What a great week this is shaping up to be. We started off our day with a staff devotional on nourishment. The food provided is excellent and the spiritual food is even better. We shared encouraging stories from the first half of week two. The elective groups are beginning to produce some great results with the Worship elective leading our times together, and the crafts elective producing some great pieces of art and some beautiful cards. The kids and youth rallied together today to defend their championship against the counselors in Mighty Mighty Scoop Noodle Challenge. We even got Jennifer, Renata and James to join the counselor team to try and stave off the attempts of the kids at stealing our flags. We held off til the time ran out and the rain came pouring down on us all. The rain was a welcome change to the heat wave and forest fires we had around us the first half of the week.
This past week has been a balance of further learning about Paraguay and recharging.
Through my team’s visits, we have had the great experience of learning how to make chipa! Chipa is a very common, cultural food in Paraguay, and it’s made with mandioca starch (1kg to be exact), corn meal (1kg again), Paraguayan cheese (some in the beginning and the end-so lots), 5 eggs, and some pig fat (our equivalent of Crisco). You need a really big bowl and a strong hand to mix it all together- roll your pieces in the shape of a donut or biscuit, let them sit for a day or so, bake them, and then enjoy! In addition to chipa making, another need-to-know fact about Paraguay is that when it rains, every event seems to get canceled because the roads are not drivable and hardly walkable-but that did not stop our team from going to get some chocolate at a somewhat nearby store!
Last Saturday before we went to Encarnacion, we had the privilege of stopping in Yuty to visit another family with SIM Paraguay- the Reiches. While there, we were able to observe their church building that is under renovation, and also we were able to sit in on a presentation on animism in Paraguay! Animism is the belief that supernatural forces or beings have an impact on everyday life and can be manipulated for a person’s benefit or harm. Due to the cultural animistic beliefs in Paraguay, we have learned about the most effective way to share the gospel–showing and emphasizing that Christ conquered darkness and death so that you no longer have to be enslaved in fear!
After our animism discussion and a delicious lunch and chocolate cake (plus a piece for the road) from the Reiches, we continued our journey to our Hotel Tirol in Encarnacion. While there, we were thankful for the heat provided and an occasional hot or lukewarm shower! We also traveled nearby to the Jesuit Ruins and saw how the Jesuits structured their community. They emphasized education and preaching on Roman Catholicism to the indigenous Guarani. To conclude our trip at Tirol, we had the chance to debrief with our team, Dr. Jeff, and Amy. We discussed the positives and negatives that we have personally experienced thus far in Paraguay. It was a wonderful time of encouraging and praying for each other as we looked towards our last couple days in Jataity.
We are now back in our homes again, and we don’t have much time with them-only about ten days-and only seven for me because my family is going to Asuncion for the weekend! Time has gone so incredibly fast, but we are going to enjoy every moment and try to show Christ through our love and actions to our family. Please continue with our prayers. God is powerful, and we pray that His work will be done in our team, our host families, and any other Paraguayans we can touch along the way.
Last Sunday we were able to sit and talk with Echo VanderWal, one of the founders of The Luke Commission. I asked her, looking back at all it took to get where they are today, what her advice would be for us as college students. She told us to move where God moves, to have active faith that He will provide, and not to be afraid to fail. This meant a lot to all of us, but I think it meant so much because we had experienced what doing all of those things looked like through TLC.
I’m not going to lie, these last few weeks were really hard work. They were long days and heavy lifting. We had multiple setbacks, faced heavy tension from home, and quite a bit of pressure to fit in to a new place. However, the biggest setback was our tight grip. There are some things in life that we can adapt to easily, and this trip was not one of them.
I’m sure when we get home, we will tell our families how amazing our experience was. There were a lot of tears when we had to leave our new Swazi family. We experienced a body of believers that was actually structured like the church of the gospel, a people devoted to working hard for the Lord, and a people who had pure hearts. We lived under a “no gossip” policy- gossip being defined as anything that you tell someone else that they couldn’t do something about. Therefore, frustration, bitterness, and complaints were kept to ourselves.
Our experiences were great, however, when we sat around the table and discussed what really stuck, it wasn’t how big the elephants were, or how yummy our family breakfast was. What moved us was the byproduct of having open hands. We were softened, shaped, and stretched by someone who is powerful enough to do so.
Greetings all! We returned from our trek Saturday evening and everything went very well. The team did great as we were able to make presentations in four villages and as many schools during the trek. The villages were at 11-, 12-, 13-, and 12,000 feet above sea level. High point of our trek was 14,500 and yes the air is thin up there! Team also made a “sight seeing” hike to 15,200′ yesterday. They all did great with significant hiking on 6 of the last 7 days.
Best estimates would be that we were able to give several hundred households Bibles in their own language and were able to share our presentation with more than a thousand people in the last week. Such an encouraging time to be shared with the AWI team and participating in this, what I call “seed planting” aspect of their ministry. So much more to share in time…! We would appreciate your prayers that those “seeds”, the Quechua Bibles, will grow the faith of those that read/hear “alli willacuyanata”, the “good news”.
We will attend church here in Huaraz today, catch a red-eye bus to Lima tonight, have a day in Lima tomorrow, and catch a red-eye flight home tomorrow night. Prayers for a little rest and our return are appreciated. Speaking for myself I can say that your prayers have been felt in many ways!
It has been a great week of fellowship with the Yanacs, the AWI Association crew, and several communities. We leave for our trek this morning. Would appreciate your prayers for physical and spiritual strength as well that the spoken and written Gospel would be well received! Grace and peace.
–Mark Gathany (Team Leader)