Tuesday, February 12, 2013

It has been a while... So much time has passed since we left Buenos Aires. We have learned a lot, laughed a lot, cried a lot, depended on God a lot, missed Spanish a lot, thanked God for English and understanding a lot, and eaten Argentine food a lot. =) That is life as a returned missionary.

I want to spend a little time reflecting on what we've learned since we've been home, as well as some prayers for the future. Ultimately, I hope to let you know some ways that you can continue lifting up the work in Argentina (and around the world), as well as some possibilities for the future. Be in prayer! I'll write more soon!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Home Sweet Home? (Cultured People, part 2)

As we begin to wind down our time here in Buenos Aires, a lot of people ask us, "Are you excited to go home?"

Well, yes and no. We are excited to see our families. We can't wait to be with our friends. We are excited to worship in English, where we understand all of the nuances of the words we are singing or sharing. We will eat familiar foods and restaurants. We will turn on the TV and watch almost everything in English. Daniel can go to the gym. We can drive our own car. There are a lot of exciting things about returning that we can't wait for!

Sure, we will miss our friends and family here. We will miss speaking Spanish every day, needing to operate in a foreign language in order to survive and thrive. We will miss the public transportation, the beautiful old buildings, going to the grocery store every day, going to Spanish class, etc. We will miss our friends most of all... We are sad to leave, but excited to go back to the States.

Yet what we also realize is that we aren't going home. Not really. Sure, we love the United States, and we are proud to be from there. We aren't Argentines, although we love Argentina. We wouldn't really even be considered truly third cultured, having only been out of the US for a short time.

However, in some ways the US won't really feel like our home.
1. We aren't returning to the same circumstances that we left before: new jobs, new ministry, new city, new state...
2. We have missed a year's worth of culture. Sure, we have watched a few TV shows from the US. We have heard a few songs. We watched some movies from the US. (Actually, we saw more movies here than we probably would have watched in America since we had buy-one-get-one-free coupons!) However, we won't know all the cultural references. We won't know some new slang. There will be new songs on the radio, new shows on television, new references to pop culture that simply don't click with us yet.
3. Some things seem uncomfortable to us: being able to understand all of the conversations going on around us; everyone eating fast food or running from one event to the next; not taking a long time with friends over coffee or a meal; etc.
4. People have moved on with their lives, and so have we. We are not returning as the same people who left. We have grown and changed. We are different than we were before, and we won't be the same. We have been shaped by our experiences here in Buenos Aires, and we won't be certain how to explain it if you bother to ask.

Home Sweet Home? The return will be sweet, but a little bitter. We will realize, in those first few weeks, just how different life is from this moment on. It will be a transition, and it will take time to adjust to our new lives there. With the help of our friends and family, we will be able to transition back and make the States our home again. But this will take time and prayer...

Tomorrow, I will share some of the things that you should and shouldn't say/do to returning missionaries.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Culture(d) People, Part 1

Yesterday, I tried to describe Argentine culture to one of the LST members here. I was struck with the problems and the joys of the people. That is the trick of culture... It just is.

Anthropologists argue that culture is inherently neutral. I doubt that is the case. There is beauty in every culture. In Argentina, we find a number of things beautiful.
1. The greetings people give to one another. Everyone greets everyone else. To not do so is considered an insult, unless it is physically impossible to get around to everyone in the room.
2. The hospitality that friends show. You are truly invited into the lives for life. We are blessed with some truly amazing friendships.
3. The passion that people feel for things they truly believe in. Sometimes this manifests itself in being an hincha of a particular football club (¡VAMOS, RIVER!) Other times, it manifests itself politically, socially, through service, through opinions, through relationships, through beliefs... Yet people are passionate.
4. People keep their friends for life. While it can be hard to build friendships, they are truly loyal to their friends. (Also, see #2.) People here are friends with many of the same people that they went to elementary school with. I would be hard-pressed to name five people I went to elementary school with, yet these are friends that they take on vacation!
5. Some people are earnestly seeking God, which is a blessing.

Are there problems? Of course! We can easily list some. But we won't! (At least, not online! And probably not in conversation either...) We don't wear celeste colored glasses when it comes to Argentina, but we have grown to love the people and enjoy the place. (Celeste is the national color of Argentina, by the way.) We are blessed.

Culture is NOT inherently neutral. Some things are GREAT. Some things are TERRIBLE. Anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you something. (Or is an anthropologist.)

What do you love about the culture where you are? What do you dislike? How is God working through the culture? Or in spite of the culture? Or around the culture?

We all have a culture. Parts are inherently beautiful; others are difficult or different, terrible or tricky. But we all have it.

One of the challenges that we face is realizing that we are not longer part of our American culture; at least, not entirely. More on this in the next few days.

God bless you, and may you all see your culture through God's eyes.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

God is good! More to come tomorrow! However, we just celebrated a lovely dinner with our friends Oscar and Viviana... Thank goodness for these blessings in our lives!

