Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Winter in Paraguay

Greetings to everyone.   Allow me to catch you up on all that is happening in Hogar GANAR and in Tape Pyahu Christian School.  Soon after returning to Paraguay in May, we celebrated Mother's Day in the homes with our house moms.  The children from each house prepared a program for their house mom, including poetry, dances, and singing.  The mothers each received a bouquet of flowers and chocolate to honor them on this special day.  We are blessed with house moms that are serious about serving God and loving the children in their care. 

               Hogar GANAR House Moms 

As a combination of Mother's Day and Father's Day, we celebrated Family Day with children and families from the school in June.  The children worked long hours preparing dances, dramas, and poetry for the occasion, all centering on the importance of the family. 

Deborah dancing a traditional Paraguayan dance at the Family Day Celebration

June is the month of birthdays, as five of our children in Hogar GANAR have June birthdays.  Thankfully the birthday rush comes during the month when our oranges and grapefruit are ripe.  We are able to trade our fruit at a local restaurant for credit and this June I was able to buy every birthday cake with credit from our own fruit!  Many visitors that see our property declare it to be flowing with milk and honey, and it really is true.... milk, honey, and citrus fruits! 

 Matias' Birthday Party

Also in June, our beautiful city of Itaugua celebrates Founder's Day with a city-wide parade.  Our school was chosen to march in the parade, and our teachers, house parents, and students spent hours marching, beating drums, and carrying flags and batons in preparation for the parade.  We tried to prepare so that our school would stand out from the other dozens of groups marching in the parade.  It seemed to be a foreign concept here in Paraguay to hand out candy to those in the crowd, but in American tradition, we gave away free stuff!  Four boys were chosen to hand out suckers to the crowd with little notes that said, "God is love."  While we will probably never know if these suckers had any impact on those present, we certainly stood out since we were the only organization that gave anything away to those watching the parade!  As we passed the stage of dignitaries, the announcer began to expound on our Christian mission statement and our school emphasis on teaching God's Word.  We thank God that our school could be used as an impetus to speak about Him in our city in a very public way. 

Nilda and Soledad with their flags- those with highest grades were chosen to carry the flags.

The beginning of our group in the parade

Special parade uniforms

This winter we have also launched two new projects.  First, Shaun has taken over teaching middle school English and Christian education in the school.  He is loving his time with the students and they are thrilled to have "uncle" Shaun as their teacher.   Second, as an extension of our local church, we have begun a weekly cell group Bible study for youth.  Shaun is teaching the young men and I am doing a study for girls with the young ladies.  We have several youth from our school and from the community that are attending as well.  We have been surprised at the dedication of the young men from the community to attend a Bible study.  Several are boys that have never before participated in events at the children's home and they are genuinely interested in learning about God's Word.  Please pray that God will continue to open their ears and hearts to His word.

Bible study groups (minus Shaun who is taking the picture)

July brought a three-week winter vacation from school.  We used these weeks to plan outings and activities for the children in the homes. As has become an annual tradition, we took the youth from Hogar GANAR to the Expo (national fair).  This year it took two trips to fit all 11 of our adolescents in the car with us!  We also took advantage of the break to reward the students who made the honor roll during their first grading period.  Our three boys (Marcos, Jose Maria, and Antonio Paredes) that made all A's, went to see Ice Age 4 and to eat McDonald's.  I never knew three boys so small could eat so much popcorn!  Our group that made A's and B's went to lunch and then to walk around Lake Ypacarai in a nearby city.  The children that didn't earn a trip this time are planning on studying even harder this grading period, since EVERYONE wants to go to the movies!

Soledad, Lysandry, and Nilda at the lake

In July, Carlos, our eldest boy in Hogar GANAR, turned 15!  While a 15th birthday party for girls in Paraguay is something like celebrating a wedding in the states, for boys the tradition is much more simple.  We wanted to honor Carlos on his special day, so we had an asado  (bar-b-que) that Carlos could invite his friends to attend.  The party had a Texas cowboys theme, so we gathered cowboy hats and boots and wore plaid!  We literally killed a fattened calf for Carlos, and used our own beef for the bar-b-que.  The house dads, along with Carlos and Milciades (head of maintenance), awoke at 4 AM on the day of the party to begin to grill the meat outdoors over a pit.  The party was a success with Shaun's home-made corn hole and horseshoe games, an abundance of food, and a special song by Carlos' best friend from House 3, Amado.  Part two of Carlos' gift was a camping trip with Shaun and Milciades, and three other boys from the home.  They attempted to drive to a secluded lake that is surrounded by toucans, monkeys, and crocodiles.  While the road became impassable before they reached the lake and we may have ruined a set of tires on the large rocks, it was a night of camping that the boys will never forget!  And they did get to see the monkeys and toucans in their natural habitat, which was a bonus. 

Milciades cooking the meat on the newly dug fire pit

Carlos and his four siblings

Carlos stands with his house parents while our pastor shares a short message

To finish our vacation time, Milciades organized an Hogar GANAR "Olympics" race.  There were categories of 100 meters up to 2 kilometers.  Nearly all the children participated as well as the house parents.  I was even coerced into running, something that I try to avoid at all costs!  The children had a great time and the winners in each category were thrilled to receive Powerade. 

Gold, Silver, and Bronze "medalists"

Thank you for making every event and every outing a possibility.  Your donations are what make "Serving Paraguay" a reality!   

Blessings from Itaugua,

P.S.  If you would like to see more pictures of the events mentioned above, please visit our Facebook Page.