Ponderings on Argentina

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Prayer October 21, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — vanosdola @ 1:21 pm

I wanted to write another story about one of my friends from Retiro saved me when I was lost in the city last week, I just didn’t feel right writing that story without first expressing some prayer needs we have. I’ve noticed that most of my entries on this blog end on a good note, with a fresh glimpse of hope the poor give us, or how God is working at Retiro. This is good, and this is true, but I wouldn’t be giving you the entire picture unless I acknowledged that God is not the only one trying to capture the hearts of these children at Retiro.

Many of the youth at Retiro use drugs. Inhaling glue smeared on the inside of a plastic bag to get high is common. There is also a relatively new drug that is growing quickly in popularity here called Paco. Paco is a mixture of crack and cocaine that they can produce very quickly and inexpensively, thus making it popular. However, Paco is extremely dangerous to those who use it because of how they produce it; it has some bad side effects. Sadly, youth are getting addicted to it at young ages–8 or 10 years old.

I would say that almost all of the youth have been abused at some point in their lives, whether emotionally or physically. Some just suffer from the nature of their lives–living and sleeping wherever they can or in dangerous slums.

Sadly, even they have a system of hierarchy–of who is better. Having light skin is valued, and those with darker skin are often called derogatory terms.

This is just a quick attempt to give you a fuller view into some of the struggles of some of the people. By no means is it representative of everyone we know and work with; there are some people and families who do not do drugs, and who are working hard to provide loving homes for their children. However, there are many people who do struggle with these addictions and emotional and physical wounds.

As we continue to love these people and look for Jesus among them, I think it is really important to keep in mind some of the things they struggle with and deal with. It’s important not to romanticize the poor or what we are doing here; it is not always easy. I think the struggles help put things in perspective…it is through God and by his love and grace that  reconciliation comes about.

Let’s continue to pray for our friends in Argentina that have to deal with so much at such a young age!


Church at the Slum October 19, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — vanosdola @ 4:36 pm

So last Sunday the girls and I went to Sunday night church at the slum where we teach for the first time…it was quite an experience! Pablo, the pastor, picked us up from the subway station  in his rickety, old, much-loved car that likes to stall every five minutes.

We arrived at 7:25, and the band was in the middle of playing some worship songs. When we arrived there were only 5 other people in the pews, but people filed in for the next 40 minutes until the pews were full.

We worshipped for a full hour at least. It was beautiful. There were no fancy projectors or powerpoints–everyone knew the words by heart. There were no exciting ¨mood-setting¨ touches either–the light shows, skits, solos, and videos we have come to expect in a church. The people were there to meet God. I could sense how desperate the people were to meet Jesus there, and the desperation was contagious. Living in that Villa is so dangerous–even going to the church service isn´t 100% safe. But still they go, every week, trusting that there is a Kingdom that is not of this world that is advancing. Trusting that this Kingdom does not use knives, guns, and threats to advance, trusting that there is a love stronger than abusive marraiges, one night stands, and sex addictions, trusting that in this New Kingdom little children can play on the streets without fear, no one will have to fight the street dogs for dinner in the garbage, and everyone who is sick has hope to be healed.

It is sometimes easy for me to believe that this Kingdom is coming, because I have lived a life in which I have never gone hungry, lacked medical care, or been abused. It´s easier to believe in this New Kingdom when you have a nice home, and a safe neighborhood.

This is not the case of many of the people who live in the Villa. Often, it is quite the opposite. As I looked at the people surrounding me in the pews, I realized what an extraordinary faith these people have. It is miraculous that they can proclaim this New Kingdom in the midst of the hurt, the poverty, the sickness, and the brokeness of the Villa. They come every Sunday to praise God for his goodness, his grace, and his mercy, and to invite his comming Kingdom into the Villa; they teach me so much about true faith.


Some verses to chew on October 9, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — vanosdola @ 2:15 pm

So I’ve been reading Isaiah recently, and have come across some really amazing verses. I would love to hear your thoughts on them!

Isaiah 26:5-6

He humbles those who dwell on high, he lays the lofty city low; he levels it to the ground and casts it down to the dust. Feet trample it down–the feet of the oppressed, the footsteps of the poor.

Isaiah 30:15

In repentance and trust is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength

Isaiah 33:2

O Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you, be our strength every morning, and salvation in time of distress.


Saturday Sabbaths

Filed under: Uncategorized — vanosdola @ 2:07 pm

A few weeks ago, Jen and Jare were teling us about how their family celebrates the Sabbath on Saturdays. It’s a day of rest, a day when they can put aside their ringing cell phones and the demands of their job and focus on celebrating God, family, friends, and the outdoors.

As a servant team, we started talking and decided to try having our own Sabbath, as well. Every Saturday morning Tina and Megan hop on a bus and come over to the house where Margi and I are staying. We eat breakfast together and then march up to the huge, sunny terrace that is on the roof of our house. We then spend the next hour or two crafting our own time of worship–none of which we planned out beforehand. Tina brings her guitar and we sing, we read Scripture, we share intriguing passages from books we are reading, we pray, we take communion–this time of Spiritual refreshment has become a must-have in our micro community.

Last week during Sabbath, Megan picked up her Bible and started reading Psalm 9, about how God hears the cry of the poor and afflicted. While she was reading it, the verses surprised me how much they resonated. I felt like I could relate to the needy and afflicted for the first time in my life–not only because I know a lot of needy and afflicted people here, but because by knowing them I realize that I myself am needy and afflicted. Give me a second to explain.

I feel like this is a message that I’ve heard a lot over the last few years, but hasn’t clicked until just now. Maybe when the Bible talks about the poor, it doesn’t necessarily mean poor in terms of economic status. Maybe God means people who recognize their brokeness, their desperate needs that we cannot fill for ourselves. I think that, often, it’s by hanging out with the economically poor that we are forced to face our own brokeness. The rich are really good at putting up fronts and walls to conceal their needs and their brokeness. The orphans, poor, widows, sick–not so much. Their needs are a reality that they live with; it’s a huge part of their identity (according to the world), and because of this they can’t just shove them under the rug.

I think that by hanging out with the poor, our own brokeness starts to creep out from under the rug (if we are honest with ourselves). And I think that is kind of a good thing. God blesses the poor, the broken, the meek. He blesses them because they need his blessing!

I know that I never faced my own brokeness or really understood my own needyness until I came here and began befriending the people who live on the street and in the slums. Because of them I’ve been able to see my own brokeness, and I’ve definitely been changed because of it. This is a pretty revolutionary concept–letting the poor change our lives by acting as mirrors through which we see ourselves. I like it.

And that is one of the many new discoveries I have made due to Saturday Sabbaths.