Tuesday, June 14, 2016

May Short Term Team

You know how the first pancake never turns out right? The pan’s not hot enough, or you didn’t use enough water or non-stick spray or whatever. Sometimes you have to do something before you learn how to do it well. That’s how this short term team was, except we had three big, new things all planned for the same week. We learned a lot.

In the planning for this short term team from Olivet, we decided to plan a “big event” for the end of their time and use the week leading up to publicize through the city. We didn’t have the means to fly in a famous speaker, so we made a crazy plan. Extreme pays to send a pastor from the church in Cali, Colombia where we trained to each church plant to lead an Encounter retreat. We strategically planned an Encounter for the first weekend of the short term trip and kept the pastor (Ferney Oliveros) for the whole week to preach in the big event (not like against his will or anything). So that was it: lead an Encounter retreat, do five days of evangelism events with fourteen college students all over the city, and have our first big event downtown all in a span of eight days.

Missions In Action 2016 group from Olivet Nazarene University

The short term team arrived Thursday. On Friday, we walked all over Cordoba with them to give them a feel for the city and pray for the people, government, universities, healthy churches, etc. Saturday began the chaos with the Encounter and our first event with the short termers. We wanted all our church members, new and experienced, to have the opportunity to hear Pastor Ferney, so we opted to hold the Encounter in the church instead of a hotel. This made the retreat cheaper and more accessible for everyone. It also allowed all our church leaders to attend and help while half of our missionary team was out with the short termers. One of the Encounter participants was Sofia. If you haven’t read her story already, you can find it here.

Welcoming Encounter participants

Monday was a “day off” in that we only worked eight hours instead of fifteen. We had another worship team practice for the big event, a leadership meeting to train our local church leaders in intercession and consolidation for the big event, and Laura’s 30th birthday party. Pretty sweet as far as days off go.

This probably the closest I'll ever get to being part of the Partridge family, so I'm soaking up
every minute of it.

Laura's birthday dinner
Tuesday through Friday was one big blur of plazas, skits, and flyers. Our general strategy was to do a flash mob dance to draw attention, perform a skit that shared the gospel, Pastor Ferney preached a short message, and we prayed and talked with the people listening. This was met with varying success depending on the plaza, weather, and time of day.

Ashley and Bekah doing consolidation

The big event Saturday was called Hope for Cordoba. This was the first time we involved our church leaders in the processes of intercession and consolidation. They came early to pray with us over the auditorium, worship team, and pastors. After the altar call, they prayed with new people and got their contact information so we could follow up with them. 

LeveLibular Acrobats did a great job. The act was based on trust and
teamwork. From this angle, you can see Pastor Ferney is one of four men
holding the pole in place on stage. 

We look pretty good! We'll be releasing an album next month.

Five people came forward to accept Christ

And many more needed prayer
Our biggest take away was to never again plan a big event during late autumn or winter. Three weeks later, we have five new people faithfully attending Sunday church and houses of prayer. We are still in contact with several more, meeting with them and encouraging them. We treasure each new person who gets involved in the church because we know we have to invest a lot to reach even one person. We treasure each opportunity we have because we know our investment has eternal rewards. We praise the God of miracles who changes hearts despite cultural resistance, weather, and our feeble attempts to evangelize.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A Week of Selfies

Doing this job sometimes finds us in strange situations. One night a while back, I told myself I would enjoy a quiet evening and then found myself simultaneously counseling a contact through a difficult life decision through text, researching how to set up an iphone without a credit card for Damaris’s brother, and emailing two different women about circus equipment. That’s just the way it goes. So I decided to document a week through selfies. It was a week of preparation for an Encounter Retreat, a short term team from Olivet University, and an evangelistic event called “Hope for Cordoba.” And, well, here’s how it went. 

This blog is titled "A Week of Selfies," but it could just as easily be named "Irrefutable Proof that Ashley is Wonderfully Crazy," "How Many Scarves does Brooke Own??," or "How Many Days can Brooke Consistently Take Pictures of Her Activities?" The answer to that last one would be four. 

Monday is our day off, and the best way to start any day (and week) is with God, coffee, and
pastries! This is one of five cafes within a couple blocks of our house. Coffee is always served with
some bread item (croissant, pastry, or biscuit) and orange juice and soda water to clear the palate. 

Grocery shopping in the rain with my so-cool umbrella. There's no
Albertsons here, so grocery shopping consists of walking to any of
several bakeries, butcher shops, produce shops, and mini marts. 

One of the ways God has blessed our lives is giving us the once in a lifetime opportunity to watch
the entire Star Wars saga with Juan who knows absolutely nothing about the story line and loved
every second of it. Every plot twist, every action sequence, his reactions were priceless. 

Day off means skyping with Mom!! Now that day light savings is over, she's only four hours
 behind us...

