• March 17, 2014 Puppies by Josh

    Where's Mom?

    A couple weeks ago someone abandoned three puppies on the side of the road by our house. One of them apparently didn’t survive the incident. We were out of town, but our neighbors, who live in a house on the same plot of land, discovered the two survivors and started taking care of them. The puppies spend most of their time in a shed toward the back of the lot for now so that they don’t get themselves into too much trouble. Our neighbors are trying to track down someone to take them as pets. So far they have come up empty handed.

    Every day when Erin and I are leaving the house or hanging out laundry to dry, the two puppies will hear us and start frantically yipping and barking. They take turns charging at and jumping against the door of the shed to get our attention. Sometimes I will stick my hand in through the window for them. They will jump over one another and knock each other out of the way trying to nuzzle and lick my hand as much as possible.

    The solution here is simple, right. We need to just adopt the puppies ourselves (our neighbors’ daughter has suggested that multiple times if we weren’t already thinking it). Then everything will be all better. This kind of quick fix is at least the temptation anyway.

    This situation gets at one of the things I often find myself confronted with this year. Really, it gets at what any person might experience when plunged into a new context or culture. When I see abandonment, brokenness, poverty, and injustice, the obvious reaction is to think, “this is wrong, this needs to stop,” and to then try to figure out how to make it better. This is a good gut reaction, but what often follows, the desire for a quick solution, is perhaps where I get off track. Swift solutions are rarely solutions at all, but instead are more like off-brand band-aids that don’t stick for very long. Real solutions to the brokenness of this world are more complex, take time, and involve a lot more perspectives, opinions, and voices than just my own.

    Perhaps the most important part of this lesson is learning that in some, if not many, cases I myself cannot simply be the solution. Instead, I am meant to go be in the tension with those who are stuck there.

  • March 16, 2014 Good To Be Back by Josh

    In Argentina, the school year goes from about the beginning of March to the middle of December. This means that summer break consists of the holiday season at the end of December as well as the first two months of the year. In addition to the schools closing for the summer, many other things in our community slowed down or went on hold as people went on vacation and did their best to avoid the heat of summer.

    Meulén, one of the places I have been working this year, also took a summer break. For the entirety of the summer I didn’t get to go to Meulén because there was simply no one around. Everything is finally back in full swing though. This past week was my first week back. And it is good to be back.

    Carpentry Workshop
    Ariana measuring a cut of wood during the carpentry workshop.

    My first day back was Tuesday. Like most Tuesdays, they were doing both pottery and carpentry workshops. In the pottery workshop it looked like they were making mugs. There were a number of things being made in the carpentry workshop. I worked with Ariana measuring and cutting wood with which to frame a piece of artistic pottery that had been made in a past workshop. I enjoy working with Ariana because she is both diligent and patient during the workshops. We weren’t sure if the piece of wood in the photo above would be enough to surround the piece of pottery, so once Ariana had measured it all out, she was so excited to find that it was just long enough.

    Painting Workshop
    Jessica, Ariana, and Juan Jose (from left to right) work on a group painting project.

    I also attended Meulén on Friday in the morning. I intended to leave around noon when they stop for lunch, but just after noon a heavy downpour started and didn’t let up for hours. I normally have other things scheduled on Friday afternoons with the church that I have to go back for, but the rain didn’t really make that an option. Instead of getting soaked on the mile walk back, I decided to stay at Meulén for the afternoon.

    Someone had recently donated a large piece of wood for painting, so we used it for a group painting project (pictured above). We spent both the morning and the afternoon painting and making various crafts out of leather such as bracelets and wallets.

  • March 14, 2014 Pi Day by Josh

    Peach Pi
    The peach pie that Erin and I made for Pi Day or at least three fourths of it anyway.

    Once a year March 14th rolls around and people get all excited about pie. For those that aren’t sure why, it is because the date 3/14 corresponds to the mathematical value 3.14, better known as Pi. This day has grown increasingly popular in the past few years in the US. People usually celebrate by heading over to Village Inn for pie (I think they offer a slice for free this day) or by making a pie at home.

