which is almost always a hot dog or some sort of sausage. I have no problem with it, except for the fact that you need to grease the pan with oil. I try and use as little as possible, but the pan is dented and is almost a bowl so all of the oil just pools into the bottom and I wind up deep frying everything I cook without even trying. Everything is fried here. Caramel on bread for breakfast, fried fried fried for dinner. My roommate, Samuel, makes something called “Tortilla,” which is just egg, flour, salt and water, but then he deep fries it. I can’t lie, it is amazing. I also got to go to the grand opening ceremony of his church, which is built to hold 15,000 people, comfortably. It is insane. They had TWO jumbotrons, a 68 person chorus (yes, I counted), a huge band and a special singer flown in from Miami. When people applauded it sounded like Jeter just hit a grand slam. It was ridiculous. There were small children holding flags, people dancing in white masks and ripping signs that said “pornography,” Paraguayan flags everywhere, Brittany Spears-style dance routines and to top it all off, my favorite part, the ribbon cutting ceremony. First, the head pastor and his wife went up to the stage and everyone got real quiet so they could pray and anoint the pulpit with oil. As soon as everyone is so quiet you could hear a pin drop, one of the members of the band drops his huge cello and makes a loud noise that echoes throughout the stadium (or “church,” as some would call it), distracting everybody. Afterwards, the pastor and his wife both grabbed an end of the ribbon which was tied in a bow attached to two posts. They walked in opposite directions and…(here it comes)…. fireworks. FIREWORKS. FIREWORKS shot out of the posts the ribbon was attached to and out of the sides of the pulpit. I’m sorry. But that was just over the top. No offense Kurt, I love your church, but you don’t have fireworks. Actually, Valley could use some. I could totally see Mrs. Bisworm organizing a full pyrotechnic display. I’ve also been really loving Erin’s church.
There’s a big group of 18-30 year olds and they all go out to lunch after church and hang out together.
They immediately took me in as part of the group, and I’m really happy for it. They’re a lot of fun. I went on a trip with them my second week and we went horseback riding
and played volleyball, it was one of the best times I’ve had here. Last night I took a bus (by myself! I know!) an hour away to a supermarket for a HUGE Bible conference. One of my friends from the church, Sandra, forced me to go. It was a good time, I made it there without any problems, except I had to stand up on the bus the entire ride. The conference had a lot of singing and really good speakers. I think. They were reading Jeremiah 32. I was reading 2 Corinthians. I’ve mastered the subtle art of pretending to pay attention in Church while actually just reading the Bible. I don’t understand anything, so it’s either Bible it up or fall asleep. (C’mon. You all know you do it. There’s a boring speaker, you can’t talk to your friends, so you just bust out Revelations and give it another shot. Maybe THIS time you’ll actually understand something.) But the people there were all friends from church and are all really friendly and all want me to come back, I told them I’d see what I could do. The programs have been…well…the programs. It’s the same one all the time. I’ve got a good amount of it memorized, and every once in a while I feed Erin or Ben a line in case they’re stuck. My Spanish has gotten SO much better, I can almost carry on a semi-decent conversation (with a six year old). But seriously, I can actually talk to people and ask questions now, except the conjugation is always wrong but I don’t care, let them figure it out. The people I talk to the most are the kids that live at the orphanage next door to me. The woman who runs it made me come over during one of the worst thunderstorms I’ve seen, just cause the kids wanted me to. She told me if I came back, I could sleep in one of the bunk beds. One time, they were having a birthday party for one of the girls and I was invited over and given cake. I saw one of the girls reading the Bible and gave her a few verses and she said she wanted to know more good ones, so I ran to my room and made up a list of all salvation verses (john 3:3, eph 2:8-9, rom 10:9-10 and such). Even today they call me over with really good questions. It’s kind of cool to do some witnessing outside of the Tekove programs. And it’d be REALLY cool to find out that the kids next door had accepted Christ. Speaking of Tekove, I couldn’t even begin to count how many programs we’ve done or how many Bibles we’ve handed out. I really love giving out the Bibles with Erin, you can just tell the kids don’t usually have brand new books like this, and they really, really appreciate it. They get so excited when we walk in with a box and Erin says, “We have a gift for you.” We pray every day that the kids read them and really take something from them. We had one school where a 17 year old girl had committed suicide the previous week, so we decided not to perform but the principal and Ben asked