We’ve had lots of people asking about our recent visit to South America so this is a sort of update..
We had a very special time. The journey, though very long (32 hours!), went smoothly with just the right help at the right time. The main reason for our visit, as you probably know, was an invitation to the 50 years Anniversary celebrations of St. Andrew’s College, Asuncion, Paraguay. These celebrations lasted a whole week towards the end of June and were very carefully planned and executed. The attention to detail & amount of work that went into it all were incredible!
The school itself was very creatively decorated with pupils’ art work, and included a huge mural of an oak tree, whose branches were formed by the names of past & present personnel & pupils. The significance of the tree was beautifully illustrated later in a dance sequence, during a Gala Concert evening, showing how a small acorn (the founder, Dorothea Wedgwood’s tiny kindergarten) has grown into a large well-established oak tree (a school of almost 400 pupils aged 3 to 18 years).
The week started with an unexpected change of programme. A school parade had been planned through one of the main streets of Asuncion, but had to be cancelled almost at the last minute as it would have clashed with a Gay Pride Parade. Instead, we were all invited to a breakfast in school which for us was much better as we were able to meet up with so many ex-pupils, their parents & offspring, and former & present members of staff. It was a little like what it must feel like to arrive in heaven and be greeted by people whose lives have crossed with yours at significant times! We had a wonderful time exchanging memories & news!
Two Thanksgiving Services had been planned, the first an evening one for ex-pupils and their parents. Ex-students led that service and the hymn singing (including a lovely medley of songs they had sung while in school). A list of all those staff & pupils who have died during the past 50 years was movingly read out, with the reminder that they are the ones who have already “graduated” above (!). Former Head Master, Bishop Greg Venables, challenged us all to look to the rock from which we have been hewn & to never forget our Creator and the tremendous value He has placed on each of our lives by sending His Son to die for us. At the end, in reminiscence of their 6th Form Thanksgiving Leaving Service, everyone was given a symbolic candle to re-ignite any spiritual flame that might have burnt very low over the years. There was hardly a dry eye in the place! The second service was a daytime one for the whole school, at which Bishop Ken Clarke from SAMS UK & Ireland gave a very clear, challenging talk on 3 simple but important words in our relationship with God: sorry, please, and thank you. The pupils were very attentive.
One of the most thrilling things of all was an informal evening spent with former pupils who were continuing to seek God & to study the bible together. They meet each week to share their lives & their concerns. They included some men who had been rather difficult during their teens in school! It is so good to know that God’s Word does produce fruit in His time and that sometimes the rebels are the very ones who have the most about them!
The final official event was a magnificent Gala Dinner for over 800 people. The parents had organized this and spent many months working on all the details.
The décor was very beautiful, and the entrance was decorated as though outside Buckingham Palace, with guards in full uniform and busbies to receive us all! Again we met so many former pupils and parents: it was almost over-whelming!
Besides these organized events, there were many spontaneous invitations to meals out and times of sharing with former pupils, ex-colleagues & friends. These continued into a second week in Asuncion. We were able to visit the Chacarita Annexe School and attend a very impressive Father’s Day Concert there, and to look round their lovely new computer room, built with donations from a church in England, and to look round their library and after school study room. The school has progressed beyond anything we dreamed possible, remembering its very humble beginnings in a rented house over 40 years ago!
We were also delighted to spend time with Ana Maria Demestri, the Director of FEISA, the Early Years Teacher Training College which we had the privilege of helping to set up during our final 5 years in Paraguay. The College has over 80 students now and Ana is very dynamic, a person with real vision and also excellent administrative skills – not a common combination! It was impressive listening to her dreams of how God could further develop the College in the future. She is working on a new 3 year degree course at the moment that will have an emphasis on educational management, thereby potentially preparing future heads and educational inspectors. It needs to be approved by the Evangelical University and the Paraguayan Ministry of Education, so she needs much prayer & wisdom!
Apart from these 2 weeks in Asuncion, we spent 7 weeks out in the heart of the Paraguayan countryside, in Colonia Independencia, with 3 of our close friends, the Evangelical Sisters of Mary. We had a wonderful time meeting many people who came out to visit them. One of our main remits, however, was to work on the Spanish and English translations of the Sisters’ German book “Paraguayan Realities”. It tells of their many amazing experiences of God’s provision and miracles during their early days, 30 years ago, in an undeveloped part of the Paraguayan countryside. It makes gripping and challenging reading & we felt it was a great privilege to be able to help with the translations. We are hoping the 3 versions may be published later this year.
All in all therefore, these last couple of months have been very special indeed! Thank you so much again for your interest.
Many blessings over this lovely summer period.
Molly & Eileen.