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.

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.

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!

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Now that Mi Esperanza has purchased a new property, we have been laying groundwork for starting off on good terms with the future new neighborhood. One such effort was a work day at the nearby, very frequented park, where much of the playground equipment was in disrepair.

I stuffed far too many small children from the Santa Maria neighborhood in the Rav4 and trucked them over to spend the morning helping out. There were so many kids who had come over from my Santa Maria OANSA neighborhood, all working earnestly painting benches and seesaws, that jobs became scarce and all there was for me to do was mill around with the camera. These are the best dilemmas.

I was further impressed to observe that the years of Saturday kids’ club and inter-weekly home visits we have invested in these children are showing pleasant results in more ways than one. Not only were they clamoring to assist in the beautification projects, they were using language like “please” and “thank you” and “what else can I do to help?” Unsolicited.

I felt like such the proud parent. And especially so when the concluding BBQ lunch saw my kids patiently line up to serve others first before expecting their portions, contrasting markedly with the other children who were jostling and brazenly pilfering food like the barbarians of Primero de Marzo past.

Boom, baby.

Most Saturday mornings still feel like uphill battles, but these pockets of propriety show that somehow, some way transformation is taking place. Growth and maturity may hold positive things for this community of scalawags, and there is hope yet in the promise of a brighter tomorrow for Paraguay.

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