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

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

CI Camp - Mina Clavero

I sort of feel bad for complaining in that last entry, but I suppose the blog is meant to be a safe place to show that I am human. Besides, at least my feet are firm to the ground knowing that I too have not always been a person of integrity; I have failed in my dealings at work such as cutting corners or failing to turn something in on time, etc. etc.

Any way..

We also have camp in a place called Mina Clavero (treasure mine). Well, actually it's in the pueblo next door called Cura Bruchero (priest Bruchero). To me, it's the place with the best views, although my iPod is not the best at capturing the beauty.


I had two weeks in a row in Mina Clavero. One, with a group of teenagers, and the other with kids.

In the teenage group, I found myself so busy I hardly had time to get to know the students. Sometimes I kick myself because of the opportunities right there in front of me. I did make a lot of observations though, especially when it comes to the relationships between the students and their teachers.

For example, we realized early on that two of the students (one 14, the other 16 years old) were smokers. We talked to the teacher only to realize that she too, smokes, and that she already knew about her students. I asked her to please take away the cigarettes during camp (she could give them back once we finished the program), but she instead begged to give them just a few breaks a day!

At that age, they are already so dependent? And their teacher encourages it?!?!

In the kids group, one that was notorious for being trouble with a capital T, we experienced so much of God's grace when it comes to controlling the kids.

I even had them begging for my attention. JOKING.
The teachers kept asking us how we did it; we kept looking up. We had some very challenging conversations with the kids. I even had 24 minutes of Me Time, as I called it, as the students from my group had spoken Spanish 24 times during our filming process (we make a video about some cowboys). So during Me Time, I asked them to write down 5 of their life goals, and then 5 ways in which they would accomplish those goals.

To my utter dismay, two of the girls had written, as their life goals:

I WANT TO BE ABLE TO EAT AND NOT GET FAT.

Another wrote as a life goal that she wants to be a model. How will she accomplish this? By taking lots of pictures of herself.

Many of the boys want to be professional soccer players of course, and want to be millionaires as a result. (And to continue with the hypothesis, yes dad, the one who said he wants to meet Cristiano Ronaldo was the jerk while the one who wants to meet Messi was such a great kid!)

I challenged them to stop thinking so much about money and "MY" career, and to start thinking about others. "If you want a life that's truly satisfying, you need to put others first," I said.

Later, I shared with the teachers what the students had written down. They have decided to show the lists to the school psychologist and act accordingly. That is comforting.

After this last camp, with the whirlwind of life, it was time for me to rest. I was so tense, I even had a nauseating headache when I got home. Thankfully, I have two weeks off and I have already had some good siesta times. Plural. Nevertheless, I can always find work to do, which I suppose isn't that bad of a thing. I praise God I still get to exercise (lots of walking) and eat healthy (lots of fruits and veggies!).

Ok. That's it for now! love and chau.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The so-called standards of customer service

Is this just the way of life here?

Where is the integrity?

At the conference in La Falda, there was something that really bothered me. I went to buy tshirt, a really cool tshirt at that. One stand was selling the tshirt for 50 pesos. The neighboring stand, which had more colors and sizes, for 60.

I found one I liked for 50 pesos, but then when a friend wanted to buy one as well, she could only go to the neighboring stand. I mentioned how strange it was that the exact same "Christian" tshirt was 10 pesos cheaper right over there. And since I was with one of Cristian's more outspoken friends, he complained a bit too.

The man behind the stand admitted that on top of it all, these tshirts actually belonged to the other stand, but he was selling the extras for them. Ahem...

He sold them to us for the 50 pesos, but would he have done so if we hadn't said anything?

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Andrea sends two of her students to buy some cookies to share with the rest. In an episode very similar to my first buying experience in Córdoba, the woman at the kiosk sells them an open bag of cookies for double the normal cost. When the girls come back without change and an open bag, Andrea decides to talk to the woman.

As she can't leave the students on their own, they all come with her while she asks for another bag.

"They must have opened the bag on the way over," says the woman behind the counter.

While Andrea had considered that possibility, she had sent her most trustworthy students with the money.

"They ought to repent for what they've done," the woman goes on, and in the end, refuses to refund any part of the transaction.

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I went to the Christian bookstore in the city to buy some Bibles for the ministry. Now, there was a sign that said, "Please check the prices, because some of them have not been updated." When I picked the ones I wanted, I asked the employee if these were the right prices and he said that they were.

When I got to the cash register however, they were actually 20 pesos more expensive (each one).

Without an apology, without thinking of even giving a possible discount for buying multiple Bibles, she just waited for my money.

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I guess my frustration is not just the standard of customer service in general, as I do have plenty to complain about there. It has more to do with the standard of customer service within a Christian organization. We should be different from the rest.

And I get the, "but the church is for the sick and not the healthy," line, but this has to do with business, not church. We are called to work for the Lord, not for men. We are called to holy living. Standards that set us apart--in which we are generous towards the advancement of the kingdom of God, and generous toward the poor. That way, people see us, and see that success comes from our faith in God, and then they start to ask questions.

Then we can tell them what this world is really about. But if we keep behaving like the world, nothing will change. Pardon my ranting. In Spanish, it's called bronca. I think I'm over it now.

