Let’s Create

Advent calendars don´t exist here, so I made one as part of our drive to put some meaning into Christmas celebrations.  It is essentially a stack of 25 cardboard tubes cut from kitchen-roll inners.  They are glued together in a house shape; I borrowed the idea from here .   I bought some chocolate moulds and spent a few hours melting and setting chocolate shapes.  I made some little cards with a sentence from the Christmas story on each one.  Here’s a thing; there is an almost complete correlation between north American home-schooling mums and people who make Bible verse cards to go into their advent calendars, the result of this is that the only half-way decent ones I could find all use the King James version of the Bible. I don’t know if home-schooled north American children are any brighter than any others, but I’m not convinced at my six year old’s ability to read or understand the KJV.  So here is my alternative, but I did crib the images from other peoples’ sites, so definitely don’t do anything commercial with this or we’ll all be in trouble. 

advent calendar 1  advent calendar 2  advent calendar 3

Spring is here, the sparrows are nesting in our roller blinds once more, and it seems to bring out my own need to be creative, so I have made spicy chutney (also unavailable in Argentina), and figured out how to batter my own fish, and Joni and I have made smartie cookies, and a junk model pirate ship. 

We went on Scout camp last weekend where all the activities focussed on teamwork, so we made water rockets, and mud sculptures amongst other things.  Joni brought back six little fish scooped out from a horse trough, so having decided they were too small for battering (see above) we have spent the last couple of days gathering bits to create them a habitat (“We should put some stones in so that they’ll think it’s real..”) in a small tank which he chose as his reward for finishing his latest star-chart for reading and being helpful. 

Meanwhile, having wondered for literally years whether San Francisco has enough ministry potential to hold us here, suddenly we find ourselves working in not just one, but two fledgling church-plants, two different groups of people, very different social starting points, but both equally keen to have us.  Martin is teaching in one on Thursdays and in the other on Sundays, while I am helping plan children’s holiday club activities for the summer, and running a workshop on autism on the 12th of December both on behalf of one of the groups. 

A couple of weeks ago we received a report back from the people in the north who were checking out options for us up there.  There are two possible locations, one is Humahuaca which is where we were designated to go in the first place, and with hindsight we probably should have stuck to our guns and plonked ourselves there back in 2005, but now we are less convinced about it than the other option which is in Jujuy, a bigger city (comparing population statistics probably about the same size as Newcastle upon Tyne) with what appears to be some interesting ministry projects.  That said, the suggestion was that we should go to see both options in the last couple of weeks of November since Argentina in general will shut down from December to March (yes really, it’s amazing how the economy here survives at all but let’s not go there!).  However, we haven’t managed to organise a trip yet owing to the volume of commitments here, which then also begs the question as to whether we need to move at all.  So, all in all, we have made progress in that we now have a couple of concrete options on the table, but ironically we are also at a point where staying put appears to be a stronger contender than it has ever seemed in the eight years that we have so far been in Argentina.  Does God play brinkmanship?  Answers on a postcard. 

And back to creating, in case I ever needed proof that my paltry talents pale into nothing before the master Creator, here are just a couple of the species of birds that we see just over the road in “our” plaza:

Red bird        Red bird  The lovely “Brasita” (little flame), and a pair of nesting Benteveos (Great Kiskadee in English language bird books):

Pair of yellow birds with nest

Macbeth Macbeth beware Macduff

I know, I’m supposed to be writing about other things, but I wanted to slip this one in first…

I have been fascinated by the feedback from our latest newsletter.  There have been far fewer respondents than usual, but of those who have answered, the common thread has been to tell us to “Be Careful of the Mormons”.  One might therefore infer that some of those who didn’t comment are also uncomfortable with the idea that we might be cavorting with the enemy.  Or maybe everyone’s just busy at this time of year. 

So, I wanted to try and provoke some thoughts.  For those who aren’t up to speed, the details are this; we’re Evangelical Christians, allegedly missionaries, in Argentina, and we’ve been inviting the Mormon missionaries in to get to know each other and do a bit of “Comparative religions” over lunch.  

