First Baptist Church St. Marys
Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Keeping Up With the Quasts


The (Very) Latest Quast News

For more news, read their personal blog (Jen usually writes this) at http://jonandjenquast.blogspot.com/
For their New Tribes Mission blog, go to http://www.ntm.org/wp/jon_quast/

For youtube videos of the adventure, go to http://www.youtube.com/jonandjenquast

To make a donation through New Tribes to Jon and Jen go to http://www.ntm.org/wp/jon_quast/give/
Here are the latest Video Logs (vlogs) from Jon and Jen
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 

Overdue Update


September 27, 2015

I hope this overdue post finds you all well and growing with the Lord. In this post, we'll try to quickly update you on our lives, an exciting update in ministry, and a challenging trial we are currently facing.

The primary objective for our family right now is to build relationships and learn the Nivacle language. Both of those goals has its highs and lows.

Relationships are a tricky proposition here in the village. Most relationships in the culture are familial in nature. Outside of the family, it can sometimes seem like a "what can a get out of the other person" relationship. This can be a prime motivator in the locals wanting to be our friends -- since we have a lot of stuff in their eyes. However, coming from our background, this can be a turnoff right?

One of the ways that we are trying to navigate this is by exploring the concept of reciprocity. A give and take relationship. There are people here who are givers, not just takers. With these people we are trying to reciprocate the giving and taking and those relationships are the ones that are strengthening for us at this time.

The Nivacle language remains extremely challenging, but there is progress being made. We are at the point now where in some conversations we can get "the gist" of what's being said. ("Jon, it's hot outside." "Yes, it's very hot...") We still have a long ways to go, but we have to celebrate the little victories as well.

As far as the ministry is concerned, a few months ago the people in our village decided that they wanted my coworker Shaun to teach a Bible study. The Bible study choice was obvious for us: we would teach them from creation to the resurrection so that they would see clearly from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ, the Savior of the world.

Keep in mind that the people asking to be taught were the "church people". We have a church building in our community with indian pastors and leaders. As we taught through 72 lessons over the next couple months here's some things these people had to say:

  • "We didn't know we were created by God"
  • "We thought that white people and indians were different. Now we know that we all came from Adam and Eve"
  • "For the first time, I see that I am a sinner. I have broken God's laws. But if I'm a sinner, then how can I go to heaven to be with God?"
  • "I knew Jesus died because of sins, but I never realized He died for my sin"

Incredible testimonies from Nivacle people who many in this part of the world consider "reached" and without need of any missionary influence. However, we see that even in some basic Biblical truths, the people need to be taught well. Several at the end of the Bible study gave clear testimony to now trusting in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Praise God!
 

This high has quickly been met by a trial. Several important people in our village were hoping that one of us missionaries would take them to another village in our vehicles. Our family had a last minute situation come up that kept us from being able to go. Our coworkers also weren't able to do it.

This sparked an outrage by a select few. In a village meeting, one of those who just recently gave clear testimony of salvation took the stage and began speaking all sorts of lies about bad things that we missionaries had done. After they went on and on, they suggested writing up a request to the landowners here to get our missionary team permanently removed.

It's a big deal, but it's not the first time this has happened. The exact same situation occurred about 5 months ago. Back then the entire community -- except for one person -- turned on my coworker and tried to have him removed. My coworker having been lied about, and with everyone knowing deep down that it was all lies, didn't defend himself. He simply turned the cheek, forgave, and publicly affirmed his love for the one who had done him the most wrong. This helped a very volatile situation to finally calm over.

This time around the lies and the anger are just as bad...maybe even worse. But the response from the community -- and especially the other people who also recently professed faith in Christ -- has been markedly different.

In the meeting where the lies were spewing, the man who was in charge of the meeting finally interrupted those talking and said "What you are saying is wrong. We're not doing this. The meeting is over. Go home." Let me tell you, you just don't do that in Nivacle culture.

Another man in the community came to me to let me know that a certain individual was very mad at me. Now, I don't speak Nivacle and my interaction is limited, but this guy is one of those recently professing his faith, and discipleship is imperative. I just commented to this man in Spanish that I knew full well that the other man was unjustly angry with me. But it was ok. We're just going to forgive him, love him, and soon he'll cool down and it will be all over.

Thanks for standing with us. Pray for those who recently expressed faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ for salvation. These guys have a long road of discipleship ahead, and at times will be tried for going against their culture. Pray for those who have yet to hear in their language -- many villages are asking us to come teach. Hello to all.