me to give my testimony to the 16-18 year olds in one of the classrooms. It was really sad, we spent the next few days mentioning the girl’s friends and family in our prayers. I also got to give my testimony at Erin’s church, a lot of my friends there wanted me to so I didn’t have much of a choice. We’ve been having bible studies every Thursday night at the building where Samuel and I live. We sing A LOT, usually in English and Spanish and sometimes German, we had a Brazilian missions team visit so we sang in Portuguese. That was the most fun night, because I got to play the bongos, haha. Yeah, so, all in all this trip has been amazing. Before I got here, I was still trying to do things by myself. After spending a ridiculous amount of time reading the Bible (we have around 5 hours of free time a day with no tv or anything, not including weekends or days where we don’t have programs. And I finished all of the books I brought by Wednesday of week 3) I’ve learned that there really isn’t any way to do anything on my own. I’ve become a lot more comfortable going to God for everything, something I would totally suggest if you don’t do it already. It really helps you stop worrying (Mt 6:27-Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?) about things and gives you peace, knowing that it’s all being taken care of by someone who definitely knows what’s best for you. It’s taken my distant, “He’s God, He’s out there” idea of Him and changed it to “He’s God. He’s right here.”(Deut 31:8- The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.) It’s helped me realize that no matter how far away I stray, I can always come back, and also how much it hurts him and how bad it is for me to stray and go back to disgusting, sinful habits (2 Pet 2:20-22- If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit,"f]"> and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.”) Most of all, it’s made me realize that no matter how bad if a time you’re having or how depressed, downtrodden and completely broken-down you are, there’s always something better to think about (Rom 8:18- For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us). As I bring this post to a close, I’d just like to say that how much this trip has changed my perspective on so many important issues and how much it has changed my life for the better. I worry about whether or not I’ll be able to keep this up once home, but I know that with the ridiculous support of Valley and everyone else (and God, obviously) I won’t have too hard a time. I’ve also received many reports of people fervently praying for me and I’d really just like to let you know that I have been and will be praying for all of you, and to say thank you. Your support has meant so much and has really helped get through some of the rough patches. I love looking at comments on my blog from random people I never would’ve expected to read it, or messages on Facebook that are just out of the blue. They really are awesome. I also want to take this opportunity to thank Ben and Ruth. I’m not sure if they’ll even be able to read this, but they are such a blessing to this area and are touching so many lives here. The kid’s love the program and I really pray they are actually getting something out of the message, which Ben and Ruth work so hard to get across. If you actually read this far (this one, I think, is longer than the other post) I just ask that you pray for Ben and Ruth and the entire Tekove ministry to get a team for next year and just for the overall message they are trying to spread throughout Paraguay, that Christ died on the cross for OUR sins and the only way to God and Heaven is through belief, accepting and placing our trust in Him. I ask that you pray for Erin and Samuel, as they have taken an entire year of their lives and dedicated it to living here and serving this ministry and are now packing up and going home, leaving behind many close friends and good memories, and to pray for guidance for them as to what they can do now to serve the Lord. Most of all I ask you to pray for the kids. I’ve finally seen the neighborhoods Erin was talking about and she wasn’t exaggerating. Some of these people have entire families living in one room houses made out of plywood and supermarket advertisements. I saw a kid today doing math on the inside of a cigarette carton because that was all he had. They really need your prayers, and also pray that they are using the Bibles we have given them to share the Gospel with their entire family. Thank you for reading this far, I look forward to seeing everyone, and don’t worry Mary –Beth. I won’t let a little 5 week trip to a country 7,000 miles away where I wake up every morning at 6 am affect me being on time for the early meeting this Sunday. Because I KNOW I will be getting a text.
Praying for you, God bless-
(P.S.-Ivan. Ok. In my 5 weeks, I’ve only seen one toilet where the water rotates when flushed. It went counter-clockwise. I hope this brings you some peace in your life.)
(P.P.S.-DUDE. THE FROGS HERE ARE HUGE. Pine bush ain’t got nothin on these things. This could literally attack and devour Charlie, Marie and the entire nature patch class.)