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.

Advertisements

OANSA and iPraise 046Two years of my life.

For the month of July, I will be running Mi Esperanza’s OANSA program located at another site. After July, well, I will be returning to the States. Last week, my loving army of small hooligans and fellow leaders threw me a surprise farewell party on my final Saturday OANSA in Primero de Marzo, complete with ham and cheese sandwiches, frosting and sprinkles, presents, and adorable overload.

It was a wonderful morning of celebrating two years worth of ministry and two years worth of invaluable lessons learned about myself and life in general. The cherry on top was getting to share such a special day with a team from my home church in San Diego. Writing home about the things the Lord has been doing is one thing; being able to show them and match faces to stories is something else entirely.

But even more than this, it was a morning reflecting on the trust gained, rapport established, and friendships formed with the kids, and for me, that was really what made the celebration. Recognizing the Lord’s goodness in the way these kids have allowed me into the inner rooms of their lives was humbling and, yes, I’ll say it, fulfilling. There have been hard times in Paraguay, but these moments overshadow the valleys of anguish a million fold.

Words of affirmation is already my dominant love language, but I am sure letters of this quality and caliber would make even an ice queen’s heart melt.

Take a look at these precious nuggets (and get the tissues ready):

oansa 012Eight years old and ValeNtina still can’t spell her name correctly. I love her anyway.

oansa 008“ILY. I’m Raquel. Loren, the best mentor I have ever known. Thank you for advising me in OANSA. Thank you for everything.”

oansa 011“Thank you Laurren [sic] for teaching me how to cook and to play the guitar. And for everything you taught me and all the advice you gave me. I love you very much. You are one of my best friends. Never forget me. By: Teresa. THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING.”

oansa 004“Hello Loren. Thank you for being in OANSA. We love you very much. May God and Jesus bless you always and protect you in every moment and may your trip be an adventure. And we will always remember you. We will all miss you. Signed: Evelin and siblings.”

And then the best letter ever from Tara:oansa 003“Loren, you were the best cooking teacher and I wanted to say I hope you have a good trip. I know you love us all the same and us you, but I want to tell you that I love you more than all the others. You are the best friend, mentor, and cooking teacher. We all love you soooooo much, but I love you the most. I hope you have a wonderful trip. ILY, Loren!”

Bah.

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

Ode to a Tuesday.

April 30, 2013

IMAG0483

When I went to change out my 20L water tank as I do each Tuesday, I discovered a liquidy mass grave of dead ants floating in my supposed filtered water source along with a ring of black mold on the spigot. I am not sure what happened in there this week, but suddenly the frequent bathroom trips make so much sense. It is also the end of April and still ninety degrees outside. My pores are displeased.

But. BUT after months of feeling like a complete dunce, I finally hit my stride studying for the GRE today. I made a perfect batch of brownies and a la mode is totally happening tonight. Lil’ Miss Nugget called to remind me yet again that I am her best friend forever always and that she just ate an apple. I’m practicing a “theology of thankfulness,” and I’m feeling good.