La Falda with Cristian

La Falda (The Skirt), Córdoba, hosted this year's annual Assemblies of God conference. While they had planned to welcome 3 thousand people, over 5 thousand came. Perhaps the chaos of preparing for so many people led them to misspell my name. Again.

I'm not bitter.

The city certainly enjoyed the extra money, but with this year's dry season, it was a little tough to enjoy a warm shower.

Again. I'm not bitter.

Seriously though, it was a fantastic time! I really enjoy seeing grand communities of faith come together to worship God by learning more about him, and being convicted of doing more for his name. The headline speaker was Dante Gebel, an Argentine pastor who heads a church in Florida.

I thank God for the ability to understand Spanish at a higher level now, because it helped me appreciate the messages, as well as spend 4 full days without a native English speaker close by. What used to bring me headaches from all the concentration has now just made me a little tired.

Truly, I valued the time with all of Cristian's family. Every meal we shared together, several mid-afternoon mates as well, where we would laugh and talk about life or what we were learning. With Cristian, we had some important heart to hearts which continued to confirm the Lord moving in our relationship. Sometimes we would end the charlas in silence because we were just so overwhelmed by how good this has been!

The city is in the middle of the hills of Córdoba, so our walks to and from the conference center sometimes left us gasping. At one time, while walking back with Cris' brother Alejandro, Ale farted big time! Earlier that day, I had taught Ale how in English we use -ly for all the Spanish words that end in -mente.

So he said, in the moment, "That was very fartly of me!"

We died laughing!!

Ale, Cristian and me
What I found most inspiring about the conference was the dedication to prayer. Every morning, there was an open invitation to the participants to 45 minutes of prayer before the main meeting. To be honest, we sometimes went just so we could get a better seat. But when I stopped to focus and pray, and listen to what the main speaker was praying, I was so convicted of my need to lay all my requests before Him, and stop relying on my own power.

Not that I have power, but I often convince myself that I do. I think you know what that's like.

Any way, there are some of the highlights to the week in La Falda!




CI Camp - Residencia

The common problem for booking the English Camps this year has been a matter of space. With major inflation, it has been difficult to find a location that is "bueno, bonito y barato" (good, pretty and cheap) as the saying goes.

For the first three weeks of camp, we were in a luxurious little hotel in La Cumbre. The only downsides were the cold (unavoidable), small meeting spaces which inhibited certain games we had prepared, and few bathrooms. Otherwise, it was a beautiful location that included an indoor pool and antique memorabilia which suited our filming purposes. Oh, and conveniently located next to the orphanage I happened to visit two years ago with Scott Jackson, the other random Texas missionary in Córdoba.*

One week, addressing the money and space issue, we had camp in a Franciscan monk residency. That is, the monks work in the hotel (?) which is as simple as simple comes. We had two-bed bedrooms that were adorned with a cross, one cubby for clothes, one small desk and a chair. The tiny bathroom at least had amazing water pressure for the showers so I didn't complain even when a giant spider wanted to share the space.

We shared many memorable moments with the teenagers that week. The advantage was that the grounds were quite spacious so we could play an intense game of hide-and-seek (which we called Cowboys and Indians, in the least racist sense) where one teacher was never found. And as the cell phone signal was in and out, we couldn't even text her to tell her to come back. She stayed hidden until midnight.. after all the teens had already gone back to their rooms. Talk about embarrassing! Yet, she didn't complain because the whole time she was planning some of the activities she would do with the kids when they got back to classes the next week.
part of my group "Galactic Productions"

I had a deeper conversation with one of the students from my group who brought alcohol to camp. From what it seemed, his parents know about his alcohol problem and say that it's okay.

"I just drink before I go to the parties," he told me.

"So you don't drink ANY more after you leave home?" I asked.

A look. A look that says whatever comes out of his mouth is going to be a lie.

"No."

"Are you lying?"

"Yes."

"You drink a lot, don't you?"

... "yes."

There is only so much one can do when you know each other for less than 72 hours. I figured, it was better to tell him some truth than not say anything at all. Even if he ends up hating me, at least I told him that he should stop drinking because I cared.

"The only thing that will ever satisfy you is Jesus," I told him. "But if you can't go down that road just yet, you will at least need to fill your time with helping people to make up for not drinking."

At the end of camp, everyone really enjoyed the line dancing that I had taught them. So much so, that they asked to dance for our final moment together. In the middle of one of the songs, the light fixture from the ceiling came crashing down. Even though where it had fallen was right in the middle of where the students were, not a single student was hit. We thanked God and said goodbye.

The last camp of the season (end of November) will be in the same location. We have already decided to be more clear with the teachers when they go hiding that if it's 11 o'clock, they can go ahead and make their way back.


*Scott is now married to an Argentine. Woot! And Mike, from the OM team, has lately joined Scott's ministry of coaching and playing American football in the city. Pretty cool, huh?

Here they come..

I finally have a week and a half off from travel, so I have a bit of time to catch up here. The summary of events shall come in my update letter (email if you want a copy), but now it's time to get cracking on the details of missionary life here in Argentina.

Well, missionary life AND personal life. After all, this is my journal of sorts too! :)