Boy, it's hot! The "dog days of summer" are upon us. You know, the type of day when the heat just drags you down, like it does every ...... December? These kind of days are usually encountered in August, not in December! But, in South America where the seasons are the opposite of the USA, we're now getting into some hot weather. So hot, that the ice cream trucks, er .. I mean peddlers, are roaming the neighborhoods. They blow this little whistle, which is really more like a cheap, out-of-tune, plastic version of Zamfir's pan flute. I kept hearing someone blowing a whistle and thought it was some kid playing with it when I noticed it getting closer. When I looked out the window, I saw the Paraguayan equivalent to our North American "snow cone" man (ice cream, whatever your choice)!
We have lived in Paraguay for almost a year now, I had visited twice before, but, in all that time I never had the chance to visit Iguazu Falls. I always wanted to, but it just never worked out. This past week, it finally did!! Iguazu Falls! (also Yguasu, or Iguassu) Whether you say it in Spanish, Portuguese, or Guarani, it all means the same thing BIG WATER! That is exactly what we found at the world's second largest waterfall. There are some 275 distinct falls within the water system that is almost two miles wide and some 270 feet high, within many levels. It is AMAZING! Legend has it that a god planned to marry a beautiful aborigine named Naipí, who fled with her mortal lover Tarobá in a canoe. In rage, the god sliced the river creating the waterfalls, condemning the lovers to an eternal fall. The first Europeans to find the falls were the Spanish conquistadors in 1541. If you ever get a chance to visit, don't miss it!
Election Day in Paraguay is very fascinating! All of the candidates have some very interesting ways of campaigning: from the junky pickup truck draped with political banners and blaring traditional Spanish tunes throughout the barrios to the simple "pasa calles" (banners) hanging on every street corner. They plaster 150+ posters on one wall or simply paint the whole wall with the candidate's name on it. Some even spent money on street light banners. And all of this was only for the local mayors offices!! Can't wait to see what presidential elections will be like!
This was also interesting. Because it was election day. The law prohibited the sale of alcohol from 4:00 pm Saturday until after the polls close at 7:00 pm on Sunday, Election Day. Apparently they don't want any confusion at the polls .....
How many of you remember the days when there were attendants at the all the gas stations? I do ... but, it seems that they are very scarce to find these days. Almost all of our gas stations are self serve now. Not so in Paraguay! I have yet to see a gas station here that does not have attendants. All the attendants that I have encountered have been very kind and helpful, will gladly check the air in your tires, and will happily write a sales receipt when asked to do so. Now the price of gas is a completely different subject ....
There is much talk about American politics right now in the media surrounding the upcoming elections. Just so you know, there is no shortage of "politikin'" in Paraguay, either! There are two major parties (just like in America), there are lots of promises being made, and a gazillion accusations being slung around. (sound familiar?) One of the parties even gathered a bunch of supporters and made an impromptu parade around the city today. They just happened to drive by our street with horns and music blaring and their red flags a-waving! I quickly grabbed my camera (after Andrea reminded me to) and just caught the tail end of it here .....
After several years of hard work, intense preparation, and much prayer, the church in Paraguay now owns its first property. On September 2nd, we carried the remaining funds to the "Escribania" office to complete the purchase of the property. Ike Yegros and Perry Hardin signed the papers for the deed. We are now submitting plans for the remodeling project and hope to have a special ground breaking day sometime in late November. God has answered our prayers! Now let's pray that the facility will be a useful tool for leading many to Christ and teh Truth of His Word!
"Learn English Using the Bible!" This was the approach we used to offer free English classes to the general public. We placed an ad in Facebook and quickly had 25 interested students. The campaign was for the entire month of August and we had about 15 students that went through the entire course. We studied words and passages from the book of John. Several of the students have decided to keep studying with their current teachers after the course had completed. We pray that each of them will not only learn more English, but more importantly, gain a better understanding of the Bible. Perhaps their study will encourage them to follow Christ.
It was an absolutely beautiful day and we had more than 70 in attendance on Sunday. The weekend also marked "Dia del Niños." In the USA we have Father's Day and Mother's Day. In Paraguay they have those days AND a day for children. So, after services we had a little "Midway Carnival" where we had several games set up for the children to play. If they won and collected enough tickets they could use them to get a toy. Everyone had a great time and their were lots of smiling faces!
