Sunday, January 19, 2020

Towards an effective remedy for hopelessness

Dear Friends and Family:

The other night Margarita and I walked around Paraguay's largest bus station and observed dozens of Native children and teens, mostly from the Mbya Guaraní tribe, living in deplorable conditions and subjected to human trafficking. The girls sat in shadowy areas and wore bright-colored summer outfits. The boys stood barefoot in the middle of the intersections washing car windows or selling fruit. Many of them were inhaling glue from plastic bags in plain sight. A 12-year-old boy named “A.,” with his glistening eyes barely open, asked us for money. He shared with us that 2 months ago he traveled more than 4 hours by himself from his community to the bus station. Although, for some reason, leaving their homes seemed right to them, pray that “A.” and his peers will find the path that does not lead to death.


Last Saturday a professional hairstylist volunteered his time to give haircuts to children at the Ava-Mbya community.

The Ava and Mbya children at a community on the outskirts of Asunción have a slightly better life than those at the bus station. Since classes stopped, we haven’t served our weekly lunches there; however, we visit them each month. In December, when we taught the Christmas story and sang songs with them, they told us how hungry they were. Thanks to a local foundation, we gave bags of rice and pasta to each family. Thanks to your support, we helped a few receive urgent medical attentionAsk Ñanderuete, “Our True Father,” to continue to work in this community.

We also visited two other Ava and Mbya communities in early January to give out toys for “Three Kings’ Day” and tell the story of the magi’s visit to Jesus. A father in one of the communities asked if we could provide educational support for their children, who haven’t attended school in almost two years.  Give thanks for the parents’ concern, for the church who offered a space for classes, and for the local ministries who provide educational materials. Ask the Lord to lead us to the right volunteers to help us minister to the educational needs of these Mbya children.

Margarita teaching about the magi's visit to Jesus 
Between our various activities this summer, there have been moments of recreation and escape. We took short trips to two tranquil, rural towns. The highlights were the pools, where Ana and Antoine demonstrated their increasing swimming proficiency. Gabrielli kept Margarita and me on alert as she demonstrated no fear in jumping into the water.  Next week, Ana will start back at school, while Antoine enjoys another month of vacation.

Gabrielli, Ana and Antoine (in his tiger/jaguar suit) bringing in the New Year
Paraguay’s department of Native affairs demonstrates through their inactivity a sense of hopelessness for those who live around the bus station. Indeed, systemic socio-historical issues significantly complicate an effective remedy. We will soon discuss with an area church as well as with two young Ava Guaraní adults who gave their lives to Jesus last year how to reach these at-risk children and teens. Please pray for wisdom for this situation, recognizing that the Lord gives generously to all who ask

In his hands,

Tim, Margarita, Ana, Antoine and Gabrielli

Monday, December 16, 2019

She started a party in the heavens


Dear Family and Friends:

An 11-year-old Mbya Guaraní girl started a party in the heavens two weeks ago. She approached her parents to tell them that she wanted to trust in Jesus and sing for him. In many Mbya communities such a decision is not taken well, but, thankfully, they supported her choice. Her father heard her beautifully sing a children’s hymn at our class’s end-of-the-year celebration, and it made sense to him that she’d trust in the One to whom she was singing. Give thanks to God for “M.,” and pray for others in her community to make the same decision.

