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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
January 01, 2014 Happy New Year by Josh
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
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,
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!
October 29, 2013 Ten Things We've Learned by Josh and Erin
A list of ten things (in no particular order) we’ve learned so far living in Argentina:
You should spring for the more expensive tapas; the cheaper ones are a lot harder to work with.
How to light the pilot light of a water heater.
Saying, ‘Gracias’, during a round of mate means that you don’t want any more, so if you want to keep drinking you must resist the urge to thank the person who poured it for you.
The Lutheran liturgy in Argentina is almost identical to that in the U.S. Surrounded by much else that is totally new and different, it has been a great source of comfort for us to already be familiar with many of the words that are spoken in church.
The grocery store might give you some candies as part of your change instead of the exact change. Unfortunately and unfairly, they do not accept candy as payment.
The birthday party of a 15 year-old girl (a quinceañera) can and will last until 6:00am. And it’s not just the young partiers that stay that late (or rather, early), even families with small children dance till it’s dawn.
How to make many traditional kinds of Argentine food such as guiso (a meat and vegetable stew), milanesa (breaded meat), panqueques (similar to crepes), and, of course, empanadas.
It is a tradition to eat gnocchi on the 29th of each month (we don’t know why).
You always greet and bid farewell to people with a kiss on the cheek (beso). If you are arriving or leaving and the room is full of people, this means a lot of kisses.
It is more than okay to eat 3 different kinds of meat in a single meal. An argentine asado typically includes grilled steak, chorizo, and chicken.
October 28, 2013 Mate, community, and how the Church cares for people in need by Erin
One of the very first things we learned about Argentina, even before we set foot here, was the importance of mate (pronounced MAH-tay). In our time in Grand Bourg, we have continued to learn more about the traditions and sentiments that surround this drink, which is by law the “national infusion.”
Mate is like a loose-leaf tea that you drink in a special gourd (also called a mate) with a special straw called a bombilla that filters out most of the leaves. You can drink mate alone, but the vast majority of the time it is drunk in community. One person is the cebador, and s/he pours hot water over the dry yerba mate leaves. First s/he drinks the mate until the water is mostly gone and the straw makes a sucking sound, then pours more water and passes the mate to the next person. That person drinks until the water is gone, and then passes it back to the cebador, and so on.
Mate is drunk at social gatherings, at official meetings, at parties… really, anytime several people are gathered, mate is there (insert sarcastic reference to Matthew 18:20 here). Even when it is impractical to drink mate, in choir practice for example, where both our hands and our mouths are otherwise occupied, mate is drunk anyway.
Mate is a beautiful way to practice sharing in community. Everyone drinks out of the same mate gourd and uses the same bombilla. Depending on the number of people sharing the mate, several minutes might pass before it’s your turn to drink again. So if you’re looking simply to satisfy your thirst or benefit from the caffeine, it would be better to drink a bottle of Coke all by yourself. Mate is not primarily about thirst or caffeine, but about togetherness and friendship.
There are a few individuals and families that pass by our church every so often to ask for a small bag of food to help them get by. These bags usually include rice, lentils, sugar, flour, and… mate. Josh noted that at first glance, mate seems to be the odd thing out in these bags. The other items are staples; basic things that help the person survive. Mate, on the other hand, doesn’t provide any physical nourishment, yet it is always included in these basic food kits. Why?
We have come to realize that mate doesn’t satisfy a physical need, but rather satisfies a social, emotional, spiritual need for community and identity. Mate is part of being an Argentinean, just like eating is part of being human. In providing mate for these families, the church is helping not only to sustain them physically, but also to sustain their dignity as Argentinean people.
How have we as the wider Church succeeded and failed to sustain the dignity of the people with whom we are in ministry? How can we begin to care for our neighbors as whole people, with needs that are physical, emotional, social, spiritual?
September 29, 2013 Week 7 Photo - Semi-domestic by Josh
One of the many cats that live in and around the yard adjoined with our casita. They all live outside, (usually) run at the sight of an approaching human, and do not appear to belong to anyone – although I understand the woman next door sometimes puts food out for them. While talking about them, someone referred to them as ‘semi-domestic’, which seems like an apt description.