Lo’s Despedida.

August 22, 2013

Shortly before I crossed the one-year mark of my commitment in Paraguay, I hit a dark spell. I was coming off a month of delighting in the wonderland of San Diego (seriously, what kind of crazy person voluntarily leaves that paradise?), including celebrating my bff’s wedding, and I did NOT want to be back in Asuncion.

Life in the Southern Hemisphere had been rough, and upon my return, it only seemed to get harder. Ministry frustrations were rampant, I had a run-in on the street with some indecent human beings, B and I were stuck in a miserable six-hour time difference rut, and then my grandmother passed away.

Between subjecting B to a lot of tears over Skype and trying for once in my life to exercise the sadness away, I contemplated going home with serious intent. Home offered an escape, and frankly, quitting was tantalizing at that point.

Still, I had committed to two years, and I wanted to be a person of my word. Not to mention, the prospective mess of returning financial support was a nightmare I dared not face. So I forged on, and with tidbits of Psalm 27 tossing around in my head. I am confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Fast forward to the very last month of my two-year commitment, and although I didn’t deserve it, the Lord was outrageously gracious in pouring out moments that made me overwhelmingly grateful for sticking it out. Somehow, somewhere, in the midst of the madness, friendships were formed, ministries were kick-started, and living in Paraguay became so much more than simply surviving.

Mi Esperanza hosted a farewell party for me shortly before my departure. I was humbled by the ways the Lord had moved in the hearts of children and adults alike, because it was so clear that any visible transformation of lives was nothing I could have done but miracles He had worked. In spite of my bitterness and sadness and doubts, He used weakness to create triumph, and it was a privilege to witness His glory in victory.

Cheers to two years.

Misc 028Playing the ninja game I introduced during the days of La Ruta.

Misc 040Announcing the winner of the marshmallow-spaghetti Eiffel Tower contest.

Misc 056Performing a new song he learned post-iPraise!

Misc 058If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one is worth a million.

Misc 044Misc 046Lining up for the merienda.

Misc 080The Alvarenga family.

Misc 079The Caceres family.

Misc 083The Enciso family.

Misc 084A few of the Baez and then some.

Misc 078My girls.

Misc 082My boys.

Misc 088Sweet, dear friends.

Ah, I made it!

OANSA: Catcalls.

August 22, 2013

Misc 017

During my last month in Paraguay, I ran the other OANSA program, which is held at La Plazita–a small triangle playground area sandwiched between three busy streets.

On one particularly chilly Saturday morning, I sat on a bench with 11-year-old J waiting for the other children to arrive. In the short span of fifteen minutes, nearly every passing truck, car, and motorcycle manned by a male driver had either blatantly checked us out or hollered something explicit.

After two years in the country, this sort of thing had become commonplace for me, even if not comfortable. But the nonchalance with which J laughed off the advances still disarmed me. She started telling me these crazy stories about men, young and old, who drive-by catcall, often times going so far as to double back several timesĀ in their vehicles to get a few more looks and comments in while she innocently sits on the swings or kicks around a soccer ball.

One afternoon, she was at the park (she lives only a few small houses away), stationed on the very bench we were seated, and fiddling with a borrowed cell phone. A police truck drove by, caught sight of her, circled back around, and parked. Several officers filed out and sauntered over to her. They attempted to cajole her into sharing her name and giving them her phone number. They told her to call them for a good time or come with them now for an extra special treat. The police force of Paraguay, everybody.

Repulsive.

I hate that these disgusting things happen to 11-year-olds, and I especially hate that children are recounting these events casually as if they were just another day in the life.

So much to pray over these kids.

Prior to coming to Paraguay, I spent two years working as a Family Advocate at an emergency domestic violence shelter. As one might assume, it was an emotionally burdensome job and the hours did not help. Commanding the 12pm-9pm shift five days a week effectively eliminated any sort of social aspect from my life, and it was really quite isolating.

So as I prepared to come to Paraguay, B and I spent a lot of time praying that I would find community here. I defined community as friends. Although, babies that I did not have to produce myself and could snuggle were also considered acceptable alternatives.

Despite my haughty and specific demands, the Lord manifest His grace in ways more sweet than I ever imagined. These four dumplings have been the light and laugh of my last two years. Amidst bouts of loneliness, ministry frustration, homesickness, and every other dark force I encountered on occasion, these nuggets remained a constant source of love, adorable antics, and yes, snuggles.

I am ever so thankful for this family and these little faces.

IMAG0677Literal bosom buddies.

IMAG0659Hole-in-one.

IMAG0678Baby Forest.

IMAG0631Dancing queens.

Sleepover, Round 2.

July 25, 2013

It started in the car. I had just picked the girls up from the Schell house and we were making our way back to mine for one last sleepover before I leave Paraguay. K piped up from the backseat about a movie she had watched with her “brudders” recently. A cinematic masterpiece entitled “Monsters of the Beeran” or something to that effect.

I am, by no stretch of imagination, an expert on children’s films and cartoons, so I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. This frustrated them, but talk they continued. L joined her sister in detailing various scenes from the movie, describing what one guy said to another on the beach and how the bad guy got his head cut off.

I asked them if it had been too scary for them because it all sounded rather violent, and K in an ever matter-of-fact tone, quipped, “It only a little bit scawee. You just have to be brave, Big [Lo].” Wise words from a four-year-old.

Then we passed a billboard with a prominent picture of Johnny Depp, and the girls squealed in excitement, “Monsters of the Beeran!”

If ever I had an epiphany moment, that was it. As it turns out, Monsters of the Beeran translates to none other than Pirates of the Caribbean. I mean, duh.

July 035July 033July 038July 037July 040July 028July 029Growing up so fast.