Dear Prayer Partner,

Thank you for reading this letter and for your support and prayers. It is more than 7 weeks since I left home to return to Paraguay on 18th July. I find it hard to believe that it isn’t much longer than that probably because so much has happened during that time and also because the world I left and the world I have arrived in are different in so many ways. So what has been happening over these last weeks? The journey here was a long one leaving Northern Ireland on Wednesday afternoon and arriving in Concepcion on Friday night. I travelled here with Alison Crawford who lived and worked in Concepcion for 3 years while I was here before. Michelle and Ruth from Eglinton Parish travelled with me also. It was lovely to have them to share the journey with and spend the first few weeks here together especially after all the emotion and upheaval and madness which comes with packing up and leaving home. It was also good to arrive in Concepcion, unpack, start to make it home again and to catch up with people.

A few days after we arrived a team of 13 arrived with Mission Paraguay to spend almost a week here. The week was spent visiting the different communities, giving out glasses, working with the children and sewing projects. It was a good week and at the end of it we also got to meet up with Raymond and Dale who came from Annaghmore Parish as they had been working in the Chaco. We were also pleased to have Julie-Ann from Magheralin Parish here. She was here over the week that we were holding Children’s Day celebrations and it was special to share the celebration with over 500 children while we also taught about growing up spiritually.

I have spent a lot of time over the last weeks visiting people, and the different areas, talking to people and listening to what they are saying, joining in with the different groups and praying that God will show me His priorities. There are probably 100 people and things and places my heart could lead me to but I am trying to hear God’s voice and heart and know His priorities. One of the things I have doing is leading some of the excellent SEAN – Theological Education by Extension courses with different people and groups. Within the church when people have studied a course they can then teach it or help to teach it to someone else. I also really want to get fluent in Guarani this time. Everyone here understands Spanish and most though not all speak it. I understand a lot of Guarani and speak a bit, but as they call it their “language of the heart” it would be good to improve it, especially for those people who are Guarani rather than Spanish speakers.

There have been many times over the last few weeks when people have talked to me about things going on in their lives that I have felt I need to be more equipped for. When I was here before I thought to myself more than once that nothing shocks me anymore, but a few times recently I have been shocked.

Anyway I thought it would be good to do an Online Christian Counselling Course to see if I can learn some things that will be helpful and that I can pass on to others. I have started that and am enjoying it.

I thought I would write just a few reflections from the past few weeks. Here they are:

Things that have changed in Concepcion

  • Over the years that I have been here many more young people are finishing their secondary education.
  • There are also more and more faculties of education opening up here which bring jobs and open up opportunities for people.
  • For the first time Concepcion has now got an Intensive Care Unit and Kidney dialysis in the local hospital. Before the nearest one was about 6 hours drive away. Some medicines and medical treatments are also now free.
  • More variety of things can be purchased in the shops here than before.
  • The man who is currently Vice President of the country is from Concepcion. Historically Concepcion was known to be a bit cut off and forgotten for decades due to it’s political views so it is good to see it getting a bit more attention.

Things that have drawn my attention

  • Many peoples fight for survival. Prices here on most things are at least double what you can get them for at home and yet the minimum wage is a quarter of what it is in the UK. Many places don’t even pay half the minimum wage. Having enough for just the necessities is a luxury many can’t afford.
  • Many people open their own small scale business. Some from the church are doing this through packaging and selling herbs and spices, making cake and selling it, making gifts etc. Please pray that they will have success in this.
  • When you see the above on a daily basis your priorities change. It makes you appreciate what you have. A few people have said to me that they thank God for their needs and suffering because it helps them to trust Him.
  • Taking time with people is so important.

Things here that I love

  • I can arrive late and still be the first there – class.
  • The dependence on God. So many things are humanly impossible to sort. We can’t but God can.
  • The people.

Things that are difficult, painful or challenging

  • Readjusting to the heat. It has been hovering around 40 degrees for the last week and we are still in winter. I am trying not to complain too much though.
  • The lives of so many people are so incredibly messy, complicated and full of pain including the children and young people. So many people suffer violence.
  • Many have been brought up by people, other than their parents. There is a big need for healing.
  • I knew there was prostitution here but never realised until now just how much. It is much more subtle than the street corner type – thus maybe more difficult to deal with.

Person to focus prayer on: I thought it would be good in each prayer letter to focus on one person for prayer. This time it is G. He is 17 years old. In the morning he studies practical skills at a workshop school and gets paid a small amount of money for that. In the afternoon he studies at school. G came up through the Kids Clubs as did some of his brothers and sisters. He comes to church and to the youth group and plays the drums as part of the music group. He has no dad but lives with his mum and some of his brothers and sisters. G is the only member of his family who is living the Christian life and he finds that very difficult. Please pray for him that in the midst of many challenges he will be able to keep going and to stay faithful. Please pray too for his family.

Requests and thanksgiving:

  • Thank God for the different teams and visitors that were here and all the people they had contact with.
  • Thank God for the courage and faithfulness of his people in the midst of many difficulties.
  • Pray for success for those who are trying to open their own small scale business and that none of them will lack their daily necessities.
  • Pray that God will show the church and me his priorities.
  • Please pray too for God ‘s healing from emotional scars for those people who have been badly hurt.

Thank you for your prayers.

God Bless you.

Claire.

Ephesians 3:20-21

20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

For more information on how you can learn more about Claire and the work of SAMS please contact Bishop Ken Clarke or Geoff Hamilton via [email protected]