    We haven’t seen any Village Inns in Argentina yet, so we opted for the former. Actually, I wasn’t all that excited about making a pie, but Erin insisted. I am glad she did. I ended up making the crust from scratch and she did the rest: preparing the peaches, making the filling, and baking it. It was delicious as I am sure you can see from the picture above.

  • February 26, 2014 Our November-December Newsletter Is Out by Josh

    We’ve finally finished our second newsletter which covers the months of November and December. Sure, we are a bit late sending it out (read: 2 months late), but we still think you are going to love it. You might have already received it by email, but you can also view the PDF here.

  • January 12, 2014 Reflections on a funeral by Erin

    Celia, a beloved woman from Congregación San Lucas, passed away Thursday morning. She hadn’t been exceptionally sick, but she had been growing weaker and sicker for some time.

    We heard about Celia long before we met her. People would refer to the way Celia used to arrange the altar, how she always called each member of the church individually to remind them of upcoming events, how she never forgot a birthday. As she grew frailer, she stopped coming to church regularly, but we met her once - on December 22nd at the Christmas pageant.

    The same day Celia died, a wake was held in the evening in which friends, family, and the church community gathered to mourn together. There was a lot of crying, storytelling, and hugging. Every person there approached the coffin to touch Celia’s head, or her hands. The following morning a small funeral service was held, and then a burial. No more than 24 hours after she had died, Celia was lowered into the ground. As part of the graveside service, everyone threw a handful of dirt onto the coffin. Then we watched as two men with shovels buried it.

    It was healthy for me to experience the death of Celia in such a physical way: to touch her cold hand, to see that she was not breathing, to pick up dirt in my hand and help bury her.

    Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Death is not an abstract disappearance of a person, but a real, physical, fleshy, earthy event.

    Celia at the Pesebre
    Celia holds a candle and sings Noche de paz (Silent Night) during the San Lucas Christmas pageant.

    I only met Celia once, but she is a big deal for me, and I’ll tell you why. Blanca, an active member of Congregación San Lucas, has been one of the most important people in our experience in Grand Bourg. She and her family have welcomed us and taken us under their wings in so many ways during these last months. Blanca told me the other day that a few years ago, she set foot in the congregation for the first time. Her kids went to the school next door, but she had never been to a church service. She was nervous and intimidated, not knowing what to expect. But when she set foot in the door, someone welcomed her. Someone took her under their wing and made her feel at home, in the same way that she would later do for us. And that person was Celia.

    As Pastor Eva reminded us at Celia’s funeral, our bodies are dust, here today and gone tomorrow. But our huellas, the marks that we leave on this world are what endure and continue to make a difference long after we’re gone. Thanks be to God for Celia’s life and for Celia’s huellas.

  • January 10, 2014 Marriage by Erin

    We went on a pastoral visit today with Eva to the home of an elderly couple from the congregation, Lidia and Élido. It is getting difficult for them to move around, so they don’t make it to church much anymore. We brought hymnals to share some music with them, and they brought out soda and cookies to share a merienda with us.

    Élido and Lidia are well into their eighties; they met in school and have been together ever since. Sixty-three years they have been married.

    He keeps chickens out in the backyard. She grows a rosemary bush. He doesn’t like rosemary, but she chops it up really small and cooks with it anyway. (Later, he asks what spices she used because the dish tastes really good, and she gloats.)

    He slurs his speech somewhat. When she is cooking, he often talks to her from the other room, but she can’t understand what he is saying. She has to stop what she’s doing to go listen to what he says, because he refuses to come closer.

    Sixty-three years Lidia and Élido have been married; we’ve barely been married sixty-three weeks.

    But evidently if I keep tricking him, and if he keeps annoying me, we’re not doing too bad.

  • January 06, 2014 Campamento by Erin

    Pitching Tents
    Leaders Paola and Kristyn help pitch the tents.

