Step team week 7!

Hola for the last time from the Spring Step team 2018! We are sadly coming to the end of our time here in South America but we have had the most amazing experience and it’s been a pleasure to share it with you through these blogs. We had a great but busy last week in Tartagal with the last push of work and full of goodbyes, and then we left reluctantly but blessed by everyone we had met.

On Monday, our last day off, we went to our friend Victor’s (who works with us and whom we are very fond of) house for lunch. He and his large family were very generous to us, welcomed us in and cooked masses of Argentinian chicken and rice. We also got the opportunity to pray for his mother in Spanish and English as she was having a difficult time at that moment. In the afternoon we did another freedom in Christ session on breaking strongholds that we have in our lives, our final session together as a group but still so useful and encouraging. Then in the evening we relaxed and played games with one another 😊

  

We awoke on Tuesday morning with nervous excitement and anticipation for the must-win-game between Argentina and Nigeria that would take place later that day. This game would determine whether or not the Argentines would make it past the group stages of the World Cup and into the final 16. But before any songs or chanting could start, we had to prepare for the long day of work ahead of us. Following our morning devotional, we packed some fruit and multiple water bottles to take with us since we would be working right through from 9am until 2pm in order to efficiently make the most of our morning. With many of the rooms successfully concreted, the next job was to dig deep trenches, which would support the plumbing system for the bathrooms and kitchen. After work, we walked to Nora’s house (Marco and Dany’s Mother) ready for the delicious lunch she very kindly prepared for us all. We were all Argentinians today and stood up for their national anthem and cheering throughout the match. Groans rang around as Nigeria opened the scoring but following an absolute screamer from Angel Di Maria our moods picked up and we felt very much back in the game.

However, the atmosphere steadily grew more tense as we watched the clock tick ever closer to 90 minutes, the score stuck still at Argentina 1-1 Nigeria. That man again, Lionel Messi, as ever carrying the Argentina team through; he took a shot at goal, which deflected off Marcos Rojo, past the Nigeria keeper and into the back of net. No one was sat down at the dinner table anymore. Everyone was on their feet, jumping up and down, cheering and hugging each other. Barely 5 minutes from full time and Argentina had done it, through to the knock-out stages of the competition. Our celebrations, however, were nothing compared to the utter chaos pandemonium ensuing in the plaza. As we walked closer to the square, noises became louder and more defined. The scene that met us was incredible: car horns blaring as they did rounds of the square, horns blowing, motorcycles roaring and Spanish voices singing and chanting as people jumped on the back of pick up trucks and celebrated on stages and balconies. We celebrated with the people of Tartagal and walked around the square, taking in the joyous atmosphere before heading home. Later that evening, we took the opportunity to Facetime German and his family in Chile: Neve, Elias and Emi. We appreciate every opportunity we get to talk to German, updating him about the project and our lives in Argentina, while we also eagerly listen to news about himself, his family, friends and the progress of the church building in Tragna-Boroa. After an emotional call, some of the team had dinner while others went for a late-night run during which there was a power cut and a samba band at the paseo.

Due to our increasingly busy schedule, Wednesday was our last full day of work at the building site. We continued with making the concrete for the foundations, completing the bathrooms and filling in the trenches dug for the plumbing. Abel arrived in the morning with tea and facturas (custard pastries), which brought much needed joy and energy.  In the afternoon we were joined by members of the youth (Marito, Abel, Martin, Facundo, Estevan, Juan, Rey and Victor) from the church who gave us a hand, speeding up the process significantly. Despite the hot weather we managed to get the rooms done, leaving only the front of the building to concrete. In the evening we had the final daughter church service in which we sang the Open the eyes of My heart and Marco preached.

On Thursday the whole team was able to start concreting the outside porch area of the Sunday school, which like the majority of our work involved a lot of heavy lifting and was very tiring! As our working hours on the building site became shorter, the work became more intense, however it was made easier by the great company we had from the guys that would come and help us on a daily basis. We have valued them SO much over the past two months and will really miss their joking and friendly banter that has really made time fly!  Having said this, work was stopped early that day due to England v Belgium match that afternoon and considering the entire of Argentina freezes when they play in the world cup, we thought it only fair that we took the afternoon off to support Gareth, Harry and the rest of the lads. Although the result was slightly disappointing, we had a great afternoon eating spaghetti cooked my Marco’s mother! We were also joined that afternoon by Dany and Priscilla, who are staying with us until we all leave together very early Monday morning. The day ended with all of the girls going out that evening to the local market to buy (most definitely fake) Argentine football shirts, in order to celebrate what we knew would probably the last time Argentina played in the world cup the following Saturday.

Friday - last day of work! We only worked for the morning finishing concreting the outside porch, by this point we were practically professional concreters, meaning we finished it off in no time! This meant that the rest of the morning was spent messing around trying to get each other into the leftover concrete on the floor. However, with the Argentinian youth being substantially bigger than all of us… we didn’t stand a chance; we all arrived home VERY muddy.