Heidi, Maria, Faviola, and Raul after Maria was baptized
It took a considerable amount of time, effort, and money to get from Paraguay to Panama in order to meet up with my team mates for a short term mission trip. We had all traveled to the Darien jungle to evangelize the surrounding area, as well as, encourage the church there and teach some classes. We were excited about the possibilities! We stayed at the Hotel Felicidad in Metiti and traveled down the road to the church building everyday. A young woman, Maria, was a guest at the same hotel in which we were staying. She told us she was from Nicaragua and was traveling with her husband. He worked all day in the jungle while she and her daughter, Faviola, sat around the hotel. Since the ladies of the local church were preparing lunch for us, we decided to invite Maria and Faviola to join us. They really enjoyed themselves. Then, Maria started asking some questions and wanted to know more about this “church” that she was seeing. We shared the Gospel with her and she decided the next day to be baptized. It is interesting that we had all traveled from different parts of the world, but through a chance meeting in a mutual location, another soul was added to the Book of Life.
I was recently blessed to be able to go on a short term mission trip to Panama with a group from our sponsoring congregation, Margaret Street church of Christ. We went to Metiti and Santa Fe in the middle of the Darien Provence. It was a great opportunity to participate in another work, as well as, getting to fellowship with my brethren from the USA.
The campaign results were: 3 baptisms, 3 restorations, 25+ Bible studies, 10 Family and Marriage classes taught, 20 Evangelism and Teaching classes taught, children's classes, evening devotionals, lots of fellowship (including 1 birthday and a 15 yr anniversary) .... and a workday at a local school. God was indeed glorified in Panama!
It's Christmas in July at the Spradlin household in South America! To quote Andrea,
"I never thought this would be the most beautiful sight to see in Paraguay....but here it is....FINALLY!!!!!!"
Yes, we finally received our container with all our household belongings. The men unloaded everything in the pouring rain and we are happy to report that everything made it here just fine (including Andrea's dark chocolate Reeses cups). There wasn't any damage, so we have been blessed with a good, safe move. Many of you may remember that we packed everything to go to Paraguay as I was getting ready to graduate from SWSBS. That was a year ago. Graduation for this year's students is this weekend. How's that for timing? This is Christian Flors with Andrea. He is one of the helpers that unloaded the truck in the rain. (BTW, he is very strong).
World Cup enthusiasm is at a fever pitch in Asunción, Paraguay! The national team, "Albirroja" won their game against Japan which propelled them into the quarter finals. It is a historical moment for Paraguay because they have never gone that far in the World Cup. As soon as the game was over, there was an explosion of excitement in Asunción. EVERYONE was honking a horn, waiving a flag, singing, jumping up and down, and/or screaming! We went out front of the church building to wave at all the happy people driving by! The downtown area was also immediately packed with thousands of people - all celebrating! WOW! What a neat experience!
Asunción is a rather picturesque city (that of course, is subject to opinion - mine being that it is). There are many fascinating things to see which present various "photo opportunities." While Johnny Davis was visiting, he got the idea to take this picture as we were walking up to the old train station. Fun!
Andrea and I are still learning the language here in Paraguay. We can speak pretty well, but it is still difficult to communicate effectively (especially about religious matters). But, we were wanting to do SOMETHING that would benefit the church - even if we weren't capable just yet to speak the language. So, we decided to start handing out flyers in the parks, street corners, and bus stops to invite people to church. In Paraguay, they are called "Volantes" and almost everyone will take one if you offer it to them. Thanks be to the Lord, we have already had several respond!! Please pray that these flyers will reach those souls who are searching to know the Truth!
Is there anything more encouraging to a foreign missionary than a care package from home??! I find it hard to imagine that there could be anything else. We just received our first from our sponsoring congregation in Milton, Florida. It was just a small box, with some trivial things inside, but it was one of the greatest gifts I believe we have ever received. I knew that every item in that box was purchased and placed there with us in mind. Our brethren went out of their way to provide a few little things that we had requested. To me, each item represented a great deal of love, a whole lot of encouragement, and a large portion of thoughtfulness. That little box gave me a lot more understanding to what Paul wrote in Philippians 2:4.
Everyday we learn more and more about the culture and language of Paraguay. It is exciting, yet, also overwhelming at times. One of the things Andrea and I enjoy doing is just getting out and sightseeing in order to learn more about Asuncion at a little slower pace. Recently, we have been learning a great deal about the history of the country. In fact, one of the members of the congregation here has a great-great grandparent that was involved in the signing of the declaration letter for independence from Spain. This is a picture of the house where the letter was signed on May 15, 1811. It is known as "La Casa de Independencia" and is located in the midst of the bustling, modern city of Asunción.
This past weekend we had a congregational retreat. We rented a little campground about 45 minutes outside the city that is maintained by a Korean denominational group. We spent two days singing, studying, worshiping, and fellow-shipping. This was the first experience Andrea and I have had with a church campground setting in a foreign country. It was wonderful! The entire weekend, I couldn’t help but think how thrilling it is to see God’s word working in the lives of the Paraguayans in the exact same way I am accustomed to seeing in the States. In reality, it doesn’t matter on what continent one may stand, God’s word touches hearts in any culture. The best part – going to the camp retreat “rejuvinated our spiritual batteries” even if it was in a different language!