Till All Are Reached,
Jon and Jen Quast

 

No End to Possible Distractions

June 1, 2015
 

The air had a pronounced chill to it as he opened his eyes to the morning light. It was one of those mornings when most would say it’s too cold to get out of bed. Any other guy would have rolled over and gone back to sleep. But not him. And especially not today, for today was the day he had been waiting for. The day he would finally find his place in the world.

Motivated by his purpose he excitedly set out. As he went he looked around him. Most didn’t find anything especially appealing about the area, but for him it was home. No other place would do. It would be here that he’d find a place for himself to settle down in, get married, and have kids.

It came upon him suddenly. Could his eyes be playing tricks on him? No, here it was right in front of him. He was almost afraid to truly accept that he had found what he was looking for. It was an absolutely perfect home in every way. After losing himself in a dream for a few moments he shook himself awake. With one last look the decision was made. This was to be his home.

And so it was that the field mouse started making any and every necessary “modification” to the Quast’s washing machine.

Life in a tribal community 100 miles down a dirt road from town, outside of cell phone range, and without internet sounds like the perfect opportunity to settle down, learn language and culture, and…you know…dedicate oneself fully to ministry. After all, what could possible demand our time right?

We’re learning that is no end to possible distractions.

We truly believe that God has us here in Paraguay’s chaco region for an eternal purpose. With that in mind we quite often take stock of our lives and ask ourselves what we could cut out to dedicate ourselves more fully to the task at hand — an attempt to walk in the truth of Ephesians 5:15-17. (Yes, I’m going to make you look it up!) That process has yielded some fantastic results.

But some mornings you wake up and turns out the water tank has sprung a leak and emptied out. Sometimes you have flat tire. Occasionally the termites want to move into your wood house with you. And yes, every once and a while a mouse chews through your washing machine parts.

Big deal right? Just run down to the hardware store real quick…wait, there’s no hardware store. Ok, just call the local handyman…er actually there’s no handyman. Well maybe we can just grab the spare part and specialty tool…sigh…don’t have that either. So I guess we’ll just spend a few hours or so figuring out a way to make whatever it is work for now with whatever we got.

There’s two sides to the predicament that I’m describing. On the one hand we could throw our hands in the air and just be ok with everything that is fighting to rob us of our precious time. There’s some validity to this. After all, some circumstances our truly out of hands. Those situations are opportunities from the Lord. He’s constantly teaching us — molding us into the image of Christ. Recognizing this, refusing to walk in the flesh, and finding contentment in spite of our circumstances are crucial to our spiritual health.

But on the other hand, if we get too relaxed then everything out here can and will rob us of our time. We’ve had to learn to say no to a lot of things, so that we can say yes to ministry. Every hour away from language study puts us potentially 3-4 hours further away from learning the Nivacle language. Start doing the math and the implications are scary.

That said, we are really excited with how far we’ve come so far in the tribal language, but we aren’t as far along as we hoped to be. When we layed out our language learning plan, taking the gas stove apart to see why it wouldn’t light wasn’t in there.

I’d like to tie this post up with a nice little bow, but I’m not sure I really know where I’m going other than to say I believe the Lord calls us to faithfulness. If we believe that ministry in the village He has placed us in is our calling — which we do — then we need to commit ourselves to it. Not letting ourselves get pulled away by a love of the things of the world.

Now…where is that mouse?

Till All Are Reached,
Jon and Jen Quast

Exciting Changes!

May 15, 2015
 

After our supply run last month we returned to the Nivacle tribal village thinking things were going to be "business as usual." For our family that means learning the tribal language so we can communicate God's truth clearly. But this month held a big surprise up its sleeve. Village leaders got together and unanimously decided that they wanted my coworker Shaun to teach them God's word. This has been something we've been praying about for a long time.

What was most surprising was this was a Saturday when they decided. They wanted him to start teaching on Monday -- about 50 hours notice! The leaders decided that the community could be taught every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday night. They were very insistent that it must start right away. Fortunately, my coworker has been preparing for this moment and he accepted.

So far he's taught 5 nights - a 6th night was cancelled due to rain. This has allowed us to cover Genesis 1 and 2. Now, keep in mind, these people are supposedly church people. People who other organizations say are Christians and no longer need missionary activity. But listen to some of the testimonies so far:

     "I never knew that God was stronger than Satan. I'm glad I know now that God is more powerful because He is the creator..."

