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Gustavo's Musings (9 of 10) - "Upon Further Reflection: Some Lessons From Our First Term in Paraguay..."

Gustavo's Musings (9 of 10) - "Upon Further Reflection: Some Lessons From Our First Term in Paraguay..."

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Some reflections upon our first term in Paraguay ministering as a professor at a small bible institute outside of the capital.
Some reflections upon our first term in Paraguay ministering as a professor at a small bible institute outside of the capital.

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Published by: Gustavo Martin Karakey on Jan 08, 2011
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01/08/2011

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Gustavo’s Musings (#9 of 10)(February 2006)Upon Further Review…
(Some in-depth reflections on our first term in Paraguay)
It has been several short weeks since we returned to Paraguay after our first service leave in the UnitedStates. During that time, away from the intensity of living and working in Paraguay, we had ample timeto reflect upon our first term as missionaries to this little known country.Our experiences, and the lessons we learned during this first missionary foray could fill a book (andsomeday, I may just sit down and write it!) But for now, I just wanted to jot down several thoughts andreflections on these first 16 fraught-filled yet intensely enjoyable months of service.Before I begin, I should reiterate that all of our work was done in partnership with the EvangelicalMethodist Church of Paraguay in the areas of theological education and leadership development.And now, without further ado, here are some in-depth reflections on our first term in Paraguay.
 Lesson #1 – You can never fully prepare for the intensity of cross-cultural adaptation
Before setting out to Paraguay I used to think that Rochelle and I were incredibly durable and flexible people. I grew up in a bi-cultural household, spoke Spanish and had already moved once from L.A. toBoston (the ultimate cross-cultural experience). Rochelle was a self-professed Army brat and had movedabout 12 times prior to her 18th birthday.But the onslaught of fully adapting to a new culture was overwhelming, to say the least, and we weresometimes driven to tears by the whole process. It is one thing to see glimpses of Latin America on atwo-week vacation or a short-term trip. It is quite another to have daily encounters with so muchnovelty, disorientation, and change. To make matters worse, all of this upheaval was garbed in thethreadbare poverty that characterizes so much of Latin America and creates a culture of hopelessnessand despair. It is sensory overload to the nth degree and it simply never stopped.We were heartsick for home, trying to meet everyone's expectations, and shooting ourselves in the footevery other day. We were simultaneously happy and depressed, excited yet apprehensive, fearful yetcourageous, full of doubt yet unswerving in our commitment. Dr. Jekyll was driven mad with that kindof existence. More than once we did begin to wonder whether we were supposed to be down here in thefirst place. It was a constant mind game, an emotional roller-coaster, and we often found ourselvessaying with all sincerity, “This is the greatest place to be…now get me the heck out of here!”Our faith in God, and in his will for our lives, ebbed and flowed, like the murky waters of the slow-moving Parana River. Eventually, we did arrive into the open sea. We had survived the first stages of intense disequilibrium and we were changed for the better. We became stronger and a little wiser and weeventually found that we could make a home among the noises, the density, and “the edge” that definesso many parts of Latin America. As with so many trials that come our way in life, sometimes the onlyway around the pain is to go right through it!
 
 Lesson #2 – God wants us to be faithful to the people and to the tasks that he sets before us
I’ve already touched on this in great length in my article Coming Full Circle (Mar 2004 - Gustavo’sMusings #7 of 10), but it bears repeating. Much of our early difficulties in Paraguay were the result of usrunning away from the ministry context which we had been given: I came seeking to teach in a top-notch graduate program, but instead found myself at a tiny school with students who had not graduatedfrom high school.God had given me certain ministry opportunities, but instead of honoring them and valuing them, I kepthoping that something better would eventually turn up. It was in response to all of those other doors being closed off that I realized that I needed to be faithful to the tasks and to the people that God had placed before me.Would I eventually teach at the graduate level? Perhaps. Was that a worthwhile goal? Probably. But inascertaining God's will in this particular situation, it was clear to see that given the circumstances, giventhe commitments we had made, given the guidance we had received to this point, this place and thisministry had to be it. All that was left was to embrace the opportunity I had been given, and to give it myall. As for teaching at those other places of higher academic learning, well, God would open the way for me if and when the time was ever right. After all, it was he who had steered me to this bible institute inthe first place. I was looking for ministry in all the wrong places, instead of ministering where I had been placed!
 Lesson #3 – Doing great things for God can never be measured from our perspective:
As I alluded to earlier, I landed in Paraguay with visions of grandeur (or illusions anyway). Rochelleoften joked that I had a Billy Graham complex, always wanting to change the world. In some sense, shewas right. I did want to change Paraguay (and still do) and my formula for doing that was to work onlywith the most advance theology students.But as those dreams quickly gave way to a different context, I came to see that my work at the bibleinstitute was equally infused with meaning. I didn't accept this because I was somehow "trying to makethe best of a tough situation." Instead, it was truly seeing each ministry opportunity for the value that it possessed. Somewhere along the way, I had come to consciously (or unconsciously) measure success inministry based on numbers or based on some perceived value that I had placed on higher educationallevels or larger seminaries.But clearly, all of the work that I did for God was infused with real purpose, and yes, even withgreatness. Every effort made on God's behalf had an impact on people, or structures, or society, or even just on myself. Some of that impact was great by secular standards; some of it was imperceptible, but allof it had redemptive value, on a grand and eternal scale. Greatness could never be measured from my perspective alone, for if that were the case, only the Grahams, the Warrens or the Hybels would ever experience it.
 Lesson #4 – God can work despite inefficient structures:
This was perhaps the hardest lesson to learn and the greatest difficulty to overcome. Upon our arrival inParaguay, we perceived that our ministry partner might have some organizational and strategicweaknesses. Some of that was perhaps due to cultural differences in management, but some of that was

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