Chipa! Chipa! Periodicos! Regalos! These are things you hear on the street as you roll up to a red light. Most of the busy intersections have street vendors trying to sell a product or service. There are many who want to clean your windshield, others want to sell you lottery tickets, while some just want your spare change. In the afternoon, on the way home from work, there are lots of vendors selling "chipa." It is a traditional Paraguayan bread. Sometimes it is shaped in a big circle. It tastes sort of like cornbread. I have grown to love chipa (if it is made right) and it is, indeed, a perfect snack for the ride home. Here is another picture of the street kids we saw the other day ... playing around between cars lining up.
It breaks your heart! If there is anything that tugs at your heartstrings more, it is seeing so many children working in the streets. Many of them are begging for coins, food, or work (like cleaning your windshield while you wait at the light). They are usually barefoot, dirty, breathing diesel smoke all day, and standing in dangerous places. Sometimes parents carry their babys up and down the lines of cars asking for money. It is, indeed, difficult for many to make a living here in Paraguay. But, it is most sad when children are not allowed to be just children and are thrust into such harsh circumstances.
The week before Easter is a national holiday in Paraguay. Most of the stores shut down and many people leave the city for a little get-a-way. We were blessed to be invited to visit the home of one of our brethren who is from Pilar, a city about 5 hours south of Asunción. It was a wonderful few days of rest and relaxation. We visited with friends, went sightseeing around the old city, ate lots of traditional Paraguayan foods, and even had a chance to ride horses. Pilar is an old city of Paraguay that has a very rich history. The basic layout and design was constructed by a group of Italians around the early 1900's. Until just 15 years ago, there were no automobiles in Pilar. Everyone rode motorcycles and bicycles.
4th Week of March – We're finally getting settled into South American way of life. We are enjoying being in our new place (even though it's bare). We now have air conditioning, a security system, appliances to cook meals, and to do laundry. Now, all we need is a couch to make it complete! Our shipping container is scheduled to leave around April 14th. This weekend we are going to Pilar to spend some time with our church brethren. It is a small town about 5 hours south of Asunción. Should be fun!
This is a very common sight in Paraguay. Motorcyles are used for all kinds of transportation and there are hundreds of them zig zagging through traffic all the time. Sometimes, they drive on the sidewalk! In this case, it is this family's means of transportation. Notice the little girl sitting on the gas tank. She wasn't the least bit frightened and I think Andrea and I were more afraid for her than she was.
This is a picture of the current mission team in Asuncion, Paraguay. Also in the picture with us are Jerry and Gail Heidrich from Brazil. They came over to help the team learn how to deal with new transitions and to develop into a stronger unit. The workshop covered about four days and was a wonderful help for the team. We are thankful that God has provided such talented workers as the Heidrichs to help missionaries in the field. The team feels much stronger and closer now.
L-R are Vickie and Chris Fry, Gail and Jerry Heidrich, Cara and Josh Blackmer, Alba and Perry Hardin, Andrea and Troy Spradlin.
Andrea and I went to a "garage sale" at the U.S. Embassy, last week, where several embassy employees were trying to sell their belongings before returning to the States. While we were purusing through the tables we happened to meet the U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay, Ms. Liliana Ayalde. She was very nice and quite informative as to what the office of the Ambassador entails. She is from Maryland and also has a home in Ft. Lauderdale. She regularly speaks with the President of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, and recently set up a meeting between him and Hillary Clinton. Later that afternoon, I saw a photo of her in the local newspaper and I have seen her on TV several times since then. Kind of neat to have met one of our dignitaries here in Paraguay.
Today is a Paraguayan national holiday. It is "El Dia del Heroes." On this day, 140 years ago, Mariscal Francisco Lopez was killed in battle which marked the end of the extremely bloody War of the Triple Alliance. Lopez was the dictator of Paraguay and is now considered a national hero. He is buried in the Pantheon del Heroes in downtown Asunción alongside several other Paraguayan leaders. Since we had the day off, we decided to go sightseeing outside Asunción to what is called the "Chacko" (also known as the "interior" by the locals). We went to San Bernadino and Los Altos. These were sights that were founded by German immigrants who wanted to start the "master race." It was 50 years before Hitler began his same attempt, in 1880 by a Dr. Forster. He became an influence for the Nazi ideas and the town eventually became a hiding place for the Nazi fugitives. Dr. Mengle, the "Angel of Death," is rumored to have fled to Los Altos when Germany was defeated. The beautiful little town is on the edge of Lake Ypacarai. We stopped and had lunch, then took a walk down by the lake. Josh snapped this picture of us on a pathway near the water. It was a fun day!
