Hearing the Story in Paraguay

Journal Entries from my stay in Yaguarete Cora, Paraguay

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une 25, 2014

As our tires push through the muddy waters of Buena Vista, Daniel taps me on the shoulder.

“Here´s story telling in the works – my mom is telling the Noah story to our friend, Maria*.”

I watch Maria, a Paraguayan Guaraní-speaker, listen intently to Jean´s every word. As water surrounds us on all sides of the Land Cruiser and as we push through the waters over the flooded bridge, Jean tells the Noah story in Guaraní and points out the window. The bending trees and brush along the river bank and lost cows meander their way through flooded pastures all seem to lend themselves to Jean´s gestures.

We are in the ark.

Maria’s husband has become a dear friend of the Floyds. He´s been known to stop by their house weekly to sip on cold tereré (the traditional herbal drink of Paraguay) as Tony and Jean tell him Bible stories. The Floyds have been in Paraguay for 16 years and confess that communicating the Gospel and planting home churches has been a learning process.

“It is all about relationships,” Jean says. “We live here and love the people and we then are able to share the Gospel with them.”

Tony adds, “We stumbled upon orality after realizing that what we were doing wasn’t working – text studies were not hitting home with people. I listened to a recording about oral cultures and was struck when the author said that just because people reject the method of teaching doesn’t mean they are rejecting the Gospel. We just had to find the way that the Guaraní would best hear the Gospel.”

After that revelation, audio Bibles on MP3 players were passed out to community members and storytelling workshops were held. The Floyds say that this was the turning point in their ministry.

Tony says, “People were listening to the audio Bibles as they worked out in the fields, as they did chores at home, as they walked to their neighbors’ houses. I saw a man who never once spoke when we did text studies begin to lead Bible studies through telling the memorized audio Bible stories and verses. That’s when I became a believer in this orality stuff.”

In a culture where community members sit on their neighbors´ porches to share a cup of hot mate or cold tereré and tell jokes or share events from the day, the oral storytelling method fits naturally in the everyday life of rural, Guaraní Paraguayans. Once the audio Bible showed success among community members, the SIM missionaries collaborated with their Guaraní neighbors in developing a series of Bible stories spanning from the creation story to Revelation, each with a memory verse that captures the key ideas in the story.

“We want the Bible to be transferable and stories do that in an organic way,” Tom, the director of SIM Paraguay, says…

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June 30, 2014

The dim porch light is the only light for miles as we gather at Rosario´s* home in the rural interior of Yaguarete Cora. Her son, Juan*, leans forward, his hands holding his head as Tony tells the story of King David – his anointing as king, his sin with Bathsheba, his killing Uriah, his repentance, and God´s forgiveness. Juan´s eyes light up as he hears that “the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”** Juan shares how this verse resounds with his experience as a Guaraní Paraguayan. “Many people,” he says, “look at us here in the campo and think that we aren´t smart or we look at the people in the city with all their wealth and think they have everything…but God tells us that what is in the heart is the most important.”

He leans forward as Tony continues revealing the plot twists of David’s manipulation, adultery, and murder of Uriah. Juan expresses surprise at David’s repentance and God’s forgiveness. The memory verse that accompanies the David story is 1 John 1.9 – “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

A story I have heard a hundred times is brand new to this family who sit and listen in awe. Grace surprises them in a story where I no longer am surprised. It is a gift to be reminded of forgiveness meeting us when we are our most flawed. Their reactions to hearing the story are ones I will always remember.

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June 29, 2014

Sunday afternoon we sit on the porch and share tereré. Gabriel*, a neighborhood teenager, pours the tereré into the metal cup and hands it to me. I suck on the metal straw as the group speaks in Guaraní about the ingredients – yerba, polmera, azucar. We pluck oranges from the trees and begin peeling our afternoon snack. We laugh as Jorge criticizes how Americans peel oranges and deal cards “the wrong way.”

“We go to the right, you go to the left! That’s so weird!” he says as we all laugh.

I finish sipping my turn and hand the cup back to Gabriel. He pours more tereré and hands the cup to Sonia on my right. We sit and eat oranges, shoot the breeze and story-tell the Bible and of how God has come near to us on this day.

Hearing the Story Anew,
Rachel Ringlaben

Please click here to watch a wonderful video on SIM´s audio-Bible ministry in the rural interior of Paraguay.

*Names have been changed.
**1 Samuel 16.7

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ot to see a baby calf be born on the Floyds’ farm!

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ipping on terere with a neighbor.        The audio-Bible mp3 player that SIM distributes.

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Visting Jesuit sites in southern Paraguay.  These were places of refuge for the Guaraní who sought an escape from the Portuguese slave trade.

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Marion and Jamie, originally from London, live in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay.  They are involved in a different form of storytelling the Gospel through art!  They distribute free art pieces that depict scenes from Bible stories to schools all over Paraguay.  To find out more about their ministry, please visit http://www.paintingparaguay.com/.  To see more original art by Jamie, please visit http://www.jamieleeart.com/.

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Visiting natural world wonder, Iguazu Falls or Cataratas do Iguaçu. The name “Iguazu” comes from the Guaraní words meaning “big water.” Once all belonging to the Guaraní, these falls are now divided between Brazil & Argentina. If you have seen the movie, “The Mission,” this is the location of that true story about Jesuit priests fighting alongside the Guaraní in opposition to the Portuguese slave trade.

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