Thursday, July 20, 2017

Paraguay Phase 1

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!

Paraguay Phase 2

Day 5
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.

Paraguay Phase 3

Day 12
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!

Photos & Video

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Stage 1 - ✔

Good morning

I'm writing to you today from the Miami International Airport. The possibilities for communication once I get on the airplane in 2 hours are a firm unknown but I wanted to take this opportunity to get some words out there.

I'm guessing that if you're reading this, you're also one of the people that has supported my long journey to this point. For that I thank you! If you have supported me financially then I would ask you to also pray for us. I've been with the team for less then 12 hours but it's gone smoothly to this point and I want it to continue to be that way. So pray for us, please!

There isn't a lot to say about the trip yet, because it's barely begun. Late in the flight last night I got a sudden onset nausea which I hope doesn't reoccur during either of the legs of today's flight. Once I landed I hoofed it to the baggage claim area and even though I wasn't the first off the plane, I was one of the first to the area and fortunately had one of the first bags onto the conveyor, after a long wait for the bags to come.

When I got to the hotel we had a meeting. Just kind of an ice breaker and important information time. After that, the 12 of us dispersed to our various hotel rooms. I was with the two other guys. I thought I might be getting the better end of it because the other two are friends and crashed in the other bed, leaving me the other. But one of the guys was a snorer the likes of which I can't remember ever hearing so sleep didn't last long after it came. So I'm starting to feel the drag a little bit but flying is pretty non taxing so I'll be fine for today. Hopefully tonight's rest is a little more fruitful.

It's still early but things have come together as well I thought they might - maybe even better. I'm not sure I can make the determination right now but maybe with a fresher mind I could say so.

In any case, I hope that I'll have at least a couple chances to share about the trip while still down South but if not, I'd just ask once again to think of us and pray for us. For health. For safety. For unity. Anything that the Lord brings to your mind!

Thank you!


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Theme

I usually wait until the end of a calendar year to know or be able to define a word or theme for that year. 2017's theme seems to already be coming into perspective. 2016 was a lot about transition for me. It wasn't overly smooth or turbulent but it was about transition nonetheless. Not unlike the space between one step on a staircase and the next. 365 days is a quite a bit of time for one step to be taken but I certainly wouldn't be the first to have an extended time between steps.
Last year I had a few different jobs that I found myself doing. My predominantly, & the main reason why I've been so long between posts on here, is that I started an actual website about sports in the great Fargo-Moorhead area and I've devoted myself to that pursuit. For most of 2016 I was just trying to get my bearings with my approach and my focuses. Now it's starting to show some signs of taking off and I've worked out many of the kinks.
But everything that's gone on has been in the aftermath of my college experience. Suffice it say that things have dragged out for much longer then I ever expected or would have wanted. There are things I've learned through the time that I wouldn't trade back but the headaches and open endedness of it sure do make that seem appealing sometimes. Live and learn though, as it were. I thought it may wrap up a couple years ago after I was able to travel and work in Turkey but every trip I've expressed interest in being a part of has gone the way of the toilet, until today that is.
Which brings me to the main point. The catalyst for me thinking that 2017 will be about resolution is that there's finally a team going out that I'm able to be apart of. Things will have to happen at an accelerated speed because the rest of the team has already gotten done many of the requirements but they will be going on the mission and I've been approved to join them, so whatever hurdles I have to jump - I will.
The plan is to go from Minneapolis to Miami to Paraguay in late June for a few weeks and return near the middle of July. The closest thing to a concern about the trip from my perspective is that I've recently started a job that I hope to do for a few years until the website has really taken off. Being new also means that informing them of the trip and that I'll be gone for those weeks is a little bit troubling. I've heard the summer is a slower time and there has already been evidences that it shouldn't be a problem but I hope that isn't!
As far as I'm concerned it's past time for my Bethany chapter to be completed so even if things go the worst possible way I think I have to do this and I want to...which certainly helps.
Getting to go to South America is it's an appealing piece of the puzzle. What's more, the work I'll be going will have tangible results both in the short term and for the people's future's. To be able to make both an immediate and a lasting difference is more of a motivator. The contingent of the team who's idea it was to go to Paraguay and some joiners of similar talent and knowledge will be the core of the group while I will be a support piece for their works. As I was told it, we'll be going by riverboat to different villages to primarily provide healthcare for the locals. A Paraguayan riverboat, I'm not sure I can even imagine what that will be like but isn't something I'd imagine will be more then a once in this lifetime opportunity.
Bugs and their diseases are a concern but I'm not one of those anti-vaccine types so that'll help if not complete take that risk off the board. The types of areas we'll be entering will likely be safe, or they won't allow the team to go but going out from behind the high walls means there's always risk. I wouldn't have it any other way though. If there's one concern I have about the trip, it's the group dynamic. With the way I've operated my life, being thrust into a group of 10 or so English speakers in another country will be an adjustment, even with my prior international experience. The life I lead is good for me and I don't have any desire for it change too much, but I guess I'll leave it up the Big Guy to work out. I've been told that one of the other guys is a rabid sports fan, so if nothing else, that should help!
Two months and I'll be on my way to the closure of my time at Bethany. It almost doesn't feel real and can't help but think that the rug will get pulled out from under me again but the fact that the team is 100% locked in to going does diminish my trepidation somewhat. Anyway, that's the deal, this wanderer gets to add another one to the list, and I'm already thanking God for it!