I seem to have the worst experiences with my vehicles. Andrea and I purchased a Honda CRV from one of the previous missionaries and are quite pleased with it. But, it decided it wanted to make a trip to the mechanics, so it overheated and blew some hose. (In all fairness, it was 110 degrees that day). Then, Josh's battery died in his vehicle. So, we threw in the towel. We pulled out our "equipos" and sipped on terere until the tow truck showed up. We were having so much fun that Josiah decided he wanted to join us!
Sipping Yerba Mate is a Paraguayan tradition. Almost everywhere you go, you will see many people carrying around their "equipo" and refreshing themselves with the summer-time version called "Terere." They have been doing it for centuries. The brethren at the Avenida Sacramento Iglesia de Cristo presented Andrea and me with our very own "equipo" and a bunch of yerba mate. An "equipo" has a "bombilla" (a perforated straw for sipping), a guampa (a cup), and a thermos (for cold or hot water). After you prepare your guampa with the mate of your choice, you simply pour a little water into the cup, sip it through your bombilla, then repeat.
We are so thankful to be here and to be embraced by our Paraguayan brethren. Chau!
Traffic is crazy and the drivers drive crazy in Asunción:
Andrea and I received our driver's licenses! We are excited because it is quite an accomplishment due to the processes involved.
The way it works in Paraguay is this: 1) Upon arrival at the "DOT" (which is actually legal place for the municipality), you must select a "hestor." He is a person that will assist you through the entire process. 2) Once the hestor takes your name and info, he goes to the registrar(?) and then returns with a price to complete the process. (Our price was double what it normally costs, but, he said he could get everything done in one day - we decided that would be great) 3) He then proceeds with the paperwork which includes: a. an eye test (from a worker who really doesn't care what you say as long as you answer) b. pricking your finger to find out your blood type c. a photo taken 4) then, you just wait until everything is complete and he brings you your license. 5) If all is good, you give him a tip (even though he is already making money off you) and you go away happy. 6) Upon returning to these offices for other documents, it is wise to always use the same hestor.
First of all, I apologize that our website www.paraguaymission.org has been down recently. We are praying to get that fixed real soon.
Otherwise, we have accomplished a lot this week. We registered the car and began the paperwork for transferring ownership. We signed up for language school and for health insurance. We are looking into car insurance, too. Andrea had an allergic reaction, so we made our first doctor visit this week. We had a team meeting on Tuesday and have been out to eat with most of the team members since Monday. We worshiped Wednesday night and today with the congregation. The members presented Andrea and me with Paraguayan mate and teas as a welcoming gift. The team gave us an "equipo" which is used to drink the mate with.
This week we will start our language school and look for a place to rent. We are so happy to be here!
Here is a video of a young man being baptized who had been studying with Enoch. His name is Raul Riveros and he decided to obey the Gospel this past Tuesday.
Just wanted to let everyone know that we are doing great! We hit the ground running and are getting a little bit settled in. We have started the paperwork process to get our car registered and to get driver's licenses. They do things quite differently here. For example, a notary public basically handles all the legal stuff like tags, title, and plates. Even the inspection process was quite an experience. We are also working on getting our cell phones turned on. The next things on our list are getting insurance (car and health), then residency papers, and looking for a place to live.
Here is a little "Hola de Paraguay" video clip of the team reunited and ready to go to work:
This is it! We have been working toward this day for three and half years. It has finally arrived. By this time tomorrow night, Lord willing, we will be reporting from the mission field of Paraguay. I hope to post some video or pictures real soon.
Thank you to everyone who has lifted us up in prayer for safe travels. Thank you for all the encouragement and support.
It is all in the Lord's hands now. May He be glorified.
Today is Andrea's birthday! Lots of emotions are tumbling around inside as we are dealing with the anticipation of leaving Friday, sadness from all the farewells and well-wishes, to the stress of finishing up a few final details for our departure. A very unique birthday, indeed!
We want to offer a big "THANK YOU" to our sponsoring congregation, Margaret Street church of Christ, for the kind words and the send off festivities they provided for us on our last Sunday with them Jan 17th. We also want to say the same to Palm Beach Lakes for this past Sunday. We love all of you very much, we will miss you very much, and we are so thankful to have you as our supporters.
I have been invited to write on a brotherhood blogsite to describe the emotions and events that a new missionary feels going into the field. I call the daily post "Culture Shock Chronicles" and it can be found at The Fellowship Room. Hope you will join us there. Enjoy!
This is a video that the team in Asunción produced which tells a little about the history of the congregation that meets at Avenida Sacramento. Brother Ike Yegros, one of the members in Paraguay, tells the story.
This is our little blog space so that all of our friends and family can check up on us from time to time to see what's happening with the Spradlin's. We are members of the church of Christ who are currently serving as missionaries in the Lord's Kingdom in Paraguay, South America.