WRITTEN - FEBRUARY 2015
"For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you. (I Corinthians 9:19-23 NKJV)
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Let me describe an integral part of the culture here, after mentioning that we have fallen in love with it. Having been here for four months (as of February 2015), we have observed some very unique Paraguayan ways. My favorite is the communal custom of drinking 'terere'. They have a thermos of water, hot in the morning and night, cool (with ice) during the day, that they use to fill a 'guámpa', a cup made of horn or metal, the latter surrounded by leather, that has a bunch of dried herbs. The guámpa has a 'bombilla', a metal straw, that you then slurp up slowly the refreshing drink of 'terere'. Only catch to this is that the cup is passed around and shared, and you don't wipe the straw off. What is beautiful about this, once you overcome the sharing thing, is that usually terere is a communal activity, bringing your family, and/or friends, fellow colleagues or co-workers together after a hard morning or afternoon of work, and sitting in the shade together chatting about the day. I think because of this cultural practice, there is such a sense of solidarity and friendship here - makes sense really, if you love someone enough to share your cup, you are likely to serve them in everything. It's strange to think of the equivalent happening in England: one teapot, covered by a tea cosy in my house, one cup/mug, and the patient pouring and passing around of the one vessel...can you imagine? And yet, perhaps we would be a more friendly nation? And so as not to leave out our dear family in the USA, what about one communal plastic cup at the party, and no more need of sharpies/markers?
A couple of weeks ago, we met a christain lady at terere time. We sat with her under the shade of a mango tree in her garden/yard, and began to pass around the guámpa. The youngest serves, so little Rebecca with some help would give the drink to each person, trying to remember who she served last. During this time, the lady shared her powerful testimony of how she came to Jesus, and we prayed and encouraged one another, we had made a precious friend, but really as we hugged to say good bye, something so special happened. Our hearts were joined, and we felt a love for each other that flows from Jesus Christ himself. We are family now, and will share our journeys together. I asked if she would be our 'abuelita', our Paraguayan grandma. She replied with a gentle smile and nod, hugging on Rebecca, Joy and Emily as we prepared to leave. Joy wrote in the dirt above a picture of herself, 'mi Abuelita', my grandma.
We have not bought our own terere set yet, they have some really beautiful ones decorated with leather, but we have sat and made friends wherever we have gone, and had opportunities to share the Gospel we would never have had before. But one thing we have realized through this, is that we must learn their heart language - Guarani. The Conquistadores brought Spanish, and it is generally spoken and understood by most city dwelling Paraguayans, but many choose to speak their mother tongue, and for some it is the only language they know. Having prayed and felt confirmation, we plan to study Guarani this coming October for nine months, at a very amazing language school. We have been trying to find a house nearby, and have made several trips to carry out the search, but so far we have not found a house that's ready to move into.
The school facilitates missionaries in reaching Paraguay by teaching Guarani, and is located in Houguai, rural Paraguay. The school has established a great relationship with the village community. So, after class, we will practice what we have learned as we sit and drink terere with them. Amazingly enough, there is a local church there too, and many of the villagers are born again. We have had the privilege of joining them for a bible study and prayer meeting, and a Sunday service. We were welcomed so sweetly, and feel part of their church family already. We look forward to settling and studying there so much, and getting to know this Christian Paraguayan community.
Having established this need to study, we realize that we would be unable to leave Paraguay till we complete our course, meaning that Joseph would be a year and a half at completion. We would like him to meet our family in the UK before then. So we are praying about making a trip before our study lock down in October. It may also be an opportunity to share about Paraguay, how this nation is ripe for harvest now and that we are committed to being a part of this.
We have felt led to travel around Paraguay, visiting those the Lord has connected us with, especially as we may leave for a few weeks. I am trying to be brave about more traveling, as this means more packing!
There is always so much to be thankful for, and so as a family we take time to talk about all the amazing experiences we are having. Like the time when the children damned a stream/creek, that was surrounded by tall perfumed lillies in the middle of a jungle, then swam in the pond they created. And the moment when we taught a family how to read and navigate through the new bibles we had given them. Daniel was so touched to see them reading God's word the first time for themselves. And like when we met Andresa, an elderly lady who told us she is so lonely and has no one near her to talk to, but we had made her day by stopping, chatting and praying with her.
God bless you!