Happy New Year

Years ago when I was in college, I had a friend who helped me with my lawn business. I once found him trying to push a 500-pound walk-behind mower up onto a trailer. I tried to explain that machines were our friends and it would be much easier to just drive the mower onto the trailer. He never really got it and went on to make his fortune in other areas.

Today I still believe machines are our friends and they can and should be used to make us more efficient and make our lives better.

This year Angelica and I were blessed by so many of y’all through the gift of a new truck. This has allowed us to travel more, carry more things, and do everything faster. When you think of missions and serving people, machines aren’t the first thing to come to mind; and yet, having access to people in their environment is very important. Now we can go anywhere throughout the country sharing Christ with the Paraguayans.

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Someone is Always Listening

A few months ago Angelica had a meeting with the parents at the Susanna Wesley School. A mother stood up and thanked Angelica for what she had done for her son. Angelica did not recognize the mother nor did she remember the son.

The mother explained her son had a skin problem for years; he had seen several doctors and they had tried to treat him, but the problem persisted. One day the mother noticed her son’s rash was gone. When she asked her son about it, he said, “I just did what Señora Angelica said. I prayed and believed that God could heal me.”

img_6620Angelica does not remember noticing the boy’s skin problem or speaking to the children about the healing powers of God, but we try every chance we have to let the kids know that a
relationship with Christ can change their lives.

We are grateful this young boy listened to Angelica and that he can now speak of the powers of our God.

Sometimes We Are Listening

Angelica and I are blessed in the ministries we serve. We have seen lives change at the school, we have seen God moving in the lives of the Paraguayan youth, and we have been able to help communities improve their agriculture and medical care. On the other hand, sometimes we feel our efforts in the church we attend, San Vicente, are not as successful.

A few years ago I wrote that we intended to dedicate more time to San Vicente and to the children in that community. Even as we increased our efforts, Angelica grew more frustrated each day. Then she had the opportunity to participate in a two-hour staff meeting at home that changed her perspective on leadership. She witnessed leaders working towards peoples’ strengths, people being encouraged to critique their own performance, and how this creates an environment in which everyone wants to do their best.

Returning to Paraguay, Angelica immediately applied what she had learned in combination with a Bible study. She asked the youth at San Vicente tough questions and challenged them to collaborate with her in improving the children’s ministry. The results have been incredible! The youth have taken ownership of the children’s ministry and the kids in the community have a new interest in coming to church.

children_webbParaguayan Fact

It’s not a party in Paraguay unless there is dancing.

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To Give or Not to Give

I always questioned whether giving was truly greater than getting. You can’t beat getting a good (expensive) gift or even a surprise gift. Who does not like looking under the tree and seeing lots of presents marked with their name. Many people say that Christmas is their favorite holiday, usually rolling off a number of reasons. But I expect it is because of the gifts.

Over the years here in Paraguay, I have begun to feel the joy in giving. So much has been given to Angelica and I. We have had so many opportunities to give gifts, scholarships, and help. Most of the funding for these gifts is not even ours; it is just resources that come through us.

We get to benefit from the generous giving of so many of our friends at home. It is really nice to be able give gifts to people that usually don’t ever receive. We thank all of y’all for letting us see the joy on the faces of Paraguayans when we give to them.

May y’all all have a Merry Christmas and come to know the joy of giving to others.

A Month of New Beginnings

Not only is Christmas the month that we celebrate the birth of Christ, but it is the month that we celebrate graduations. Here in Paraguay, December marks the end of the school year. This year was special because Angelica graduated from Seminary.

Juggling school with all of Angelica’s other responsibilities was really a challenge. There were many nights that she only got a few hours of sleep, many weekends without any rest, and a lot of stress.  The kids and I are very proud of her and know that this will add to the ministries here in Paraguay.

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Angelica and I were blessed to be able to help several of her classmates afford Seminary. A few of her classmates traveled from the Interior each week, returning to their churches late Saturday nights. We look forward to working with many of them in ministry here in Paraguay.

December is also the month for graduation at The Susanna Wesley School.  This is always a big party and Angelica is challenged to make it better each year. One of the teachers at the school informed Angelica that several families had been fattening up a pig for the event, and they expected a big affair.

As always, Angelica was able to pull it off, even with the rain and threat of power outages. (Most everything is done outside in the Interior, so weather is always a factor.) We had a great celebration with live music, speakers from Asuncion, and lots of food.

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It is just graduation from the sixth grade, but it is as far as most of the kids will go. Not only have these kids been able to study about the world for six years, they have also had the very unusual opportunity to study the Bible as well. For the community in Quinta Linia, this is a major cause for celebration and a time to demonstrate thankfulness.

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Susana Wesley Graduacion 2014_web

Feliz Navidad!

Paraguayan Fact:

In Paraguay, decorating the Christmas tree is done in shorts.

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The 100s

It starts each year in late August — a little tinge of anxiety, builds to nausea by mid-September, and full-blown loathing by October — seven months of miserable heat.

We are now in our second day of rolling power outages and have many more to come. I could live with the heat, even without AC, but without fans and a way to keep the fridge cool, it is pretty tough.

