December 22, 2012

Acción de Gracias


While we were in the States, our church in Paraguay, Pozo Azul, allowed the community to use their facilities to hold a 3 month course in sewing and handicrafts.  Eight women completed the course.

On December 15th a special Thanksgiving Service (Acción de Gracias) was held to thank God for these women and the children and adults of the church who successfully completed another year of school.

Each participant in the community course learned skills that can help provide some income for their families.  They also received a certificate from the ministry of education.  Their finished products were proudly displayed.

Certificates were also given to the teens and adults who completed Bible studies during the year.

Finally, each child who successfully passed on to their next grade level received a special gift.

In a country where education is undervalued, we give thanks to God for all these accomplishments!

December 21, 2012

Baptisms and Babies

On December 8th we went out to the Methodist campground for the annual celebration of baptisms.  Many of the Paraguayan Methodist churches were represented, coming by the busloads to make a day of it.  After a church service, all of the candidates for baptism headed over to the pool surrounded by family and church members singing praises to the Lord.

After the last baptism was over, the praises were replaced by squeals of laughter and delight as those surrounding the pool jumped into the water.  To many of them swimming in a pool is a rare treat.  The water also felt extremely refreshing in the 100 degree heat.  When a couple of children realized that Donald and I knew how to swim, we were immediately surrounded by dozens of wet, smiling faces requesting a tip or two.

All those who weren't swimming or playing fútbol (soccer) were sprawled out in groups on the grass and under the shade of mango trees, fellow-shipping in conversation and food.

An added blessing to the day was the presence of all four babies that were born to the staff of the New Horizons School in 2011.  Due to various reasons, this was the first time that they were all together at the same event.  Mommies and babies had a great time playing together and taking advantage of the moment for some cute photos.

From left to right: Benjamin (6/2011), Ana (8/2011), Eirene (6/2011), Daniel (5/2011)
 Click here to view more pictures from the day.

December 7, 2012

Daniel's First Haircut

We waited as long as we could, but we finally had to cut Daniel's hair.  With heat indexes in the low 100's, the poor little guy was suffering.  So, off came those cute curls.  I am pleased with the end result, though.  And, so is Daniel.  Donald did a great job cutting the hair and Cora was an excellent photographer!



December 5, 2012


Verifying information for Home Visits

One of my biggest roles at the New Horizons school is the organization of the selection process of new students.  Every year there is space for 56 new preschool students.  There are also openings in the other grades depending on if students move or are asked to leave because of academic or behavioral issues.  Due to the excellent reputation of the school and its accessibility to families with lower incomes, the amount of applicants always far exceeds the available space.  Every decision that we make is done through much prayer and guidance by the Holy Spirit.  Still, it is hard to have to turn away so many that would benefit from the school. 

It is my privilege as part of the selection process to make home visits to the prospective students and their families.  I call it a privilege because every time I step into a home I am given a 30 minute glimpse into the life of that family.  This often gives me the opportunity to speak into their lives.  Also, the knowledge that I might never see the family again if their child does not get in the school encourages me to speak with boldness.

After 4 years of visiting homes I have learned to let go of my agenda of completing the visits as fast as possible and let God control the situation.  

Just a couple of days ago I was visiting houses.  The heat index was around 100 degrees and all of the homes were located farther away from the school and somewhat difficult to find.  Locating homes here in Paraguay is always complicated by the lack of street signs, dead end roads and just plain bad directions.

Needless to say, I entered into my last visit hot, tired and more than ready to finish and go home.  This desire was increased as my host turned over the seat cushion of the chair I had nearly sat in and found a small scorpion underneath.  NOT my favorite insect!

Anyway, as I was determined more than ever to finish my interview and get out of there, that still small voice entered from stage left and stopped me in my tracks.  "Listen to what she has to say," it instructed me. "And do not judge."

So, with a mental sigh and reluctant obedience, I settled cautiously into my assigned chair (after checking for more scorpions) and began asking questions.  What I learned was more about the mother than the student.

In front of me was a single mother of three boys, each of them from a different father.  The first two fathers were not in the picture, and she left the father of her youngest after he broke her arm in an altercation 8 months ago.  Shortly thereafter she lost her job and had to move in with her mother.

As she shared, tears began to flow, and that is when I knew that GOD had prepared her heart for that moment.

I was able to share with her both about Christ and the importance of raising her sons to be different than their fathers.  I spoke to her and the grandmother about breaking the generational sin that seemed to be keeping the family in bondage.  I shared that the new generation could be free to have a future and a hope through Christ Jesus...but it depended on them.

My words were strong but encouraging, and were definitely not my own.  God used me in spite of my hot, tired and reluctant state.

God also opened the door for the student to enter the New Horizons School.  Despite all of the family circumstances and transferring to a different school every year, he had managed to score the highest of everyone in his grade level on the entrance exam.  He ended up second on the waiting list, and exactly 2 students in his grade are not coming back next year.

My prayer is that with his resilience coupled with Godly instruction, we will indeed witness a change in this family.

... A future and a hope that did not seem possible until just a couple of days ago.

Being a missionary is not glamorous, but it certainly is an awesome privilege to be used to advance the Kingdom in such a way.