Helping Amidst Quarantine

Angelica is always bothered when I notice and comment about things being out of place. Neither her nor my mother-in-law seem impressed with my ability to tell them where things are. They don’t find it useful when I tell them which drawer something is in. They also don’t see the beauty in my perfect understanding of the clock nor do the instructive notes I leave around the house garner the appreciation I think they deserve.

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Both Angelica and my mother-in-law appear to be enjoying this time of quarantine, and the havoc it has played on my daily routine and impeccable organization. Angelica on the other hand has adapted to our new normal and become a wiz at Zoom and other ways to counsel and teach.

In reality, apart from a few minor inconveniences to our schedule, we are getting along fine and adapting our ministries. Unfortunately, many Paraguayans are feeling the effects of not being able to work and earn income. Most Paraguayans don’t have much savings and were feeling the pinch within a few weeks of the shutdown.

Angelica had a great idea of how we could help. We got fruit crates from the local farmers’ market. AnnaBelen painted each of the crates with different designs, and we filled them with food. This not only gave us an opportunity to help families, but we also time to share with them when we dropped off the crates.

I have had the opportunity to travel throughout the country with a young man we have worked with for years, delivering food to pastors. Having a fast truck that can get to remote places has been a blessing. We are thankful to have the resources and time to assist and share with people who are off the beaten path.

We do not know when life will go back to normal, but we are constantly in contact with our team. We will be ready to travel as soon as we are allowed.

Parguayan Fact

Paraguay has some of the best engineers in the world. 

Sharing Christ Amidst the Corona Virus

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We’ve heard the Coronavirus can’t live long in the heat, so Paraguay should be one of the safer places in the world.

For the past two weeks, we’ve had temperatures between 97 and 104 degrees and no rain in a month; but like the rest of the world, we are under quarantine. Unlike the rest of the world, we are quarantining ourselves in our one bedroom that has AC.

Unknowingly, we have adapted over the years to the long hot days of summer by not staying in the house. I was not aware we had developed a defense mechanism until we became confined to the house. I have been looking for excuses to run errands for Angelica, just so I can get into my truck with the AC. Going to the grocery store is a real treat. AnnaBelen is even missing school, but maybe she is just missing the air-conditioned classrooms.

We have very few cases of Coronavirus in Paraguay. As I write this, only 32 and two deaths. But the country is not set-up to handle the large number of cases happening in other countries, so the government has been very strict. We have been on total lockdown for four weeks. Only one person can leave the house for food and almost no one is working. They are strict about how many people they allow in the supermarket and who can leave their homes, and they have arrested hundreds maybe thousands of people for not abiding by the quarantine.

Not knowing the future can cause us all to live in fear. This is nothing new. Many people who don’t know Christ live in fear—fear of the unknown and fear they will never escape the life they are currently living. Angelica and I believe God has a plan for each one of us, and we believe He can make the impossible possible. God can change any situation, and we have security in His salvation.

Although we cannot leave the house, we are still telling people about Jesus by whatever means we can to communicate. We are also planning and preparing for when we can get out again. We are constantly communicating with our team of believers and we will be ready to travel and share as soon as we are cut loose.

Prayer Requests:

  • Pray for peace and wisdom during this time of uncertainty.
  • Pray for Camila who is staying with her roommate’s family in Arizona.

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Paraguay Fact:

The van arrived without much fan fair because of the quarantine. Hopefully we will be able to send a picture soon of it full of people ready to share Christ.

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Where We Come From . . .

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We enjoy what we do and believe we are being obedient to God’s call. It is a nice feeling to help people, both physically and spiritually. Angelica and I know that a relationship with Christ can change people’s lives and help them make a difference in their little part of the world. These little victories come from the power given to us by other people, in the form of prayer, support, and funds. I know many times the news would have you think differently, but lives are being transformed because of your investment in people.

Fresh cool air, clean streets, orderly traffic, planned development and
college football—what’s not to like about living in Alpharetta, Georgia. When your surroundings are the complete opposite, it is easy to appreciate one over the other. I like my hometown and enjoy every minute I am there. Our family always looks forward to being home. “So, why not stay?” That’s what our daughter AnnaBelen always asks.

Angelica and I firmly believe God called me to Paraguay to meet her and serve this part of the world. We also believe he called the people from my hometown and other parts of the US to support us so together we can change lives and share Christ.

