It goes without saying that we need your prayers daily. No country is perfect, and each one has its own religious personality. Paraguay is a strange blend of Catholicism and black magic. Say what you will about the reality of witchcraft and its power or lack thereof, but it is a real force here and shows itself in strange ways sometimes. I'll post more on that later, probably.
For now, I want to share what has happened this past week. You know we've been handing out blankets to the neighbors, trying to hit the most poor first. To look at any of them from our North American standpoint, they're all worthy of blankets. But the truth is that the ones who live closer to the (dirt) road tend to have their own animals, sometimes an outside job, and some way of bringing in money and buying some of what they need. As you walk further from the road, you find the intense poverty of many children living in a house with or without both parents/grandparents, with or without a "roof" or walls to speak of. So these are the people most in need of a blanket or two, who can't provide for their children more than the food they get from their own gardens and animals.
However, even in situations like this where you'd think poverty would form bonds of brotherhood and neighborly help, human nature prevails and selfishness takes over. People want lots of blankets for their own home, or they stress that their neighbor doesn't need one in an effort to get us to give the neighbor's to them instead.
This past weekend, a lady came to the house asking for a blanket. We'd already handed out all of the latest batch, but she persisted. Thank God this happened on a weekend, when our evangelist friend Saul comes out to work with us in the community. (It's more realistic to say we work with him...) He knew the woman enough to know that her family is one of the most well-off in this area, and that she didn't really need a blanket. He explained to her about the houses we were visiting and the level of poverty they are in. He also explained that we had a responsibility to seek out the most needy and not to hoard all the blankets into one house or give to those who could conceivably go into town and get their own. Despite how delicately he explained this, she left in a huff and was visibly angry. Once again, we were glad Saul was here to handle a situation that is better handled by a local person, and especially one who knows these local people so well.
Well, fast forward to this Friday, when our family and Saul went to the school for the weekly Bible class. The director of the school pulled Saul aside to explain that some of the children were forbidden by their parents to attend the class because it's being taught by a non-Catholic--an evangelical. Saul reminded the director that he never taught doctrinal issues, just basic Bible stories about God's love for all and the gift of His Son. The director said there would be a meeting of parents this coming week, in order to take a vote as to whether the classes would be stopped or would continue. As it turns out, the "parent" who started this is the same woman who didn't get that blanket.
I've told you before about this Bible class. It's such a great way to share the Gospel with these children, and the kids just love it. Saul speaks to them in Guarani and they are coloring pictures, memorizing verses, and learning about a God who knows them each by name. Many people here, even the adults, will tell you they are Catholic but have very little if any knowledge of the Bible, basic Bible stories, or concepts about the Lord. It's merely a label they give themselves because their parents were Catholic, and their parents before them. But the classes are a chance to step into the next generation and teach them about having a relationship with their loving Father.
We really need your prayers on behalf of the class, and the community. We regularly need discernment and wisdom on decisions we make here, and how best to go about "doing what we do." Please join us in asking God for a good result of this upcoming parents' meeting, and for His perfect will concerning the school and the precious children.