Well ladies and gents, your trusty bronze-medaled, women's volleyball Spartans are leaving the country. We're off to Paraguay alongside Athletes in Action to help fight poverty and spread God's love. We're using our sport as a platform as we're helping in orphanages, food stations, and whatever else God calls us to do. Our team is leaving April 26th and returning on May 9th, and this is where we'll be documenting all of our experiences and thoughts. Enjoy!

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Day 3

Welcome to the theme park of emotions. Forget what you've heard about a rollercoaster: this is a full-out park equipped with popcorn and barf bags. We have mornings of smiles, with pure laughter and rows of teeth, and spend our evenings in tears, heartbroken over the things we've witnessed.
Our bodies are just shells of flesh at this point, that we are continually feeding carbs and enforcing stress upon. These past 2 days we've cycled our Paraguayan-coloured groups (White, Red, and Blue) between the school, the church, and the nutrition centre. It has exhausted us mentally, as we struggle to comprehend the reality of the impoverished; emotionally, as sobs and smiles happen simultaneously in this environment; and certainly physically, as we spend our days as piggybacking machines and our evenings as CIS volleyballers. It's like nothing we've been forced to experience before.

Today, Team Blue visited Genesis church (which Sarah blogged about a few posts ago). Our visit began with the initial semi-awkwardness and fear-of-trmapling-the-children that all our days have been marked with. We got a tour of the brick moulded building, and some of us became well acquainted with the bathroom as the stress of culture began to set in. We sat our long limbs in the kindergartener chairs as we devastatingly heard about the unkept promises of education for most children of the community. We heard about the lack of paper with printed faces on it that meant life or death, education or food, for every member in that part of town. We were then pulled from our seats by small, filth-covered hands for a celebration of a miracle; a celebration of life.
Our dance floor was a volleyball court, and our music was an awful high-pitched hamster singing that was clearly geared towards a children's audience. Our dance partners outnumbered us 18:1 and fashioned the brightest colours their wardrobes contained. There were moments of international hilarity and being embarrassingly white. There were especially moments of prayer and joy, as God has been working a miracle in the lives of one of the little Genesis girls. Melisa (aged 6) had contracted dengue, which is similar to yellow fever but has no immunization or medication. This disease is unfortunately a product of her environment; a co-creation between humid temperatures and mosquito-attracting garbage. When Team White had visited just 2 days ago, Christy said her immediate family was already mourning her death and had practically no signs of hope. Today, instead of death, there was dancing. There was the union of small hands and big hands in both prayer and dance partnership.

Among many, many other things that happened that I cannot find the words to write about at 3 am, it was a day of simply so many emotions. I will finish this post tomorrow, with muchos informationos about our firsthand tour of the slums of Paraguay. Please pray for this small Genesis church as it is positively impacting so many children's lives, and is struggling to make financial ends meet. Please also keep us in your thoughts as tomorrow we travel to Chaco to play some volleyball games and get in touch with indigenous communities there. Adios!
PS - we are having some technological difficulties with a) posting pictures and b) actually finding internet, so apologizes for the lack of communication that happened yesterday and may possibly happen in the future!

Friday, 29 April 2011

Day 1, Team Blue

Team Blue: Lindsay, Carly, Chelsea H, Andrea, Ryan H, Lauren, Royal

So many second-hand faces. Clothed by others' outdated wardrobes and outfitted with the caked soil of mother nature. Fed by others with plastic plates that hosted a pale version of mac and cheese. And today, loved by others who came riding on a bus that resembled a futuristic Volkswagen vanagon.  There is so much reliance and dependence on others for satisfying simple needs we often take for granted.

Team Blue (or Azule, for those Spanish speakers) was assigned to a nutrition station today, which was basically characterized by a patch of mixed grass/dirt, an open building, and a military-sized pot that seemed more suitable for bathing children than feeding them. Our vehicle was greeted with squawks and squeals and small brown hands that were frantically waving. Our presence was welcomed with Spanish singing and Christmas-morning-like smiles.  Despite the small bubbles of awkwardness and language barriers that happened right at our arrival (post-singing), the kids quickly became kids and all things God-inspired fell into place. The chicas twirled and the chicos volleyballed. Everyone laughed and every Canadian perspired. We spent hours just playing and speaking haphazard renditions of one another's languages. 
It was a small fragment of a day filled with little communication and a lot of love. I pray God blesses those families with sustainability and self-dependence. 

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Day 1, Team White

Team White: Casie, Sarah, Alicia, Kara, Christy, Nicole, Chelsea W

Today Team Blanca spent the morning playing with about twenty 4 and 5 year olds at Genesis church. The church doubled as a school, which has 42 children enrolled - down from last year's 65 students as a result of insufficient funding and resources. The cost of education at Genesis church is only $5 a month per student, but only 1/3 of the families can accord to pay, so the school literally relies on God to make ends meet. They trust in God so unfailingly: the volunteer lunch lady said that the love of God is her pay. We have so much to learn from the way these people rely fully on God.
After a shy start, the children warmed up to us pretty quickly; we played at a near-by park, sang songs, and laughed a lot. Even though most of us didn't speak mucho espagnol, we experienced first-hand that simply loving people is not at all bound by language.