     "I didn't think that all people were the same. I thought since some people are white then they must be God's children, but not us. Now I know we are all the same race because we all come from Adam."

     "My whole life, I taught my family to be afraid if a tree fell down because that means that someone is going to die (this is a traditional belief) because I thought that maybe we learned that from God. Now I know that I taught my family wrong. The Bible is God's only word."

The local "pastor" had to recount for everyone what he heard for the first time (teaching from Genesis 2). The local "evangelist" stood mouth agape as he heard about God creating the millions of angels.

So far we're encouraged with what we're seeing, but we have a long way to go. Pray for us as we cover the Bible message from here at Genesis 3 all the way to the cross (the overall message, not a detailed look at every verse). We estimate it will take 3 months to finish the teaching with this group.

Here's some specific prayer points:

  • Pray that as Biblical truth is presented, people will be struck with how different their beliefs are from what God's Word says.
  • Pray that they will come to see eternal life as something gained from knowing Christ, not from external rituals
  • Pray for my coworkers. For their health, endurance, and family
  • Pray for us as we are attending the teaching, and looking for ways to have a part although we obviously don't know enough language to be teachers.
  • Pray for the weather, as cold and rain can really keep people huddled around their cook fires at night
  • Pray that we will soon be able to get printed copies of the lessons in people's hands (We have found that printed lessons are a great tool. They can follow along even when our meeting place is noisy, they can take them home and review later, and they can even teach family members who weren't able to attend the teaching. We sending everything to a print shop, but in Paraguay there's no telling how long it could take).

     

Jen and I can hardly believe how privileged we are to be a part of this. Already the people are taking about people in neighboring villages who don't have access to clear teaching of God's word. I'm (Jon) am hoping to visit some of these villages soon to at least sow some seeds of friendship. Who knows? In a couple years I could be teaching in one of these neighboring villages.
 

All in all it's an exciting time for us. We continue to work daily on learning language and building relationships: both of which are on a high note right now.

Thank you for continuing to stand behind us!

Till All Are Reached,
Jon and Jen Quast

Catching Up

April 13, 2015

Hello to all. It doesn't seem possible that in our first 3 months back in Paraguay we haven't sent out an update, but apparently that's reality. Here we go with the first update of 2015.

Since returning to Paraguay we have been involved in studying the Nivacle language and culture fulltime. When we go to the village we are there for about 4 weeks at a time. Out there we don't have internet and our cell signal is itermittant. The hospital and grocery store are about 100 miles away. And one of our only consistent sources of outside information is a radio station that reads the noon news...in German.

But nothing could excite us more.

There's so much more than we would like to say, but quite frankly we only briefly came to town to buy supplies, and right now we are trying to beat a rainstorm back out to the village (the joys of living and driving 3 hours down a dirt road). So for today, I'll just share a story with you that I had prepared before of something that recently happened in the village.

Frequently we fill our prayer letters with prayer requests, but how often do we include a praise story? Well, today we'll include one for you. Our family is adjusting to our transition into full-time life with the Nivacle people, but we are not alone here. We work with two other families from New Tribes Mission, and we are very thankful for their experience and maturity that we can grow from.

My coworker Shaun has been living with the Nivacle people for 4 years now and is currently preparing and teaching Bible lessons. These lessons are a powerful tool that meet the people where they are at in order to bring them to a Biblical understanding of salvation through faith in Christ, but to prepare these lessons Shaun works with a Nivacle man named Rob (loose translation) to make sure he gets all the wording right before actually teaching.

As Shaun was nearing the lessons on the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, Rob wasn't around to help him with those very important lessons. Shaun didn't know when he'd back to the village, so he finally had to hire another man to help out. Out of the blue one day Rob showed up at Shaun's house to work on Bible lessons, but Shaun was all caught up and didn't have any work.

In light of losing out on some work, Rob did what any self-respecting Nivacle man in his situation would do -- he went around spreading lies and rumors about my coworker Shaun. In Nivacle culture, lies -- even known lies -- can be believed and propagated as much as the truth. Virtually every single Nivacle person in the village turned on Shaun in one fell swoop, despite the years of kindness he had shown.

We learned this about the culture: losing your job is one of the most embarrassing things that can happen to a Nivacle. And the only way a Nivacle knows to elevate his position is by putting others down -- hence Rob's reaction.