There is much celebration due for what has happened in 2019 with our educational outreach among the Ava and Mbya communities around the Asunción metropolitan area.  By God’s grace, and through your prayers and support, the following are some of the noteworthy outcomes:
The 2019 Ava Guarani Literacy Class Graduates
  • 4 communities reached weekly with visits to 4 additional communities 
  • Consolidation of an Ava Guaraní house congregation
  • Weekly Bible studies and monthly services at a combined Ava-Mbya community
  • Gospel presentations to more than 300 people, of whom about 120 prayed to trust in Jesus
  • 100 children and youth reached each week through tutoring, youth ministry and Bible stories, with lunch provided to almost half of them and 100% of them successfully passing to the next grade level
  • 12 adults reached with Spanish literacy classes and Bible stories, with 5 graduating and 1 beginning to regularly attend house church services
  • Discipleships with 2 young Mbya women and three young Ava men, among whom 2 are starting to reach out to their community in addition to other Native communities
  • Through our mediation, 1 local church started reaching out to a Mbya community and 1 church started visiting an Ava community.
  • Mobilization of more than 50 Paraguayan volunteers and 4 different local ministries representing at least 6 different denominations in engaging Native communities 
  • 5 members of our youth group baptized.
Soaking Wet after Baptism
While these are worthy reasons for giving thanks, this season reminds us of a much greater reason for gratitude, which caused another party to break out in the heavens--a little over two thousand years ago. It is recorded that a group of shepherds witnessed this spectacular celebration and were driven by wonder to go and see what has happening. Soon after, not only they but nearly the whole town was giving thanks to God for the birth of the promised Savior, Jesus, who came “to give light to those who sit in darkness and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” We pray that heart-felt celebration of the Savior will also break out in your town, as well as in communities throughout Paraguay and to the ends of the earth.

Merry Christmas!

Tim, Margarita, Ana, Antoine and Gabrielli
Ana, Gabrielli and Antoine are ready for Christmas


Tuesday, November 12, 2019

You Bandage Their Wounds

Dear Family and Friends:

One of our students at the Mbya Guaraní school didn’t show up to class last week. The other students said that he had been sick for a few days, and they took me to his house to see him. We found the boy by himself, curled up on a sheet-less and torn foam mattress on the concrete floor. He was in and out of consciousness and burned with fever. Instead of taking him to a doctor, his family had given him natural medicine that produced no effects. His situation was beyond our abilities to alleviate, so we prayed for him.
Our literacy class and lunch keeps these Ava Guarani children and their mothers off the streets two days a week.
Jesus tells the parable of a man beaten and left half-dead on a road. Two people passed by who should’ve stopped to help, but didn’t. In a similar manner, Native children in Paraguay are legally entitled to protection, education and health services, but too often suffer frequent illness, exploitation, and various forms of abuse. A large part of our work aims at developing skills to leave such oppressive conditions. At the same time, Margarita and I teach about the hope available to anyone who walks in faith with the Creator. A young Ava Guaraní man with whom I meet with three days each week also is now teaching this hope in his community at home gatherings. He wants to start bringing the message to other Native communities.  Give thanks for “C,” and please keep him in your prayers.  

Additionally, give thanks for, “P.,” a young non-Native man who’s growing in his faith. He’s the son of the woman who sells us tereré (cold yerba mate tea) along the road out to two of the Native communities we visit weekly. During a recent conversation with him, he decided to place his trust in Jesus. Even though our focus is on reaching out to the Mbya and Ava, it is important to be open to whoever we meet along the way.

“P.’s” step of faith was one of numerous causes for celebration in the past month. Ana, Antoine, Gabrielli and I took Margarita out to our city’s only Mexican food restaurant for her birthday. I’m spending a few afternoons a week on finishing the vine arbor that’s her gift. Additionally, after months of building anticipation, Antoine turned five last week. The day started with him receiving his first bicycle. Then, he had a party at his pre-school. The day finished with dinner at his favorite pizza restaurant. Give thanks for Antoine, as well as for Ana and Gabrielli, who was quick to try to “test out” all of Antoine’s gifts.
Margarita's "Mexican Birthday"
Everything changed for the man in Jesus’ parable when the “Good Samaritan” arrived. He bandaged his wounds, and, when he couldn’t look after him any longer, he left him in the care of someone else. The situation of our seriously ill Mbya student changed, too. We brought him a plate of food—provided weekly to his community by two foundations and a volunteer cook—that gave him energy to stand up and climb into our car. At the hospital, when we could no longer stay with him, we left money for gas and food with the Mbya school teacher’s husband, who remained until the boy recovered. Yet, we’re not at all touting ourselves and our colleagues to be the “good Samaritans of Paraguay.” Our outreach is the result of teamwork, in which you play a critical role. It is your support that enabled us to be at this boy’s community that day and that brings us to multiple unreached communities each week. Of course, this outreach is possible because of Christ, who challenges his hearers to “go and do likewise.”       