My key question today is; where is the real danger?  If, for example the newsletter hadn’t mentioned Mormons but had simply said that we were hosting lunch for our neighbours, I’m certain that the response would have been wholly positive, and almost definitely wouldn’t have included a single Shakespearean warning.  So why is it that the Mormons are more dangerous than the nice normal secular consumerists on either side of us whose gods are their automatic garage doors or their kids’ academic grades?  Put it in other terms; of the good solid Christians who were at the University CU with me, and even at Bible College, of the percentage of those who are no longer going anywhere with their Evangelical faith, what is the ratio of people who have converted to any other religion including Mormonism, compared to those who simply settled down as comfortable middle class materialists? 

And not only is comfortable materialism far more successful than any other religion at keeping people out of church, it has also made itself more than at home inside the church.  It is perfectly possible to take on pretty much every self-centred materialistic value of my average secular neighbour and still be considered a solid and useful Bible-believing – even Bible-teaching – member of my congregation, whereas of course if I gave the slightest hint of revering the Book of Mormon as the word of God, I’d be out of the door with a church-warden’s boot up my bottom faster than I could say “And also with you”. 

So I wonder why it is that we perceive the Mormons to be more dangerous.  I suspect it is because we see them as “other”, with their uniforms and insistence on referring to each other as Elder so and so.  Whereas of course our neighbours are nice normal people like us who just happen to be a bit wrong on the details when worship their new car instead of the one true God of salvation.  If this sounds flippant, it isn’t meant to be, exactly the opposite in fact.  I know there is a spiritual battle and there are forces of darkness in places we know not where.  But it seems to me that the insidious and unchecked values embodied in easy materialism pose far more of a danger to the building of God’s Kingdom, possibly because they are insidious and unchecked, than any number of black-suited corn-fed missionaries trying to convince us with tales of gold-plates and bilingual spectacles.  I was going to say maybe it’s a question of strong or weak faith; is your faith strong enough to withstand the Mormons?  But apart from sounding ridiculously arrogant, it isn’t even true, because actually if my faith isn’t strong enough to stand an orange squash with the Mormons (and that’s the real issue; by the time you’ve eliminated all the other stuff that they aren’t allowed to drink you’re reduced to sugar and tartrazine), but anyway, if my faith isn’t strong enough to have a conversation with with Mormons without putting myself in danger, then I should probably think quite hard before inviting any of my other neighbours in for mulled wine and mince pies.  Macbeth Macbeth beware Macduff.  Beware the Thane of Fife.  Dismiss me.  Enough. 

Flower of Solidarity

Once again the three Scout groups of the city came together to make a Fleur de Lis out of bottle tops as a fundraising project.  This year it is in support of a local baby with a health condition needing expensive treatment, so it was nice for the Scouts for once actually to meet in person the recipient of their efforts.  The bottle tops are boxed and sold on, and I’m guessing that the money-generating part happens when they are recycled. 

We had front page coverage on the local Sunday paper, I’m copying and pasting below from their web version, or you can find it on this link

03/11/2013 – 21:13 hs. | Locales > Sociedad

Flor de solidaridad

fleur de lis for charity

SOCIEDAD   Un certamen televisivo de baile popularizó a los “niños piel de cristal” o “niños mariposa”, aquellos que padecen una enfermedad poco frecuente que hace que su piel sea muy frágil, que al mínimo roce se le formen ampollas muy dolorosas. Paulina Bertoli, una beba de tan solo un año de vida, sufre esta patología y toda su familia se moviliza incansablemente para poder someterla a los más actuales tratamientos. Pero el esfuerzo no es solo de los suyos, sino también de mucha gente y en especial, de los scouts Consolata, Cristo Rey y Daniel Ñáñez que ayer armaron con tapitas una “Flor de lis solidaria” y gigante en la Plaza Cívica para ayudar a Paulina.

And here are a copy of pics of the project in progress taken by Victor, district Scout leader, which I’ve “borrowed” from the District Facebook page;-

sorting bottle topssorting bottle topsDanny and Hazel