Needless to say, we -- the Quasts -- were pretty upset. "How dare Rob do something like this after all Shaun has done for him!" we thought. In our flesh, we thought retaliation might be a good recourse. Make a good example of Rob for lying. Tar and feather him so to speak.

Shaun however took the high road -- indeed, the Biblical road -- and decided to show love to the undeserving. In a public community meeting -- one in which everyone was still angry with Shaun and uncomfortable that he had come to the meeting -- Shaun waited until a good amount of people were there, and then he approached Rob. Everyone stopped and stared. How would Shaun respond? Shaun had the Nivacle's undivided attention.

Shaun simply smiled, looked at Rob, and said (loud enough that all the wide eyed Nivacle in the room could hear) "Where have you been? You haven't been to my house in awhile to drink tea. I miss you friend. Come and see me soon." This simple act of love -- of public affirmation -- instantly repaired the damaged relationship and allowed Rob to save face for what he had done. Everything is calm again in the village. What's more, the people are talking these days on how Shaun can teach the entire village the Gospel story from creation to Christ.

I shudder to think of the negative impact this whole situation could have had. Reacting out of anger could have destroyed the opportunity that we now have.

We're thankful for coworkers like these, that we can learn from. God has really blessed us with a good team.

Till All Are Reached
Jon and Jen Quast

Changing Buses Between Worlds

January 16, 2015

One of the biggest challenges we face as missionaries is being torn “between worlds”. We constantly find ourselves in different contexts which means we are frequently jumping from language to language, culture to culture, and find ourselves among different groups of friends.

Such was the reality when our plane landed in Paraguay’s capital last week. Upon arrival we were promptly greeted by some dear Paraguayan friends who live in the capital. This welcome party ushered in an entire week of catching up with friends.

We only stayed a week, but we had so many people to see that we could have stayed three weeks. The truth is Paraguay’s capital was once our home, but no longer. We now live 500 miles from our old stomping grounds. So when we’re in town, we have many friends who want to see us, ask us how we've been, and encourage us for the future. We did the best we could with the short time we had.

After a week it was time to make the trek to the other side of the country: the Paraguayan Chaco. And we decided months ago that we were going to take the bus instead of drive. There’s only one road that can take us where we want to go — La Ruta Transchaco — and to put it bluntly the road is terrible. Whenever a drive this particular road I feel like Buzz Aldrin and I have something in common — we both know what it’s like to drive around on a crater filled surface. It’s a pretty stressful drive, so we decided to sit back and relax and let someone else do the driving.

It’s about an 8 hour bus ride from the capital to our supply town. Everything was going great until right after I took this picture. The bus had stopped for a bathroom and dinner break halfway into our journey. We had ten minutes. After taking this picture of the boys I went into the gas station to buy something to eat for dinner. Jen was taking Jade to the bathroom. Everything was good, until right after I walked out of the gas station.

I looked for a moment and felt like my eyes were playing tricks on me. I knew I was tired, but could I be that tired? The feeling of auto-suspicion then faded and turned into the feeling that we all got when we were three years old at the grocery store and couldn't find our mommy. As I stared forward it sunk in: our bus was gone.

While I quickly panicked wondering what we were supposed to do, my sarcastic wit still felt like there was time to zing one at me. “Normally people worry about all their bags getting to where they’re going. This might be the first time in history that the bags will make it to the destination without their owners.” Fortunately I snapped out of it as people from another bus started leaning out their windows and pounding on the side of the bus frantically pointing down the road. They were all screaming “Hurry!! Your bus is right there!!”

I couldn't see it but I started running with Jonas in tow, and Jamen running beside me best he could without dropping his dinner. There were cattle trucks blocking my vision, but once I got to the other side I saw it. It was our bus! But it was nearly back on the road. I started screaming “Espera!!” as if the driver could hear me. The cattle truck driver saw what was going on and sent off an ear-piercing whistle like only a Paraguayan can do. The bus wouldn't stop.

We continued our chase — myself, Jamen, Jonas, and the random cattle truck man — and all the while I was wondering, “Where are Jen and Jade? Did they make it back on?” Finally the bus stopped, and the driver got out, clearly annoyed. I looked way back to the gas station and who do I see but my wife and daughter about a football field length away only just processing what was happening.

