Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Yesterday I dropped Jorge off at his new school, almost an hour and a half from his home in Bella Vista. He had a permanent smile on his face the whole morning. I brought a few things for Jorge, like shampoo, soap, a few hand towels, a sheet and pillow, because the family didn't have extras to spare. Hi mom made his bed and arranged his clothes on his small nightstand. We hung his mosquito net just like all the other ones in the boy's dorm. He was elated. We met with the director, the Mother Superior of the Catholic school, the only school for deaf children in southern Paraguay. She welcomed Jorge with a big hug.
We walked into his classroom and Sister Eliadora shook his hand and showed him to his seat. I was nervous that he would feel out of place starting first grade as a 12 (almost 13) year old. Much to my relief, his 2 other classmates are 11 and 12! The only thing Jorge knows how to do is spell his name. He can't even write his numbers to ten. Then the director told us that we should go and that we can pick him up on Friday at 11 a.m.
Jorge_002Then I saw Jorge's dad (Jorge Sr.) clutch his son and weep. His mom kissed him and wept, then his younger siblings. I got teary-eyed myself just thinking about the mixed emotions this family was facing. On the way home we talked about how excited they are for their son to start his education and thus have a future. However, it will be a huge adjustment. He has never even been away from home one night. Since Jorge knows how to count on his hand, they explained earlier that he would go to school for 5 nights and then go home for 2. He looked at his family reassuringly and showed them 5 fingers almost saying, "Don't be sad, we'll see each other again in five sleeps!" If you think about it, would you pray for Jorge and his family this week.
This experience really got me thinking about the day my son goes to kindergarten, then to high school and off to college. These mile-markers are huge transitions, but necessary. Ultimately, our goal as parents is to raise loving, responsible children that are ready to face the harsh realities of the world and stand triumphantly. If we never let them go, they will never be able to stand as victors. Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train up your child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not turn from it." That is certainly our hope, prayer and responsibility.
The director jokingly asked if Timmy would be staying too. "Not on your life" I thought. I know I will eventually need to let my little boy fly, but right now he's secure under the safety of mommy and papi's wings. The time for Timmy's first day of school will come all too quickly and we have many miles to go in teaching him God's ways.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
It was a lot noisier than I imagined! That was my first impression of the 2008 Encarnacion Motorcycle Rally. CMA (Christian Motorcycle Association) Paraguay became official in November 2007 when South American coordinator, Hiram Villaseñor came and held the Colors ceremony. Our first activity was participating in the Encarnacion Rally. Hundreds of bikers from all over the country came for the exposition, competitions and fellowship. CMA had the joy of serving the bikers fresh mineral water and keeping the grounds clean.
The folks at the Rally were so impressed with us "newcomers" who were always smiling and picking up trash that we were interviewed by 2 different television stations. Pictured are a few of the members with on of the interviewers and the CMA booth and banner in the background.
We were able to meet some new people, and make inroads with bikers from our neighboring cities. We are also making contacts with Christian bikers in Ciudad del Este and Iturbe that want to begin their own chapters of CMA in other parts of the country. We believe in the vision of CMA: Changing the world, one heart at a time.
CMA has 100,000 members in the United States and chapters in 24 countries. Each year, their "Run for the Son" weekend raises over a million dollars for missions and motorcycles for third world countries. Paraguay has been the recipient of 16 motocycles to date. We are grateful for this incredible partnership. Thanks for praying with us for incredible encounters this year with bikers who need the hope of Jesus.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Last night Teo a 55 year old neighbor, was anxiously awaiting our arrival at dark after coming back for the second time. She wanted us to pray for her 7 year old grandson Sebastian who had contracted Yellow Fever and was in the middle of emergency surgery for a ruptured appendix. Yellow Fever has killed 7 so far this month in Paraguay, according to USAToday.
It’s the first outbreak here in since 1974. The problem is that there is a shortage of vaccinations. We’ve received emergency shipments from Peru and Brazil, yet they aren’t enough to vaccinate everyone. Pharmacies are charging between $40-$50 for a single vaccination; which is a week’s salary for the average worker. The border bridges into Argentina and Brazil have been temporarily closed, due to the epidemic scare. To cross, one has to show proof of vaccination.
