August 12, 2011
Packing a Day Full
Wow, we really packed this past Tuesday full! We knew we'd be visiting the little school at Loma Clavel and hated to pass through Carapegua without at least saying hello to our old friends there, and to those who have been so good to keep up with Ken and me during our recuperation. So we started off by swinging by the elementary school at Arazaty. We had weekly Bible classes there last year and part of the year before, so we feel like we've practically watched some of these kids grow. It was great to see the teachers again and get the chance to hug the little folks.
We then passed by Gladys and Francisco's home, stopping to have terere with Francisco, his sister (and her little boy), and his dad. Francisco and Gladys are putting the finishing touches on a lovely little house they've just built, and are so excited to have a home of their own now after about 5 years of marriage. Pretty soon they'll be moving in.
We headed on into town to make various stops and share lunch with some of the youth who were part of the core group in our ministry. Most of them were still doing well, and it was a God-ordained time to encourage them and try to share some words of wisdom where possible.
We then went back to the neighborhood we most recently moved from to get caught up on how everyone's doing there. One more stop at the home of a family who's become interested in our ministry at Loma Clavel, and then we were off to the little school. This family went along and we have great hopes that they will want to be more and more involved in reaching that community.
When we arrived, the teacher was all smiles. She said she'd told the children that we were coming that day, and every little noise got them excited. A plane flew over at one point, and she said they all jumped up and down, just sure that we were arriving via that flight. We've always come in a car, so I don't know where that idea came in, but she said they were totally serious and very antsy. The first thing the kids did when we actually arrived, was invite us to their National Day of the Child celebration taking place next week. They remembered that this was the first time we'd visited their neighborhood and school, on that same holiday one year ago. We told them we'd be honored to come back. Thankfully, they will celebrate one day after the other school where we are now teaching. Phwew.
We hung out with them, Ken played a few rounds of soccer, and Saul shared the Bible lesson in Guarani. I was pretty hyped this time to be able to have some conversations with them. They are learning more and more Spanish, and I'm learning more Guarani, so we sort of met in the middle. While the children (and Ken) played, the teacher filled me in on the most recent happenings. This little school, if you remember, was totally built over the course of several years, by the families in the tiny community. They have been operating for a full school year now, but the government still does not recognize them. In that way, the government does not have to pay the teacher.
Well, this year, the amount of students increased and it was difficult to teach them all in one room at the same time. They range from preschoolers to adolescents. Another teacher volunteered to come out in the morning and split the classes. No one knows if it was the long ride down those nasty dirt roads where buses don't run, the fact that you must teach in Guarani, the lack of salary, or just what, by the new lady didn't hack it. She lasted a week. So our lovely little young teacher lady (Ms. Ellie) is back to doing it alone. She was really discouraged, but I reminded her that her work with "these little ones" is never in vain, and that God knows where she is and what she needs. I was then able to give her a totally unexpected offering that arrived specifically for her, which brought her to tears immediately. I explained to her that there was also an amount of money for the children's needs, and we decided that shoes were a big priority. This next week for children's day, we plan to bring a pair of tennis shoes for each child.
Let me pause here to explain a little dilemma we'd been having. We've been studying a lot about poverty, and how to really make a difference in people's lives. Something we've tried to do since arriving in Paraguay is to be sure we're not enabling more poverty, but are investing instead in people's lives. This gets a little sticky when it comes to children, for the obvious reasons. In this case, there are a few little folks who are very neglected. The neighborhood women step in and help care for them when they can. The shoes they were wearing Tuesday had to be at least 2-3 inches too long for them, and so broken down that I could see all their toes through the giant holes on the top. I'm guessing that some man or teenager who no longer wanted them passed them down. Somehow, the guys ran and jumped and played soccer anyway, in these shoes that kept flipping back with every step. I can't tell you how excited I'll be to see real tennis shoes that FIT on those little feet.
Knowing that the kids can't really help their situation, we tried to think of a way to involve their parents in the process. A little like "give a man a fish" vs. "teach a man to fish." I asked the teacher about the parents' involvement in the school, and she quickly pointed out that the little matching outfits the children were sporting that day (like jogging suits) were now their official uniforms, after the neighborhood got together and did a whole lot of fundraising. EXCELLENT! We also talked about how the school was built by these people, maintained by these people, and bettered by these people. YIPPEE! With that in mind, it was hard to feel like anything we would do for their children would be seen as a handout. We made the decision to give these shoes we're planning to buy privately to the teacher. Then she can give them to the parents of these children, and they can give them as gifts on Day of the Child. The gifts received on this day are typically a bigger deal here than Christmas, so it will be important that these moms and dads have something to give. That's the plan, and I can't wait to go buy the shoes this weekend.
Back to our day with them.... After their recess time ended, everyone gathered back in the schoolroom for a Bible lesson. Saul did a great job delivering this one in Guarani, teaching about the creation story. The children all had booklets from their Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, so they followed along with the pictures. They each brought their booklets by to show me the cover and have me touch them. I wasn't really sure why they did this, but they got all excited when I'd touch them and "Ooo! Aaa!" over the drawing on front. ??
As we were leaving that afternoon, we met two American girls who'd come for a couple of months to help build latrines (potty huts). Woo hoo! What a wonderful project! These college-aged gals had been living with a family in the neighborhood and knew all the kids, who got awfully excited seeing us talk to "the other white people" in English.
Thanks for your prayers and for the special offering sent for the Loma Clavel school. As I told someone that evening, WE know God has a plan for that little community, and now the teacher does, too. In a few more days, a lot of little feet are going to be reminded of that fact. Please pray that we will be able to meet many of the parents as we return to celebrate with them, and that God will continue to open their hearts to His message.