 After lunch we had the kids service, for which we planned a sketch for them, However we arrived to see the kids were already doing some Bible word searches and colourings on Jesus making the lame man walk after forgiving his sins. So instead of doing what was originally planned we just played games and spent the whole evening running around and laughing with them, which turned out to be a really nice way to spend our final week there. After many photos and lots of hugs, we finally managed to drag ourselves away from them and head home. In the evening we had Marco and family, Dany, Flavia, and Priscilla all round for a traditional English tea party, for which we got slightly carried away and made around 200 sandwiches for the 16 of us… We chatted till around midnight, and when some of us started falling asleep at the table we decided was a good time for us to say goodnight and go to bed!

On Saturday we woke up especially early so we could prepare for the Argentina vs France football game at 10 o’clock. We all headed over to Marco’s house, all the girls wearing their Argentina shirts (which were thoroughly approved of) and settled down to watch. 2 hours and 4 goals to France later, spirits were substantially lower than when we arrived. This didn’t stop us from having a good time after the game though, chatting and taking lots of photos with Marco and Dany and their families. 

  

The afternoon was then a mixture of washing everything up from the night before, washing clothes one final time, packing, and planning the youth service for the evening. Then at 6:30 we headed to the church for the youth service. We started by playing ‘the shoe game’, where everyone takes off their shoes, puts them in a big pile and then has to race to the front and find their own shoes whilst blindfolded. Hannah and Mo then led a great talk on the conversion of Saul, stressing the importance that no-one is too far away from God’s love and that he will never leave us. After they had spoken we split off into small groups with the youth and shared who our own ‘Sauls’ were in our lives, and they prayed about them all as a group. It was a really great time getting to know the youth better, opening up and praying with them. After the service we all jumped into the taxi and quickly headed over to Adelys’ church, where we sang ‘What a Beautiful Name’ acapella and then prayed for Adelys and his wife because it was also their wedding anniversary that day!

Then on Sunday in the morning we got back into the taxi and went out to the countryside to one final daughter church, which was different from the other churches we’d previously visited because it was an outdoor church, which seemed nice at first however it was absolutely roasting outside, so we slowly melted during the service and standing up at the front to sing was more difficult than usual! After the service had finished the congregation set a long table for us all to eat lunch with them. They served us homemade locro, which unfortunately only a couple of us were able to stomach, but for pudding they brought out lots of cake which we all devoured! In the evening we had our final church service at the main church, at which we sang ‘What a Beautiful Name’ one final time. During the service a woman got up at the front and told us that she was the children’s worker at the church and wanted to say a special thank you for all the work we had done. She then went on to say that she had been really encouraged by what we had done, and that our work had been like a wake-up call for her, and she urged the church to continue to care for and support all the children.

At the end of the service they got us all up at the front and said one final big thank you for all the work we had done, and gave us presents to take home and remember them by, consisting of very fetching Argentina bucket hats for all of us, jewellery and scarfs for the girls, t-shirts and key-rings for the boys. Walter Ricardo (the church photographer) had also made us a really lovely picture frame full of photos he’d taken of us at all the different daughter churches we had visited over the two months. After a long and emotional goodbye to all the people we had got to know especially well during our time, we went home to finish off packing and tidying. At 12:30, Ellie Ben and Nathanael got picked up by Marco and were taken to the bus station to get the bus to Salta because there wasn’t enough room in the two cars for all 9 of us and our luggage! The others then continued to pack until around 3am and only managed to get around 4 hours sleep before getting picked up to leave for Salta at 7.

Our time in Tartagal has come to an end, and we are so so grateful for all that God has done for us, and through us for the people we have met and the work we have done. He has constantly provided in times of need, and his timing truly has been perfect throughout the whole trip. We are going to miss all the friends we have made and all of those who have made our time in South America so special. However, with the power that is Facebook we all fully intend to stay in touch with them all and keep up to date with the work of the church and the youth. We have learnt so much form our time here; this truly has been an unforgettable experience, and we have learnt afresh just how amazing God’s power, love and grace really is.

Thank you so much for all of your constant prayers and genuine interest in our project, we cannot wait to come home and share each of our unique experiences. Although our time here has come to an end, please could you all continue to pray for:

  • The church
  • The congregation
  • The children at the feeding programme
  • The continued building work
  • The rehabilitation centre
  • Safe holiday week and travel back home
  • A smooth re-entry back into home life for all of us and that we would be able to re-adjust to life back in the UK without the rest of our Step team.

Praise God for all of the MANY people who have supported us throughout our time here in Argentina

  • Dany and Priscilla, the Latin Link in country coordinators, who have been there to answer our questions and fix any problems that we had over the past 2 months.
  • Marco and Noli, our main point of contact in Tartagal, who have lovingly cared for us and welcomed us into their home on countless occasions, whilst also keeping us safe and organising the majority of our activities during our stay.
  • All of the amazing workers that joined us on the building project; Juan, Rey, Adelys, Victor, Martin, Abel, Facundo and Estevan. They really made our work so much more fun and we definitely could not have done it without them.
  • All the members of the youth who made us feel at home when playing games and chatting to them.
  • The incredible children’s workers who ran the feeding programme for allowing us to come every week and play with the kids.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read these little reports each week. See you all in sunny England soon!

Lots of love for the last time, the Step team!