Giving thanks for your being on our team,

Tim, Margarita, Ana, Antoine and Gabrielli Revett   

A Mbya chief's special needs son, who had previously been using our old baby stroller, celebrated receiving a mobile chair last month from our colleague.
     

Sunday, October 13, 2019

"You give them something to eat"

Dear Family and Friends:

In order for our educational outreach among urban Native communities to become an ongoing, sustainable ministry, we must get local churches and ministries involved. While our primary work is engaging the Ava and Mbya Guaraní, we also dedicate time to mobilizing Paraguayan Christians. For instance, we recently brought former students of ours from the Nuevo Horizonte School to spend a morning at an urban Ava community. Another former student took three other college students to help us with an activity at a Mbya community. Other similar activities are being planned for future weekends. These visits not only serve as volunteer opportunities, but hopefully are initiating relationships that will open doors for the gospel. Give thanks to God for our local ministry partners.

Our former student, Jhony, presented a humorous skit at the Ava community.
Amazingly, the Ava Guaraní community who received the Nuevo Horizonte students previously prohibited visits from Christian ministries, which is not uncommon in Paraguay. We recently received news from a Mbya community that started prohibiting Mbya Christians from gathering on Sundays. Additionally, the leader at the Ava community we most regularly visit wanted to cancel house church services; however, the outcry from the Christians in his community convinced him to not do so. Give thanks for our Native brothers and sisters who persevere in Scripture study, worship and prayer. Pray for the communities where there are prohibitions against Christian gatherings. Also, pray for our plans to start a weekend gathering at a Ava-Mbya community.

During a visit by public school students to a Mbya community, a chess match broke out between a visiting student (right) and Leticia (left). Leticia, who learned how to play this year through our chess club, soundly defeated her challenger
Thank you for your prayers for the four Day of the Child events that we organized in August. One of these events opened a door for to us to teach weekly Bible stories to children at a Mbya community where visits from churches were prohibited. At this same community, we have regular interactions with six young men and women who are interested in learning more about the Scriptures. Please pray for us to clearly communicate the good news about Jesus.

September was filled with a variety of different activities. Among them was a trip to Pedro Juan Caballero—Paraguay’s rough, northeastern border-town—to celebrate the inauguration of a new church. Its pastor graduated from the seminary classes I helped organize a few years ago with Dr. Gil Lain, Pr. Ted Gross and Pr. Fredy Pavez.  Then, there was a big first-day-of-spring event at Antoine’s pre-school, during which he recited via microphone the “Legend of Yerba Mate” to a crowd. Give thanks for Antoine, as well as for Gabrielli and Ana, who goes to camp this week.

Antoine's Presentation
The other night six college-aged Paraguayan Christians who had heard about our ministry came to our house to ask how they could get involved. Their compassion resembles what the Scriptures teach about Jesus. When he sees masses of hungry, "shepherd-less" people, he compassionately engages them. Then, he turns to his followers and tells them, “You give them something to eat.”  Please pray for more Christians in Paraguay, as well as everywhere, to accept the call to serve.

In Him,
Tim, Margarita, Ana, Antoine and Gabrielli

Thursday, August 22, 2019

To those who ask

Dear Friends and Family:


Almost a year ago I wrote to you about a machete fight that nearly broke out between squatters and landowners at an urban Mbya Guaraní community. At the same time, a similar situation was developing in another part of the Asunción metropolitan area with an Ava Guaraní community, whose leader was worried about what would happen to the twenty families under his care—including his wife and seven children. He recalled from his youth hearing Bible stories about people being rescued from oppressive situations, and he asked God for help. This year his community was joined with the Mbya community and both were moved outside of Asunción to land with a title in their names and newly-built homes.

