Volunteering and traveling in Argentina to proclaim God's great love, and hopefully not getting sick along the way.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Note to self

Carlos makes a mean pollo al disco. Carlos, husband of Maria Elena, has to be one of the best persons to cook meat that I know.

Seriously. I can't move. I couldn't say no to a second plate, but I could say no to dessert.

That good.

If anyone comes to visit me, I will make sure you taste what I am talking about.

Note number two to self. I have learned how to make play doh. I will never buy that stuff again, because it is so easy, and loads of fun. Today at the institute with the gals, I made some dough in about 5 minutes, and everyone (and I mean everyone) was playing with their personal ball of dough (with color) for the full hour and a half that we were there!

Finally, some prayer requests:

1. For the family.
2. For my trip to the states coming up next Tuesday.
3. For Morena, daughter of Ale. She fell down hard yesterday and they are running some neurological tests--results come in soon.
4. I am giving a talk tomorrow night and Sunday night. One in English and one in Spanish. I feel like it's been awhile and I'm actually kind of nervous!

Thanks and chau!

Monday, September 24, 2012

A strange day

Something about Argentina is its abundant feriados, or holidays. Cristina has added loads of holidays, and sometimes changes them to meet her needs (like last year when she switched Kids' Day for election purposes).

Any way, because there are so many of them, I just don't even think about them any more (well except for Friendship Day, because it is taken very seriously here). A weird response, but a true one all the same. So when people were out of the house today due to yet another holiday, I just used the silence to prepare for the prayer meeting I was in charge of tonight.

After all, the holiday also meant I couldn't go swimming because the pool was closed.

Or then I went to make a photocopy, and my favorite local librería was closed. I dropped by Samuel's house to see if they could print for me, but the family had gone to Villa Giardino for the day. Right.

I went to the girls' institute, and thankfully Gladys and Eve were there. We had a good time of chatting over mate while the two actually worked on the bracelets. It's kind of an unusual thing for these two gals in particular, so I gave thanks to God on my ride home.

Enter the few hours of silence before making my way to el Refugio. And I suppose this is where it actually gets weird.

First of all, there's the fact that neither Laura nor Sol would be coming to el Refugio. The irony is that they are the ones who teach--I'm just there for crowd control. Let's add the fact that I didn't know that both of them would not show up. I called Laura who tells me, "Oops, I forgot.." and had talked to Sol the night before who said she was coming, she would just be late.

But I suppose this isn't that strange. I have noticed this a lot with the culture. The smallest excuse is enough to cancel the biggest responsibility. As I look back to last year and the multiple times we had cancelled events or visits due to rain, holidays (that were beautiful days spent doing nothing as a result), bus schedules, others not feeling like it, etc. etc. It's a struggle for me when sometimes the first thing out of one's mouth is, "Let's just postpone it", when one person mentions a tiny excuse. "Orrr.." I begin, "we figure something out!"

It's a battle for consistency!

Moving on.. I head out and the first thing I see is a stranger. This stranger greets me in a way as though he has known me his whole life. I sort of recognize him from the neighborhood, and I recognize that he has some sort of disability, so I continue. He puts his arm in mine and begins to talk with me.

"I'm almost as tall as you," he tells me.

Looking down to meet his gaze, I laugh a little and say, "Sorry buddy, I think I've got you on this one."

He changes the subject to my flip flops, and then asks how long I have lived here.

Like I said, strange. We part ways soon after and on my walk toward el Refugio I am praying for wisdom in what to do with the very possible reality of being alone. I wait at the gate and Santi and Julian arrive first. Then two other girls. The craft is a porcelain bear attached to a can. It's kind of cute; it's a multi-week task which most of this group had already practically finished.

"I honestly don't know what to do," I tell them.

Then they do the craziest thing for kids their age and from their background--they behave well and find things to do. They even clean up after themselves after all is said and done. I didn't have to do anything except be there. Show up. Ta.

What was also interesting is the five of us begin a conversation about death. These are 8, 9 and 10 year olds asking me about where I was during September 11, and if I have ever had to deal with death. I suppose the fact that my grandpa just died a couple of weeks ago is a good reminder that death is at everyone's door. They share their experiences, and I am able to ask them about the purpose of life. Again, remember their ages. A conversation I could have missed out on had I just given up when I hear that Laura isn't coming.

My Monday ritual of going to the Rodriguez house was also fascinating. It's normal for us to watch Floricienta, the most popular Argentine soap opera for teens, but I have never watched it in the girls' room (a room shared between Nieves and Mariela) alone. It was all so very strange. No small talk. I didn't even see Sol. No criollos!!

I walked home ready for the prayer meeting. There was a small gathering of OM folk in the kitchen, but none of them knew there was a meeting today (we have one EVERY Monday). I asked them to join me any way, and the 6 of us went in with low expectations. Or at least I did.

The next thing you know, a few of us are crying. I end the time in prayer, and everyone is fervently adding their "Amen"s and "Sí Señor"s. God's people transformed by an unexpected moment of reflecting on the country, our sin, and the needs around the world.

