Yesterday was the best day I’ve had all week. Going to the youth service was a great thing to do. Granted, I couldn’t understand anything they said during the actual service, but before and after was great fun.
I got there about half an hour early, because the Birs had to go to Luque, about 40 minutes away, to preach a service. There was a huge thunderstorm going on. When big rains come in Paraguay, it’s the equivalent of about three feet of snow hitting Ohio, because there aren’t really proper drainage systems here, so people at the church services after a rain are usually pretty sparse. There was a pretty good turnout, though. Apparently, there are about 40 young people, or jovenes, in their church. There were probably 25 or 30, which was apparently a lot more than they usually had after rain. There aren’t really any girls in the 17-19 age range, so nobody really my age. There are a lot of 15 and 16 year old girls, whom Sis.Bir refers to as “silly and giggly”, and that’s mostly who was there when I arrived at the church. The first person I met was Cesar, who is the youth leader. He’s really nice, but he talks really, really fast. So fast that even the Paraguayan people can’t understand him sometimes. Sis.Bir reminded him to talk mas linto because I spoke very limited Spanish and there seemed to be no problems. He introduced me to the rest of the group and I almost instantly forgot all of the names. One boy, named Moises, talked to me for a long time. He’s learning English, both in school and from Sis.Bir , and wanted to know all about the United States. He wanted to know if people in Mount Vernon, which he’s still trying to pronounce, are nice, and if there are lots of boys in my church. Cesar and one of the assistant pastors, whose first name is Salvador, but whose last name I can’t pronounce and neither can the Birs or the people from the church, so they just call him Pastor Kiti, wanted to know if I knew various people from different cities in the US, most of which the answer was no. They asked all about the church, the people, the size of the church, how many youth were there, and about my school. Moises is in ninth grade, and wanted to know how to say ninth grade in English.
Service consisted of circling our chairs at the front of the church and Kiti playing his guitar for song service. Song service was kind of neat, because they played a few songs, in Spanish, that we sing in the United States, like “When I Think About the Lord” and “Open the Eyes of My Heart”. I tried to sing along with the two songs that I knew, but the words are different, even if you translate them over to Spanish, because they need to change some of the words to keep the beat and rhythm and rhyme of the song. So, altogether it was an interesting experience.
They had a few people prepared to speak about, from the four words I could understand, relationships with God. About halfway through the discussion, which seemed a lot like the group dynamic in the youth group at home, the thunderstorm caused a large blackout. From what I could understand, the government shuts off the power during thunderstorms so that nobody gets hurt. But, my Spanish isn’t the best, so I could just be making that up and the power just went out from the storm. Anyway, this happened and, much like young people do in the United States, everyone screamed and yelled things like, “We’re gonna die!”, except in Spanish. Some of the people went and got candles and mini pie pans, and what they did with them, I thought was pretty cool because I come from the land where we have everything and don’t have to worry about inventing out of necessity. They would take the candles, drip a few drops onto the pie pan, and would sit the candle on top of the drops. It would cause the candle to stay upright, which I thought was pretty cool, considering that we have just plain candle holders. They sat them everywhere and until the power came back on, Pastor Kiti played his guitar and people sang some more. The lights came back on after about fifteen or twenty minutes, they finished the lesson, and then the youth went outside for some reason. I had no idea what was going on, and I was sitting with one of the teachers, who teaches first grade, Debora. Debora and I really hit it off and talked for a while about our families and the differences from schools in the United States and in Paraguay. She was telling me all about the colleges here and how they’re different and she told me that Moises is her brother. I told her about Michael and Gabrielle and about the high schools here. She then explained to me that the youth outside were playing volle and asked if I played volleyball in the United States. I told her that yes, I had played it, but I was absolutely horrible at it, so we ended up sitting and talking more about the United States mostly. The most interesting topic of conversation (John, you should find this interesting) was guinea pigs. They don’t have guinea pigs in Paraguay and I didn’t know the actual Spanish word for it, and so she asked me if it was like a hamster, a rabbit, or a rat. We finally settled on that it was a hamster, but bigger, and this was settled once I asked Bro.Bir once he got there and there is no word in Paraguay for guinea pig. Debora showed me pictures of her dogs and some trips that the youth has taken, because she, like me, loves to take pictures of everything. The Birs returned at about 9:45 to take me back to the house, but Debora and her husband told them if I wanted to stay with them for a little while, they would be happy to take me home afterwards. So, I did, and around 10:15, we left, and Gonzalo, Debora’s husband, Debora, and Moises asked if I wanted to get pizza with them. I hadn’t had pizza in Paraguay yet, so I said yes, of course! The pizza was absolutely amazing and I wish I had taken a picture of it. It had strips of ham on top and olives and the pepperoni was underneath the cheese. And there was TONS of cheese. They drink tons of Coke here, but there is very little Pepsi. They kept asking me questions like if we had McDonald’s, Coke, and Pepsi in the United States and if I knew who Michael Jackson was because he died and was in the United States. This was all very funny to me, but I guess when you don’t live in the country, you really don’t know. They really like American Christian music. There’s a station that plays American music on Saturday nights, and Gonzalo asked me if I liked Hillsong, because he really likes them. I love Hillsong, so that was pretty fun. Moises and I talked about soccer, because he really likes soccer and so do I. Most of them here seem to like soccer.
I did my own laundry for the first time yesterday as well. The washer and dryer are ridiculously slow and it’s hard to figure out when things are done. But I managed to get the laundry done without shrinking or discoloring anything.
Today, I have church. Bro.Bir has been out all morning preaching for a pastor who lost his wife to cancer a few months ago and has seven children. He’ll be back early in the afternoon and I’ll go to church at around three, because I’m supposed to help Diana with the Sunday School. Service is at five. We’ll have to see how all of that goes!