Monday, July 16, 2012


Where do we go from here?
   This is an important question in the life of every person. When I (Daniel) was working in campus ministry, this was the question he dealt with most often. What am I going to be when I grow up? What will I do if I fail this class? Now that my relationship with someone has ended, what will I do now? Now that I am graduating, do I have to grow up? And how do I do that? During times of change, it is natural to ask, “Where do I go from here?”
   This question has been really important for us as we begin to wrap up our ministry here in Buenos Aires. We have been blessed by eleven months of great ministry. It has been full of joys and challenges, happiness and disappointment. We have watched some readers grow closer to the LORD; we’ve seen others take steps back or dis-appear entirely. We’ve developed great friendships with people here at the church and within our ministry, yet we also know it is possible that we won’t see any of them again. Where do we go from here? How do we proceed?
   One of the most important things to us is telling people that we are thankful for them. Recently, our Sunday Morning English class studied the passage of the ten leprous men. All ten had been healed, all ten had their lives changed and were infinitely thankful. But only one returned to tell Jesus he was thankful. We were challenged to let people know that we were thankful for them and to be specific. We are so thankful for each of our friends and readers. Each one has taught us so much spiritually, culturally, and personally, and we are truly blessed by our time together.
   Our friends at church have been our second family, accepting us in, inviting us for meals, celebrating Christmas and birthdays with us, traveling with us, laughing with us. They put up with our bad Spanish, and they encourage us when our Spanish improves. They listen as we ramble in a second language and fumble for words. They build us up and encourage us daily. We are blessed by such an amazing family of God.
   We have also been blessed by the Youth Group here at church. (Youth are anywhere from 14 to 35, depending!) We have developed some amazing friendships, and it will be hard to not see these individuals every week (or sometimes every day!) We have traveled with these people, around the city and around the country. We’ve laughed and cried together, encouraged them and been encouraged by them, prayed with them and prayed for them. We’ve watched them grow in their faith, and we’ve rejoiced as some of them have chosen to follow Christ this year.
   So, where do we go from here? As we pack up and head home in two and a half weeks, how do we build on what we already have? How do we continue to help our friends, brothers and sisters, and readers continue to grow from afar? How do we continue growing in our Spanish? How do we keep blessing the church, and being blessed, when we return to the US?
   We have some plans on all of those things. (Check out stories on page 2 about upcoming transitions.) We don’t know what God has in store, but we plan on facing our future with the joy brought on by our present and past. Thanks be to God for our time here in Argentina, and blessings on our future.

 (Published from our Missions Bulletin, June 2012)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Tonight we sat at merienda with our friend (Bibiana) and her family, as well as her parents from Colombia. We are blessed with so many great relationships here, and we are sad that our current time in Buenos Aires is drawing to a close. We were blessed with so many people that we have been ministering to (and, in turn, blessed by.)

Please continue to pray for our readers. Some of their names you know, some you don't. We'll be posting pictures of them in weeks to come. Remember to think of them often; pray for their growth. Pray that God will continue to open their hearts and draw their souls closer to himself.

Thanks for your prayers...

The city across the river: Montevideo

So, I've been falling behind on my initiative. It's been difficult to do with end meetings, spending time with readers, enjoying our last few weeks, helping LST teams, and holding LST parties.  BUt, God is doing amazing things...

Recently, we took a trip with Megan's mom and sister to Montevideo, Uruguay. Montevideo is like Buenos Aires, but on a smaller scale. As friends there tell us, Uruguay built it first (their obelisk, their bookstore, etc), but Buenos Aires builds it bigger and more lavishly.

Uruguay, however, has a hometown feel. The city has about 1.5 million people, but it seems much smaller. The city is built around a natural bay where the Rio de la Plata meets the Atlantic Ocean. It has a number of beaches, and we were able to sit and watch the sun go down over the city.
The cab drivers were all willing to practice their spanish with us, the vendors were very kind and helpful (not at all frustrated by foreigners like they can be in Buenos Aires), and the city exudes a quite charm. If you like the fast-paced, hustle and bustle of large city life, Montevideo is not for you. However, if you like a charming mix of modern and colonial architecture, beautiful artwork, and an unpretentious charming "small town" with all the advantages of a large city, then Montevideo is for you! We enjoyed our time there.

Uruguay is an interesting place. Politically, they tend to be a little more stable. They value democracy, and tend to shy away from radical changes. They intentionally built the separation of church and state into their political ideologies. Interesting, Uruguay is the most atheistic country in South America (and in many places in the world.) Only 60-65% of the people believe in God; many people simply don't worry about God or see how he plays into their daily lives. Soccer is more of a religion than anything else! (The first World Cup was held in Uruguay in 1930 in a stadium in the center of Montevideo.)

Montevideo is in need of more churches. There are a few Churches of Christ in the city, but they tend to not work together or have much relationship together. (We didn't want to dig too deeply into the story.) Most of the churches (like in many place) seem content to just do church and not to be overly involved with their community.

What plans might God have in store for the people of Uruguay? What might God be doing in the city in the future? What stores are waiting to be told?

That is how we want to look at these fields. There is so much work to be done here in South America. Although the statistics claim that "most of the people are Christian," most do not truly know the saving power of Jesus or understand who he is and what difference he can make in their lives. So many are simply caught up in the rituals of baptism/confirmation/eucharist/etc, but rarely (and we do mean RARELY) do they go to mass; confession is rare; men hardly ever step into the church building except when getting married or buried (or when family members are doing the same.) We need to look for ways to connect men to church and make a difference in our community.

I truly believe the fields here are ripe for the harvest. We meet a number of people who are hungering for something more (here is often tends to be later in their young adult life, late-twenties or early thirties.) God does amazing things here, and it has been great to see how God is working.

Pray for those who are working in these fields. Get connected to Great Cities Ministry (formerly Continent of Great Cities, http://www.greatcities.org/, Missions Resource Network (http://www.mrnet.org/). Ask Great Cities for a prayer guide for their missionaries. Or we can give you a list of people that we know are working in South America. Keep these wonderful, beautiful efforts and amazing people in your prayers. Pray for the churches of South America, and pray for those who don't yet know the salvific grace of Jesus.