Thursday, July 28, 2016

July Short Term Team

We bought our new church building on Thursday the 7th, started cleaning it on Friday, moved the pastors in on Monday, and received a short term team from California on Tuesday. Because of planning complications, the team was only five members-the perfect size to help alleviate our chaos without adding to it. They toured and prayed over the city on Wednesday, then dove into a VBS program from Thursday through Monday. We have never done a VBS here in Cordoba and, judging from people’s reactions to our invitations, they are not a common community event. We had seven kids the first couple days, but after the kids/parents began to understand what a VBS is, attendance jumped to fourteen-sixteen the last three days. The lessons and activities were a huge hit. The kids were on a two week winter vacation from school; like we have in the States but without Christmas. We are looking forward to planning a VBS for the summer vacation in January. The highlight for me was showing our church members the joy and impact of children’s ministry in our community. Yesterday, 10 year old Monica brought her three younger sisters with her to church without her parents. Please pray with us for her precious heart and her large family.


Josh, Marlene, Cassandra, Sarah, me, Ashley, Dani, Damaris, Chris, Genna, Rachel, Anndee, Jessica
In addition to running VBS, the short term team helped us clean out the backyard space of the new building. They also donated money to the remodel and supplies to the children’s ministry. More than anything, they encouraged us and our church members to continue fighting the good fight with God as our strength.

They first couple of days we weren't sure if we could get any more kids to come. 
But we had fun with those who were there.
Then their number started to grow.



Mom brought face paints and stencils
Mom had her first mate tea and criollos. Pastora had recently stolen the mate from me in this
picture.
On Sunday, the kids share their songs and memory verses in the afternoon service.
We all had a great time!



Wednesday, July 27, 2016

New Church Building

Almost exactly one year ago, we signed the papers and started moving into our church. Even then, we knew we had to leave that building as soon as possible. Because of inflation, rent increases at least 15% every six months. That means our monthly rent that was $375 a year ago became $430 in January and would be $500 next month. Would be, but it’s not. We had our last service in that building yesterday and are racing to finish the remodel on our new building this week before the Encounter retreat and inauguration of the new building this weekend. The new building is OUR building. With funds raised through alabaster offerings, 40/40 donors (you), and Extreme church fund-raising, we bought a building three blocks from our original church.

Front of the new church building
The first adventure was finding and choosing a new church. For six months we kept our eyes peeled for For Sale signs whenever we were walking through the city. We called countless real estate agents and toured a dozen properties before selecting the best option. The next adventure was physically getting the money from Boise and Buenos Aires to pay for the building. Unlike the United States, Argentina runs on cash. Instead of putting in a code or card and moving the imaginary numbers from one bank account to another, we had to send over $60,000 (Extreme’s part of the purchase) here to Cordoba. That’s some 870,000 pesos. In cash. In a currency where the largest bill is 100 pesos. I won’t bore you with the details, but you can imagine all the fun/trouble we had transferring and collecting that much money from the banks. I now know way more about Western Union’s Argentine banking policies than I ever wished to know.

This is what 870,000 pesos looks like (that's my bed).
Dear potential thieves: we don't have all this money in our house anymore. You already
missed your opportunity. Please don't break into our house. You will be disappointed.
So now we are in the third adventure: remodeling. The building is a two story home. The pastors are living upstairs, and we are transforming the ground floor into a sanctuary and classrooms. Basically, this includes installing a kitchen upstairs, removing a wall downstairs, and cleaning everything several times. The sanctuary space is smaller than the old sanctuary space, but it has plenty of room as we are still doing two services. The building belongs to the Nazarene Cordoba district and has space to grow (take out more walls/expand to the back patio) as the church continues to grow exponentially over the next few years.

Removing the wall
No more wall!
As with any challenge, one of the blessings is seeing how much love and support God provides for us in the most surprising ways. Several church members have been in the new building every day helping clean, paint, cook, move, repair, rewire, organize, giving their time and talents to prepare our new home. You don’t know them, but they are special to me. I love their hearts and their care for our church, so I want to include their names: Sol, Jorge, Erminda, Enzo, David, Laura, Luca, and Marina.

Enzo and Luca fix an exterior light while Pastora supervises.

Enzo, Luca, David, and Jorge help move the last load of furniture from the old church.
We had our first event in the church last Saturday. My mom brought fingernail polish, modeling clay, and charms to make necklaces for our second ever women’s event. We talked and created and pampered for over three hours, blessing the new building with laughter and love. God’s blessings are abundant. 
In the taxi picking up Mom from the airport, a little excited.

Our first women's event in the new building! We had a full house!