Ha! It’s not really an adventure until you chase the last bus down with a random cattle truck man! As we boarded the bus the other passengers clearly had found the debacle entertaining.

Now we are back in the supply town — another world yet again. This supply town is a German town with its own unique culture. We are once again catching up with life and friends here.

Next week we hope to make it back out to the village. We’re told the people are anxious for our return. One man told my coworker that he found some honey, but he’s waiting for me to get back before he goes and chops it out. Wow. We’ve come so far, and are looking forward to what God has in store for us in the months and years to come.

Till All Are Reached

 

Jon and Jen Quast 

Happy New Year!

December 31, 2014

Happy New Year everybody! It's hard to believe that 2014 is already leaving us when it feels like we were just becoming acquainted. Now 2015 is at the door. In this post we'll catch you up on the last couple of months and prep you for what this year holds.

Since our last post we have spent time in all of our church congregations. Our church in Tennessee was a joy to be with for four weeks. We also spent time with both of our churches in Georgia, and also our church body in Florida. Each church is special to us in a unique way and provided us with many opportunities for serving, speaking, and being served and ministered to. We're thankful to report that each of our churches is more committed to our ministry than they were four years ago, and are looking forward to watching the ministry blossom over the long term.

A couple weeks ago we wrapped up all of our speaking engagements with a small church body in Virginia. This church had received a large offering, and wanted to use a portion of it to further God's work overseas. They invited us to come share and we had a great time. This church's gift was a good reminder that God loves to use the church to spread the Gospel. Not big churches or churches with big bank accounts. God uses THE church whose local bodies come in all shapes and sizes.

Now we are just enjoying some low-tempo time with our families during this holiday season and envisioning our year ahead. In one week we return to our Paraguayan home. Keep us in your prayers as we head to Miami for our flight.

In 2015 we are going to be involved in language study full-time. The Nivacle language is a language that is so difficult that would-be language learners take off running before even getting started. But we are confident that He Who sends us will equip and enable us.

In 2015 we will live full-time in the Nivacle village. We've gotten a taste of what this is like already, but only a taste. Now real-deal-living starts, and all the fun challenges that go with it.

In 2015 we will look to integrate more fully into our team. We work with two other families, and we're looking forward to hammering out our collective goals and strategies. Up to this point everything has been mostly talk. Now we start really working together to accomplish the work God has entrusted us with.

And finally in 2015, we will do this missionary thing all the while maintaining other indispensable aspects of our lives -- our relationship with the Lord and each other. God has done so much to grow us during this time back in the States. Our relationship with Him is strong and we look forward to continuing that growth throughout this new year. We'll also look to give attention to our relationship with each other...ie family life! That includes homeschooling our kids, having fun as a family, growing in our marriage, and discipling each other.

All in all we know a lot about the year ahead, though I'm sure God has some surprises for us. Keep us in your prayers as you are in ours.

And thanks for standing behind us.

Till All Are Reached

 

Jon and Jen Quast 

Report from Filadelfia


April 15, 2014

How time flies. Thank the Lord that we were able to move from Paraguay's capital city to a town called Filadelfia about 300 miles to the northwest. Filadelfia is our supply town, where our mission has housing and where there is a German Mennonite run grocery store.

We moved the first week of February. The tribal village is still another 100 miles from our supply town, but we didn't yet have permission from the tribal community to move in. One week after we moved from the capital we were approved to move into the tribal village.

Since that time we have made several trips from our supply town to the tribal village to get warmed up. First we went for the day, then five days, and then 15 days. Each time we go we are learning how to plan to stay out in the village -- where there is no grocery store and no doctor -- for longer stretches of time.

Now two months later we have our tribal home completely set up and ready. We've learned a bit on how to live out there. The tribal people have been very friendly and helpful during our time with them. One of our neighbors even brings us food several times a week.

While we are thrilled to begin our process of learning the tribal language, we feel it's wise to now take a furlough time. We  are planning on arriving in the USA the last week of May, and returning to Paraguay in January 2015.

We look forward to connecting with all our supporters and churches during furlough and updating them in person on the ministry, the challenges, and the vision we have for the future. We'll also be sharing in some new churches praying that the Lord will raise our financial support.

Thanks for taking a moment to read. Hopefully we'll get to connect with you during our time in the States.