What are we doing about it? We are bringing health education awareness to our state. We are devoting the morning show at the radio station to bring in medical specialists to inform our listeners about the need to be vaccinated and to eradicate mosquito “nesting” areas in their neighborhoods. We are supporting our local medical centers and making sure everyone gets the vaccine. Mosquitoes are a huge concern for this tropical nation. Last year, the big mosquito-borne epidemic was Dengue.
Thanks for helping us eradicate this national health problem!
Sunday, February 17, 2008
One of the things that brings me the greatest joys in life is connecting people. Yesterday I was able to help a single mom in our church get a job. I just made a few calls and voila, she had a new job! Sweetness. Last week it was Jorge, a boy in our church who is deaf and mute, who we were able to help.
Last year I was totally shocked to learn that he is 12 years old and has never been to school. I told myself that I would do whatever it takes to get him into school. Part of the problem is that there are no schools for the deaf in our area. The other part of the problem is that his parents, like most Paraguayans, don't know how to take the initiative to break into the system of social work and government scholarships. Paraguay is full of red tape and each step taken can be exhausting. Just take this small example:
I set up an appointment with Jorge and his parents to meet with the director of the foundation in our area that helps children with the schooling expenses. They had always heard of the organization, but had never inquired about whether their son would qualify. They arrived first and the sign on the door said that the secretary was down the street at the laboratory. Instead of going to the lab, they called me and told me that no one was there and what should they do. I told them to stay put and I'd be there in 2 minutes to guide them to the lab. They were about ready to go home!
After Jorge was accepted into the foundation for special needs children, we got an interview with the school for the deaf. We drove an hour away to the school and after convincing the Nun that they should accept him even though he was over the 10 year old boarding school age, I was thrilled when they finally enrolled little Jorge. He was the happiest boy on the planet when I bought him his first school uniform on our way home. It just warmed my heart knowing that he was finally going to be able to learn proper sign language, read lips and eventually speak!
So, we are grateful for the connections we have through our role at the radio station, so we can help connect needs with resources. At times I know my assertiveness is a detriment and a cultural offense to polite Paraguayans, but when it comes to connecting, I (Julie) am grateful that I can knock down doors when I need to. I just love helping and the more I can build bridges in our community, the more opportunities we have to share God's love. People don't care about what you know until they know how much you care. We pray that God would continue to fill us with his compassion to serve others. '
So, the question is, how can God use you to connect a resource to a need this week?
Saturday, February 2, 2008
In a large national newspaper , La Nacion, yesterday there was a beautiful story written about the work that was done in Obligado. It's titled: "Missionaries Spend their Vacation in Itapua Building a Church" Click here for the story (in Spanish). Alice or Carmen, can one of you do the translating?
Well, we are still trying to absorb what took place in the past 17 days. We are truly amazed at what happens when the body of Christ comes together!
Last night we had a wonderful church service, the first normal one in the new church building. There were 5-6 new families present too! Pastor Renato asked for people to share what these past few weeks have taught them. Here are some highlights:
Unity-Even though we don’t speak your language, we could tell that you had fun together and were united under one purpose here. It was very encouraging to see your love for each other.
Humility- Many of you come from big companies and important positions and you were willing to leave your suits and get down on your knees and get completely filthy for a small unknown country.
Generosity- You gave your time, your talents, your resources beyond measure to bless us. We can’t pay you back and you know that. You blessed us anyhow.
The Spirit of God- People felt a strong move of the Holy Spirit during the inauguration service. There was a sense of renewal and overwhelming celebration for the goodness of God to us.
Joy in serving- Paraguayans couldn’t stop talking about how the joy of the Lord was on your face, in your words and in your actions. This type of attitude is totally contagious and has positively impacted our church people and the community!
Helping the community- One woman shared that the Lord was speaking to her while you were here and told her that if you can serve us, we need to be serving others. She wants to start helping sick babies and children in our community and is already organizing a committee to assist her!
I'm sure many more testimonies will be pouring in. We give God the glory for what He has done and we thank you again for being His reflection; His hands and feet to a hurting world. We love you and pray that you returned home safely.