were told that they were on strike until the 10th of October. We called a second bus company that didn’t go directly to our town but we thought would get us close. That option was to leave either at 1am or 5am and ride 10 hours (as opposed to 6 hours). In the end we would still be 1 ½ hours from home. That option did not sound appealing!

Our San Francisco team mates were having a meeting in Villarrica Saturday morning (on the road half way from Asuncion to San Francisco). A new plan was formed: we’d take a bus to Villarrica and they would take us home.
Saturday at 9:30am in the pouring down rain we boarded and settled in for a 4 hour bus trip. Jeff, Joshua and Tyler shared two seats and Ginny, Micah and I shared two seats. Ryan rode behind us in a seat by himself. It is normally a 3 hour car trip but the bus stops every 10 minutes to let more people on. The new people stand in the aisle and flop over onto the people sitting in the paid seats. I was praying that Micah didn’t have a dirty diaper because I would have grossed out everyone hovering over us. The aisle was jammed packed and I (mistakingly) thought that no one else would fit. But the bulging aisles didn’t stop the plump ticket man from squeezing through to collect his money or the round ladies with chipa (bread) piled in a basket on their head or the gum/soda/cell phone/wallet salesmen from pushing their way up and down the aisle the entire trip.

Once in Villarrica we piled into the Floyd’s car. Tony, Jeff with two kids on his lap and one on the console were in front, Jean and I with 5 kids sat in the back. At 6:00 we pulled into San Francisco. It was nice to finally be home sweet home.
As for the car, we are waiting for a bearing assembly (car part) from the US.

Ginny and Micah on the bus from Asuncion to Villaricca

The bus stop in Villaricca. there was no way these people were going to move aside to let us off. We had to use elbows just to get off the bus.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Back to Asuncion

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Our plan was to drive to Asuncion Thursday, do all our shopping Friday, celebrate Micah’s birthday Saturday and drive home Sunday. Well, it looks like God had different plans for us….
The past few weeks the car starter has been a problem. It has always started - it just has taken 5 or 6 attempts at times. Friday, as we were completing our errands, we had a couple starter scares and we decided to take it in to the shop. Saturday the electrician couldn’t be found, they don’t work on Sundays, and Monday was a holiday. They worked all Tuesday and by Wednesday morning we picked up the car and were ready to get out of town.
I am always amazed at how much our Suburban can hold. We always seem to pack the car to the ceiling with groceries, suitcases, and kids. On our way to the Cucurucho for lunch (our first stop, about 1 ½ hours from Asuncion) we heard a “clunking” sound (real scientific, I know) coming from under the car. Jeff thought about turning around and heading back to Asuncion but we pressed on. After lunch we stopped at the Mennonite hospital for Jeff to smooze with some doctors. We thought about turning around but we pressed on. About 2 ½ hours outside of Asuncion Jeff declared, “We’ve lost our brakes….and the steering!” He was able to navigate to the side of the road safely and he assessed the situation but couldn’t see anything abnormal. We came to our senses and turned around to head back to Asuncion. Driving on the shoulder and going 20mph we limped just a few minutes until we smelt rubber burning followed by smoke coming from the right front tire. I am not a mechanic but I knew that was not a good sign and that our trip had come to a halt. Jeff called the tow truck.
We waited 3 hours for the tow truck. I got out modeling clay and oranges to keep the kids occupied. Micah, of course, ate the clay and played with the oranges but at least it kept his attention. Jeff and I unpacked the Suburban and repacked for the next few days (less suitcases, separated groceries). Our team-mate was driving from Asuncion back to San Francisco that day. He stopped and we transferred all the refrigerated/freezer items to his car (I buy a lot when shopping for 6 weeks at a time). Plus, I had done grocery shopping for his wife and another missionary lady too. There was plenty to fill his car.
That was the first hour.
For those of you who have been following our Paraguay adventures over the past three and a half years, you have heard many car stories. We have been broken down, towed, and have spent a lot to repair the “green monster”. The second hour of sitting on the side of the road we (adults too) grew restless. We counted our blessings. Ryan was thankful that his game boy was charged up this time. We were thankful it wasn’t 100 degrees outside (it was only 90 and we have been stranded in 100 degrees before). We were thankful that it wasn’t raining (we’ve done that too). We were thankful it wasn’t night. We were also thankful that there not 2 million bugs, only 1 million. And we praised God that we broken down by a run-down bus stop set about 20 feet from the highway. There was a nice tree to sit under and grass for the kids to play in.
That was the second hour.
By the third hour we were all loopy! Finally at dark the tow truck came and loaded the car. All 7 of us plus the driver piled into his cab and we drove two hours to Asuncion – two kids on Jeff’s lap, two kids on mine and Ryan on a little corner. I was very proud of the kids, I must say. They did great. We sang many songs (from Ta-rah-rah-boom-da-ray to All Hail The Power of Jesus Name).
We dropped the truck off at the shop and took a taxi to the SIM guest house. When I called to request a room and explained that I didn’t know how many days we’ll be staying, the host said, “I’ll just mark you down for a week.” Two thoughts ran through my head: I sure hope we aren’t here for a week and she knows us so well! At 9:00pm we arrived at the guest house - just 12 hours after we left. We bathed, ate, and all fell into bed.
Today, Thursday, Jeff talked to the mechanic. The car needs a big heavy part from the states (we’ve walked this road many times too). I sit here writing at 10:00 Friday night and I have no idea when or how we will leave Asuncion (a 10 hour bus ride that drops us 1 ½ hours from home just doesn’t seem to spark my interest nor does staying in Asuncion another five days). I am sure our trip home will be an adventure in itself…..and another blog entry.

Jeff driving our car onto the tow ramp.

All of us piling into the cab of the truck.

Waiting road-side

Enjoying oranges by the road-side

Interruptions or Divine Appointments?

In North America is it the cell phone that interrupts, here it is the sound of someone clapping at the front gate. People usually clap when we have just sat down to a meal, or when we are spending time as a family, and on occasion clapping has woken us up at 5:30am. I wish at times that I had an answering machine that told people to come back later or a secretary to prioritize the needs. People come to our house on horseback or motorcycle or by foot. Some are selling meat or herbs and others come begging for clothes and food. Some need medical consults and others are just passing by and in need of a drink of water. Some need pictures taken or English help and some simply come to visit. If I see these people as merely interruptions then I become frustrated and selfish of my time. But if I view them as divine appointments than I can smile as I invite them on my front porch and offer them a drink. I can relax and let God’s words speak through me (in Guarani!) to their soul. And I can be confident that they will see, if only just a glimpse, of Jesus’ love for them.