Till All Are Reached

Jon and Jen Quast

The First Trip

February 18, 2014

Just ten days after arriving to our new stomping grounds — the Paraguayan Chaco — our family was barreling down the road heading out to the tribal community we’ll be living in for the first time. We were quite a convoy: two vehicles, our family, one coworker, a Nivaclé leader, a Nivaclé mother, grandmother, newborn baby, and a trailer full of stuff. Each had its own story.

The Nivaclé grandmother had come out of the distant community to be with her daughter as she had a baby. Mothers like to help out as much as possible. She had been out for about a month before the baby was born. After the baby was born however, she was feeling quite homesick. But travelling can be hard — especially when you’re trying to get 170 km down the road. When they heard we were heading out, they asked if they could come along.

Our coworker was coming along to say his goodbyes to the community where he had lived for 3 years. Family needs have them moving back to our supply town for the time being. It was a pretty hard decision, as they have grown to love the village and the people. But the day had finally come to let everyone know. We decided to coordinate with the specific purpose of their last day in the tribe being our first, so that it wouldn’t be such a sad occasion.

The Nivaclé leader had come with us to introduce us to the community. He helps our coworkers learn the Nivaclé language here in the supply town, and he is originally from the village. As we talked about moving out there he volunteered to go with us so that he could introduce us, and explain that we needed to learn their language and culture. And seeing his family was an extra bonus.

And then finally, our trailer was loaded down because we were hauling our stuff out to the tribe. After all these years of preparation, the day had finally come.

Dirt roads aren’t exactly superhighways, but we were doing the best we could. The Chaco clay when it dries is hard as concrete, and unfortunately the road had dried with ridges in it — just like those little ridges on the side of the interstate that jar you awake if you start to fall asleep — only a little bit bigger. Just the same I was trying to push the truck to 80 km/hr. Jamen from the back seat piped up, “Dad, you need to slow down. You’re going to make a tire fly off!” I smiled at the way his mind works and replied “Son, that’s not how it works.”

Not two seconds later there was a loud crash. My heart raced as I looked around for the problem. It was then I watched my trailer’s tire pass me going down the road. As soon as I brought us to a stop a chiding voice from the back seat piped up “I told you that you were going too fast.”

This isn’t my first rodeo — I’ve been broke down on the side of the road before. Interestingly, I’ve also been broke down while going where God asked me to go. In 2008 we were heading to Missouri for missionary training when we blew a radiator. Back then I was mad at God. I couldn’t believe He would let something like that happen when I (insert nasally pious tone) was doing what He had asked. I stubbornly drove for 3 days on a cracked radiator without praying for wisdom or help, just because I was so angry. Class, that’s what you call walking in the flesh.

This time was different. The Lord has taken us down a lot of roads since 2008, and He has been true to His promise to continue to grow me up into the person He wants me to be. (Philippians 1:6) Not that I’ve already reached it. I still walk in the flesh more often than I care to admit. But over the years, we’ve earned a “track record” with the Lord. I’m trying to remember that God always has a reason He does things, and losing a trailer tire is no different.

Long story short, God provided what we needed to fix it enough to get to where we were going. He provided by what we found on the road, and some random spare parts we had laying around. Maybe He just wanted to remind me that He is in control. Maybe He just wanted us to brag on Him to our Nivaclé friends.

We arrived to the community and have been overwhelming received. Not to say it wasn’t emotional. Many people cried as they heard the news that our coworkers won’t be living out there anymore. But they have received us with open arms just the same. The Nivaclé leader called a meeting and introduced us, and made sure everyone knows that my wife can’t eat gluten — something we hadn’t asked him to say but sure appreciated.

After dropping off our load and eating lunch with our new neighbors, we headed back to town. We had enough excitement for one day. We had decided to not spend the night yet as we wanted to see the place first, and then decide what we needed to spend a couple days out there.

Those couple days start tomorrow. Tomorrow night, Lord willing, will be our first night in the tribal community. Pray for us as we continue to transition into life in this community.

Till All Are Reached

 

Jon and Jen Quast

 

Operation Unplug

January 28, 2014

We arrived in Paraguay just under 3 years ago with the purpose of going to the least reached in this country. It’s been a long journey of preparation, but we’re ecstatic that the moment has finally come - we’re moving! Yet, when we were giving the clearance by our leadership to move on to the next phase of life and ministry, we didn’t pack the car immediately. We began a very delicate process - we had to unplug from life here.

