Thursday, July 20, 2017
Day 1 - Miami to Paraguay
I knew it would be a long travel day, no one would have had to try too hard to convince me. I didn’t and wouldn’t have guessed at how it all went down though.
Miami to Panama City went smoothly. It’s when the planes tires hit Central American soil that things got rocky. Not in the landing itself but in many of the things that are taken for granted in the time after a plane lands.
There were power troubles, a majority outage to be exact, that prevented the plane from being able to utilize the standard walk way and thus kept us from being able to de-board like usual. So we sat on the tarmac for quite some time, close to an hour I think but time was hard to keep track of during the entire trip.
Eventually the operations at the airport used a ramp to allow us, and all the other planes that we could see, to get off and continue our travels. After getting off we got on a bus which took us to the terminal. Fast forwarding another 2 hours of sitting around we were notified that our next plane was ready to be boarded. Once aboard we waited for another 30 - 45 minutes because of potential flight path restrictions. If the nearly 2.5 hrs of waiting wasn’t enough then a dreadfully boring flight was like salt in a wound.
We landed around 1 am & quickly proceeded to the Visa area. It took around 40 minutes for the whole group to make it past those windows and beyond the nearby check point. From there a short walk to the baggage claim preceded another to the point at which our hosts were waiting. After a 20 - 30 minute drive to the campus we unloaded, got final instructions for the day and for the morning then retired for the evening. The guys quarters were nicer then I expected & before long sleep came upon me. It was a welcome ending to a long day!
After another late night we were again given a later start to the day. It forced an extra amount of urgency to the days goings on and also noticeably condensed the meal schedule. After breakfast we worked on our docket of skits. That went until just past noon, at which time many in the group walked to the super market. The time between when they left and got back was utilized by those of us who didn’t go along to do various things around the compound. Right around the time they got back several of us got the itch to go exploring ourselves but we just missed the window to escape.
Lunch was a delicious and hearty beef stew that sustained me through the rest of the day.
A day that was invested in the local pastors church. After we walked to the church we divided into 3 groups, then we went through the nearby neighborhoods inviting the kids and families to the church. The area we were in, along with the kids in it, was like something you’d see in one of those adoption or sponsorship commercials. But we rounded up as many people as would come and did our own version of the pied piper to the church.
After each group had returned we ushered them into the church for our little program. I’d estimate that there were around 40 kids in and around the church, plus some of their parents so it got a little cozy! There was one young girl that stuck to me from all the rest. She was maybe three years old but from the time she saw me while doing the inviting she followed along and then back at the church she came right over to sit by me. She was just very sweet and beautiful, the only one I’ve seen yet that I wish I could take home.
The skits went off without any major hiccups and the kids were loving it. There are several different examples of Gospel truth in them, but they are meant as much to be funny as they are to be preachy. After the words and the laughs came the action to support them. Myself and the other guys mostly just played with the boys while a couple local men gave them haircuts.
The ladies on the other hand had their hands full. They were doing some serious work with the locals to improve their hygiene status. There was one group that focused on their nails, as a way to lift their spirits. The other two groups were focused on reducing the lice problem that many of them were found to have.
That went on for a few hours at which time myself, Josh and Michel went back to the mission to start dinner preparation. After a lot of the prep work happened it was remember that there was a church service that night. So the guys hustled to the house to change and the ladies finished the food. We ate and then made the 15 minute walk back to the church.
Even though most of it was in Spanish the worship time was great! The music was lively and somewhat familiar. At one point the majority of those present joined together to pray over the kids. The pastor gave a simple message, but filled with truth. From there we walked back to the compound, got a little bit of pertinent information and soon all retired to our various quarters for the night.
The thread of unpredictability continued into the next morning, but of a distinctly positive note. We were given until 9:30 to start the day and then got a special breakfast. Up to this point breakfast has consistently been bread and food, I expected more of the same but when I walked into the dining area there was a platter of pancakes, with more on the way. I’d been wondering when my appetite would return to form and that was all it took. I inhaled an exorbitant number of cakes and was full for the first time since leaving Minneapolis. That’s not to say that I haven’t liked the food, there have been many meals that I’ve enjoyed, just not breakfasts - which is my favorite of the three meals.
But peaking at 10 am isn’t exactly desirable so I was left wondering whether the rest of the day would be as good as the first of it. It would take all day to get my answer but it was a definite yes.
The next part of the day was a mini tour of Asuncion. We were driven to a beach near the capital from whence we walked. We walked by & around several government buildings and saw a tragic monument to one of Paraguay’s former rulers. As we walked I & we prayed for the nations leadership, past & future.
After that was concluded we went to a “nice” quick eat restaurant. Nice was the word spoken to us about it but it was like a poor man’s chipotle, for Empanadas. I ate a little of the offering but several others felt sick later in the day so I was glad that I didn’t eat much and disappointed that it was worse then I initially thought.
Once back behind the compound walls we had some down time before sitting in with the host churches youth group. The attendance was sparse, in part because an unspecified number of them had gone to Antequera for the weekend. What we do, the skits and such, have gotten routine so we used this chance to switch them up some. Unfortunately the Americans were the ones who enjoyed the changes more then the locals.
After that was through we went back into the city to see another important monument. A war memorial that’s as sad as many that I’ve seen over the years. It ties back into the history of the nation and also into some of the current issues in the nation. I have it in pictures but to put it simply, a mother is sending her son of to war while a dead man lies behind them. It’s a tribute to that 3 nations war where so many of the men died, at which point they sent boys in to fight and die as well, leaving the woman in charge. Yet another sad part of the past that they celebrate, I wonder how long it will be before America is this backwards? After hearing the story we spent 10 minutes walking the area and praying about it.
A short distance away there was a congregation of food trucks. It was determined that some middle Eastern trucks were the most safe to eat from so we put in our orders, talked & ate. For the second time that day I had a food in front of me that I couldn’t help but eat and eat again. The closest description I can make to it is as a super taco but with a flat bread wrap instead of a tortilla. I knew I’d experience some new foods on this trip but Middle Eastern food wasn’t what I expected. Hopefully Fargo gets something that good in the near future!