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Showing posts from 2007

Christmas approaching

We have been back for almost five months now - that is so hard to believe. It really seems like a moment ago we stepped off the plane. Last Sunday we were doing a church visit and showing our presentation, it's beginning to feel strange seeing the photos from your previous life on the screen.

We put the Christmas tree up on the 1st December, last Saturday. The children are getting excited. It's the first time for them that we have the gentle change of seasons from summer, though autumn and into winter. Before it was baking hot summer, onto a plane and arrive freezing.

We're also house hunting and Eileen has an interview for a teaching job. Teaching posts are very rare in the current climate in Northern Ireland, so it is very encouraging she is called for interview to the first one she applied for. If anything the interview experience will be worth it.

Unpacking

Our shipping arrived today, after a very lengthy wait. So far nothing is damaged and everything has made it. The children are very excited at seeing their favourite toys and books. We found it all a bit emotional, realising I think that this chapter has finally closed. Unpacking all our bits and pieces and remembering where they were in our home in Paraguay made for a tearful afternoon.

Tomorrow is tidying it all away day, changing plugs on Paraguayan light fittings and hammering nails for our pictures.

On a different note Stephen will be staying on with SAMS until June so that is a real blessing for us all.

Shipping arrived!

The shipping company rang last week to say our stuff has arrived in Belfast and is now awaiting customs clearance. It should arrive this week. This was after it had been lost at sea for about a month. We were told it was stuck in a backwater port in Argentina, but it seems this was misinformation. So we're looking forward to some unpacking this week!!

The New Routine

We have settled into the new routine of life here in Northern Ireland. Our kids have one of those under 10 year old busy schedules now. Swimming, children's clubs, after school clubs and the like. They are enjoying it all, especially the £10 bike we picked up from a charity shop for Elijah and bike a friend gave us for Hannah. Elijah's was a girl's bike, which he was not keen on, but his uncle sprayed it black so now he really likes it.

Our schedules are filling up too. Eileen is taking an after school club and teaching a Spanish lesson in the school our children are going to. I'm working for SAMS, improving their website and preparing for our tour of link churches. We're also working with St. Judes, whose house we are living in. Tonight an Alpha course started and it was really excellent. About a dozen people came along simply beacuse a leaflet was put through their door. The rest had been invited through members of the church. We're also going to do…

News update - where is our shipping?

Yesterday we finally received the new computer- our old one arrived with us in July in our suitcase slightly damaged, and has been a bit of a dying battle since then. We had ordered a dell but it was going to take 6 weeks after them guaranteeing delivery within 10 days so eventually steve got a refund and bought an apple which arrived yesterday. So literally after over 8 weeks here we are only now getting it sorted out.

Next thing is the shipping. Should have arrived 6 weeks ago, but for a while was lost and untraceable. Last Thursay they found it.....in Argentina!!! We will be lucky if we see it before Christmas. Not a thing we can do. We went and got a bike for Elijah for 10 pounds from the local charity shop and my sister has got a handmedown from a friend of hers for Hannah so at least they will have bikes now. Mind you the one we got for E is purple with flowers on it so Eileen's brother has taken it to do a quick paint job to make it less girlie looking! There is …

New School

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The last couple of weeks we have continued to settle into normal life here. Enjoyed the remainder of the holiday and the short spells of sunshine between the rain. It has been the wettest summer on record here, very nice to return to!

Hannah and Elijah started school last week, and it was not easy for us parents, particularly Elieen. It is the first time they have been away from us for the whole day. In Paraguay we went to school together, lunched together, and walked home as a family. Here we see them off at 9am and return to collect them at 2pm and 3pm. When you ask Elijah what he did the answer is "nothing...", typical boy's response. Hannah is a little more forthcoming at least. It is a small friendly school, just what we were looking for. They seem to be settling in quickly and making a few friends. Keep praying for them as they adjust, Stephen as he begins job hunting, and both of us as we continue working with SAMS and our link churches.

Here is a photo …

Car accident

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On Friday afternoon we were very badly hit by another car on an extremely busy junction in Belfast. The other driver didn't see us and ploughed into the drivers side. All four of us were in the car but thankfully are all unhurt. Definitely angels protecting. The car is a write off, so Monday will hopefully see us with a temporary car while we await the insurance money to buy another one. This little one we hadn't even had for 3 weeks! It is good to know God is so much bigger than all these things.

