We hope you have had a good summer holiday, and are getting geared up for the autumn. We are just emerging from an unusually cold spell, and adjusting to warmth and dust!
As we write, we are in the midst of a school of theology run by our colleague Rene Pereira for present and future leaders in the Indian churches. Over the fortnight, almost 100 students will have attended. Some of these will return to rather difficult home situations, so we are praying they will be inspired by the time with others. Training and ordinations have been rather haphazard in recent years, leaving many in positions of responsibility with no training at all, with resulting mayhem, so we are trying to get to grips with some of these issues. There are many younger people, and not many alternatives at present to the “dance” craze and the lure of other more “exciting” churches.
It is easy to feel rather overwhelmed by the needs in this area, but hopefully the arrival of David and Shelley Stokes (due to be joining the theological education team in November), both fluent Wichí speakers, will make a big difference.
After almost a year of travelling throughout the area, in an attempt to try and visit every community and get to know the people and their leaders, it is encouraging to feel that we not only recognize but also have a relationship with many of these students which we can now build on. We are also frequently asked about women and children’s work. It is complicated, as the area is so large, and funding so poor. Catherine is writing a project proposal at the moment involving a five-year plan involving women and children’s education in the broader sense. She is trying to do this in a way which empowers them, rather than them just waiting
for the next mission partner to do it all!
We have been astonished how cold it has been over the “winter” months here, considering how hot it is the rest of the year. If you thought the English talked about the weather, try living here! It is a constant factor in our plans and, of course, weather-related things like flooding or drought can affect people’s lives hugely (and not just our travel plans and living conditions).
The unusual cold spell didn’t stop the youth camps in Juárez and Misión Chaqueña, and following on from these we have started a Youth Alpha in the Criollo church here in Juárez. With about 90 at the “supper” and between 30 and 50 turning up each week (an interesting mix of Criollo, Toba and Wichí and some travelling from a nearby town), the administration is causing Catherine some challenges! The leaders are taking it very seriously, but there are many challenges, not least letting the young people do the talking in the small groups! The course is also a challenge economically for the church, which has a meagre income, but they are being faithful and generous and are excited to see results.
In the above context, language isn’t a problem but in other areas we continue to be challenged by the vital need to learn Wichí well. Nick is having to use what he understands and “wing it”, but still needs some more thorough study before he can speak well.
But elsewhere language needs are being met, as the Toba New Testament is finally ready and will be presented to representatives of the tribe by the Argentine Bible Society on 29 August. Mike Browne, the translation coordinator, will now face the challenge of helping the communities with literacy.
Another “handing over” will take place later in the month, when the title deeds of land bought by the church for the purpose of resettling displaced communities will be given to those who now live on it. Unfortunately there are still many unresolved disputes over land, and often great dangers involved in trying to protect the rights of the vulnerable Indian communities, and the environment. We rely very much on our colleagues in the Asociana (land-rights) team for this, as well as Andrew Leake who is researching some of the wider questions of saving the forest. Talking of land, we have been alarmed recently to discover that many properties in the town, including the one we live in, are not safe from legal corruption, and some have been
expropriated. This has given us a greater urgency to sort out proper fencing (and papers) and to start looking seriously at developing some sort of conference centre for the area. This is time consuming, expensive, and the departments who are supposed to do the paperwork are actually in dispute… nothing is ever straightforward! Nothing is ever straightforward… an amusing example The telephone line connected to our house shortly afterwe arrived has failed to work for most of the year, and we have been unable to persuade the telephone company to fix it. Inadvertently, while felling a tree to make space forthe fence, we bought down the telephone cable which serves our neighbours – the military barracks! This may be
one way of getting the phone company to turn out… (not intentional of course!)
Points for prayer:
Our family; Stefanie and Sam are starting final years at college and university and Stefanie hopes to do a gap year (2011) somewhere in this hemisphere.
The right choice of leaders for the Indian churches, with appropriate training.
Development of the women and children’s work.
Growth of Alpha.
Continued protection and insight as we travel. Stamina to cope with varied and extreme weather!
Good relationships both within the communities and with those who visit and support.
Memory and ability for learning Wichí.
The Tobas as they get the Scriptures in their language.
Wisdom in the land issues large and small.
Give thanks for our very capable team of mission partners, both Argentine and European, for whom we also have pastoral care.
Nick and Catherine