I love my hometown and appreciate all the people that support us. On the other hand, I came from God and He is the one that makes possible all that we do. So I will stay here and share Christ, even when it is not my first choice of places to live.

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Sometime You Just Have Do It

We have been working for years in rural parts of Paraguay, conducting experimental agriculture with the ministry Agrimissions. For the past 16 or so years, we have been assisting local farmers in discovering better ways to plant their cash crops. We involve the Ministry of Agriculture and have other experts come teach. We have made small improvements, but it always seems that the small farmer just cannot get ahead, because they cannot compete with the big farm operations.

Years ago, I started exploring other ways to help the community. Though we were in the country, we realized no one planted gardens. So we started planting gardens. We have made tremendous headway and now there are gardens at almost every other house in the village.

Unfortunately, because of the heat here, gardens can only be planted in the winter. I have been told gardens can be planted in the summer, but I have never seen it. So I decided we would do it.

Our friends the Bakers helped us with the most important part—a well. Now that the well is in, we are working on an irrigation system and learning all that we can about shade and other ways to handle the heat. Our hope is that this will be another way to help the Paraguayans live more comfortable lives.

Paraguayan Fact:

Guess I really did not need the full-size truck that y’all helped me by.

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Sharing Through Tall Tales

You’ve heard of Hollywood and you may even know Bollywood, but have you ever heard tall tales about the land of Paraguay, where a flamboyant and exotic Aurora and her hapless friend Leoncido (a Lion) live?

Aurora, who is a parrot from Brazil and an actor in a weekly production, has become quite a spectacle here in the poor neighborhoods of Paraguay.  She and her friend Leoncido act out stories to teach children about the dangers of sexual abuse and how to avoid it.

Kids line the dirt roads of their little settlements, waiting for Aurora’s arrival by bus or truck. They run after her and chant her name as they breathe in the dust from her arrival. Kids can be heard reciting her teachings in their little wooden houses or along the narrow paths that wind through the settlements. There is even a little pouting when Aurora doesn’t show up. 

Angelica and her group of actors have become well known and are being asked to perform in “outdoor” theaters throughout the country. They captivate children with song, dance and rhyme, speaking in a mix of Spanish, Portuguese, English and Garani. They teach about God’s plan for the children’s lives and that no matter the circumstance, they are important. 

Kids in these poor neighborhoods are being transformed—they are more respectful, attentive and confident. They cherish their time with the actors and many have felt comfortable enough to share with Angelica or others about abuse.

Sexual abuse is rampant in Paraguay; it touches almost every family. Sometimes, it seems part of the culture in the poor neighborhoods and it leads to countless problems as kids grow older. Angelica and I meet regularly with young people locked in sin and unhealthy behaviors
because of sexual abuse.

The actors in this tale may never be on the BIG SCEEEN, but they are positively affecting one little life at a time in places most will never know.

 

Paraguayan Fact

We sure miss the Land Cruiser.

The Right Place and the Right Person at the RIGHT TIME

Angelica and I spend a lot of time preparing ourselves and preparing different activities to serve others and share Christ. As I have mentioned in other newsletters, our preparations often pay off. Other times God uses people we would never expect to do “His” work.

Last month, we hosted a medical team that has been coming to Paraguay for over 20 years. It is a lot of work, because the team is big and we go to the interior. Every year God reveals Himself to us in ways we cannot imagine. I could write pages about the things that have happened over the years with this team.

Angelica’s uncle Miguel always goes with us because, as Angelica says, he is very useful. Tio Miguel’s relationship with Christ is questionable. He certainly knows about Christ, but I am not sure how seriously he takes it. He knows what we believe and is always ready to help, but I
sometimes feel he does this just because he is a good man and not because he is a Christ follower.

When the medical team is here, Tio is our fix-it and go-for man. Toward the end of the week, Tio asked someone in the community if they knew anyone who could wash his clothes. He got a little turned around and went to the wrong house. As he approached the house, he found an old woman (Pastora) in front of the house, hunched over in a chair. She was obviously in pain, so he asked what was going on. She was a little hard to understand, so he asked her neighbor her story. The neighbor said that she had fallen a week ago, was in a lot of pain, and could hardly move. She said she lived alone and that they had been helping her with a little food, but that was all they could do. Other than that she had been left alone.

