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This Argentine Life - April 2010 Chris Jarvis - Young Adult in Global Mission Buenos Aires, Argentina April

in Argentina flew by, mostly because it was jam-packed with celebrations, traveling, and a visit from the Nebraska Synod. I had the opportunity to celebrate Easter in a new culture and travel to the north of the country. You'll also notice that this month's newsletter is much simpler than my other ones; read my section on "Traveling Lighter" to find out why. SWAPPING TRADITIONS Many people have Easter traditions: mine include Sunrise Service on top of Rib Mountain, belting out hymns to keep warm and repeating "He is risen indeed!" a couple of hundred times. After the service, if there's still snow, I usually take one last ski run over patchy snow with my friend Jesse Fronek, then walk to church to wolf down the youth group's breakfast before joining the choir for the Hallelujah chorus at the remaining two services. Sometimes the Easter Bunny even stops by my house, though over the years he's traded jelly beans for after-shave and Barnes & Noble gift cards. This year I exchanged those time-honored traditions for the opportunity to partake in the Easter traditions of my congregation here in Grand Bourg. Just like back home, we started a week earlier with Palm Sunday. And just like back home, we gathered several times during Holy Week to observe the events leading up to Jesus' death and resurrection. On Thursday we celebrated communion and washed each other's hands, as a reminder of how Jesus washed his disciples' feet the night of the 'first' Last Supper. On Good Friday, we gathered at church to observe the day, including a multi-person reading of Christ's trial before Pilate (played rather convincingly by yours truly). The fall days are getting shorter here, and it was quite dark by the time we were finished. The somberness of that moment was as heavy as ever, and we solemnly headed out to wait for the Son to rise again. Fast forward to Easter morning, which shared some elements that felt quite familiar. Probably about the same time that the people at Saint Andrew were singing "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" in Wausau, for example, we were singing a Spanish version of the same song. However, while I usually try to get at least a little sleep before the early morning on the mountaintop, this year I participated in an all-night Saturday vigil with the youth at San Lucas. We started by making enough pizza to last all night, and then broke out into activity and reflection sessions--broken up by games every now and then to keep people awake. It was a fun night that tested the limits of my endurance (and sanity at times), though I suppose that's what it would have been like for Jesus' followers as well during that first Easter weekend. By the time Sunday morning rolled around, we were good and loopy; our worship service was surreal, but the vibe was good. Christ is Risen! HEADING NORTH In mid-April I had the opportunity to travel to the very north of the country: to Obera, Misiones province. The overnight bus ride was like a passage to another world than Buenos Aires: I went to sleep on the outskirts of a noisy city and woke up to the sun rising over mist that covered rolling fields like a favorite blanket. Within a few hours of arriving, I was sharing a homemade meal of roasted chicken, boiled mandioca and homemade bread on the front porch of a small farmhouse as our hosts told us their harrowing tale of how they escaped from the perils of tobacco production to produce more sustainable and life-giving crops. I also got to participate in some of the missions that the congregation is doing in their community. Last year several members had begun travelling to underserved areas on the outskirts of town to offer Christian education activities on Saturday afternoons; it was such a hit that they decided to do it again this year. I was excited to go with them; we threw an electric keyboard in the van, and once we got it fired up at the two different sites, we sang "Himno de la alegria"--otherwise known as "Ode to Joy"--accompanied by piano and flute. The kids loved singing so much that when we were done with the afternoon's activities, they asked if they could sing again. We weren't about to say no.

My trip to the north was (literally) a breath of fresh air. The congregation in Obera is in a process of growth, and they welcomed me with open arms. I stayed with several different families and got to share meals, games and music; I even got to go to a 25th wedding anniversary party on Saturday night. I felt so welcomed, and so peaceful. All around me, I saw stories of hope. Liberation from tobacco cultivation. The congregation's growth. And the proclamation of Good News in at various places throughout town. It was an inspiring time, and I returned to Buenos Aires recharged. TRAVELING A BIT LIGHTER I recently read a book by Max Lucado called Traveling Light, about leaving behind burdens we weren't intended to bear. It's a good read, based on the 23rd Psalm, and I would recommend it for anyone who's looking to leave their burdens behind. What I wouldn't recommend is taking it as literally as I did... Right at the end of April, I left my beloved backpack on a chair in a hotel lobby as I talked with some friends. We had only been talking for a few moments when I looked down and realized it wasn't there anymore. In vain, I looked around the room, asking people if they had seen it and even running outside to look for it. By the time I got back inside, the manager at the front desk had already pulled up the security camera footage to confirm what I was already beginning to accept: while we were talking, a couple of guys had entered the hotel, sized us up, and after waiting for the right moment, grabbed my backpack and walked out the door. Whoever they were, they really hit the lottery: my computer, camera and passport were inside. So that night instead of going to dinner, I got to go to the police station to report the theft (an exercise in patience) and then to spend the night at Pastor Alan Eldrid's place. The following day my country coordinator Kate accompanied me to the US embassy, where they generated a new passport right there on the spot. So at least that's recuperated. But I'm afraid that the computer and camera are gone, along with all of my photos and work from the past three years. A devastating loss, to be sure. It certainly took the wind out of my sails for a while. However, a few weeks ago, I came across this helpful passage in Traveling Light: A man once went to a minister for counseling. He was in the midst of a financial collapse. "I've lost everything," he bemoaned. "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that you've lost your faith." "No," the man corrected him, "I haven't lost my faith." "Well, then I'm sad to hear that you've lost your character." "I didn't say that," he corrected. "I still have my character." "I'm so sorry to hear that you've lost your salvation." "That's not what I said," the man objected. "I haven't lost my salvation." "You have your faith, your character, your salvation. Seems to me," the minister observed, "that you've lost none of the things that really matter." He's right; I still have all of the most important things in life. In fact, this unfortunate turn of events serves as a reminder that life is too precious spend too much of it in front of a little electronic box. Computers are essential tools these days, obviously, but at the same time there are better places to construct and deposit our identities. Many of my friends here have rightly pointed out that while I may no longer have the photos, I still have the memories and the stories and the friendships and the many life lessons that have come along with this year of mission. No one can take those from me. The thing is that now, when I get home, instead of asking to see my pictures, you're going to have to ask to hear my stories!