All well apart from that although definitely experiencing reverse culture shock. Our house is starting to feel like home and hopefully shipping will arrive soon.

However, we are all very much missing our church, our friends and our school in Paraguay.

Short break near the Mournes

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Had a lovely holiday organised by SAMS Ireland in Bryansford, Newcastle. The weather was great, did some gentle mountain climbing (really hills I should say!), beach walking, ice-cream eating, getting lost in mazes, visited the first church planted by St Patrick in Ireland. All really excellent. Also spent a lovely afternoon seeing Eileen and Molly in Rostrevor. ( Fellow missionaries from Paraguay who retired to Rostrevor last year.)


More photos are in the little album below.

St. Jude's cafe service

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This evening we went to St. Jude's evening service. St. Jude's are giving us the house rent free for a year and we are helping out with their services. On Sunday evenings they have a cafe service, a relaxed worship service sitting at tables with tea, coffee and sticky buns. We helped lead the worship tonight and spent time chatting which was lovely.

There was a Youth for Christ Summer Serve team in the church this week who did a 'Landlubbers' holiday Bible club which our kids attended. They absolutely loved it. The team were there tonight too and Elijah and Hannah were delighted.

We're having a wee break for a week, so no blog entries until next weekend! We'll update the mini blog on the right of this window from the mobile phone. If you just see a white box click on it for the updates page.

Ice cream in the cool of the evening

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Yesterday we went to the seaside near to Carrickfergus Castle where Eileen's parents live. Not in the castle exactly, but in Carrickfergus!

The temperature was 15C and there was a cool wind blowing. Note the gray skies, sunshine and showers are the extent of the summer weather this year.

Settling in

Well, we spent two weeks moving in to the new house - crawling into attics to find boxes stored eight years ago. We are starting to feel at home again after a relaxing week living in the house. We've been to St. Judes's church, who are giving us the house for a year, and are starting to get involved in the services. We are leading worship tonight at their cafe service, and taking two services on the 12th of August.

We went to our home church in Monkstown today and it was really nice to start to feel integrated again.

This afternoon we're going to Carrickfergus castle for a medieval festival! Today there is actually a bit of sunshine, but we are still feeling the cold and wonder if we will ever wear our shorts and T-shirts again!

New House

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After we arrived on Sunday we hoped we'd have a few days to get over the jet lag and relax. Not a chance. Monday morning we met with Denis Johnston for a debrief, then we met with Elaine Hutchinson who is going out to teach in St. Andrew's on the 13th July. Then around lunchtime we were told we had to move furniture into our new house. So all afternoon, in the rain, we started moving house. Every day since we have been over cleaning, getting boxes from attics, sorting and using an industrial carpet cleaner we hired. Tonight we are exhausted.

We experienced a few little reverse culture shock items. First it's strange getting used to daylight at 10pm, we haven't seen long summer nights in eight years. Secondly, we cannot get use to all the modern menu filled mobile phones people use here. It took us three days to finally get one working properly.

Here are some little photos of our new house.

Safe arrival

We arrived back in George Best Airport, Belfast about 24 hours after we'd left Paraguay. It was very easy travelling this time - short waiting times, the kids slept well, and all the luggage arrived safe and well. I took some photos and video and will put them up over the next couple of days.

The goodbyes at the airport were pretty tearful, but we felt we closed well with our friends and did not feel we had left any emotional loose ends. It was even more emotional reading peoples' letters on the plane. Eileen and I though that it was a very special time of our lives that had drawn to a close. We intend to go back for a holiday in a few years, but that mix of people will not all be together again, people will have moved on. They are all very special people in Asuncion and St. Andrew's School. We will miss them.

Last day of school

Today is our last day in school. We're feeling pretty sad. Secondary showed a nice Powerpoint today with photos of me with them over this last 6 months.

The kids were at the hospital this morning for more nebulizing. They had improved a lot yesterday evening, we're very thankful for that.

This will be the last update for a few days. Watch the Live mini blog as we can update that from our mobile phone.

So, Goodbye Paraguay!! We will miss you.

