Crunches in nature
Sorry, I couldn't resist. Don't we look tough!
Alyssa and our beloved driver, Carlos
Adam's happy dance
Mom and I having an online opp. in Brazil
The Iguazu Falls has 275 individual waterfalls! (and yes, I think my eyes are closed)
Gustav (aka Dave) and me
The Villarica missionaries The Asuncion missionaries
The Floyds and Mccissicks (sorry about spelling botching)
This "starts" (although it's in backwards order, so by "starts" I mean if you go from the bottom up. SORRY!) all from Sunday afternoon's church service: The drama, my sis and I dancing and singing to "How Beautiful"(okay, that one accidently got deleted), and Adam playing soccer with the church kids. (By the way, I was chastised over and over by Adam for not giving him "link love." I was just too ignorant to know how to link names with their blogs. However, I think I have more than made up for it now, Cramer, thus I will not be linking your name for awhile. I care about my readers, for goodness sake, and I don't want them to get bored with me because I keep mentioning YOU. It's pathetic when I now have your blog address MEMORIZED! GEESH! ENOUGH ALREADY!)Sorry to all who just had to endure that and don't have the history :) ANYWAY, back to Sunday. We then travelled to Kapi'i, a really impoverished area with one vocally Christian family. Ramone is the head of this family and the picture with him is him showing us his family business (he makes he famous Paraguayan cups for mate and terere). Close to his home is a Catholic church (and let me just say this isn't a generalization about the Catholic church, just this particular situation). The priest there knows that Ramone and his family have become evangelical Christians and has warned that anyone who comes to Ramone's church cannot receive (nor anyone in their family) the sacraments. I don't understand all the implications, but this is a very big deal and so Ramone's family is ostracized. So, the church service is held on Sunday night so that people can come and go with the covering of darkness. Now, it may be easy for those of us who have never dealt with persecution firsthand to become critical of this set-up, saying that those believers should "Shout if from the rooftops." However, the longer I live, the more I realize that things are much less black and white than I once thought. Ramone's family has dealt with more hardship than I probably ever will, and if they think this is the best situation, I don't think it's our place to judge. On a different note, once Alyssa was having a conversation with one of his daughters and asked her if she ever wished she had more (the poverty there was so real...from the bedroom where I changed for "How Beautiful" to the outhouse that served as their only bathroom). Her response was that yes, if she went to the city, she would have more things, but she would not choose that. Life at her home is much more peaceful. Is that not the truth!?? What an amazing reminder that while we in America have such incredible wealth, the price we pay for that wealth is perhaps much more costly than its worth.
From there we traveled several hours to San Bernadino where we'd be with SIM Paraguay missionaries all week. Our main job there was to do a VBS for their 20+ kids and lead worship. We were also there to serve in any other way we saw fit. The week was tiring and wonderful all in one. Worship was a huge responsibility, but God was faithful. The same was true with VBS. The kids seemed to have SUCH a great time (with the exception of one two year old that warmed up more and more and seemed genuinely happy by the end of the week!) We got to hang out with the missionaries a lot through different outings, mealtimes, and hours and hours of beach volleyball (SO GREAT!) By the end of the week we were all exhausted yet very content and joyful. The team ended the trip with a journey to Iguazu Falls...simply gorgeous. The last pictures (which would actually be the FIRST pictures) are of the falls and just having fun.
The two weeks were powerful. I cannot thank my parents enough for this incredible chance of a lifetime. Neither can I thank enough my dear husband who gave me his blessing wholeheartedly and held down the fort like a pro while I was gone (even if the neighbor did tattle on him that they didn't keep a schedule. To which Karl responded, "We did too have a schedule! The boys slept every night :)") Also, our team really was special. The way God brought us all together makes me smile thinking about it even now. I was definitely blessed to be a part of such a diverse and wonderful group of people. The lessons I learned are definitely serving to make me a more Christ-like person. Thank you to everyone who prayed, gave wonderful encouragement (Shelley that one is especially for you!), and helped make the trip possible. Blessings to you all.