I should not complain. At least we have AC in our trucks these days.

I always thought, at some point I would get use to the heat. I thought I would eventually not wake up each night sweating. I thought planning meals and bedtime around power outages would get easier.

Well, they don’t. Don’t get me wrong. I love living and working here in Paraguay! But I could stand a little more cool weather.

Enjoy your winter up north!

Good Reinforcement

You know those national tests that we take in the U.S. — the ones that estimate students’ academic level compared to other students around the country? Well, we don’t have those here in Paraguay.

I am always asking Angelica, how she measure the academic level of the students at the Susanna Wesley School? This is something that has frustrated me for years. We often hear stories of how the one or two kids who continue their education in town seem to excel, but that has never been enough for me. I want a way to gauge the kids academically and in other ways.

I still don’t have that, but a local pastor’s wife is now working in the public school in the closest town. The pastor told Angelica that the students who come from The Susanna Wesley School are set apart from the rest of the students. They are more advanced academically but also much better behaved.

This did not just happen by circumstance. The quality of the kids that finish the school are a culmination of a lot of preparation by Angelica and a lot of dedication by the teachers. Because of y’all, we are able to really touch these kids’ lives.

We feel honored to have been a part of this with so many other people.

Maybe Something New

We are always exploring new ideas.

This year, it was getting the clinic starte, hopefully to be up and running by next year.
We also visited almost every church in Paraguay over the past year.

Now we are thinking of adding more home visits. We have done this in the past, but would like to do it on a larger scale. The Paraguayans that partner with us at the school and the agriculture project do such a good job, it frees us up to pursue other ministries.

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We don’t really know how it will work out yet. We know we would like to use some of the youth who we work with in Asuncion. It would have to be done in Guarani. We have even thought about helping the “Campasinos “ (country people) start small groups of believers.

We feel that God has done great things down here in Paraguay — that he has equipped many people to share the Gospel. We don’t want to just rest on what we have
accomplished in the past, but we want to constantly look for new ways to share Christ.

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Paraguayan Fact

In the summer, everyone goes shirtless.

Happy Endings?

I recently let my 5-year-old daughter AnnaBelen drag me to a movie. Sitting in a comfortable seat in the air condition for two hours is what really sold it for me.

The movie was pretty bad but AnnaBelen seemed to like it. As the movie was ending, everything came together:  The bad guy was caught and the main characters were reunited. In the closing moments of the movie, I had tears in my eyes. Hoping no one would notice and think that this movie had touched me so, I quickly wiped them away.

What saddened me was how in real life, in our ministries, we don’t always have these nice endings all tied up in a bow. Despite our efforts and hard work, people sometimes are not reunited.

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Left-Right: Meriam, Sheyla, Rosia

As the movie was ending, I was thinking of Meriam, an 11-year-old girl in our Bible class, who has to move back to the Interior. She has not been with us very long but has been very active and always wants to talk. She is always happy to see us and told us that if it were not for our time together, she would be glad to move back to the Interior.

She is like so many kids in our Bible class that get moved around like pawns because their parents can’t get along. We often talk to parents, but it almost always seems to fall on deaf ears. There is only one kid in our class that has not moved in, moved away or moved around because of family problems.

New Experiences

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Pastor Pablo Mora

This past month, The Evangelical Methodist Church of Paraguay elected a new Bishop. This is the third leader that the Methodist church has had in 25 years.

Our former Bishop, Pastor Pablo Mora, has been involved with the church from the very beginning. Angelica and I enjoyed working for and with Pastor Pablo Mora. He was always supportive of the things we wanted to do, encouraging us and occasionally reeling us in. We never had a bad experience with him and felt comfortable working under him. Angelica, like a good Paraguayan, is a little emotional about seeing “Grandpa” go. We wish Pastor Pablo and his wife Claudete the best in their next endeavors.

Pastor Pedro Magellanes

Pastor Pedro Magellanes

Pastor Pedro Magellanes is our new Bishop. Pastor Pedro and his wife Carla are Brazilian and have served here in Paraguay for over 20 years. Angelica and I look forward to working with the new Bishop and the new leadership that comes in with him.

Some Things Get Better With Time

In just a few weeks, classes will start at The Susanna Wesley School. This will be Angelica’s sixth year as Director.  Like every year, the kids will return to nicer classrooms and improved teachers. We have been blessed with a great group of teachers that are dedicated to the children and to improving their teaching skills.

Without spending a little time in the Interior of Paraguay, this may seem like a small triumph, but it is much more. In the Interior, there is often little thought put into improving education and most teachers are under-qualified and under-motivated. Establishing an atmosphere of improvement can be difficult without significant monetary incentives. Angelica has surrounded herself with teachers that see her vision and want to implement and improve it.

Our work in Agriculture is on the cusp of a new era. Up to this point, the project has been a huge learning experience for me. It has also been an outreach of the church and a way for us to come to know and share with the families around us. This year some of our experimental projects will begin to produce. We will also start with our first full year or teaching and training with the help of the government.

Paraguayan Fact:

We no longer mix by hand. Horse_web