Tio quickly returned to us and we sent a doctor to her house. The doctor said she needed and x-ray, so Tio made a bed for her in the back of his truck and took her to the nearest X-ray, about an hour away. The X-ray revealed she had fractured her arm in three places. We attended to her, gave her meds for her pain, visited her before we left, and introduced her to a local pastor. Pastora accepted Christ, and we made sure the local congregation knew of her situation and their responsibility. 

This woman was without hope with hardly anyone even considering her plight. We the missionaries and doctors were just a few 100 yards away from her house; yet if not for a chance “visit” by Tio, we would have never connected.

Paraguayan Fact

We share with all down here.

Sometimes Blessings Bring Challenges

In Acts, Jesus tells the believers to be His witnesses “to the ends of the earth.” It’s probably an exaggeration to say that Angelica and I have gone to the ends of the earth, but sometimes it seems like it. With all the rain we’ve had and the miles of dirt roads, we put our vehicles to the test. Last week, Angelica challenged me, suggesting I could not enter where she has with her truck. I am not sure if she doubted me, my truck, or both.

Last week, because of problems in an eastern European country, Angelica and I were asked to host four young men who were supposed to serve in Europe. We already have a young couple arriving soon to serve with us for two months. While we are happy to host these young people, Angelica’s first question was, “How are we going to get all of our team into some of these places.”

Many times, spiritual and physical needs are directly associated with being isolated. There is a tremendous need in the many areas of Paraguay that have been underwater and isolated for months. These are the places we are invited to the most. I have been suggesting to Angelica that we need to explore the flooded areas and, again, she has been “bullying” me about not being able to get there.

One of our main obstacles is transportation. Sometime we lack the vehicles to get everyone in and out, sometimes because we don’t have enough space in the vehicles or because we need better equipped trucks.

We have never turned down an invitation because of transportation difficulties. We always seem to get there, one way or another, but sometimes it seems like there should be an easier way?

 

Knowing Others Care

I recently read a story in the news about a woman who got fired from a cafeteria because she gave a meal to a kid who didn’t have money to buy food. I immediately thought of how easy it is for us to spend other people’s money and how many times we don’t even think of reaching into our pockets. Then I quickly realized, if it wasn’t for so many of y’all, Angelica and I would not be able to do the things we do here in Paraguay.

Angelica and I buy a lot of “lunches” in different forms. We help people with medical emergencies, scholarships, unanticipated expenses and, sometimes, even food. While we may be like the cafeteria lady, helping others with someone else’s money, we make sure we invest time in these people as well. We make sure they know of Christ and that they know we are helping them because they are important to God, to us, and to the people who support us. Sometimes the knowledge of knowing others care is more uplifting than the funds themselves.

Angelica and I saw this play out recently in our own lives. Many of y’all know about Operation Christmas Child. For some reason, the boxes are delivered here in Paraguay in April. Several times, Angelica and our group have been asked to help give out the boxes. Not only is this a great experience for the children and their parents, but we have received many invitations to share Christ in public schools after people saw or experienced this work.

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This year, after giving out hundreds of boxes, there were a few left over. Someone asked Angelica if she would like to take one back to our nephew in Asuncion.  Angelica accepted the offer, took one of the boxes home, and gave it to Emiliano (our nephew) the next day.

Let me tell you a little bit about Emiliano. He is 4-years-old and is crazy about dinosaurs. His birthday is coming up and he wants a dinosaur party. He is hoping everyone who comes to his party will bring him a dinosaur. He has a few, but they are hard to find here in Paraguay. His mom told Angelica that he had been praying for dinosaurs.

When Emiliano opened his box, right on top were three dinosaurs. Of all the boxes handed out, Angelica brought back the one with dinosaurs. The funds that made it possible for the box to be prepared and sent are greatly appreciated.  Getting exactly what he wanted and prayed for, well . . .?

Emiliano thinks the box was especially packed for him, and maybe he is right.

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Paraguay Fact:

I thought I was going to have to take this gift away from this child. Then I realized that it was just Illinois!

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It’s Never Too Late to Start Over

It is never too late to start over again. One of my favorite Bible verses is when Jesus tells the woman caught in adultery that He will not condemn her, and then he sends her off saying, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”  It can seem as if the family structure and marriage is in a shambles in the United States, but I can tell you, it is much worse in Paraguay. Probably 80% of the youth we work with come from broken families and many couples never even bother to get married. Lack of commitment and responsibility causes all kinds of family problems, but the Bibles teaches us we can start “a new” and that the power of Jesus can change lives.

