by Martin Hudzinski
This summer I had the chance to put together a little of how God moves in our lives. Many years ago I was part of the RPCES and a church that was supporting a missionary couple named Cross in Chile. They became foster parents to a young Chilean boy, who grew up, went to seminary, and was sent by the Chilean Church to Paraguay as a missionary. He founded the church in Luque. Subsequently he came to the US and joined Potomac Presbytery of the PCA. My wanderings eventually brought me into the Potomac Presbytery and I was invited to join the Committee on Mission to the World. Through that committee, I met Joel Acevedo, the founding missionary of the work in Paraguay. He was part of the Men’s conference that Faith put on in Colombia several years ago, and served to translate my talk on Loving Your Wife. The work in Paraguay has prospered and is ready to start ordaining some local men to be Presbyterian Pastors and form its own Presbytery. Several congregations within Potomac Presbytery have taken a particular interest in the work in Paraguay, creating Project Paraguay, which sponsors short term mission’s trips to aid the church there. Because of that connection the PCA General Assembly tasked Potomac Presbytery to form the commission to oversee the ordinations and founding of the new presbytery in Paraguay. Pastor John was asked to serve on that commission because of his work on the Committee on Credentials; and I got asked because they needed some ruling elders and Joel knew me. So with the blessing of Faith’s Session and the World Missions Committee of Faith, Pastor John and I left for Paraguay with a mission team of Project Paraguay on July 29, from Dulles Airport. We flew to El Salvador and then to Lima Peru and then on to Asuncion Paraguay, arriving around 2AM. Our hosts were there to meet us at the airport, and the team members and our baggage were dropped at the homes of various church members. Saturday we did some planning for the week and a little sightseeing around town. On Sunday we attended church and heard a sermon preached by Fredi Sosa who was one of the candidates we were there to examine, translated to English by one of the congregation’s members.
On Monday morning, some of the team went off to El Parque to start work on various projects at the church there, such as painting, updating the wiring, installing a men’s room, and a screen and projector. The rest of the team stayed in El Renuevo to put the final touches to the plans for a Vacation Bible School. John and I were assigned to work with the VBS. John was in charge of a craft project for the older children, and I was general gopher. On Monday afternoon John and I, went out to El Parque to use their woodworking tools to create the wood plaques for the craft project.
On Tuesday, we did VBS in the morning and then John and I were asked if we could build a wood cabinet, to store the sound equipment at El Parque, out of a sheet and half of plywood they had at the center. We figured we were up to the challenge. First we had to discuss with the pastor, between my limited Spanish and his limited English, what he had envisioned and needed. We had him show us the equipment he wanted to put in the cabinet and then we made our measurements. We drew a simple design, and then realized that we did not have sufficient wood, so we adjusted dimensions, until we had a design for a cabinet that would hold all the equipment, and leave a few board feet left over, and sketched it out to show Miguel. He liked the design, and we told him we would need some wood screws a few pieces of 1×3 boards to serve as shelfing supports, wood glue and hinges and a locking mechanism. Knowing that we did not have a lot of room for error we planned our cutting list and then figured out how to lay it out on the plywood we had to maximize the use of the wood. That led to our first real challenge, we did not have a straight edge nor a chalk line to mark our cutting lines on the plywood sheet. Then John, noting that we had several inches of width along the larger piece of plywood that we would not be needing, suggested that we could presume the uncut edge of the plywood was straight. So we marked the presumed straight edge and trimmed our piece and dubbed it the Expeditionary Straight Edge, in deference to John’s Marine Corp background and the total confusion of the rest of the team, who were not in on the joke.
We spent two days cutting the wood to size and labeling the parts as we created them so we would not get confused. Progress was slowed as we had to share the extension cord and sometimes the tools with other members of the team working on other projects. Occasionally, we had to pause to assist with something that required an extra hand. We even supplied a wood platform for the projector. By Thursday we were ready to assemble the cabinet, but Wednesday evening I came down with the virus that had been slowly making its way through the team causing vomiting followed by diarrhea. I was not in condition to be far from a toilet and so John assembled the cabinet on Thursday, with the help of other team members.
On Friday, John and I changed hats again to join the Commission sent by Potomac Presbytery to interview candidates for ordination. Originally there were to have been three candidates, but circumstances had culled that down to only one who was ready for examination, Fredi Sosa. We had received his written examinations on Theology, Church History, and Church Government; translated from Spanish to English shortly before leaving for Paraguay, so John and I had spent free time reading his responses on the trip down and through the week. The commission interviewed him and his wife on their Christian Experience and then quizzed him on any questions we had about his responses to the written examinations. John’s experience with the Committee On Credentials of Potomac Presbytery proved invaluable, as he was able to keep us on track to be sure we covered and did all the things that were necessary.
Saturday we had the opportunity to finish details on the projects at El Parque, browse through some shops, and attend the Churches 15th Anniversary Celebration. This was a formal dinner with presentations by church members, music and interpretive and traditional dances. On Sunday we attended church at El Pargue, and Sunday evening we participated in the ordination service for Fredi Sosa.
Monday morning at 3AM, we arrived at the airport for our 6AM flight to leave Paraguay. As the leader of our team got to the check in desk, he was informed that our flight was canceled, but that they would send us out on the flight of their sister airline which had a plane leaving at 5AM. Shouldn’t have been much of a problem, however the airline did not transfer the first of the information until 4:30AM, and my information did not get to the check in desk until 4:55AM, the attendant handed me my boarding pass and said run to the gate. Unfortunately, the security agent must have figured this old guy boarding a plane at the last minute must be a terrorist, and decided she needed to take everything out of my carry-on bags and inspect it. After confiscating the bandage scissors in my first aid kit, I was allowed to proceed to the plane. I was the last to board. John and I were able to leave Paraguay, but three members of our team ended up staying over another night.
Our changed flight was not entirely without its benefits. We ended up laying over in Panama for 8 hours and so were able to go on a tour of the city and see one of the locks of the Panama Canal. On the final leg of our flight, John was surprised to learn that his seat had been upgraded to first class. As I boarded the plane he was sitting in Row 1, but I had 33. The flight was uneventful, however we did not leave Dulles Airport, after passing through immigration and customs, until almost 3 AM on Tuesday.
Despite the little hassles and last minute changes, the trip was rewarding. It was exciting to be with members of God’s family in a different part of the world and to see how He is working to grow His church, to see how a small act of kindness to a child in Chile, has resulted in a Bible Believing Denomination in Paraguay. It was an honor to be part of a Commission to help establish that church as a truly indigenous church.