Kids had to go to hospital

What a day! Both Elijah and Hannah have had coughs and colds. We went to the doctor the other day just to make sure they were fine for flying. He said the coughs were pretty bad and gave us some inhalers and medicine. Today they went back for a check-up and he wanted to put them in hospital for nebulizing! I said that was impossible. We were pretty stressed and went as out patients where they got an antibiotic injection and 3 nebulizations with oxygen. Right now they are resting in bed. Pray for their coughs that they will improve for Saturday and our flights home.

Final Day at Surubii

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Yesterday was my last time at Surubii, the school sports ground. Secondary pupils did an assault course after lunch. They we're half dead by the end of it. Below is a slide show of the day's activities.

Final Service

It was our last service in St. Andrew's Church yesterday. Eileen and I have led the English speaking church here for four years now. It is the church we have raised our children in, and they are very fond of it. We've led the worship, preached and taught Sunday school there for almost eight years. It was sad to leave. Afterwards we had a shared lunch in the Metcalfe's and it was a beautiful afternoon, perfect temperature, great food and good company. We've only six days left in Paraguay now.

Farewells

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Last Saturday was the leaving party - a despedia - for Elijah's and Hannah's class. Families from both years met on Saturday to play and spend the afternoon together. It was lovely to spend time chatting to parents we have got to know over the years. Friendships between classmates and parents in school are very close here. Birthday parties are always big events with the entire class always invited. While the children play the parents spend time together getting to know each other. We've got to know some of them quite well and we are sorry to say good bye. It was a great afternoon and the kids loved spending some quality time with their friends.

IGCSE Awards

Monday saw the annual International GCSE award night for St. Andrew's College. Along side the Paraguayan curriculum we do a full English curriculum from Cambridge International Examinations. Students take seven GCSE subjects and several AS levels. The theme for the night was a literary café, and the students presented scenes from Romeo and Juliet, singing, a monologue, their artwork, and some ballet. It was a good evening to talk to the parents too.

Primary show and power surges

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Today is the Primary performance of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Our Elijah and Hannah are both taking part and it is really spectacular. Costumes and sets are very colourful - there are even special effects when Mike Teevee shrinks and appears in the television! Our kids have really enjoyed it and are singing the songs all the time in the house. Andy and Joe Perrson produced it all along with Babs. The Perssons are also leaving in 10 days time, so it was quite a lot to do in their last few weeks. Babs of course had to go back to Wales last week to be with her family.



We've just had the internet put back on in school after 3 days cut off. There was a power surge that killed several electrical items, including literally melting a 4-way adapter, and frying the phone lines. The phone provider here is a nationalized company and takes days to do anything. The connection was just restored a few minutes ago.

It's just a week to go until we leave. We're going round th…

Bab's dad died

We heard this morning that Bab's dad died last night. Very sad. At least she was able to get home to be with him for a few days. He was only diagnosed last week - amazingly quick progression of the cancer.

Partick's Ordination

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Sunday was the ordination of our good friend and colleague Patrick Butler. He has worked in Paraguay for fourteen years as a Youth Worker, but the family thought they were going to finish this year and settle back in England. God had other plans however, and they committed to work here for another few years. it was a fantastic service. He was ordained to take over the ministry of the English chapel that we have led for the last four years. Our last Sunday is next week in fact, we have just 12 days left.

Family Day

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Today was St. Andrew's School Family Day at the school sports ground. It was a fantastic day with stalls - including throwing a soapy sponge at Mags, a definite highlight - prizes, bouncy castle, food, and kites. Great fun.


Below is a photo album of the fun.

Babs has gone home to her family

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This afternoon we saw Babs off at the airport. Her sister rang yesterday to say that it is likely her dad will only last a few days - it's all such a shock. She managed to get a flight very quickly, within 24 hours, and will be home in Wales by late Saturday. We're all praying hard for her, her father and family.

Shipping Day

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All our prised possessions are now in boxes getting ready to ship to Northern Ireland. The house will not seem like a home so much after this.

Sad News

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We heard today a close friend and colleague must return to the UK. Babs Owen is a teacher in primary and yesterday she got a call to say her dad has been diagnosed with aggressive cancer. He has been given only weeks to live. She is leaving today. After the death of Prof. Elva two weeks ago, and then this, the school is going though tough times.

Shipping News

The boxes for our shipping arrived today. Shipping date is this Friday. We did a lot of preparation around Easter so thankfully we feel fairly prepared. A back room is filled with stuff to go, and the kids rooms are all sorted. We just need to start filling the boxes. We even started packing our cases as we need to know how much we can take on the plane and how much needs to be shipped.

