OANSA: Growing Up.

June 27, 2013

May 005So so so proud of this kid.
He is leading music time at OANSA on Saturday, and I cannot even wait.
This is the future, people!


Ratatouille 009Love this picture and these girls.

Somewhere in the mix of discussing hamsters, rats, and lipstick, I realized that I have arrived.

Generally, the progression of time is an essential requirement for meaningful relationships. Now nearly two years into my Paraguay stint, many of the friendships I have established have finally stepped beyond the threshold of superficial. Bantering fluidly back and forth with the girls about life and love at cooking class last night felt so natural. It was a proud moment of accomplishment and belonging, but one, of course, tempered with tinges of regret that I am also leaving in a month.

Still, I am thankful to be departing with memories of easy conversations about the monumental and the mundane. In spite of the anguished tears and white hairs and nightmares accumulated over the months, I am grateful to know that Asuncion, against all hope, as become some sort of home, complete with friends, family, and comforting meals shared around a smoking space heater.

Ratatouille will always be a warm reminder of these times.

Ratatouille 001Ratatouille 003Ratatouille 006Ratatouille 008

iPraise: HECK YEAH.

June 22, 2013

Our youth group failed. Miserably. Its screeching, grating dysfunction made 2012 a year of excruciating frustration, and so it was with both sadness and relief that its official closure was received.

The conundrum that followed was that we still had a group of teenagers we wanted to keep within our reach. The volatility of adolescent years and the disproportionately vulnerable environment in which our kids live made especially necessary the need to keep shining light in their lives.

By way of this necessity was birthed the concept of music discipleship, and out of that, an uncertain new ministry whose initial outlook was admittedly dismal. A severe lack of staffing and a variety of other factors beyond our control projected yet another failure, but against all hope, we launched Saturday afternoon workshops because losing these kids for want of action still held prospects far worse.

For the last few months, we have been trudging along. While no Mozart has emerged, we have nonetheless been pleasantly surprised by the sheer numbers who attend weekly. Even scores of those not old enough for classes come to fraternize, and the group has naturally formed a sense of camaraderie that was so anxiously pursued yet never attained last year.

The musical side of things has seen no miracle with maaaybe one student showing promise. Maybe. But nevermind the lackluster progress of musical talent. Mostly, we have been contenting ourselves with the fact that average attendance hovers around fifteen and the majority stay to listen raptly to the Bible study portion. Again, such a marked departure from La Ruta, and a cause for celebration at any cost.

But today, something shifted in the musical realm. We scrapped together an ensemble practice in preparation for our semester-ending recital two weeks away. In the moment, I heard tone-deaf singing, out of sync strumming, and a lot of chaotic background screaming from the hoards not participating in the rehearsal. Not exactly what I am hoping to debut for what will already be a reluctant audience.

Yet in the wake of the first few stanzas of discord, a palpable excitement was ignited. Suddenly, my lagging, struggling student would not stop playing, beseeching me to continue accompanying her halting chord progressions with my pitchy singing (the song is definitely two keys too high for my lacking vocal range). In a matter of twenty minutes, she had transformed from a giggling, flighty participant to a focused pupil intent on mastering her first song. And she came pretty dang close to doing so if you ask me.

I thought my pride could not swell any higher, and then my star student sauntered over, casually joined the jam session, and picked up Es Tiempo for his first time, flawlessly. As the last notes died away, the electric and well-deserved grins irrevocably commandeering their beaming faces filled my heart to the overfull. T even gave me an impulsive hug. I may have shed an invisible tear or two.

With just 37 days left in Paraguay, my waking moments are wracked with paradoxical feelings. I am torn between the lure of comforts that await at home and the bittersweet knowledge that I’ve made more friends than I think and tough goodbyes will be in no short supply. But for tonight, I am thankful, simply thankful to be witness to these moments of breakthrough and revelation for kids who truly deserve it the most.

Writer’s block has been holding this blog entry hostage for the better part of the week. Should I slant about how all the kids have insane spring fever (even though it’s winter) right now and are crushing on anything that breathes? Or that I caused a student to break out in hives as a result of this week’s workshop dish? Or that new students appeared because I randomly met one kid at the park on Saturday, who then showed up at church on Sunday, saw a Lo’s Kitchen announcement in the church bulletin, and proceeded to bring his brother as well?

Or I guess I could mention all of them.

Lo's Kitchen 001Lo's Kitchen 002