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.


“Allllll the single ladies, allll the single ladies, allll the single ladies…” L enthusiastically belted, wiggling in her seat to her own music.

“Lowen, stop. We’re not all single ladies.” K interrupted.

“We’re not?” I inquired wonderingly.

“Big Lowen, don’t tell me you forgetted about B!” K sighed. She then continued in a matter-of-fact fashion, “You guys kiss lips. You’re not a single lady.”

Singing “My God is So Great!”

A rather habble scrabble performance by the OANSA: Primero de Marzo kids on Celebration Sunday at Mi Esperanza, but a performance nonetheless!

“If you guys could chip in 200 mil Guaranis for the payaso, that would be great,” S stated to J. Payaso meaning clown. J didn’t promise her anything, but informed her that he would do what he could to gather together some funds.

Every year, the neighborhood organizes an event for Dia del Nino complete with food, games, and gift bags for the hundreds of children who turn out for the festivities. As a church, we like to collaborate with them to strengthen our contacts in the area, particularly since our OANSA Primero de Marzo is held in that neighborhood as well. Normally we donate the goodie bags, but since our shipment from the States was likely not going to arrive in time, we inquired about other ways to contribute.

So S brings up the clown. Having already secured food, drink, and toy donations, she requested we help pay for the entertainment. Naturally, clown for me brought visions of puffy rainbow costumes, giant shoes, curly wigs, and red noses. And perhaps some face painting and animal balloons as well.

Meeting with S this morning to finalize the details of the event, J asked her if we need to bring sound equipment and microphones for the clown act. S replied that the clown came with everything. And for good measure, J throws in, “With a colorful costume as well?”

S got a mischievous glint in her eye and smiled, “Oh nooo. She comes in a mini skirt and [pointing at her chest] her equipo. She’s fantastic–she sings, she dances, and she’s really hot. I lobbied for her myself.”

I glanced at J with a suppressed giggle. According to S’ description, our church seriously was about to financially back a scantily clad stripper “clown” for Day of the CHILD. So Paraguay.

In the end, S was off on two accounts. One, the “clown” wasn’t nearly as risque as we nervously expected. Sure, the corset was tight and boobalicious (I suppose S gets points for the equipo), but at least she had bright fuschia tights under the mini.

And two, she couldn’t sing. Please watch the video all the way to the end. Cheers!