Friday, May 28, 2010

The Bicentennial Retreat

This past weekend was perfect for a retreat with the folks from our fledgling church plant because everyone, young and old, had a long weekend due to Argentina’s bicentennial celebrations that extended through Tuesday.

Mostly it was those who have been faithfully coming to church, but we did have a couple extras. One young man invited his sister and two other boys brought a third brother along. This was indicative of something we observed all weekend: these kids have SUCH a desire to see the rest of their families come to know Christ.

I have a lot to share and will try not to bog down in the details [but there’s no guarantee that won’t happen anyway].

Friday afternoon we headed out first, taking three girls and a trailer loaded down with supplies and materials.
By the time everyone else arrived, the girls and I had dinner ready and three tables set up to accommodate all 21 of us. We had to move most of the living room furniture out, but that was okay since we’d be doing most indoor activities around those tables anyway. Lots of laughter ensued, giddy at the prospect of a long weekend in the country, and the sheer joy of being with friends.

Our co-workers did an amazing job of organizing the activities, putting together the teaching materials, and creating a focus for the weekend! Because these are all new believers, we started at the BEGINNING. This meant helping them learn the order of the books of the Bible, acting out Bible stories in skits or with flannelgraph, and doing hands-on activities to reinforce the lessons on Firmes en El SeƱor (Firm in the Lord).

Our days looked (loosely) like this:
8:00 a.m. Breakfast
8:30 a.m. Study/Bible Games
11:00 a.m. Free time for outdoor games
1:00 p.m. Lunch, clean-up and free time
3:00 p.m. Organized games and activities
5: 30 p.m. Merienda
6:00 p.m. Study/Bible Questions
8:30 p.m. Dinner
9:30 p.m. Circle Time

I say “loosely” because something inevitably comes up.

Like first thing Saturday morning shortly after we’d started our Bible study when suddenly the lights went out. The day was overcast so without indoor lights, it was a little hard to read the verses.

When the truck from the electric company pulled up we learned they were actually there to temporarily take down one of the lines so a crew could take down two large trees next door. But by the time we were ready for our second Bible study in the evening, the lights were back on and it was all good. Meanwhile all the felling of trees provided great entertainment during free time :-)

Ivan hired the crew to take down two large, very dead cottonwood trees in our yard while they were at it, allowing us to check off another item on our “to do” list for the house in Sta Rosa.
The crew successfully brought this one down right between a couple of trees we wanted to keep.
You might think that a group of teenagers wouldn’t have much interest in studying the Bible for hours every day. But this group absolutely ATE IT UP.
They listened, took notes, asked questions -- wholly participating. Not just during the “official” study times either. There were lots of great questions and discussions throughout the day, especially during Circle Time at night.

That’s when we’d take down the tables, and gather in a circle to share what we were learning, how God was challenging us to change, and what we were going to do about it. Everything from dating to music to how to effectively share Christ with others was discussed.

Of course there was lots of high energy, jokes, and pure silliness too. And not just during game time.
Doing dishes is more fun when you share the suds.
"Hey look! A hot DOG!"
Titanic reenactment.
All those high jinx plumb wore them out  :-)
Our co-workers’ two oldest traveled overnight by bus from Bible Institute (in Buenos Aires) to help out. They were SUCH a huge help in so many ways: full of ideas for skits and games...
helping during study time,
leading the singing...
and a desire to serve in any way they could. In short, they have a heart for ministry and we were so blessed by their presence.

Part of ministry is getting your hands dirty. In Ivan's case, literally! We’d been a little concerned about the water situation. We’d had some recurring problems with drainage from the kitchen sink. Or rather, lack of drainage. Last time we were out there Ivan put some organic product down the drain that was supposed to dissolve whatever was clogging it. And we didn’t have any problems until Monday, our third full day of the retreat -- which is pretty amazing when you think about all the water we were using to wash up after four meals a day for that many people!

Anyway, Roberto and Ivan were able to find the problem area in the pipe leading to the drain field. It took a couple hours and some back breaking digging, but they cleaned out the drain and had it working good as new before the next meal. What a relief to have that handled!
What needed relief after that, though, was Ivan’s back. He was in some serious pain! Again Roberto came to the rescue, doing some stretching and pulling of limbs while Ivan laid on the floor. It also helped having a doctor in the house; Tito was able to give Ivan something for the pain. (Ivan’s back is fine now, by the way.) Just one more reason for the kids to call us the "PAMI team"  :-)  (PAMI is the social program for retirees in Argentina)
There were a few outings which called for group photos. Here's one from the top of Cerro Pistarini in Embalse (minus one goofball who was conveniently MIA for group pictures).
A great weekend with blessings abundant...seeing the tender hearts of these kids, especially in their concern for the spiritual needs of others.


skoots1mom said...

wow, you got a lot done and had some great times too!
so glad ivan's back is better
we've had an exhausting week...and the graduation is done and now we're planning for the trip to Italy.
She'll be gone b4 we know it...ya'll were @ such a beautiful that last pic

Mari said...

What a week! So busy, but I know you finished it feeling good about the way it went.
Glad Ivan's back is better~!

rita said...

I am moved to tears reading this report, enlarging the last photo and reflecting on what it represents.

So, PAMI we are, huh?

Lynne said...

OK, so exciuse me for not having read this post yet because it's Saturday and bust with four kids but I just wanted to say I LOVED your comment on Stash Manicure and the quilt on flickr is astoundingly beautiful so I have clicked to follow you from now on to give me inspiration for wall quilts. Lynne

Betty said...

I´m glad you had such a great weekend! Looks like many blessings were experienced.

Cristina Elizabeth said...

I've read and re-read this post a couple times, I'm so excited to hear how wonderful the retreat was!!