Despedias

Last night we had our despedia - a farewell party. Nearly all the missionaries gathered together for tea and time to catch up with each other. We have often hosted despedias for others who have worked here, so it was a little strange actually being at our own. We sang a little song with memories of the last eight years, and added a few thoughts about leaving friends and colleagues we love so much. Here it is:



At the moment we are continuing to sort the house out for shipping next week. We have given away so much stuff! It is unbelievable what you can gather up in a few years. But we are getting there. Our two weeks will literally be living out of suitcases. If it can't go in a case it won't go.

Death of Prof. Elva

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One of our colleagues died on Sunday. She'd had a respiratory problem for a number of years and took a chest infection last week. She went to hospital with breathing difficulties, but took a turn for the worse, was put on a respirator and died a couple of days later. She was a wonderful woman, full of compassion and loved Jesus.

There was no school on Monday so pupils and staff could go to the wake. Her family lives in the interior so they are burying her on Tuesday.

Pre-Primary Performance

Eileen had her last pre-primary performance today. It was excellent again this year. The wee ones, some as young as three, sang and danced very well. Here are some photos.

4 Weeks to Go

On Saturday we have just 4 weeks left in Paraguay. The last couple of weeks have been busy with 'despedias' (leaving parties), and continuing to organize the house for shipping in two weeks time. It's starting to feel imminently close now. When we think of leaving the close friends we have here it makes us fill up with emotion. We work and socialize with our colleagues. We go to church with them and our children are at school together. It would be hard to have friends you spend more time with.

Yesterday I had a job interview for a Christian job with a mission agency in Northern Ireland. I connected to the interview panel over Skype and had to present a Power Point remotely (simultaneously starting it on a computer in Belfast and here in Asunción), preach a sermon to a webcam, and answer questions for an hour and a half. I was exhausted afterwards. It's a defining moment for our future. If God wants us to continue in Christian work related to mission this is it. …

Cottage Pie

We had a great final Bible study last night - a massive Cottage Pie, steaming hot, perfect on a cold night. We prayed for Niven and Lucy who are leaving for Scotland tomorrow. They have become good friends. He's joining the police and she is going to dig for old things.

Party with Pre-primary

The girls Eileen works with threw us a Paraguayan style party last night. It was a great laugh - Karaoke in which Anna Gonzalez excelled herself.

Small Group Bible Study

Every Wednesday we have a small group Bible study with a mixture of Paraguayans and Missionaries from our church. For a couple of months now we've been studying the Miracles of Jesus in the Gospels. It has been one of the most stimulating Bible Study Groups we've been part of for a long time. Mainly due to the excellent study questions prepared by our friend and colleague Billy Blair from SAMS Ireland. We really get in deep through his verse-by-verse questions.

Niven and Lucy Bull and Ed Houghton have been great assets for the Bible Study; they are volunteers who have been in Paraguay for about 6 months. The Bulls return to the UK in two weeks and Ed a few weeks later, we're going to miss them.

After these volunteers return we have only about a month left ourselves! Considering the enormous change coming we feel quite calm and peaceful about it. We can see God at work in our sorting and planning and we're looking forward to the next chapter he has for our lives.

The Final Countdown

The Dengue Epidemic is fading but the mosquito blighters are still around. There were 27,000 cases in total.

Our thoughts are now turning to returning home in July. We are leaving Paraguay after almost eight years. During Easter we spent days sorting out and seeing what we wanted to ship home and what we can give away. Our spare room is starting to fill with a few memories of our time in Paraguay. It is hard to believe that so much time has gone by and a this chapter in our lives is closing.

We are not 10 weeks away from our return date. We continue working as normal, although the future of services in St. Andrew's English speaking church is in the balance. If there are no other leaders able to take on the planning, playing, leading and speaking then St. Andrew's will join with the Spanish congregation next door. Another girl from Northern Ireland is coming out in July and will take on Stephen's Maths teaching role and possibly his IT teaching too. The School direct…

Dengue mosquito police

We had a visit from the anti-Dengue authorities today. They looked at our garden to see if there are any places that mosquitoes could breed. Apparently we have 18 cases of Dengue in our block and they were surprised we have not had it in our family yet.

We need to keep burning the spirals and plugging in the mossi killer.

