Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

8,000 Miles Away

Here we go again! This time the mission team from church is in the South American country of Argentina. This nation of the South American continent is located south of Brazil and stretches along the eastern seaboard to the very bottom where it connects with the southern most tip of Chile.

Argentina is called the “Land of Silver.” So, in preparation for the trip we always have team shirts made depicting the country we’re visiting. This year we had the large picture of the sun prominently displayed on the tri-colored Argentine flag (pale blue horizontal stripes upper and lower, with a white stripe in the middle displaying the yellow sun in the center.) The logo we chose says, “From the Land of Silver to the Streets of Gold, Jesus is Lord!” Mission Team members usually buy several extra shirts and ball caps to be given away to our hosts.

The Team gathered at the church at 6:30 a.m. Friday, February 27th. All fifteen of us were there on time and ready to roll. However, as such things go on these trips, the devil is in the details. The Team luggage was packed in a camper trailer pulled by a van. Said van was to carry seven of the team members. However, the van decided it did not want to cooperate. Try as we might, we were unsuccessful in coaxing the beast to start. Someone asked me at this point what Plan B was. I said, “Plan B? There is no Plan B.” Prayer was quickly enacted, followed by several of us calling folks who might be available to help. Our flight out of San Francisco was not until 12:15 p.m. so we were still in good shape. Gratefully one of the families from church had a van and was able to come and load up our seven nearly-stranded travelers. The weather was cold, but clear, so we managed to load all the luggage in the back of a pick up truck securing it with a stretchy thing. My wife called AAA and had the van towed to Ripon Auto where it was determined that the temperature sensor (or something like that) had malfunctioned, believing the temperature to be -33 degrees!

The drive to the airport was uneventful. We all checked in for our American Airlines flight to Miami, with following connections to Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. Nothing out of the ordinary occurred during our two flights, except for very tired and sore posteriors, having to endure a combined fifteen hours.

I could not begin to tell you how many flights I’ve been on, both commercial and military during my sixty years. But trust me – it’s a lot! When I know I’m going to be on an airplane and sitting in airports, I always take a book or two to read. No exception this time. Once we boarded the plane to Miami, I settled into my seat, strapped the seat belt on, and opened my book to read. I was seated on the aisle in the center section of the plane. I reached over and pushed the button to turn on the individual reading light for my seat, but no light came on. I asked the Flight Attendant about this. She tried to get it to come on, but no luck. They reset the circuit breakers, still no luck. So I was only able to read using natural light for half the flight. Then when we boarded the plane to Buenos Aires, it was a different model of plane this time. Since this was a longer flight, I was really looking forward to getting a lot of reading done. Aisle seat, center section – no light! I pushed the button to no avail. I asked the Flight Attendant, who, like the previous flight, was unsuccessful in getting my reading light to come on. This was an all-night flight, so every other light in the aircraft is turned off so as to afford people an opportunity to sleep. I couldn’t read! I was snake-bit!

We were met by our Free Methodist Area Coordinator, Ken Myers and the local pastor where we would be staying, Pastor Ricardo. We loaded our bags in a medium-sized bus and began our two hour drive to Carmen De Areco, a town about the same population as Ripon – 15,000. When the bus rolled into the church compound, there were a bunch of children and adults to greet us and welcome us to Argentina. As is typical in Latin American countries, we were greeted with the hug and kiss on each cheek – from men, women and children. We were shown our accommodations right away, followed by a huge BBQ in the park across the street from the church. Several of the men from this church had a side of beef over an open fire, plus other meats, such as chicken, sausage, and other items I never had the opportunity to try because we had so much to eat! The children from the church did a number of national dances in colorful outfits, and then the adults got into the act. A small band of guitar players sang and regaled us with both traditional and Christian songs. Various others who were known for their singing, stepped forward and offered a song or two. Then I was called upon to have our group sing a song. I knew this was coming, having been warned prior to the BBQ, so I had told the Team to be ready to sing. We sang a couple of songs and absolutely had a ball!

Sunday morning we slept in because they have church at night here. The ladies had a children’s program that afternoon prior to the service. In the worship service, we were introduced and again were asked to sing. There were a couple of hundred people there, and we were again received with many hugs and kisses.

For the rest of the week, we’ve been working at building a home for the pastor of a nearby Free Methodist Church, in the town of Salto Argentino. It’s hard work, but we’re enjoying it and have made great strides in completing this project.

More next week!

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