    Just after the new year, we spent five days at the much-anticipated annual summer youth campamento! The campamento is a collaboration between several Lutheran churches in the Buenos Aires area, and this year the theme of the campamento was “The Five Elements: Water, Air, Fire, Earth, and Love.” We spent our week focusing on how these five elements show up in our lives, exploring when and how they show up in the Bible, and learning about environmental and social ecology around these elements.

    Washing of Hands
    In an evening devotional, campers and leaders wash each others' hands in an activity involving the elements of water and love.

    This campamento was a BLAST! We pitched tents, cooked together, swam in the pool, walked in the woods, napped in the shade, played together, made crafts from found objects, prayed together, danced, hung out with a herd of sheep, did a little bit of yoga, played a crazy game called “Vampire,” and barely slept at all.

    UNO
    Josh competes in a heated game of UNO during down time.

    Josh and Ivan (Congregación San Lucas alum and theology student) collaborated on an all-new “Photography/Videography Workshop” for this campamento, which was a total hit. More than half the campers signed up for their workshop, and the finished product was a semi-horror story called “El bosque de los niños desaparecidos,” “The Forest of the Disappearing Children,” written and narrated by the youth and hilariously photographed and compiled by Josh. It was awesome to see him put his gift for photography to good use!

    Closing Worship
    Erin and Juan help lead the music for the campamento's closing worship.

    My favorite part of the campamento was getting to spend more time with the youth of Congregación San Lucas. They are truly awesome people, and I am so impressed by their ability to care for each other, work together, and reflect deeply.

    Campamento 2014 Group Photo
    On the last day, everyone poses for a group photo before returning to their communities.
  • January 01, 2014 Happy New Year by Josh

    Happy New Year
    We brought in the new year with our friend, Juan, and his family with good food, sparkling cider, and flying bags of fire.

    Happy new year from Grand Bourg, Argentina!

    We celebrated the new year three hours earlier than we normally do. It was a surprisingly comfortable evening, meaning that we weren’t sweating profusely as has been the case since about the beginning of December. Our friend, Juan, invited us to join him and his family for empanadas, grilled pork, sparkling cider, and lots of fireworks.

    We wish you a wonderful 2014!

  • December 24, 2013 Merry Christmas by Josh

    Merry Christmas
    Josh and Erin posing next to a prop Christmas tree just after the nativity play at Congregación San Lucas.

    It feels a bit strange to say those words – Merry Christmas – right now. Frankly, I am having a little trouble getting into the Christmas spirit. As I sit here typing this, sweat is dripping off my hands onto the keyboard. It isn’t supposed to be 95°F outside, it should be blisteringly cold and snowy, right?

    Erin and I just finished watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, but instead of doing so wrapped in blankets with the fireplace blazing, we had an industrial strength fan blowing in our faces. Again, where’s the snow?

    We’ve replaced hot cocoa and egg nog for lemonade and iced tea.

    Rather than trying to keep gusts of cold air from following us in from outside, we are fending off the waves of mosquitos that want in.

    There are no relatives in town that I can get excited to see. I won’t be with my family this evening as they lay their stockings out near the Christmas tree. And I won’t be reverting to my 10 year old self yet again tomorrow morning as my sister and I shake our parents awake at 7:00am ready to see what “Santa” brought.

    This is an altogether strange and unfamiliar Christmas.

    Despite the unfamiliarity for me, this is how the people in Grand Bourg spend each Christmas. Tonight, Erin and I will spend Christmas Eve with a family from the congregation. We will talk, laugh, share about Christmas traditions, and eat empanadas while forgetting about the heat. Tomorrow, we will sweat our way through a viewing of A Christmas Story before enjoying a Christmas asado at the pastor’s home. We aren’t spending this Christmas season with our own families as we are used to doing, but we are spending it with those that we hold as family here in Argentina; with those that have invited us into their families this year.

    With that in mind, I am feeling a bit more in the Christmas spirit and so I say to you,

    Merry Christmas!

  • November 02, 2013 Our September-October Newsletter Is Out by Josh

    We’ve finally finished and sent out our first newsletter which roughly covers the months of September and October. You might have already received it by email, but you can also view the PDF here.

    It is full of photos and fun stories, we hope you enjoy reading it!


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