The task of learning how to live in a new country is a big one, and one that takes lots of friends and relations. We’ve constantly been meeting new people, entering their lives, meeting their families, doing what they do etc. Many hours have been spent visiting - building these relationships, as these relationships are the foundation for our learning to live in Paraguay.

And that’s why I use the word “delicate.” These Paraguayan friends are our friends. They’ve come to be very close to us. And we’ve also learned that the feeling is mutual. As we told them that we were leaving for the tribal community, they began to plan “despedidads” - goodbye parties. Apparently this is the cultural way to say goodbye. We had 5 of these goodbye parties just this past week.

So being that we are friends, we couldn’t just pack up and leave. It was a process of unplugging. We’ve spent a lot of meaningful time with them over the past couple months, affirming our friendship and preparing for our departure. It’s been slightly emotional - much like how it was when we first left the States.

I can now say with confidence that we are 100% unplugged from capital city life. But our relationships don’t end now anymore than our relationships back home ended when we came to Paraguay. As I wrote in a previous post, we are being sent on our way by Paraguayan churches. These churches have partnered with us because they have come to believe in the need among the tribal communities as well.

One of the very unique things we experienced with the unplugging process is the apparent cultural Christian practice of dedicating Bible verses to the person going away. Everyone wanted to dedicate us something. Among the passages dedicated were 1 Samuel 16:7, Acts 20:24, Daniel 10:12, Revelation 3:8, and Joshua 1:9. The truth is we were dedicated so many passages so quickly that I can’t recall them all.

During this time we’ve also tried to position ourselves for future ministry. Many young people in our churches have expressed interest in visiting us in the tribe. We are encouraging this desire as this will allow us discipleship opportunities with Paraguayan youth who perhaps God is leading towards missions. We can give them a glimpse up close and personal of missionary life, and engage them on what God is teaching them.

So here we stand: completely unplugged from the life in the big city, and ready for life in the tribe. Relationships have been affirmed, and we have hopefully positioned ourselves for future discipleship. Next on our list is to travel the 300-miles to our new home. We’re very excited - this is what we came for.

Till All Are Reached

Jon and Jen Quast

God's Church Knows No Boundaries

“I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.” - Romans 15:24

I’m kind of a Bible timeline/geography nut…it can be obsessive at times. You should see the pads of paper I fill up trying to remember where this Roman province was in relation to the other and when did this happen etc. But this kind of study has yielded some interesting insights into the more – should I say – overlooked passages. You know, the passages that come near the end and beginning of the epistles. The sections that talk about people and places. This Roman passage is one such passage.

Paul had labored as a missionary for years to the point that he could say “I no longer have any room for work in these regions.” Paul had completed his mission in Roman provinces such as Macedonia, Achaia, and Asia. Now he turned his attention once again to the unreached, this time in Spain. But he wanted to go to Spain by way of Rome for two reasons. First, he wanted to minister to the believers in Rome. But secondly, he wanted to be sent to Spain by the Roman church.

That seems insignificant at first, until we remember that Paul wasn't from Rome. In fact, Paul had never even been to Rome! He was originally sent out from the church in Antioch, and over the years Paul would return and update the church on what God was doing. But Antioch wasn't Paul’s only supporting church. Philippi and Ephesus helped meet Paul’s needs as well.

In our modern mission world, these things seem normal. Currently we have a sending church – the church that we were members of when we left to go to the mission field. But we have more than just a sending church; we also have supporting churches. These are churches that we have contact with and who God leads to be a part of our ministry. In Paul’s case, Philippi and Ephesus make sense as supporting churches. Paul spent significant time planting and ministering to these churches. Their support only seems natural. But what about Rome?

God’s church knows no boundaries. God places all believers in Christ, and since we’re all in Christ there’s no longer any distinction between us. We’re all one in Christ. That’s easy for us to see when we talk about Roman provinces from 2,000 years ago. It’s a tad harder to grasp when we bring it to modern life. For example, there’s no problem grasping a US church sending us to the Nivaclé tribe, but what about a Paraguayan church? Can we – like Paul – “be helped on our journey” by them?

That’s exactly what’s happening. Things are still in the beginning stages, but we are looking to be helped on our journey to reach the unreached in Paraguay by Paraguayan churches. God has blessed us beyond measure with countless friends and church contacts around the capital city, and recently we have been pursuing two of these churches more intentionally in order to formalize our partnership with them. In the picture, my coworker Jaime came out from the tribe and visited one of these churches with me so we could talk about church planting in the Nivaclé tribe. That church is joining us in prayer support.

