The following is an extract from a book Gemma Scott is writing called ‘Seek First His Kingdom’ which she hopes to publish in the near future – keep on eye out for it.
In the weeks coming up to when I was due to leave for Paraguay, I became scared. I had received Facebook messages from one of the other members of the team saying ‘two weeks to go, are you excited?’, ‘one week to go, are you excited?’, and I’d reply saying ‘yes, excited, and nervous!’ but a lot of the time I was just plain terrified. I’d been on a foreign mission trip before when I was 19 to Cape Town, but that was with friends and people I knew pretty well. This time I was about to travel further than I’d ever been, from Belfast to Heathrow, Heathrow to Sao Paulo, and Sao Paulo to Asuncion, Paraguay, where although it was winter it was likely to be about 30 degrees and in those conditions I’d be digging holes and laying bricks (I’m not a ‘girly’ girl but I’m not a builder either), and there’d be snakes, spiders (big ones) and all manner of other delightful animal-related surprises…add to this the fact that I’d never met anyone else going on this trip bar the leader and the two Northern Irish guys (once), so basically this was going to be a back-breaking three week Big Brother in the middle of nowhere in the sweltering heat of South America – was I completely out of my mind? Also, my daily Bible readings, other books I was reading and sermons I was hearing seemed to feature the alarming theme of persecution quite heavily, so I was convinced that at some point during my sweaty, spider-infested escapade someone was going to kidnap me as I was digging a well for the locals, take my spade from me and threaten to chop my arms off with it if I didn’t renounce Christ. On the plus side, I spoke some Spanish.
Here’s what actually happened: I had the best three weeks of my entire life. The travelling wasn’t so bad. I never saw a snake. I saw one or two spiders (big ones) but I made a deal with them that if I left them alone they’d leave me alone. There were other delightful animal related surprises, but they were delightful, such as the neighbour’s pet dog and Beryl the nurse’s pet anteater. That’s right. Pet anteater. Oh and that 6 inch locust on top of the fridge. And the toad in the bathroom. But it was friendly. The locust was indifferent as it was dead. Most of the time it was indeed 30 degrees, and sunny, but who’s going to complain about that? And it turns out I am quite the well digger. Give me a hammer and an old shed to demolish and I’ll enjoy it just a little too much. And I am good at pointing (for all you non-builders out there, pointing means fixing the mortar around the bricks in a wall with a trowel). Most of the time I was a sweaty, makeup less, dirty, dusty mess, and I loved it! As long as I knew I was getting a shower at the end of every day (which was usually cold, but I got used to it) I was happy. As for not knowing anyone – I was amazed that praise God we all got on like a house on fire and within a few days it felt as though we’d all known each other years! We were like a big happy family. We had a variety of lovely food to eat much like me would back home, and took it in turns to cook (come to think of it, I may have gotten out of that chore somehow…), though it felt as though we lived on tea and biscuits for three weeks. We began and ended each day with a devotional and hymn singing, which was such a lovely thing to do.
Working in the heat was difficult, but we rotated when we could and always had plenty of water to drink, and there were a few days when the temperature dropped and we needed warmer clothes but could work more effectively.
Aside from doing manual labour, we also worked with local children and did a lot of face-painting and parachute games.
The little Spanish I spoke helped but it is just wonderful how children’s play is the same in every language, and everyone just got on with it and had a brilliant time. The guys also played football with local young boys and teenagers which was wonderful to see – what a great ministry, again one that is of course much the same in every language. Words cannot express how thankful I am to God for the opportunity to go and serve in Paraguay and I never envisaged the wealth of blessing that was going to be poured out upon our team. I only hope and pray that the people we served were as equally blessed by our efforts. They continue to be in my prayers, as is the work of SAMS and their mission partners.