Singing to our Great Father in Guaraní
Last month we shared a time of thanksgiving with the Ava leader for what God had done for him and his community. Every Monday since then, after we finish our tutoring session and serving lunch to the students, we meet with him and his family to listen to and discuss a chapter from the Gospel of Matthew on an audio Bible in Guaraní. Pray for God to grow our spiritual gatherings at this Mbya-Ava Guaraní community.

At another urban Ava community, a faithful group gathers for prayer and Scripture reading on Sunday mornings.  We brought a short-term mission team from Arkansas there a few weeks ago.  Both the team and the community members shared their stories with each other during a meal. In the emotional farewell, one Ava woman gave her bracelet to one of the team members. This was a significant step for her to trust more in Ñandejara (Jesus) since she had previously trusted the bracelet to protect her from evil spirits.  Join us in giving thanks to God for his work among the Ava. Additionally, pray for “S.,” a Mbya woman who started studying the Bible with Margarita last week.

Ana with her friends at an Ava community
In the past month I made two visits to a missionary training school in southern Paraguay called Parque SAMM. The first visit was to co-teach a course on teamwork in ministry teams to a promising group of Paraguayan and Uruguayan missionaries. The second visit was for the first-ever conference on ministry among the Mbya Guaraní. People from all over the region came to learn about Mbya culture and dialogue on best practices. Ana joined me for this visit and played with children from multiple cultural backgrounds: Mbya, German, American, Paraguayan, Bolivian and Uruguayan. She enjoyed the short break from third grade, which is turning out to be a lot harder than she thought. Give thanks for Ana as she turns 8-years-old this month.

Many of you are probably familiar with the organization called “Operation Christian Child.” We recently delivered some of their gift boxes to the children at the Ava-Mbya community for Children’s Day. They played games, ate a delicious lunch, and heard a presentation about Jesus’ love for them. 30 or so children, teens and adults entrusted him with their lives. This event was possible because of the support from our ministry colleagues as well as from you. Of course, the good gift of new life is possible because of our gracious Father in heaven, who gives it to those who ask him.

In his love,

Tim, Margarita, Ana, Antoine, and Gabrielli


This boy’s box could only have come from Oregon



Thursday, July 11, 2019

Children Climbing Mountains

Dear Friends and Family:
Paraguay doesn’t really have high mountains, but 1,230-foot Cerro Corá stands among the nation’s highest mountain range. “Cool and scary” summed up Ana’s impression of our recent ascent of Cerro Corá on a brief trip we took during the winter vacation. When she gazed upon the size of the obstacle that she had overcome, she realized that with determination, persistent steps, and a little help from her grown-up relatives she had achieved a seemingly insurmountable goal. 
Gabrielli made it 3/4 of they way up the mountain, but then stopped to eat and play.
Understanding the unique culture of the Mbya Guaraní and engaging them in a manner that counteracts the long history of unedifying experiences they’ve had with outsiders presents a significant challenge to us and our non-Mbya colleagues. We recently visited a German missionary who has served as a nurse and educator with the Mbya Guarani for over 30 years. Her advice to us was to “love with patience; be persistent in biblical teaching; and wait for God to reveal his power.”  Pray for us and our colleagues to show the Great Father's love through our educational outreach among the Mbya.
The winter vacation is ending, and we are resuming our work in the urban Native communities. At one community, we teach students and train a young Mbya woman, “E.,” to develop her skills as a new teacher. I continue meeting with the shaman, who teaches me Mbya language and culture. Our discussions frequently touch on themes that open opportunities for me to share biblical stories. Margarita hopes to soon start a Bible study with “S.,” who might be the only community member with a church background. Please pray for God to reveal himself to the Mbya. Additionally, pray for visits by short-term mission teams from Illinois and Arkansas as well as for a number of outreach events we have planned in August.
Students at the Ñendua Mirĩ Mbya school.
Margarita and I thank God for the house church that is forming in a nearby Ava Guaraní community. Thank you for your prayers last month for “Juan’s” brother, who lives in this community and is recovering from his surgery. Your support enabled “C.,” a young Ava leader, as well as “E.,” a young Mbya man, to attend a Christian Native youth camp last weekend.  Furthermore, the students in the literacy class at the Ava community are already reading texts. The class includes a devotional and a children’s time, and is the product of collaboration between local churches and ministries that represent five different evangelical denominations. Give thanks to God for mobilizing the Paraguayan Church to do his work among the Ava.
Ana and Antoine at the top of Cerro Corá.
Four-year-old Antoine proudly states that he also climbed Cerro Corá. What he might not say is that his father was with him every step of the way, bracing him, lifting him over rocks and even carrying him in the steepest parts. Likewise, when we look closer at the mountains we’ve overcome and jungles we’ve cut our way through, we might see that it was really our loving Great Father who brought us out into a spacious place--and one with a beautiful view.
Yours truly,
Tim, Margarita, Ana, Antoine and Gabrielli

