One of the biggest challenges we face as missionaries is being torn “between worlds”. We constantly find ourselves in different contexts which means we are frequently jumping from language to language, culture to culture, and find ourselves among different groups of friends.
Such was the reality when our plane landed in Paraguay’s capital last week. Upon arrival we were promptly greeted by some dear Paraguayan friends who live in the capital. This welcome party ushered in an entire week of catching up with friends.
We only stayed a week, but we had so many people to see that we could have stayed three weeks. The truth is Paraguay’s capital was once our home, but no longer. We now live 500 miles from our old stomping grounds. So when we’re in town, we have many friends who want to see us, ask us how we’ve been, and encourage us for the future. We did the best we could with the short time we had.
After a week it was time to make the treck to the other side of the country: the Paraguayan Chaco. And we decided months ago that we were going to take the bus instead of drive. There’s only one road that can take us where we want to go — La Ruta Transchaco — and to put it bluntly the road is terrible. Whenever a drive this particular road I feel like Buzz Aldrin and I have something in common — we both know what it’s like to drive around on a crater filled surface. It’s a pretty stressful drive, so we decided to sit back and relax and let someone else do the driving.
It’s about an 8 hour bus ride from the capital to our supply town. Everything was going great until right after I took this picture. The bus had stopped for a bathroom and dinner break halfway into our journey. We had ten minutes. After taking this picture of the boys I went into the gas station to buy something to eat for dinner. Jen was taking Jade to the bathroom. Everything was good, until right after I walked out of the gas station.
I looked for a moment and felt like my eyes were playing tricks on me. I knew I was tired, but could I be that tired? The feeling of auto-suspicion then faded and turned into the feeling that we all got when we were three years old at the grocery store and couldn’t find our mommy. As I stared forward it sunk in: our bus was gone.
While I quickly panicked wondering what we were supposed to do, my sarcastic wit still felt like there was time to zing one at me. “Normally people worry about all their bags getting to where they’re going. This might be the first time in history that the bags will make it to the destination without their owners.” Fortunately I snapped out of it as people from another bus started leaning out their windows and pounding on the side of the bus frantically pointing down the road. They were all screaming “Hurry!! Your bus is right there!!”
I couldn’t see it but I started running with Jonas in tow, and Jamen running beside me best he could without dropping his dinner. There were cattle trucks blocking my vision, but once I got to the other side I saw it. It was our bus! But it was nearly back on the road. I started screaming “Espera!!” as if the driver could hear me. The cattle truck driver saw what was going on and sent off an ear-piercing whistle like only a Paraguayan can do. The bus wouldn’t stop.
We continued our chase — myself, Jamen, Jonas, and the random cattle truck man — and all the while I was wondering “where is Jen and Jade? Did they make it back on?” Finally the bus stopped, and the driver got out, clearly annoyed. I looked way back to the gas station and who do I see but my wife and daughter about a football field length away only just processing what was happening.
Ha, it’s not really adventure until you chase the last bus down with a random cattle truck man. As we boarded the bus the other passengers clearly had found the debacle entertaining.
Now we are back in the supply town — another world yet again. This supply town is a German town with it’s own unique culture. We are once again catching up with life and friends here.
Next week we hope to make it back out to the village. We’re told the people are anxious for our return. One man told my coworker that he found some honey, but he’s waiting for me to get back before he goes and chops it out. Wow. We’ve come so far, and are looking forward to what God has in store for us in the months and years to come.