Tuesdays start with a prayer service from 4-6am in the church. In the morning some people sleep
and some people drink coffee and count and document Sunday's tithes and offerings. 

Since Tuesday is our first work day of the week, we eat lunch together and have a team planning
meeting. This week we got new keys to the front door. Yes, that is what the keys look like here. 

After the meeting, Pastora and I went to the "sign guy's" studio to design flyers for the upcoming
event Hope for Cordoba. 

We went to the church to meet Ashley who had picked up Hadassa from school and initiated a
psychedelic dance off. 

One of our assignments this week was to visit the plazas/parks where we planned to have events
with the short term team from Olivet, and, you know, make sure there were actually people there in
the day and time of the event. This is Plaza San Martin, the central plaza of Cordoba. We also
visited Plaza Colón. While we were there, Laura, one of our disciples, called us crying and
explained that she had just unexpectedly lost her job. 

Taking a selfie in her house seemed inappropriate, so this is our post-visit, our-friend-just-lost-her-
job selfie. By the time we got to her house, Laura was still in shock, but starting to process
everything. Being fired for no good reason is really difficult for any Christian, but especially a new
one. We got to pray with her and talk through anger, forgiveness, next steps, and "is it weird that I
feel at peace?" No, it isn't. 

Wednesday started with an immigration selfie. This is not the best way to start any day, but we try
to make the best of it. In this visit, we ran our fingerprints through the Argentine system to make
sure none of us has committed a crime in the past year. Fortunately, none of us have. 

To celebrate the big event, Hope for Cordoba, we bought matching dress shirts and got them
embroidered with the church's logo. Ashley, Juan, and I were in charge of planning the event, part
of which is delivering the shirts to this shop to be embroidered.

Rachel's parents were in town, so Dani and I went with Damaris to her house of prayer.
Unfortunately, that meant I missed my own house of prayer, but it was cool to participate in
another group. And take a bus selfie on the way home. 

Rachel's parents brought me Hershey's dark chocolate from the States. Hershey's. Dark. Chocolate. 

Pastries and dark chocolate means Thursday starts with exercise. Yay. 

Ashley and I went back to the sign guy's shop. We called ahead to make sure he was there. When
we arrived, he wasn't there. Argentina's culture is different from ours in many wonderful ways. One
not so great way is their utter lack of customer service, or general customer acknowledgement. It
doesn't sound like a huge problem, until you try to accomplish absolutely anything. We did
eventually get some very nice flyers and signs made, even if they weren't exactly what we wanted
or delivered in the time frame promised.

Ashley and I met with the agent of the circus Levelibular to confirm
the details of the act for Hope for Cordoba. If you ever need to hire
an acrobat duo from Cordoba, I highly recommend them. Plus their
agent looks spectacularly like Professor Trelawney. 

Our meeting with Professor Trelawney was in a cafe downtown on the same street as several
music stores so we could fulfill our next task: price music stands. With our worship team growing
one stand wasn't cutting it any more. We found the best prices and realized what our church sorely
lacks is a dove shaped tambourine. If you would like to donate to the purchase of this ministry
tool, let me know. 

We also found an Asian food market that sells canned bubble tea!

And this strange apartment building.

Since we were busy with so many random errands this week, we maintained communication
with our contacts through texting. Magali, a woman in our house of prayer, had been trying to nurse
her sick dog back to health all week, but he died. These selfies are super inappropriate for the

We made her brownies and took them to her house. We are excited for brownies and time with
Magali, not the dead dog. Apologies.

Again, not a great visit for a selfie, but I grabbed a photo while she was on the phone to show that
yes, we drink maté all the time, with everyone and everything. 

Another day, another immigration selfie. 

Immigration appointments are mostly waiting in line and paying money. I forgot to take more
pictures Friday. We went with Damaris to her other house of prayer, then I stayed home during
the youth service to prepare Saturday's discipleship class. 

Saturday morning starts with worship team practice. This is a typical breakfast: maté and criollos
(flaky, salty biscuits).

Ashley likes hugs. Dámaris prefers maté.

But they´re both pretty silly.

The very focused, professional keyboard player.

The rest of the musicians, featuring Enzo's new music stand. We had discipleship
class later in the day, but I forgot to take a picture. Clearly my selfie mojo was waning. 

Sunday's first service, from the back

And from the front.

Sunday was Argentina's Labor Day. We celebrated, kind of, with the traditional dish of locro. I've
had locro before, and it's delicious. It's a pumpkin based stew with beans and corn. This more
traditional Labor Day version included tripe and cow stomach. That's where the celebration ended. 

Stay tuned to learn how the plaza inspecting, dress shirts, circus meetings, and sign guy frustrations came together for a great week of ministry with the short term team!