Friday, June 14, 2019

The Best Shelter to find refuge in

Dear Friends and Family:

The Mbya Guaraní teacher woke up a little after midnight to the sound of her pre-school student crying in a nearby house. She went over and found four-year-old “Hector” with his nine- and two-year-old brothers and six-year-old sister alone on a mattress on the concrete floor. Their mother committed suicide two years ago, so they lived with their father; however, he left the day before to work for two weeks in another part of Paraguay. The room temperature that night dropped to 40 degrees. The boy was crying because he was cold and had nothing to cover himself with. The teacher gave him her blanket and prepared a simple, warm breakfast for them.

One of the Blankets for Hector and his Siblings 
When Margarita was pregnant with Ana (who, by the way, just graduated from second grade), she was introduced to a “prayer quilt ministry.” In such a ministry, church women gather to talk and make  beautiful quilts with tassels for hospital patients and families going through challenging times. Then, they tie a knot in a tassel as they pray for the recipients. Last Saturday, Margarita made four “prayer blankets” with the Nueva Esperanza Church youth group for Hector and his siblings. Later this month she plans to organize a day to make prayer blankets with the Mbya and Ava Guaraní women at Hector’s community because dozens of other children there still need blankets for the winter. Pray that the residents of the Ava-Mbya community at Itá will find refuge in the shelter of Ñande Ruete (“Our One True Father”).           
Ana at her second grade graduation.
The Mbya teacher recently attended a conference with Margarita for an international Christian pre-school ministry called PEPE. She was the star of the evening as everyone was awestruck by her perseverance and dedication to being the only teacher for thirty students whose grade levels range from pre-school to fourth grade and with practically no support from the Department of Education. Thanks to three Christian foundations, as well as your support for Margarita and me, her students receive school supplies, a weekly hearty lunch, and biblical teaching. Furthermore, Margarita carries out a discipleship with the teacher, who knows very little about the Scriptures. Give thanks to God for his work in the teacher’s life, and keep her in your prayers.   

Your support also helps provide teacher training for a young Ava Guaraní man, whom you prayed for in April. He assists us in teaching a literacy class for teenagers and adults at his community. He decided to follow Jesus and has a bi-weekly discipleship with a colleague of ours. He and I have long conversations about the Scriptures before and after the literacy classes. Pray for this young man’s spiritual growth and for him to be able to attend a Christian Native youth gathering in July with “Juan,” another young Ava man. Also, please pray for Juan’s 14-year-old brother, who is recovering from surgery.  


Gifts for the mothers were provided by the Barreto Family in Long Island, NY
Last month you prayed for the Mothers’ Day celebration at Hector’s community. “Connection,” a partner ministry, did a fantastic job helping us put on the community's first ever Mothers’ Day activity.  The mothers ate, sang, made bracelets and heard a message of peace. 13 of them prayed to trust in Jesus as the cornerstone of their lives. Give thanks to God for his work in this and the other Native communities near Asunción. Give him thanks for the "Cornerstone," through whom everyone has access to Our One True Father.

Happy Fathers’ Day!  

Tim, Margarita, Ana, Antoine and Gabrielli Revett