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!

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Kablooey 205Pretty grand.

In the 17th century, Jesuit missionaries set up camp in what is now known as Encarnacion, naming their settlement La Santisima Trinidad de Parana. Eventually the Jesuit sect declined in popularity and with the mission’s exodus followed the decay of their physical dwellings. Today the reasonably well-preserved ruins are one of two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Paraguay.

The Sch family and I spent a humid morning exploring the community remnants, pitting our expedition against the ominous brewing storm threatening to drop forth at any second. True to typically lax Paraguayan style, climbing up on the ruins was technically strongly discouraged, but a lack of tangible barriers made for very loose interpretations of said suggestion.

We ducked under archways, leaped off staggered pedestals, snuck behind headless statues, crawled into dark crypts (shudder), had competitive and completely inappropriate footraces, and almost made it out dry. Almost.

All in all, an excursion done right.

Kablooey 153Kablooey 157Kablooey 164Kablooey 171Kablooey 199Kablooey 183Kablooey 188Kablooey 182Kablooey 173Kablooey 193Kablooey 189See more here!

Tearing Around Tobati.

May 19, 2013

I don’t particularly like to admit that I dislike outdoorsy activities (unless laying on a beach counts?), because it sounds prissy. But to be frank, if I am deciding how to spend a day off, camping and hiking will never, of my own volition, be the foremost options. That said, I had a fantastic time exploring Tobati with the Sch’s on our holiday last week. Maybe sassy four-year-olds are simply the answer to my hiking reservations. Then again, sassy four-year-olds may be the answer to many of life’s conundrums.

In any case, Tobati is located about an hour and a half drive outside of Asuncion, and is especially known for its brick-making. Something about the composition of their red dirt is particularly conducive to producing quality bricks. We managed to make it to the city, clamber around, and climb back down the mountain just before the skies starting pouring forth violent rain. Thank God for large 4-wheel drives and snuggly peanuts who fall asleep and snore softly on my shoulder on the soggy ride home. Seriously, sassy four-year-olds…the best.

Hiking 101Hiking 105Hiking 111Hiking 010Hiking 019Hiking 040Hiking 044Hiking 073Hiking 046Hiking 048Hiking 082Hiking 084Hiking 112Yikes.

See more photos HERE!

Cooking Class 023A world of crazy.

“You know, I’m going home in less than four months,” I casually dropped to the kiddos after I asked many of them where they had disappeared to over the summer. An obvious, guilty silence fell over the room, bringing pause to the cookie rolling and evasive alibis they tried to feed me.

Then all at once, they started back up, “Are you serious?” “Forever?!?” “Will you come back?” “Why??”

Over the din of a thousand questions, S laid them all to the wayside with an incredulous and borderline frantic, “WHO IS GOING TO TEACH COOKING CLASSES THEN???” This was S, who in a country where boys tend not do anything in the home and especially not “womanly” tasks such as cooking, and who a year ago, had never cut a tomato in his life, expressing regret that these culinary workshops had a rapidly approaching expiration date. My heart overflowed.

These cooking classes have been my pride and joy, and more than that, a saving grace. To put it crudely, they feel like the only thing I have done here that someone else hasn’t ruined for me, and I cling to the victories they bring. They are a reminder that even when there is not much immediate fruit in the seeds I’ve planted these past years, there is still the chance that these kids will find better things in their future because they were loved in this time in their lives. Love covers over a multitude of terrible things (and perhaps not coincidentally so do cinnamon sugar doughnuts).

But truly, it has been a privilege to couple a passion with a unique opportunity to form meaningful relationships with teenagers we have struggled to reach. Perhaps unorthodox, perhaps not so sustainable as a ministry, but somehow still a channel to speak cupcakes, cuisine, and most importantly, hope into the lives of the young and vulnerable.

This past Monday was the first class after a frustrating hiatus of absence and what seemed like apathy. But then SEVEN kids showed up, including a teenager I have been trying to get into the church since I arrived in Paraguay. Everyone was on their best behavior, and some were even demonstrating to other less frequent attendees, how to level off the flour cup and how to test the concoction in the oven for doneness.

Then T smoothed the icing on the cake of an extra sweet afternoon, “It’s been so long, [Lo]. I’m sorry. Can we make doughnuts next week?”

Cooking Class 017Terrifying.

Cooking Class 009A wonderful sight to behold.

Cooking Class 016I still don’t get who Marcos is?

Cooking Class 001Workin’.

Cooking Class 020Coco balls.