Chaco church overcoming cultural chasm

Portrait photo of Victor Gonzalez in Paraguay

A church led by a CMS local partner in Paraguay is helping people overcome division and love one another.

In many places in Paraguay, there is a noticeable divide between Latinos and the indigenous people. In the small community of Rio Verde in Paraguayan Chaco, for instance, the population within the town is mostly Latino, while the indigenous people live on a separate 10,000 hectare tract of land that begins about half a mile from the town.

CMS local partner Victor Gonzalez spends two weeks a month leading a small church in Rio Verde, where he does pastoral visiting, forms prayer and study groups and disciples people. He reports that even though there is a geographical and cultural divide between the two groups, Latinos and indigenous people within the church are bucking the trend and building bridges.

Two men conduct baptism of another in river
Nurturing new believers: Victor (centre, in checked shirt) is seen here pre-lockdown assisting with a baptism in the river

Pre-pandemic

Before the pandemic, Latinos and indigenous people would meet for Sunday morning services, sharing duties, building each other up and putting on a service together. Several indigenous church members preached in the church, if Victor couldn’t be there. An indigenous musician usually led the worship. Another one of the church’s indigenous members was just beginning to preach and lead church services before lockdown. Another man, who is Latino, used to read aloud from the Guarani Bible in church. Over time, one of the indigenous members grew in confidence enough to step up to preach for the first time.

Latinos and indigenous people would also get together to celebrate their birthdays in church, as well as for Christmas and on other special occasions. Three or four times a year, a special Sunday school programme was organised for up to 20 or 25 children, both Latino and indigenous.

Into lockdown

Building confidence: Victor’s pastoral work is vital to the growth of the church in Rio Verde (seen planning worship with a younger member of the congregation pre-pandemic)

Like so many other churches around the world, the church in Rio Verde couldn’t meet together as usual during lockdown; services have been suspended since March. To begin with, believers continued to meet together in homes where possible instead, but even this had to stop when it became clear the virus was spreading in Rio Verde and its surrounds.

God is still at work

But being unable to meet together doesn’t mean God hasn’t been at work. Victor says that church members’ knowledge of God’s Word has continued to grow during lockdown. Many people have also begun to open up more to pray and ask God for help with everyday problems and challenges, and are more open to helping each other with financial or health problems.

More recently, Victor has been able to connect with people informally and do some pastoral visits again, and in recent weeks the church has been open for prayer.

By all accounts, if anything, the pandemic has brought this family even closer together.

Published 2 December 2020
Region
Latin America

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