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!

Friday, 13 May 2011


"All of my life,
In every season,
You are still God,
I have a reason to sing,
I have a reason to worship."

- Hillsong

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

22 Hours

We've been citizens of the airplane for about a day now. There's been the usual bout of pre-cooked meals, microconditioned air, and a lack in leg room. We've showed our hideous passports to one too many people than we're comfortable with (mainly security guards), and our carry-on fluids have not even left that ziplog bag they claim is for security. As easy as it is to complain about the customs line or the strict guard in their even stricter uniform, it is also an absolute blessing. Just the simple fact that we have to travel 24 hours to get away from our homes and into the 3rd world shows how well we have things. As Westerners it's awfully tempting to blur the focus of perspective and complain about our femur's hardships on a 22-hour trip. But really we should see it as a blessing that we live in such an established and progressive country that is distant from facing survival challenges everyday. We should not complain in the face of a long voyage, but rejoice in it.

Farewell Paraguay

There will be no more air to deflate from our toilet cushions and no more drinking water that induces diarrhea. There will be no more army tanks in the streets and no more begging street performers during traffic jams. There will certainly be no more red soil or blue sky.

We're coming home.


Monday, 9 May 2011

Last Day

It's only suiting that on our last day we have a fiesta of sorts, despite the fact that we weren't in Mexico and there was no pinata.

It was a small fractured building that was painted with the glory of God. It housed a few rows of pews that were certainly not created to house 20 girls with lengthy limbs. We clapped like fools 'til our fingers were red and danced as aggressively as we could in skirts. It was your typical Spanish church scene, with a single guitar and a single unmicrophoned singer. It was honestly the happiest (and arguably the sweatiest) church service I've ever attended. We all boasted armpit sweat stains and tried desperately to keep up with the tempo and the foreign lyrics. We even had the liberty of completely butchering a song with "na na's" and cha-cha dancing under God's own roof. It was beautiful as the light and the Light shone in.
After church and doing touristy things like screaming at traffic and going to the market we went to a Paraguayan soccer game. It was a clash between men in sponsored striped jerseys, even though the realistic game was between the fan bases. As we sat in the apolitical centre-of-the-stadium seats we had the perfect view of the (battle)field. To our right there were the Guirana —the rival—fans with their yellow uniforms and spitting men. To the left there was Olimpia —the number-one's in Paraguay— with their obnoxious drumming and their sea of black and white. It was like paying $10 to see gladiators fight in a modern-day Coliseum. Besides the presence of the SWAT team and the creepy old men who felt the need to whistle at us, the game was an awesome experience. We downed cheepa and fanta and tried our best to be die-hard fans. We soaked in the "real" Paraguayan experience and boasted our touristic mindsets for just one day. Oh how we love this country

Friday, 6 May 2011


This blog is more or less written for the girls as a reminder and memory of this day. I hope you parents and friends enjoy it anyway!

Today was another service project day. Team White painted an incessant number of bricks with welfare paint that resembled milk and water. Team Blue visited an orphanage that housed hope where none was expected to be found. Team Red dished meals to the poor that had both nutritional and spiritual value.

Besides tears of sweat and occasional blood to complete the metaphor, today had exceptional emotion. There was a bunch of awkwardly situationed couches that stuck knives in our back and clung to the bug-spray on our legs. We faced our last evening of personal testimonies as we partook in the traditional pre- and post-snaps (Legally Blonde reference). Even the unfamiliar characters wanted to join in listening, and talking, as a cricket made a guest appearance. Let's just say we like listening to our own kind better as he was later killed by Chelsea Fitchette's flip flop. Tonight, there was a stage and people presented their hearts and emotions as if on puppet strings. As a group we experienced so much rawness, honesty, and courageous emotion. We struggled with emotions that were so different yet so similar to the ones we experience by day; only this time we break for each other and we expose the poverties we work so hard to hide.

With our nervous couches and salt-drenched face, we heard about the last two journeys and burdens that mark the end of the peer-exploration road. We say a happy and sad goodbye to the dreaded vulnerability and the quivering chins. We know one another and love one another. We're growing in God and ourselves and in our never-ending testimonies. I will simply never forget the moment of 18 snotting girls, with hands intertwined, breathing heavy burdens in a misshapen group hug. I will always remember the relief and hurt and headaches imposed by tears.
I also just can't not love that God unified us the most with people who are furthest from Him. He works in mysterious ways.


Time. It is a funny thing. During good times we want the clock to stand still; during moments of hardship we want it to speed up. Learning to enjoy every moment, whether good or bad, is what I have been discovering this trip. Last night we played our best volleyball match yet. I didn’t want the game to end. The chemistry on our side of the court was outstanding. The atmosphere was positive and encouraging. We were playing for God, each other, and ourselves, while also enjoying the game.
Today my group went to the orphanage. Again I wanted the time to stop moving. It was a workday today so we put our painting skills to the test. Paintbrush and roller in hand we made our way up to the little bedroom (12 feet by 7 feet) where about six children shared a room. We began by sanding the walls, then got to the fun stuff. White paint was flying everywhere. We were covered from head to toe, bringing the reality of albino to life. Now we were not only pale, but completely white. You can only guess all the stares and funny facial expressions we received when we entered the super market for lunch.
Best part of the day for me was meeting the woman who ran the orphanage. Marie and her husband were both lawyers and felt called by God to start this orphanage. There original plan included ten children, however, now they care for over 60 kids. I was so moved by Marie and the women who helped out.  Marie went from having everything, to giving it all away for these kids. Such compassion. I would have loved to hear her whole story. These women just touched my heart. We were there to bless them but instead we were being blessed. It was a very encouraging day probably my favorite so far.


