On Sunday, I went to my first choir practice. I played the flute with a few songs, and sang with some others. I took video of this song, since it was in Guarani! Guarani is the other official language of Paraguay and while it's not always spoken in Asuncion, practically everyone is fluent. Do you know what song they're singing? (http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1624564689522081707&hl=en)
In Paraguay, it's customary to greet someone with a kiss on each cheek. Pedro Bu (photo) is not Paraguayan and gave me a great big NYC bear hug! He was here for the 100 year anniversary celebration and spoke on Monday night at Iglesia Independencia. It was great to see a familiar face and listen to a New Yorker here in Paraguay!
On Tuesday, we had another meeting at Independencia with 2 guest speakers. The first speaker was the trumpet player from Argentina. He was a little difficult for me to understand, but I got bits and pieces of his message. That's more than I can say about speaker #2. I heard the words "New Jersey", "Elephant" and "Iron". Then I decided to read my hymnal. When we all got back to the house, the family asked how I liked the 2nd preacher. I said, "Why did he preach in Guarani?? I didn't understand a thing that he said!" Everyone started cracking up. "Erin, he's from Argentina. They don't speak Guarani in Argentina." WHAT?! That was Spanish?! And what was that about Elephants ironing in NJ? Apparantly he visited Mariana's family in NJ, he told a joke about an elephant, and I still don't have a clue why he was talking about ironing.
Wednesday, the choir sang and the grandson of the founder of the Assemblies in Paraguay spoke. That was really interesting! Alan Smith made his first trip from New Zeland to Paraguay in 1908. His son, Gordon Smith continued the work after him, and all of Gordon Smith's children were here this week. We heard their stories and saw some pictures of their time in Paraguay.
Thursday, day of rest.
Friday we went to a huge Christian school auditorium where the conference/anniversary was officially held. My German friend Johnny from the language institue came with us and had his first Christian church experience (even though it wasn't in a church). We listened to a lot of different musical presentations and the Independencia Choir sang here as well (I played flute). The first speaker spoke about the "Identity of the Assemblies" and Pedro Bu spoke about "Service as a Way of Life". Pedro was really easy for me to understand and I really enjoyed his messages. He's very dynamic (loud!), creative and interesting.
Saturday, whew! full of plenarary sessions and workshops. They were all really great! I should be a pro at Spanish now with all of the vocab that I listened to this weekend... Hours and hours of messages! I hung out with the young people from Independencia during the breaks, but I also met a lot of missionaries and visitors. Joel Hernandez from Emmaus Bible College in Iowa was there (small world). Dale Konkol, missionary to Paraguay from NJ was there with some guys from his church out in the "interior" (about 3 hours from Asuncion). I really enjoyed Saturday. I got to know people from church a lot better since we spent all day going to workshops and meetings together. It was also really interesting to see all the different assembly families come together in a huge meeting. The above picture is with Dale Konkol, a CMML missionary that I met before coming to Paraguay. He works in the "interior" and these are some guys from his church.
Sunday: La Santa Cena
If you're not familiar with all my "assembly" lingo, I appologize! One of our major characterisitcs is the fact that we have a "communion service" or "breaking of bread" every week. This is where we specifically focus on the fact that Jesus died and rose from the dead to take the punishment for our sins. This meeting with 500 people was amazing! Ushers were scattered around the gymnasium with microphones. When a man wanted to give out a hymn for everyone to sing (the musicians were all ready with a list of hymns that they could be asked to play), read a passage from the Bible, or pray, an usher would give him the chordless mic. They laid out the "ground rules" before the meeting and told the men to keep their talkes to under 5 min so many people would get opportunities. I understood a lot, except for one man who spoke almost completely in Guarani! The Independencia choir sang while ushers passed around the bread and the wine. We sang 2 songs... I played flute for 1 and sang alto in the other. Fun times!
Finally, our busy, but fun week has come to an end. Tomorrow I start my graduate classes again (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, online at Grand Canyon University) and go back to my Spanish Institute.