As we get ready to try and stuff all our belongings back into those pretty compact backpacks, we have continued to enjoy the places and faces of Tartagal for another great week.
Monday brought our Latin Link leaders Mati and Paula up to us from Salta for the day. We enjoyed lunch with them, and some wise words from Mati on John 15 to spur us on as we keep growing in our faith, day by day. After some rapid Jungle Speed rounds, we then took off further afield than we’ve gone before, from the bounds of Tartagal into the jungle! For me (Rosie), our devotional time and then little expedition was a great highlight in the week. Though it may sound clichéd, it was truly a breath of fresh air. To stretch our legs a little and climb atop a ginormous water tank, to get a stunning panorama, was great fun! The afternoon was like a taster of the holiday exploration spirit that will hopefully be with us soon. We even saw Toucans, spotted by Tim! It seemed like a jungle themed day, as I had the Spanish version of the kids worship song, ‘Who’s the king of the jungle?’ swimming around my head, after previously memorising it to share with the kids at the Saturday merendero club.
After productive business at the building project, (more of the usual cement making, hole digging, wire tying, pole cutting, brick passing and tool collecting) the work team came home to a cosy house, smelling of freshly made flapjack (thanks Natalie!). That can cheer any Tuesday. It wasn’t half as crazy a day as the next few to follow, however. On Wednesday and Thursday we braved a couple of ‘girls and boys days’, splitting up to tackle the tasks and enjoy quality time that way. As the prank war progressed, there was an attack presumed as the girls left for the building site to go and continue the work on ourconcrete pillars. They really did outdo themselves! Girls bunk beds were debunked, if you will, and mattresses dangled down from the ceiling. The (somewhat orderly) order of the room was very much disordered once they’d done their work. It was shocking both to us girls, and to builder Daniel who had joined us for lunch. The boys somewhat redeemed themselves with the toad-in-the-hole served, and we had a fun time chatting with Daniel, even singing some worship with the little ukulele. I loved the look on Izzy’s face when we worked out that he has perfect pitch!
Nat sleeping on the sand at the project in the afternoon illustrates just how tiring Tartagal life can get (or perhaps just her falling asleep abilities). It was mostly smooth but near the end of the day Catherine managed to get a little brick dust in her eye, and somehow that fiasco turned into the girls enjoying some sort of tea party with Marco and Noelia (local coordinators). Praise God her eye was totally better in the end. We found the boys on our wander back to the house. They were just coming back from class at the English institute. A lovely sunset accompanied us home too. But the day was not done! We ticked off our last of the church anexos from the list, bringing them an off key version of Mighty to Save in Spanglish, and being honoured with some funky knick-knacks that they gifted to us in the service as a thank you. This was really a display of the kind of generosity we’ve encountered here. After finishing the very sweet tea they gave us and saying ciao to everybody, we needed to get some late-night dinner. And in another curious turn of events, we ended up at the karaoke place again for empanadas, pizzas, and yet more off key singing.
Thursday was a day like many others with copious bowls of oats consumed, lots of fun and laughter in the house, and work steadily inching on. It was just the boys left to themselves at the project though, without a trusty translator, and that was quite a challenge! The girls enjoyed a plaza picnic (though mate was contributed by Tim in his guest appearance). After another fairly normal project day on Friday, we had a special evening on Friday. Our new companion, Maxi, turned 21 this week and so we ventured into town to celebrate. I think his birthday had been rather forgotten so it was lovely to enjoy being with him marking the occasion, and enjoying milanesas, too. Back at our house we shared some Victoria sponge, and ended the night sharing together in worship as well, with a little rendition of Bless The Lord Oh My Soul in both languages to take us into the early morning. On this day Natalie and James also conquered lots more of the travel booking, they have been working furiously at getting some really exciting plans together for us. It has been a blessing to see them bringing their skills and giving their time to bless the team in this way.
The weekend came with visitor Annelien, our other wonderful short term coordinator. On Saturday morning we got to the merendero kids club way after we had expected to, but actually this was one of the best Step experiences so far with the way the children showed us so much love. They have been such a big part of our welcome into this community, with an optimistic, excitable warm welcome each Saturday morning, as they come bounding up to the truck. After, we spent some time praying for these precious little ones. Please join us in that – that the bible stories faithfully taught to them each week would settle as great truth and comfort into their hearts, and that the playtime enjoyed there would also be life-giving for them. In our quiet time that day, we were also happy to have Annelien sharing with us. We looked at Psalm 121, ““He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber;” and enjoyed a not-too-far-from-English-style beans on toast, made entirely from scratch. This gave us some energy for the afternoon, off to flag dancing practice for the girls (some serious exercise!) and astro turf football for the guys with some of the people from the English school. Again, such a joy for us to experience more glimpses into life and community here. The long day went on with a mammoth food shop in the evening (in preparation for Sunday’s exciting lunch) and then to top things off, you guessed it, church!
We really go out with a bang this week with the Sunday lunch we hosted. A mish-mash of English and Argentine cuisine, and held to honour the company of our great new Latin Link/Tartagal family, the day was really a success. We all pulled our weight to present a perfectly cooked asado, plenty of veggies and salad, spiced rice, English roasties, and also a delicious banoffee pie. We shared thoughts over lunch about ‘being and not doing’ and resting in quiet time with Jesus, and had some frustrating/fun word games as well. We needed some time to recover after being on our best behaviour and using all our culinary wisdom, so rested in what was left of the afternoon, before evening church. After bringing an interestingly translated testimony of sorts on Psalm 127 (“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain” – relevant for us!) and a song with a little solo sneaked in, the end of the service was special as there were baptisms, incredible for us to witness.
This weekend, Annelien has prompted us to be thinking about how we can see God already at work in each of these places we hurriedly come and go to. In our last week here I think that’s even more relevant for us to be dwelling on. Realistically, two months can seem like a drop in the ocean. But the powerful God who has brought us each to be here as part of this team working for his glory, has plans so much greater than we can fit onto our timelines. So do pray for us to get a chance to reflect individually, and altogether, on how we’ve experienced God being at work in this corner of His world. In a similar vein, it would be appreciated if you pray for the next crazy few weeks of coming and going, that we would still find time to rest in His presence and build one another up in our devotional times. There are so many last things in Tartagal, and fun experiences on our short holiday week, and will be so much waiting for our attention in Trinidad, Bolivia, it will likely be a whirlwind. So please pray we can honour all of those things well, even if exhausted, and just soak in all of the joy of the coming days. It’s a privilege to have you praying for us and supporting us as a team, we can’t thank you enough.