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November 4, 2010

Attending Church in Paraguay

The first year teaching is difficult.  As a former first year teacher I remember the stress and internal conflict through that whole school year.  One of the best things about my first year teaching is that I do not have to repeat it.  Cassandra is going through that right now.  Her weekdays are consumed by grading and planning and on the weekends it is difficult to relax when she needs to plan all the lessons for the next week, prepare the science lab and more grading and planning.  It is a difficult job and adjusting to a new culture makes it that much more of a difficult transition.  Attending a Spanish speaking church adds to the anxiety of the week in some ways.

We have been attending an evening English church service started by the teacher and chaplain, Kevin Van Rensburg.  We visited a Paraguayan baptist church with a couple friends one of our first weekends here.  Once school started it was difficult to give the extra exertion to find and attend a service in Spanish.  However the last two weeks we have attended a morning church service in Luque at Iglesea de Nasareno and we believe we will continue to attend church there.

A few weeks ago, Jim and Zeida Lynch, Nazarene missionaries from Peru and the United States, invited us to attend a church in Luque**.  Cassie was getting slightly more adjusted to living here and we agreed that it was time to stretch ourselves and attend a Spanish speaking church.  I called Jim to get directions.  I got confused and had to called him again.  I looked up the directions and found I was still totally confused.  I spent serious time on google maps tracing the route and called another friend to find out the bus numbers.  We would need to walk five or six blocks (cuadras) to Avenida España, get on the bus 30 yellow, travel down Avenida España which turns into Au. Silvio Pettirossi, then to Avenidas Aviadores Del Chaco, then in Luque turns into Avenida General Aquino.  We need to exit the bus and find the street called General Diaz, which we found by taking the bus into Luque and getting directions from someone waiting for another bus.  With our limited Spanish we were able to understand how many blocks we needed to walk back(cinco o seis).  General Diaz is not marked until much farther down the road.  Once we found the street, we walked five or six cuadras to Boqueron where we found the Nazarene church.

**Luque its own town but close enough to be a suburb of Asuncion.  Luqueños are extremely proud of the city and their futbol team(but their team is in last place right now).

It was exhausting just to get to church.  We left plenty early because we did not know how long it would take.  We made it to the church an hour early, which is really early in this part of Latin America.  We were welcomed to church with big smiles and kisses on the cheek.**  We loved the church and attended the last two Sundays.

**Ladies press their cheek against both sides of you cheek and make a kiss sound.  Ladies greet each other with the kiss on both cheeks.  Guys DO NOT greet other guys with a kiss on both cheeks: only handshakes or hugs.  I learned this lesson in cultural literacy the embarrassing way.  Also, DO NOT go for the left cheek.  It is awkward when you both go for the same side.  At church I almost actually kissed a lady on the lips doing that.  Sometimes when I get tired of kisses on the cheek, because I am North American and like my personal space, I stick out my arm to shake hands in greeting and avoid getting close enough for kisses.

Some Thoughts on the Church

It is strenuous to listen intently to a service in Spanish.  Right now I can pick up very few words.  The music seems to transcend the difficult communication for the most part.  The music at Iglesia de Nasareno en Luque is beautiful.  The musicians are well rehearsed and the instrumentation is tasteful in every way.  Congregants sing along and clap** with joy and passion.  The words to the music are displayed and it is not difficult to pronounce most Spanish words and sing along with the music.

**Is it normal for Paraguayans to clap on beat one and three?  I have no idea.  It seems to be this way most places we have gone where people clap.

Last Sunday the lyrics to many of the songs were about God's love.  As I tried to sing and clap along with the music I found I could not stop crying.  I didn't have any tears roll down my face, but my eyes welled up and my throat choked so that I could no longer sing along.  In reflection, I think the emotion came from realizing I am a part of the Church with a capitol C.  I previously had only a knowledge level understanding of the international Church.  Attending Iglesia de Nasarena, I experiencing a part of the overwhelming enormity of God's love and what it means to be a part of Christ's body, the Church.  I am in communion with believers in parts of the world and we are singing in praise to God together.  Even in writing about it I get close to tears.   Seeing a new part of what it means to love and praise God is difficult to even describe.  I am part of something much grander than myself, my knowledge, and my experience.  God's love is bigger than I can know. 

3 comments:

  1. Just came upon your blog and am so happy I did. It's amazing to read your experiences and re-live so much of what we did there. I remember the exhaustion of learning the language and getting places. Rodney made the same mistake and kissed a guy on the face instead of just shaking hands, too! Embarrassing but hilarious to think of now. The fist 6 months were the most difficult for me, then I started to really enjoy it, and then love it. I will pray for this progression for you and Cassie. Thanks for candidly sharing your experiences.

    Gina

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  2. Well said, in all aspects, but specifically in reference to being part of the Church and that feeling of overwhelming JOY of worshipping with other believers, despite the difference in language. You're right - God's love is big, as is His faithfulness to provide places where we can more fully experience that love. Thanks for reminding me what it felt like at Mi Esperanza a few weeks back. It was as if He lifted all the anxiety that consumed me about the bus journey to church and the awkward verbal exchanges and foreign language filling the room and filled me with a sense of "home." I hope you and Cassie continue to feel at home at Igelsia de Nasarena!

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  3. I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am of you two - despite missing you terribly. Your Dad's and my prayers are continually going up for you both.

    Your words here send me back to my days of adjusting to life in Costa Rica when I was 18 years old. Joining other believers in taking communion was when I felt that same sense of being a part of the Christian church that transends culture. I also cried. Suppose it's a taste of heaven?

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