Foreign to Familiar(ish)
"Chipa! Chipa! Chipa!" With that refrain blasting over the loudspeakers of a passing food truck at 7:00 a.m. last Sunday morning, we knew without a doubt two things: (1) we were officially in Paraguay, and (2) living in a city was going to take some getting used to. The flight from Des Moines to Asuncion (via Atlanta and Sao Paulo) went absolutely as smoothly as a 17 hour total transit could, and our new teammates and friends greeted us with amazing warmth. The Lord has been good to us in the transition, as He has been throughout our journey.
We rented a vehicle and made the two hour drive to our team's Spiritual Life Conference (SLC) in Itacurubi the day after we arrived. I had forgotten just how fun it is to drive in Paraguay, and in Asuncion in particular, given the right frame of mind. As long as you take the wheel expecting that you're entering into a sort of vehicular cage-fight without well-defined (or followed) rules, you're in for a treat. Two-lane roads evolve into three or four-lane roads quickly and unexpectedly. I find Paraguayan motorcyclists to be especially gifted in the creative arts when it comes to drawing a line from point "A" to point "B" in their travels. I think I've made a few friends on the road already this week, although it's a little hard to tell exactly what they were yelling given the language barrier.
The time spent getting to know our SIM Paraguay team at SLC blessed us immensely. We are spread far and wide in eastern Paraguay, and absent this retreat many months would have passed before we had met everyone face-to-face. Praise God for His timing in allowing us to arrive just in time to attend. We can already tell that we are partnered with loving, gracious, Godly, hard-working teammates from top to bottom, and look forward to working with them all.
Friday's drive back to Asuncion allowed for some adventure. I'm determined not to rely on Google Navigation to get around this new city, and we worked our way through the countryside and into the heart of the city without navigation, following the best route we could pick from a map. It didn't end up taking much more time than we had expected it to, and we drove through a few really interesting parts of the city; places that I'm confident we would have missed out on otherwise.
On Friday (7/14/17) we finally landed new Paraguayan SIM cards for our cell phones, meaning that we now have legitimate Paraguayan cell phone numbers. In the 21st century, that's almost a form of formal residency, right? It took longer than expected, and I'm just beginning to learning that I should expect things here to take longer than expected.
Saturday morning (7/15/17) was particularly exciting for us. Our friend and missionary with Partners for Paraguay (www.4paraguay.org), Mike Goddard, hosted an informal meeting in his home to debrief a group of trainers from the I-TEC organization (www.itecusa.org). The I-TEC team just completed a training among the Ache tribe in Canindeyu departamento. The training focused on equipping the group of students to shoot and edit their own video with an iPad mini, and it holds much potential to allow the Ache to tell their own stories in their own voice, to share the gospel in a manner authentic to their identity as First Nations believers, and perhaps to allow for a stream of income to increase sustainability. After three days of training on documentary cinematography theory and practice, including editing, the students spent an additional two days shooting and editing their own documentary interviews. I see real potential for the gospel to be advanced and Ache believers to be empowered via this training, and it excites me for the work ahead. Although the language schooling that stands between now and that work is daunting, I'm encouraged with this glimpse of how the Lord is already moving ahead of us, preparing the way for a broader spread of the good news of His saving grace through the First Nations people groups of Paraguay.
As I type this, we are back at our temporary home, the SIM Paraguay Guest House. It's a blessing to have a place, even temporary, to call home for now, and we've enjoyed getting to slowly know the neighborhood over the last few days. The Guest House consists of a group of red tile block/brick buildings surrounding a courtyard, all enclosed with walls, a fence, and plenty of razor wire. Despite that, it's a welcoming place, and it already feels like home.
We've had to say goodbye to new, but dear, teammates, some headed home for school and some headed home for home assignment. We're beginning to understand that a part of the missionary life necessarily involves a steady stream of goodbyes, both to places and friends. We hadn't recognized that until this weekend. It's bittersweet, but worth the cost.
That's all for now . . . we'll try to use this blog for a more consistent trickle of updates on our new life as we experience it. Until the next time!