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Chris Jarvis – Young Adult in Global Mission

Buenos Aires, Argentina

This Argentine Life
Stories and reflections from a year of accompaniment and adventure in one of South America’s largest cities March 2010

This month: Back to Reality
In Buenos Aires, March meant the end of summer vacation. Slowly but surely people trickled back into the city and as we reconvened at church, we had many exciting stories to share. As classes began and the kids started coming back to school, we started gearing up to resume youth activities at church. After having jumped in halfway through last semester, it felt good to begin a new year with a little experience under my belt. It was also really exciting to see the youth in the congregation stepping up into leadership roles, precisely at the time in their lives when they are defining who they are and who they will be. We have some very capable young leaders in our congregation, and their enthusiasm to get involved will benefit themselves as well as the community. The kids weren’t the only ones who were settling back into their routine. March was a good month for me; I’ll never complain about my summer adventures, but this month it felt great to get back into the swing of things. It also gave me an opportunity to look around and take inventory of what I’ve learned since I got here, with an eye toward putting it to maximum use during my time remaining. In this newsletter I’ve highlighted a couple of events from March, as well as a reflection on what it feels like to become integrated into another culture.

Keeping in touch:
Chris Jarvis Chacabuco 1449 1615 Grand Bourg Provincia Buenos Aires ARGENTINA christopher.r.jarvis@gmail.com skype: christopher.r.jarvis phone: 011-54-911-3054-6056 http://chrisjarvis-yagm-argentina.blogspot.com/

Chris Jarvis – Young Adult in Global Mission

Buenos Aires, Argentina

On Earth as it is in Heaven
“The wise understood that this natural world is only an image and a copy of Paradise. The existence of this world is simply a guarantee that there exists a world that is perfect. God created the world so that, through its visible objects, men could understand His spiritual teachings and the marvels of His wisdom.” –The Alchemist, by Paolo Coelho Friday, March 5 was International Day of Prayer, orchestrated by an international group of women from many Christian traditions in 170 countries and regions. On the following Saturday, our church hosted a celebration of this day. To recognize and promote the internationality of the day, the service itself is always prepared by women from a particular country; this year the responsibility fell to Cameroon. Thus in observing the day, we also stand in solidarity with and learn about the women of Cameroon: their struggles, their joys, their music, and their ways of worshipping God. On that sunny Saturday afternoon, our sanctuary filled with not only by our members but also folks from other neighboring faith communities. Drums and guitars sounded from the back as a procession of people playing instruments and singing praises to God. This spirit of song and praise resonated throughout the two-hour celebration, which contained more singing and dancing than your average church service, and— of course—plenty of prayer. It was great to share this moment of prayer and celebration, both of which transcend political and cultural boundaries to unite us in worship.

Chris Jarvis – Young Adult in Global Mission

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Facilitating Communities of Faith
Near the end of the month, I attended a two-day facilitator training workshop at ISEDET seminary here in Buenos Aires. This workshop was actually the second in a series of four, and this time around, we focused on understanding the context of our churches. For example, what does it mean to be a Protestant church in a predominantly Catholic country like Argentina? Within this context, the goal of the workshops is to create faith communities that listen, honor and respond to the voices of their members. And just as Jesus spent most of his time ministering to those on the fringes of society, our communities must be especially honoring of voices that are normally excluded from the conversation. To do this, the idea is to equip church members with the skills necessary to facilitate processes within their communities. This weekend’s workshop consisted of lessons and discussions, as well as artistic activities and sketches (featuring yours truly as “el loco”). The weekend was anchored in scripture, using Paul’s image of the Body of Christ as the ideal for our faith community, in which every person’s particular gifts and abilities are recognized and given opportunities to grow in service of the common mission (Ephesians 4).

