The big metal door slammed behind me as I stepped outside onto the sidewalk of a rough cobblestone side street. The sun was shining, about an hour to go before it sets. I turn right and immediately my ears are filled with the sounds of the Paraguayan street. My heart raced as I quickly realized that this was the first time I’ve been out alone in the five days we’ve lived here. Before I knew it, I came to a paved road and my senses were immediately on overload with everything from honking horns, blasts of wind from buses racing by, and fumes from every motor vehicle known to man. I made a right onto the sidewalk and walked until my destination was in view.
I learned quickly that crossing the street would be quite a fiasco. My eyes searched until I found someone who looked like they were going to cross the street as well. Not knowing how it works in this country, I lined up behind them and followed their every move. Before I knew it, I had made it. The giant blue and yellow sign saying “Stock” (Pronounced kind of like our word in English: Stoke, except without a rounded ‘O’ vowel) keyed me into the fact that I have arrived. I walked in and began searching for what I had come for, some basic grocery items.
Next was determining how much money I was spending. I picked up a bag of milk (Milk doesn’t come in jugs here in Paraguay. They come in bags.) and realize that it’s going to cost me 3,200 mil. This sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? But no worries, it’s not even a dollar in US money. I pick up a few more items and walk to the register.
I find the shortest long line and take my place in it. Moving every couple of minutes I soon found myself only one more person away from checkout. I feel my face get hot as the blood rushes into it. The man at the register smirks as he knows I’m way out of my comfort zone and graciously asks how I am doing. I tell him I’m good (although I’d have no idea how to say otherwise!) and he rings me up and I pay. I then pass on through to the open street once again. My heart rate begins to slow down, the sweat begins to dry, and I enjoy the sounds and characteristics of the busy street just before rush hour.
I come home and tell my wife of what I considered to be a great feat of both bravery and courage. My mind is exhausted from the “stress” of the situation, so I sit down for a few seconds just before the phone rings. It’s one of my new Paraguayan friends, time to go play some futbol (soccer) with people I don’t know how to talk to! My heart begins pounding like a drum once again…
I write this short story to tell you what it’s like to be an outsider. Someone who isn’t Paraguayan. Now, I know that this is obvious to you, but it’s completely different when you experience it by yourself. In America, going to the grocery store is so simple! Playing sports with friends is simple. But when you can’t communicate, it takes the scenario to a whole knew level. One of the greatest goals we have in this stage of our ministry is to become someone we currently are not. We’re not Paraguayan. We don’t look like it, we definitely don’t sound like it, and we ultimately never will be completely Paraguayan. On the other hand, we can change ourselves to be relevant and effective ministers in this new context.
So ultimately what we’re asking for, is for you to keep praying that God would give us what we need to learn the Paraguayan culture and language. Not only that, but to learn it well. One of the goals I (Jared, or to the Paraguayans–Yered. The ‘Y’ makes sort of a ‘J’ sound to them) have right off the bat, is just listening to Paraguayan Spanish. What’s the music of the language so to speak? How do they talk/sound? Things like this are key to tuning in my ear and hearing what their Spanish sounds like. It’s been incredibly intimidating for me thus far. I feel like I’m standing on the edge of an ocean and a huge tsunami wave is coming in and smashing me right in the face! But, for the record, God has blessed me with boldness this far. Enough that I’ve gone back and ordered food from little restaurants, and have bought some other items. We’re continuing to trust God and are excited about learning in the months ahead. Thank you for your continued prayers and support.