Just ten days after arriving to our new stomping grounds — the Paraguayan Chaco — our family was barreling down the road heading out to the tribal community we’ll be living in for the first time. We were quite a convoy: two vehicles, our family, one coworker, a Nivaclé leader, a Nivaclé mother, grandmother, newborn baby, and a trailer full of stuff. Each had its own story.
The Nivaclé grandmother had come out of the distant community to be with her daughter as she had a baby. Mothers like to help out as much as possible. She had been out for about a month before the baby was born. After the baby was born however, she was feeling quite homesick. But travelling can be hard — especially when you’re trying to get 170 km down the road. When they heard we were heading out, they asked if they could come along.
Our coworker was coming along to say his goodbyes to the community where he had lived for 3 years. Family needs have them moving back to our supply town for the time being. It was a pretty hard decision, as they have grown to love the village and the people. But the day had finally come to let everyone know. We decided to coordinate with the specific purpose of their last day in the tribe being our first, so that it wouldn’t be such a sad occasion.
The Nivaclé leader had come with us to introduce us to the community. He helps our coworkers learn the Nivaclé language here in the supply town, and he is originally from the village. As we talked about moving out there he volunteered to go with us so that he could introduce us, and explain that we needed to learn their language and culture. And seeing his family was an extra bonus.
And then finally, our trailer was loaded down because we were hauling our stuff out to the tribe. After all these years of preparation, the day had finally come.
Dirt roads aren’t exactly superhighways, but we were doing the best we could. The Chaco clay when it dries is hard as concrete, and unfortunately the road had dried with ridges in it — just like those little ridges on the side of the interstate that jar you awake if you start to fall asleep — only a little bit bigger. Just the same I was trying to push the truck to 80 km/hr. Jamen from the back seat piped up, “Dad, you need to slow down. You’re going to make a tire fly off!” I smiled at the way his mind works and replied “Son, that’s not how it works.”
Not two seconds later there was a loud crash. My heart raced as I looked around for the problem. It was then I watched my trailer’s tire pass me going down the road. As soon as I brought us to a stop a chiding voice from the back seat piped up “I told you that you were going too fast.”
This isn’t my first rodeo — I’ve been broke down on the side of the road before. Interestingly, I’ve also been broke down while going where God asked me to go. In 2008 we were heading to Missouri for missionary training when we blew a radiator. Back then I was mad at God. I couldn’t believe He would let something like that happen when I (insert nasally pious tone) was doing what He had asked. I stubbornly drove for 3 days on a cracked radiator without praying for wisdom or help, just because I was so angry. Class, that’s what you call walking in the flesh.
This time was different. The Lord has taken us down a lot of roads since 2008, and He has been true to His promise to continue to grow me up into the person He wants me to be. (Philippians 1:6) Not that I’ve already reached it. I still walk in the flesh more often than I care to admit. But over the years, we’ve earned a “track record” with the Lord. I’m trying to remember that God always has a reason He does things, and losing a trailer tire is no different.
Long story short, God provided what we needed to fix it enough to get to where we were going. He provided by what we found on the road, and some random spare parts we had laying around. Maybe He just wanted to remind me that He is in control. Maybe He just wanted us to brag on Him to our Nivaclé friends.
We arrived to the community and have been overwhelming received. Not to say it wasn’t emotional. Many people cried as they heard the news that our coworkers won’t be living out there anymore. But they have received us with open arms just the same. The Nivaclé leader called a meeting and introduced us, and made sure everyone knows that my wife can’t eat gluten — something we hadn’t asked him to say but sure appreciated.
After dropping off our load and eating lunch with our new neighbors, we headed back to town. We had enough excitement for one day. We had decided to not spend the night yet as we wanted to see the place first, and then decide what we needed to spend a couple days out there.
Those couple days start tomorrow. Tomorrow night, Lord willing, will be our first night in the tribal community. Pray for us as we continue to transition into life in this community.