Youth Empowerment in Grand Bourg
Another important ingredient in creating self-sustaining church communities is empowerment, which is exactly something we’re trying to do at the San Lucas congregation in Grand Bourg. Our church is often referred to as “the one with all the kids”, and we are trying to capitalize on that by asking our more experienced youth members to step up into leadership positions in educating their younger counterparts. Just last weekend we had a meeting with youth group members where they chose where they are going to ‘plug in’ to this year’s activities. Some chose to help with educational activities, others with music; still others chose to step up in the leadership of their own youth group. This is especially impressive considering that these kids juggle these responsibilities with school, work, family, and friends. When they are at church, as much as possible, we are seeking to create a space in which the youth occupy center stage, with us ‘adults’ playing a support role, providing resources and guidance for them to realize their ideas. And since there aren’t a whole lot of resources available, that means we get to be really creative in making that happen! As Pastor Eva says, this is why God gave us brains. It was really exciting to see young adults stepping up, and to know that I won’t be alone in the classroom this year. In fact, I’ll always have a partner half my age, which will automatically make them cooler than me! But because of this, the legacy of youth leadership in Grand Bourg will grow stronger, as the community grows more selfsustaining and successful in its mission.

Chris Jarvis – Young Adult in Global Mission

Buenos Aires, Argentina

My new normal life
I’d like to say that this newsletter is late because I’ve been busy. I have been busy, but that’s not why it’s late. There have been times that I could have sat down to write. The real issue, though, is that I’ve been procrastinating. I’ve been procrastinating because I kept telling myself that there really wasn’t anything interesting to write (or read) about.

Things I didn’t realize I would get used to in Argentina
o All of the dogs in my neighborhood who sleep all day and bark all night A two-hour commute to work – without a good book = dreadful; with a good book = bliss Vendors peddling their merchandise in the train. I’ve memorized a few of their speeches. Seeing high-rise luxury condos out one side of the train and shantytowns out of the other Drinking mate all day and staying up really late at night Being really late (it’s okay, and sometimes expected) Being instantly judged as either friend or foe when I tell people which country I come from Having faith in the midst of uncertain situations Living every moment to its fullest, which is probably the best souvenir I could possibly bring home!

Then this afternoon as I was trying to take a siesta, it dawned on me that this is precisely the point: since I got here in August, I have grown—slowly but surely—to be comfortable living here. When I first got here, EVERYTHING was new. Riding on the train was an adventure. Food at the grocery store was fun to learn about. Everyone I met was new and therefore interesting. And teaching a roomful of kids in a foreign language tested the limits of my sanity. While any of these things can still turn into an adventure on any given day (life is full of surprises, after all), many of these things have largely come to feel normal. I get up in the morning and take a shower if there’s hot water; I listen to the vendors as I ride the train to work. I spend a lot of time at the office in front of my computer; some days I’m more productive than others. On the weekends I’m at church, hanging out with kids who often seem more like my friends than my students. I go grocery shopping about once a week and my laundry usually piles up high before I finally take it seriously. Every now and then I meet up with friends to make music or dinner, or both. I usually don’t get as much sleep as I’d like; but yet I get up the next day and soldier on. Even though I’m in a different country using my second language, my life here feels about as comfortable as it has at other times and in other places. Compared to the last couple of months, March was a pretty ordinary month. I mostly spent time at the office and at church keeping busy as our youth came back from summer vacation and our activities started again in earnest. Because I didn’t climb any mountains or walk on any glaciers, this stuff might not seem so interesting. But in terms of long-term impact on me and on those around me—these are the experiences and processes that will last. This is why I came here. The true power of this experience lies in the day-to-day reality, a process of being gradually (and sometimes painfully) separated from my old ways as I simultaneously become slowly comfortable here with new ones. A day in itself might seem unremarkable, but looking back on a couple hundred of them reveals underlying changes we might not even have been aware of. The people I meet and the stories I hear have always been incredible. I’ve now been here long enough to appreciate not only individual moments but also their combined significance; and therein lies the true power of this experience. The process of becoming comfortable in a faraway land is not always easy, but it is ultimately transformative. It not only opens you up to another way of life but really to many ways of life; you realize that this culture—and the one I come from—is simply one out of many ways of relating with each other and with the world.

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