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Over the past year and a half, Angelica and I have started a new ministry—a ministry of marriage. We have been working with young couples helping to prepare them for a life together. We also have been working with couples who have children and/or have been living together. We share with them the importance of the commitment of marriage and what the Bible teaches about marriage and families. We let them know they can “start over” and experience how commitment and responsibility can change their lives and the lives of their children.IMG_1345

We have done seven weddings in less than two years and are planning several more. One of the excuses couples use is that they don’t have the time or money to get married. They feel like it is just too much to take on. We work with couples helping them understand that the time and money will be well spent. We also let them know this is a ministry for us, showing them that it can be done well with a little help from our team.IMG_3058

Paraguayan Fact

We even do Korean weddings.

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Recognize and Remember

I was home in Alpharetta, Georgia in mid November. This was only the second fall I have enjoyed in the past 17 years, and I was in awe of the beauty of God’s creation. The grass had never looked so green. The trees had never looked so bright, and the air had never felt so crisp. Even when the sky was dark with clouds, the sun shone through. Everywhere I looked was like a picture book.

Not only in nature, but also all that man has created seemed almost perfect as well. Roads with no potholes, buildings set back on well-landscaped lots. It all looked so nice! I spent much of my time driving around in a nice vehicle just looking at all that north Georgia has to offer. It seemed a world away from where I live in Paraguay, almost like two examples: a how to and a how not to.

God blessed me with a great and timely message while I attended church in Alpharetta.  In Deuteronomy, God speaks to the Israelites telling them of the blessings that await them in the promise land, a land abundant with water and fertile soil. He also tells them to remember how he took care of them in the desert, giving them shade by day and light by night. 

My hope is that you appreciate the beauty of the place where you live and the blessing you have through the grace of God (and sometimes through your own hard work and obedience to Him.) It is clear to me, maybe because I have a different perspective, that you are blessed.

The world can seem like a bad place sometimes, which can block our ability to see the beauty of God’s creation and cause us to forget all that He has done and is doing for us.

Angelica and I know that many of you “recognize and remember” what God has done for you, and you have blessed us tremendously. We are determined to pass this on to the people of
Paraguay. We feel the blessings of your obedience to God and thank Him for each of you, especially what He does for us through you.

Although Paraguay is not quite as pristine as Alpharetta, the love and power of Christ is alive and well here.

Our political, economic, and social structures can obscure the view—Paraguay does not seem as pristine as Alpharetta—but as we interact with young people living Christ-filled lives, we see His work here and continue to look for opportunities to share His truths with people who don’t have that hope.   

Paraguayan Fact

If you don’t have an SUV, a motorcycle and an umbrella will do.

Knowing Our Own Strength

Before college, my life revolved around riding and taking care of horses. My dad always reminded us we should be careful around horses and remember they are animals. Horses don’t know their own strength. It is amazing what a 150-pound kid can get a 1200-pound horse to do. I sometimes marveled at our horses’ unrecognized power.

Sometimes we humans, created in God’s image, told to subdue and rule over God’s creation, don’t know our own strength. We don’t recognize the power we have in Jesus Christ.

Over the past eight months, Angelica and I have spent more time with dying and suffering people. Each week, Angelica meets with young girls whose lives were spinning out of control. She didn’t even know some of these girls when they called in desperation. They call at all hours of the day and night, sometimes wanting to meet with Angelica “right” now

There is no great secret to what Angelica tells these young women when she meets them or when we meet with young couples or people in their last days. We tell them what the Bible says—how we were created, why we were created, and what we have been given. In just a few minutes of sitting with people, teaching them the promises of God, everything can change. I wish y’all understood Spanish so Angelica could tell you about the calls she gets after she has first met with someone. (Take my word for it, you don’t want to listen to it in her English.

People can be changed just by learning who they are in God. They are not only changed emotionally but many times you can see it physically, the very next day.

We all know animals are animals, living by instinct; we tend to think we are better at thinking critically and understanding our abilities. But sometimes we don’t know the strength we have through Jesus Christ. We think He is not sufficient or we are not important enough to live our lives as the Bible calls us. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Paraguay Fact

Our dog “Georgia” is a dog of faith. She knows we are praying for another vehicle and has claimed this one for herself.