We end the day with some small talk, and I come here to write about it. All I hear is the ticking of the clock telling me it's time to go to bed. That, and the fact that the battery of my computer is almost up.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Talk to the person with whom I share my lane in swimming even if she is a complete stranger. She randomly asks me if I know a person (nick)named Coco. She is referring to the very one from my church. Through a 6 degrees to Kevin Bacon (remember that long night playing that game in Florida, Josh Crain??), we are connected, and it leads to her, Lucy, talking about God with others.

I have to make photocopies, but nothing is open. Giving up, I walk home and find myself at a libreria I had never seen before. The woman asks me what I am doing here any way, and out comes the story of Jesus.

Someone must guard the snacks at camp. Teacher comes to share mate and we get to talking. I wasn't as ready for this conversation, but it comes out any way. Even the smallest inconvenience leads to an explanation of the only reason worth serving others, because the Son of Man himself did not come to be served...

Finally, an inkling of a feeling that there is a message to give. I ask the pastor if there's any chance I could preach the Sunday before I leave. He says yes. The next day, he finds me to say that someone just asked him to preach that same Sunday, so it works out perfectly. Then another asks me to write devotions for a camp in late November.

My prayer recently has been to see the ways in which God has planted me here, for now, with a purpose. I want to use the gifts He's already given me, and not just be willing to do whatever (such as teaching teens how to make bracelets, even though certainly, that's all well and good).

Isn't this ministry? Better yet, isn't this the life of the Christian? I don't have to be in Argentina for God to work through me. I do like it better this way though.

Chau and a sonrisa, me.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Who's got high class?

I have finally finished three straight weeks of English camp. If you don't remember what these are about, just look up last year about this time when we did camps with a circus theme. This year focuses on Thanksgiving, but we have a lot of other important Bible-based lessons in there as well.

I'm just going to go straight to the point on this one however, because there is much more from the past couple weeks that I would like to highlight. You have the basic context, so here we go:

Camp. Third week. The students arrive, and I already see a difference from all the rest. Not just cellphones, but Blackberries. Huge suitcases filled to the brim for the three days of camp (I just brought a backpack and small carrying bag). Here we go.

Camp firsts: students refusing, to your face, to speak in English. Students who do not give the typical Argentine greeting when they arrive, nor when they leave (in fact, windows closed on the bus!). Even Marisol got angry at them--this I have NEVER seen!

And when we talked about picking up after themselves, they looked at us with blank faces. But of course they have never even done chores! That's what the maids are for! Or should I talk about the boy who has an elevator in his house in order to reach the bottom floor, the garage, that holds multiple cars?

The thing is, we make a video with the students, based off of a music video you can find by looking up Matisyahu's song "One Day" in which there is a chain of random acts of kindness people do for each other. Acts of kindness like helping someone up if they fall, retrieving something someone accidentally left behind, etc. etc. Simple acts.

The first time during the brainstorming process that I had heard students bring up the idea of suicide, and how someone could talk someone off the ledge for example. It was the number one idea for both groups! And at least for my group, they had also thought of saving someone from committing suicide by leaving the gas on in the oven, or diving in front of a car to save another. As if these students are so sheltered in their gated communities that they can only think of extreme examples to help someone.

Don't get me started on how very few have actually helped people in need. I.E. from another social level.

I have been thinking a lot about the idea of taking risks, and so on the third morning I decided to share more about my life; really open up to them, even though they had yet to even show a desire to hear what I might have to say. So I led an exercise my parents had done with me when I was in high school, right before adopting Mark. We played a situational, how-would-you-feel-if-you-lost-everything-in-a-matter-of-moments, game. I warned them how it might be difficult to take it seriously, but to aim to do so as best as possible.

While many looked for loopholes, many started to get the point. They can't depend on money for the rest of their life. They do not have control over various things that could happen to either them or to their families. How will they respond?

I brought it home with personal examples from my brother, and from the boys that I had gotten to know last year. Eyes widened some more..

Perhaps in a matter of hours they were already speaking Spanish again, cursing on top of that, and cheating at every game whenever they could. Nonetheless, I have to hope that something stuck. Someday they'll remember a phrase or moment in there.

Besides, I'm just generalizing. And it's late, so perhaps my words are coming out a bit stronger than I mean them too. Then again, maybe not. It is difficult to get a camel through the eye of a needle after all.

Chau and with love, me.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A variety of cute moments

Here's a drawing from Luciano that he made during the sermon tonight. I was only halfway there, as we had a minor emergency when Morena dirtied her diaper and Ale had forgotten to bring a replacement. As I walked to the nearest kiosk to buy a single diaper (I bought two, just in case, for the future), I thought how random my life seems to be at times.

Then Javi and his written comment in English. I still don't understand what he was trying to say, but I laughed all the same.

I also enjoy every time Enrique from the church catches me with another instrument. He has often tried to get me to be a part of the worship team. And it's not that I don't want to, but the timing is usually off--I'm gone one weekend for a camp, another for something with OM, another for a long weekend vacation, etc. etc.

But oh his face when he saw me playing the guitar (I learned "I won't give up" by Jason Mraz!!!). Good times! In addition our short conversations to and from the girls' institute. Very thankful for his family, as I am now thinking about the encounter between his wife and I while we looked for kiddos for Escuelita this past Saturday.

Brings a smile to my face!

Oh the great peace that surpasses all understanding!
Chau, me.