New York Times reports on Dengue

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Dengue Fever Hits Paraguay

By REUTERS
Published: March 4, 2007

ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay, March 2 — A Supreme Court justice, soccer players and a senator have come down with dengue in Paraguay, as the worst outbreak in the country’s history hit the well off as well as its usual victims among the poor.

On Friday, a nurse who worked with the public health service died after being hospitalized for dengue.

Ten people have died in Paraguay, which had never had a dengue death before, and more than 15,000 have been infected in the last two months. The dengue virus causes high fever, headache, muscle and joint pain and potentially fatal internal bleeding.

Brazil and Bolivia are also fighting major dengue outbreaks and, like Paraguay, have declared health alerts. The outbreaks are thought to be linked to unusually hot and rainy weather that has allowed the mosquito that carries the disease, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, to proliferate.

“We’re really scared,” said Amalia Benítez, an herb vendor in Asunción, ca…

BBC NEWS - Dengue sparks Paraguay emergency

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The Dengue Fever has now made international news. Today this report was on the BBC

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Dengue sparks Paraguay emergency

Paraguay has declared a 60-day state of emergency to deal with an outbreak of dengue fever which has killed at least 10 people in the past two months.Officials say 14,654 people have been diagnosed with dengue. But doctors say the figure is 10 times higher, and are worried about a new more virulent variant of the disease. Read more.
The other day a young SAMS volunteer who has only been in the country a month was hospitalized with Dengue. He had been ill then started developing nose bleeds. The missionary family has was staying with were pretty worried it could be hemorrhagic Dengue so they took him straight to hospital. After a day of test and a night in hospital for observation he was allowed home again. It looks like a bad case of classic Dengue.

We also took Eiljah and Hannah for Yellow Fever vaccines last weekend. There already is Ye…

Prayer topics for the World Day of Prayer

Here are some specific prayer requests from Paraguay for the Woman's World Day of Prayer.
Please pray for the continued growth of the evangelical churches here, and for the Anglican Church and St. Andrew’s schools. The Bishop of Paraguay retires in October and the church is currently looking for his replacement. We shall be returning permanently to Northern Ireland in July and St. Andrew’s school really needs more Christian teachers willing to serve here. The next year will actually see the school short staffed. Pray for the ministry of the school to the young people and the support St. Andrew’s gives to the Annex shanty town school and rural development projects in the Chaco.

Woman's World Day of Prayer 2007 - Paraguay

Woman’s World Day of Prayer event this year on the 2nd March is praying for Paraguay. Over 170 countries will be joining together to pray for this nation. You can read more about this and events in your area on the Woman's World Day of Prayer website.

Dengue Fever Epidemic in Asunción

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In Asuncion at the moment there is a major Dengue Fever epidemic. Almost 10,000 people have come down with the it, which is like a severe flu, but some 400 have contracted the hemorrhagic form, some of whom died from internal bleeding. There are signs up all over the city warning people not to leave water lying that can be breeding areas for mosquitoes that carry the disease. A number of colleagues have come down with it and a couple have had a rough week in bed. Doctors are predicting that the outbreak could continue to May and cause 60,000 cases.

The New School Year

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The new school year has just started and we are now back in normal routine. The year started with an assembly where Eileen and I played and Mags and Gwen, the principal and VP spoke on 'How God knows, and yet still loves us'. There was a very good atmosphere and the year seems to be starting very well.

This year once a week pupils will be bussed to Surubií where the school sports grounds are. New classrooms are being built along with a 400m running track. There will be sports lessons and even normal classes once the classrooms are finished out in the countryside. A shortage of cement in the entire country meant there is a month delay with the building work.

Happy New Year!

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We had a great Christmas and New Year, one of the best actually. We know for sure now that we are returning for good to Northern Ireland in July 2008, so we decided to make the best of celebrating this time around. There was a good crowd for church on Christmas Day and we had some good friends around for dinner. We'd been given a large turkey and the Paxo stuffing had arrived in the post, so it was a traditional dinner with all the trimmings. It was also the first Christmas when the children have had all day in their own house and time to play without rushing about. A great time was had by all.

We saw the New Year in with a few more friend around and we laughed and danced, let off fireworks and played silly games. It was pretty hot and we were all hot and sweaty by 3am when we finally got to bed. It was a fantastic time and one of the most memorable New Years we have ever had.