When there are streams of sadness on their faces and still an incessant faith in Jesus, who are the impoverished? When social lives are sacrificed in order to serve, who are the rich? Why do our houses, packed with square footage and clothes that we will never use, consistute us as rich? Why do our broken spirits and selfishness not get put into the equation? What of these Paraguayan lives, who daily demonstrate the fruits of the spirit -- are they not rich?
Lately we've been wrestling with the notion of poverty and all of its implications: whether spiritual, emotional, mental, or monetary. We've been struggling with ideas of Western "superiority", personal poverties, and God's will. It's an interesting notion to reconsider what our patented definitions have been of the word. Paraguay has been an amazing challenge, that have pushed our perceptions of the word daily on how we view others and how we view our own impoverished states.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Paraguayan Poetry

Group Red
Me gusta Paraguay
But that’s not all we’re gonna say
Alejandro took us on a bumpy ride
To take us to an orphanage on the other side
We laugh, we play, and we smile
It makes us want to stay awhile
We heard their story
And it aint no Bory:
Jose y Wilma are our homies
And I tell ya it aint no phony.
Forever they will be in our hearts
Even though tomorrow we will have a new start.
The trip to the eat was not short
But we made it to the food Courtney Rosenberg
Helado was the cherry on top
It made none of us want to stop.
We’re almost Spanish with our almost tan.
We don’t drive no normal mini vans
Who knows what tomorrow will bring
God does, he knows everything
Buenos Noches.


Team Blue - Kara, Amber, Amy, Jodi, Casie, Lauren

Today extreme poverty met us face to face. Words can’t even begin to explain what our group (group blue) saw. My emotions were ever changing as I walked down the street; from sadness, to anger, to desperation, to guilt, and finally rested on injustice. How is it fair that people- human beings like you and I- could live in such awful conditions? How is it fair that I have grown up so blessed in an environment so incomparable?

I will do my best to try and summarize what I saw:
Garbage flooded every part of the community. It oozed from the houses, ebbed in the streams, covered the pathways, and decorated the fences. The houses were a mix of broken brick, branches of trees, and even cardboard. The smell is one that I will never forget, smelling of death and feces combined. We walked down the streets trying to be friendly. A few politely said hi, while most either glared at us or ignored us. One woman even started cursing and yelling at us. I felt ashamed that we were like rich tourists only observing their lifestyle from a distance. I wanted to go and help clean up the garbage or play with the kids, however, it was much to dangerous to stop walking.

Chacorita is the poorest of the poor in Paraguay. It is hidden from the road by the beautiful parliament building. The government officials almost didn’t even let our group of white Canadian girls led by a local and renowned Pastor walk through this community.  Our translator did not speak much English so all we knew was that it was a community full of drugs, prostitution, and teenage mothers.

After reaching the end of the Chacorita, we ran into the main road. We walked along the path back to the Nutrition Center where we had begun our tour. Along the way we saw all the Paraguayan government buildings. They were massive and extravagant. We stopped to take a tour inside one of the museums. Our whole group couldn’t bare to look at the museum after what we had just encountered, so we quickly turned around and left.

It felt like I was in Vancouver. One minute I was walking down East Hastings look at the homeless, and the next moment I was on Granville shopping. This was one hundred times worse. I felt sick to my stomach. I was upset with the government of Paraguay for closing their eyes to the poverty that was literally one block away from them. I realized that It was no different in Canada. How could I be mad at these people, when I do the same thing!

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, “Let me help you get rid of the speck in your eye, when you cant see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” – Matthew 7:3-5

It was a very hard sight to see today, but I know God has not forgotten about this community. God’s love knows no limits and I know he is working; even in the poorest slums in Paraguay.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

A Sarah Quote

"But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted in the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit."

- Jeremiah 17:7

(Material) Poverty

I have never seen barbed wire used as fence before besides in concentration camps and prisons. I have especially never seen barbed wire used voluntarily to protect one's property. The wires and the homemade landfills were our greeting cards to their neighbourhood.
They were junkyard houses. They were not behind a TV screen on TLC or on a World Vision commercial, but in a tangible physical state. Walls of tin thinner than soup cans. Roofs of plastic composed of chip bags and ex-umbrellas. Absolutely nothing that can stand the test of time, Paraguayan rain, or disease. They were literal sheets of paper in comparison to the land; paper with no composure and a tendency to wash away in the rain. The houses were complemented by the earth of unforgiving red and the waste of past generations. A tiny suffocating stream choked through the line of houses and acted as a carrier of disease. What should resemble life, freshness, and cleanliness instead brought dengue and dirt. It housed an entire community's past as every piece of once-used plastic was disposed of here. The layers of soil alternated between garbage and clay. There were gardens of plastic and streams of junk.
Despite the hoards of of junk and evidence of human life, it is practically impossible to imagine daily life in this place. We are simply tourists for one day in their reality. I cannot imagine calling a shack of plastic and dirt my homestead. I cannot believe that these establishments of absolute filth are someone's shelter, someone's security, someone's "home sweet home". My narrow-minded Western perspective fails to understand how lives are sustained and days are repeated in such forsaken conditions.