In 2004 I was a student with Word of Life Bible Institute in Argentina. During my time there I was asked to take a ten day trip to Paraguay to be a translator for a group coming down from California. After a 24 hour bus ride I arrived in the capital city of Paraguay for the first time. Little did I know that God would bring me back to this country some 7 years later.
While I was here the first time, I stayed with a Paraguayan family. They had to have been the nicest people I had ever met in my life. They treated me like one of their own kids (that is no exaggeration) and fed me about every 20 minutes it seemed. As much as I enjoyed my time, I knew I wouldn’t be coming back to Paraguay. I soon forgot the name of the city I was in. The name of the church slipped from my memory. Even the names of these dear people slipped my mind. The only thing I could remember was the name of the dog: Terry.
Forgetting the names of the people and remembering the name of the dog is a pretty lousy testimony, not to mention extremely unhelpful when trying to find my long lost friends. After we arrived in Paraguay, I wondered how they were, and if somehow we would cross paths again.
A deacon in our host church here invited us to his daughter’s first birthday party (which is a VERY big deal here). They had rented a place out and had catered a meal. We went, and sat with people we knew from our host church. The family of the little girl sat at another table. The deacon’s parents were there, and his mom began to look at me from across the room. She asked her son “who is that guy over there. His name isn’t Jon is it?” “Yes it is, but how do you know that?” he replied. “He stayed in our house once” she said “several years ago.” “Impossible” my deacon friend said “Jon has never been to Paraguay before.”
Unbeknownst to me, the entire meal the whole family insisted that they knew me, while my deacon friend denied it. The next Sunday at church my friend asked me if I had ever been to Paraguay before. “Yes” I said “back in 2004.” He asked me where I had stayed. “With a pastor and his family” I said. He then asked me what their names were. Embarrassed I said that I didn’t remember their names; the only thing I remembered was the dog named Terry. A shocked look came across his face. “Jon, you stayed in my parents house.” (As it turned out my deacon friend had been on his honey moon at the time, and for that reason had been unaware of my visit)
There is a saying in Paraguay: “Todos somos conocidos” or “we are all acquainted.” This is a joke with a lot of truth to it. It is really hard to go somewhere and meet new people without being able to trace the friends and family that you have in common. Going anywhere in Paraguay, is like going to Walmart back home: you are going to bump into somebody. Yesterday, we were finally able to make the trip and visit the family and the church that had welcomed me in 8 years ago. It was a joyous reunion.
We honestly enjoy the company of our Paraguayan friends. It feels so good the way that they bring us right into the fold of the family. The don’t just say we’re family, they treat us as such. Being far away from family makes this all the more special.
Pray for us as we continue to build relationships with our Paraguayan friends.