Day 1, Team Red

Team Red: Amber, Taryn, Chelsea F, Jodi, Ryan A, Amy

Awakening to a 6:50 a.m. alarm clock was less than pleasant after our two-day flight affair. However, the amusing sound of groggy singing brought a bit of spring to our steps, or rather laughter to our hearts.  After we retrieved our voices we enjoyed a delicious Paraguayan breakfast and then our team split up into three groups. Each of the groups was assigned to a different outreach location. My group, team Red, headed to an elementary school once we had layered ourselves with endless amounts of sun block and bug spray.
Arriving with beads of sweat already dripping down our foreheads, we got up our courage and faced the sixty adorable kids who were eagerly awaiting us. All the big brown eyes were on us when we walked through the gate…well almost. We were competing for the attention of the crowd of kids. Our competition was a group of six girls who were dancing in unison, South American style.  They were quite the dancers and later tried to teach us. I am sad and somewhat relieved to say my “hips do lie” and I for sure cannot shake it like these girls. We soon won over the crowd and got to play a multitude of games with the children.
They were adorable. How could one not love them? If I could wish for one thing, it would be able to speak Spanish fluently. The language barrier was hard, however I soon realized sports doesn’t need a language; it only needs God’s love!
We played with the kids for four hours, with a quick lunch break in between. After we said our good byes, gave some hugs, and took a hundred pics, we came back to our residency. We enjoyed an hour of downtime and then made our way to the volleyball court.
We played in a beautiful Sports Complex in Asuncion against three different teams of different caliber. It was my first time wearing my jersey since I got injured before the season, so I felt a string of different emotions. We won every set minus one (26-24). But the best part of the games was when we mixed up the teams and I got to play side by side with my new Paraguayan friends. Playing my first game back since my injury in Paraguay was a surreal experience and I wouldn’t want to change that.
Day one of the Paraguay adventure was priceless. Between God’s beautiful creation, the heart melting children, and the memorable volleyball games, it was outstanding. I can't wait to see what the next ten days has in store for us. Lata.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011


All the international borders have been crossed and all the foreign air has been flown through. We, in our zombied state, with our sweat Fed-Ex'd directly from Canada, have made it! The planes, the stowaway trays, the animated stewardesses; it's all done with for 2 weeks and we now enter into the world of the relatively unknown.
The only way I can describe Paraguay is diversity. The neighbourhoods are decorated with cobblestone and forest, as they are both seemingly one. The roads are poor excuses for roads, as the white dotted lines only represent invitation to honk and the sidewalks only represent invitation for psychotic drivers. The orange underbelly of Paraguay also always manages to show itself; the soil which looks so painfully thirsty compared to the rest of this lush land. It is everything our North American minds are not used to. This country lacks the political correctness and the organization that we have all grown up with. One man's driveway is another man's front yard is another man's Ford dealership. Every class of society and hint of hierarchy can be found within a minute drive down the same road. Their front yards and main streets boast the litter from their last meals, and for some reason it seems to bother absolutely no one. There are graffiti collages, skinny rib-caged dogs, and street beggars that just camouflage right into the niche of the city.   It is a crazy new world that offers humidity, socially acceptable staring, and excitement.

Tomorrow we start impacting the youngest and weakest members of society as we're visiting orphanages and food stations in the capital. Please pray for safety in every aspect, whether it be driving or caring for the Paraguayan children. We will also be uploading pictures soon, so stay around!

A Christy Quote

"To be free is to put justice, truth, and service to others over and above our own personal gain or our need for recognition, power, honour, and success. When we cling to personal power and success, when we are frightened of losing social status, then we are in some way denying our humanity; we become slaves to our own needs, we are not free."

- Jean Vanier

Monday, 25 April 2011


All the bags have been frantically organized, packed, and double checked. All the lists have been decorated with small x's, check marks, and crossed lines. All of our pathetic excuses for Spanish have been rehearsed and practiced, as well as the expectations of pointed fingers and laughter from the Paraguayans when we open our mouths and attempt bilingualism. Every last passport is now fashioned with blue and purple work visas in a language that we can't understand.
There is simply nothing left to do but wait and let life happen, which is for some reason a seemingly strange process to my organized-student mindset. Everything else is nothing we can put in bags, pack in parcels, or practice in a classroom. Everything left that is yet to come is all God's work and nothing I can control, or even attempt to control. It is both everything I've waited for and everything I've been fearful of. The climate, the children, the heartbreak of poverty. There is nothing left but trust, faith, and the manmade plastic wings that will take us there.


Sunday, 24 April 2011


A day of cheap chocolate and strange Western traditions that involve pastel paints and over-eager children. A time of communion and remembrance, with our non-alcoholic wine and our bread-crumbed clothes. For some of us, it's simply an extended exam study session accompanied by discount jellybeans and Bible verses.

It seems only suiting that the day before we farewell our accustomed Canadian lives, we have an entire weekend to focus on the origins of our faith. But aside from bunnies laying eggs, we find an even stranger phenomenon: a man who died innocently so that others may lead sinful lives. Sinful, yet forgiven. It is something I don't fully understand, and yet it characterizes my entire belief system. It is a mentality of absolute love rather than revenge that my small human mind is incapable of grasping.
Despite my struggle with human evilness waged against Christ's perfection, I do fully understand what his life preached and what his death meant. I realize that some 2,000 years after his resurrection, it is now my responsibility to be a living testimonial of Christ and Christianity to South America. I am more than excited to implement the meaning of Easter with my team and freely live out our faiths.

I wish you all a blessed Easter filled with Cadbury eggs and Jesus' love.

A Hofer Quote

"What if a demon crept after you one day or night in your loneliest solitude and said to you: 'This life, as you live it now and have lived it, you will have to live again and again, times without number, and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and every sigh and all the unspeakably small and great in your life must return to you, and everything in the same series and sequences - and in the same way this spider and this moonlight among the trees, and in the same way this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass will again and again be turned and you with it, dust of the dust!' Would you throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse that demon? Or would you answer, 'Never have I heard anything more divine?'"

- Friedrich Neitzsche