Monday, June 9, 2014


June 3-6
Tuesday, June 3rd our dear friend and sister in Christ from the San Francisco (our previous town) church plant, Hermelinda, suddenly went to be with Jesus.  She was 45 years old, a past T.I.M.E. host mom, married to a deacon and leaves behind 7 children ranging in age from 4 years to college-aged.  Being one of 14 siblings, it is not an exaggeration to state that maybe half the town was related to her.  The whole community can be felt grieving their loss. 
This is only the second time a non-Catholic has died in San Francisco which is an extremely significant event not only for the tiny Bible church but for the community who will be watching how the evangelicals respect death.  In Catholic tradition when someone dies, the priest or an appointed lay-leader leads family in scripted prayers and repetitive Hail Maries, thus beginning the 9 day process of praying the deceased’s soul out of purgatory.  Since Hermelinda was an evangelical her family did things differently. 
Jeff and I went to be with the family Tuesday night and into the wee hours of Wednesday morning.  Around midnight we gathered around the body, which was displayed on a table in the living room, and worshipped the Lord.  Lucas, Hermelinda’s 16 year old son, stood with his eyes closed and head slightly lifted upward.  Tears ran down his face as he sang in a low whisper some of his mom’s favorite songs.  In the midst of incredible searing pain he worshipped.   

Jeff recently finished writing a 9 day Bible story set on death.  Who would have thought the stories would be used so soon?  Jeff had the privilege of sharing two of those stories with the group.  We pray they were a comfort and a reminder that we have a hope not steeped only in traditions of men but in a living, real and powerful Savior.
 Wednesday afternoon we gathered at Hermelinda’s house to prepare for the burial.  The mourning process in Paraguayan culture is often very external and emotionally draining. Loud sobbing upon the arrival of new family members, sisters embracing while screaming at the top of their lungs, children wailing as they caress their mother.  Many people passed out while mourning at the home, and a tank of oxygen was brought out to the burial site in anticipation of more.
As the men decidedly ushered the coffin out of the house and into the back of a pick-up, the family followed with tears streaming and wobbly legs.  In the truck they flung themselves over the coffin as the procession to the graveside began.  At the graveside there was more fainting and wailing and signs of extreme emotions.  We sang a few songs as the men bricked up the mausoleum.  

Thursday the family invited us to a karu guasu (big meal) where they fed about 90 people.  Jeff and Tony were each able to share a Bible story and Jeff shared the gospel message with the group which was what Hermelinda had wanted.  This is incredibly counter cultural, and it will be interesting to see what kind of response the community has to it.
 Jeff presenting the gospel
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 dishing out food for 90
 lunch time

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