I'm not sure what I'm so concerned about in this picture...

Ashley, Sol, Laura, Paola, Damaris; pamper queens!

In other news: I'm a legal resident of Argentina!! No more immigration hassles for me!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Salva3

Last month, we organized an event called Salva3 (save three) in our house of prayer where we planned a special dinner and asked our regular participants to each invite three friends. In the weeks leading up to the event, we prayed over the names of the three friends we were inviting. Of the twelve members of our group (including Pastora, Ashley, and me as hostess and leaders) only two of all our friends actually came: Beatha’s friend Angie and Erica’s husband Gerardo. That’s right-none of the people Pastora, Ashley, and I invited could come. We weren’t excited with the results, but we enjoyed a delicious meal and a lovely time together.

This Salva3 event was a soup dinner with homemade tomato, squash, and pea soup.
Angie is a Christian without a church who moved to Cordoba from Haiti three years ago. At the Salva3 event, she was a social-language butterfly that flitted from group to group speaking Creole with Beatha, Spanish with the Cordobeses, broken English with Ashley and me, and even more broken Portuguese with Pastora. She has a deep voice and a great, big laugh. In the days after the event, we were surprised to see the deep depression that was controlling her heart and mind. After three years of trying to make it through school and life on her own, she was completely broke with no job options. The economy has gone from bad to worse in the past year, and many of our church members are looking for work. It’s even harder for her since she’s a foreigner. On top of financial difficulties, she’s been struggling with severe homesickness and suicidal thoughts.

Silly Stephanie, Beatha, and Angie right up front
The following Tuesday, we were able to visit her in her house and take her to a house of prayer that meets closer to where she lives. It’s a house of prayer led by Rachel and Damaris in the home of the Barrera family. She didn’t talk much, but she soaked everything in. The Barreras are leaders in our church and being in their home is being at home; for us out of place missionaries and random, sad Haitians. At 1 am the next night, Angie called us crying. The enemy attacks hardest when we start to walk toward the truth. She was overwhelmed by hopelessness. We prayed with her and encouraged her to read John until she could fall asleep. At midnight the next night, we sent her encouraging texts thinking she would be in the same struggle. To our delight, she messaged us back saying she was at the Barreras’ house (did I mention this is a nocturnal culture?). They were helping her fill out an online resume.

Me, Angie, Max, Beatha, and Ashley laughed until our stomachs ached when we hung out at Angie's house
This all happened a month ago. Since then, Angie has continued attending the house of prayer, and she’s found a job! It’s only two days a week, but it’s good work and more than she’s had for a long time. Last week we watched War Room with her in her home (if you haven’t seen it, you need to!). It was a fun way to talk with her about fighting against the real enemy instead of fighting against herself. God even provided a way for her to go home for a few weeks next month to visit her mom and grandparents. Speaking of which, I’m coming home for a few weeks next month too! AND my mom is visiting for two weeks right now! We have plans to visit Angie this week so she and Mom can get to know each other.

I left my phone unattended during the Salva3 event and found this on it later. Friends steal their
friends' phones to take selfies.
But what about Gerardo? He came to church with Erica two weeks after he came to the Salva3 event. He and Erica both accepted Christ as their personal Savior for the first time in that service-the answer to months of prayers by us and Erica’s daughter/Gerardo’s step-daughter Sofia (more on that story here). We are still in the spiritual battle of encouraging them to accept God’s call to continue from believer to disciple, but they have taken the first step. Erica’s son Jeffrey is thirteen and very quiet around us, but apparently is the most attentive to the church schedule and begs his mom to take him to every church event. Erica and Gerardo’s daughter Bianca is two and very sick with kidney disease. We’ve been praying for her for two months and Erica told me yesterday that Bianca hasn’t had any pain for two weeks. God is indescribably good.

Erica, Gerardo, Jeffrey, and Sofia sat next to me during the activity

We were talking yesterday about how indescribable God is. We can’t fathom all that He is and all that He is doing. I am so easily frustrated and discouraged, but I don’t have any reason to doubt God’s plans or His timing. Through our failed Salva3 event, God saved more than three people from destruction and is continuing to save and heal an entire family. We have a million reasons to praise Him!




Last month, the youth group handed out free hot chocolate in a park. The artistic Damaris, Rachel,
 Andres, and Sol peacefully made beautiful signs....

...while the mechanically minded Luca, Ashley, Cris, Laura, and Sofia found the best way
to make hot chocolate with the bizarre resources on hand through trial and error and chaos.

Pastor, Rachel, Beatha, Dani, Andres, Luca, Sol, Sofia, Ashley