Hello from Paraguay, we hope you have all had a blessed Christmas and a great start to 2019!
Can you all believe its the end of February already?!
These last few months have flown and we feel like we have hardly stopped since returning from the UK last year.
We have been enjoying fellowship with some new believers. It is so wonderful to meet together to worship, pray and look at the bible. They are enthusiastic and full of joy, which is infectious! It is a privilege to be a part of their lives at this time, we are truly blessed by their faith.
One of our recent highlights was celebrating Christmas with them. There are two communities on the property where they live, so we invited everyone from both communities to come to an ‘Elim Global Party’. We played games and cooked up enough chicken and rice to feed 450+ people (we lost count at one point). We were able to give a gift and treats to every child and we gave the adults matches, fishing line, and hooks which they were so appreciative to receive. We had piñatas prepared for every age group, including the adults! It was the first time that most of them had seen one and the littlest age group were so stunned when the sweets fell that they stood still and didn’t pick any up until the adults began shouting orders. The women and men had a go with the piñatas and were definitely the most competitive of all the groups. In Paraguay it is traditional to celebrate Christmas and New Year with fireworks so John got the biggest and loudest display box he possibly could and at the end of the party set them off. They went down a treat and although they surprised everyone by being much louder than they expected most people were able to laugh afterward. One guy said that they had often heard and seen small crackers but never something so big. It’s safe to say the Christmas party went off with a BANG! The best bit was seeing the Christians enjoying sharing the Christmas story of the birth of Christ with their family and friends and really understanding that Jesus is the reason for the season. A couple who gave their lives to the Lord this last year commented how for many years the festivities had not meant anything to them aside from eating BBQ and drinking cheap liquor. But this year, it was their “first Christmas, celebrating the coming of Jesus, it is special, we are celebrating for the first time”.
This is what it is all about – being away from our families, friends, culture, church family and often being in situations we feel out of our depths in, looking for ways to be heard through filters of life and culture. Missing family events back home, birthdays, births and Christmas.
This is our reward! The best end of year bonus ever!
We were spoilt to have a friend come out to visit us for Christmas this year, especially as her suitcase was full of mincemeat, stuffing, gravy granules, Christmas pudding and brandy sauce. We had a wonderful time with her having a very British Christmas as well as the traditional Paraguayan celebrations. She also helped John use up his fireworks by blowing up many things including a watermelon, it was spectacular to see.
At the back end of last year John had an amazing trip to the Chaco with our friend and fellow missionary, Peter. They went to some first nation people groups up in the Chaco where they had the chance to share the gospel message while witnessing healings and seeing people recognising Jesus in those healings. It was an incredible time and the responses blew them away; it truly made up for the bleak camping conditions, lack of bathing water and canoe trips they had to embark on to visit these communities!
God has really been impressing several things upon our hearts of late. In a future ‘Thought from Afar’ we will share more of these, but for now: As church communities, disciples and followers of Christ we are all, and this is to each and every one of us, we are all to be undertakers of this great commission. Taking the gospel message and good news to our family, community, neighbourhood, city, nation and the nations of the world. This is hard! Not the message we carry, but the situations we face to share it into. We can often be overwhelmed by a situation, by others’ opinion of us, limiting ourselves due to a false image of ourselves or overcomplicating the nature of what we need to do. Luke 9 and 10 show two different approaches to being sent out as ambassadors of Christ. Jesus sent out the twelve in Luke 9 giving them ‘power and authority’ and instructing them to ‘proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal’. Later in Luke 10, Jesus sends out the seventy-two, telling them that the harvest is plentiful but the workers few. He tells them to heal the sick and say to them ‘the Kingdom of God has come close to you’. The same two elements to be undertaken but in different orders. But both have the same powerful outcome. Peoples lives transformed and the standard of God’s Kingdom risen up high. And just look at the seventy-two when they come back – they are full of joy and amazed at the things they had seen. Jesus reminds them of what they carry and like them we also carry the same authority and power. We can lean on the promise of Jesus that ‘nothing shall hurt you’. Being sent out with this great commission, taking hold of the power and authority given to us, even in the face of what we see as obstacles, Proclaiming and Healing or Healing and Proclaiming, we just need crack on with it. His promise still stands. The authority and power still remain the same. See, the harvest is plentiful!
In the last few months there has been a change in leadership in one of the communities. The chief who first let us into the community to minister has stepped down and his son has now taken over the role. This has been an interesting transition for them and for us but we praise God that the new leader also looks upon us with favour and his wife comes to our meetings. Pray for him as he tries to help his people access electricity and applies to government building projects (that they are entitled to as part of a government project). Pray that he will continue to be in good relationship with us and allow us to carry on our ministry there.
Please pray for the young people we work with in town as they have been going through some difficult transitions and losses. Please pray for peace and that they will know they are loved.
Our most recent family news is that we are expecting the arrival of baby McDonough in September 2019!
Pray for us:
* for health, safety and provision as our family grows
* for provision regarding financial implications to our family growing
* that Alicia will love being a big sister
* for Alicia as she started nursery school this February, that she will make lots of new friends
We thank God so much for all your love and support, for the many Christmas cards we received and for those of you who sent gifts for Alicia. We are so grateful to you all for helping make what we do here in Paraguay possible.
With much love,