Our other church in Paraguay is considering – among other things – offering us pastoral care support. In the words of the pastor, “Your churches in the United States are so far away, and it’s going to be hard for your pastors to pastor you from that distance. I’m so much closer. In fact, I could visit you a couple times a year to check how you’re doing spiritually.” Can we be pastored by a Paraguayan pastor? You better believe it.

I've had to learn how to sing in Spanish. On this night someone said "Hey Jon, you've really learned to sing like a Latino". I said "Really?" and he said "Well, no not really."

It’s funny, God has been doing this all along, but we haven’t seen what He was doing until very recently. We’re still waiting to see how He works out the details, but suffice it say that God has sent us out to reach the Nivaclé people, and He’s bringing people on board irregardless of their nationality. God’s chosen instrument is the church, and the church is from all peoples and languages: from Antioch and Rome. His church is from the USA and Paraguay.

Pray for us as we transition the tribal village in the next couple months.

Till All Are Reached

Jon and Jen Quast

Year-End Update

December 20, 2013

 

Wow, 2013 has come and gone, and we've been reflecting on where the Lord has brought us. 2013 was challenging in many ways, and felt like it had more downs than ups. That's life sometimes, and we appreciate all your prayers for us and your encouraging words. We can truly feel that because of our churches in the USA, we were able to make it through some tough times, get refocused on the Lord and the calling He's given us, and to be encouraged as we continue moving forward. Had it not been for your faithfulness in our lives, I don't know if we'd still be on the mission field. Thank you so much.

Now as we look ahead to 2014 we want to let you know we are in a transition stage. Our leadership here (somewhat out-of-the-blue) called us in for a meeting to inform us that they are thankful for what we've accomplished in Asuncion Paraguay, but feel like the Lord would have us move on to a church planting ministry. We were very thankful for this, because this is what we were feeling from the Lord as well. We have decided to church plant among the Nivacle people with two other families from our mission. We hope to be able to move out there sometime in February.

Needless to say, there are some financial needs when it comes to this kind of move. We have seen the Lord provide in an incredible way since arriving on the field. We've never been lacking in what we need. This year especially has been a testament to God's faithfulness, and your faithfulness. While some individuals have stopped supporting us regularly, we are thankful that all 5 churches that supported us when we came to Paraguay still support us. What's more, this year our supporting churches have given over and beyond what was pledged. We thank you for your faithfulness and willingness to stand behind us.

Our mentioning a need does no reflect a lack of support from our churches. As mentioned, you've already given above and beyond. But we are looking to the Lord to meet our moving needs, so we decided to make you aware of this as well. We ask that you stand united with us in prayer, and if the Lord does lead you then of course we welcome any help.

We wish you the very merriest of Christmases. We'll likely be celebrating with Paraguayan friends on Christmas Eve (the traditional Paraguayan Christmas celebration) and then Christmas day we'll spend with a single lady missionary in order to try to encourage her, as this is her first Christmas on the mission field. The first one can be kind of tough, especially for a single missionary. May God give you a blessed time as your remember Him this Christmas, and may He guide your every step in 2014.

Needs List:

Vehicle needs

Our ol’ chariot has been a fantastic purchase for us. But like any vehicle, there are maintenance needs. Some things we’ve pushed off, but they’re becoming more crucial as we approach moving into the tribal village.

Cooling system repair $300

Living in the city, this hasn't been a major concern. We barely drive far enough to warm up the car. But in the extreme heat of the Paraguayan Chaco (Google it!), this is a different story. Our 20 year old radiator has sprung a leak, and needs to be changed, along with any other maintenance needs in the cooling system. If our vehicle overheats in the Chaco, it could be dangerous, so we can't push this off any more.

Rim for spare mud tire $60

Mud tires are absolutely essential getting in and out of the tribe on the muddy roads. But asphalt will chew up mud tires quicker than you can blink. God's blessed us with two sets of tires, one for mud and one for asphalt, but our spare mud tire doesn't have a rim. If we get a flat tire knee deep in mud, we're going to wish we had this.

Fuel system clean $250

As mentioned, our vehicle is over 20 years old. Gas in Paraguay is known world-wide as being poor quality, which over the years has caused a build-up of sludge in the tank. Without a doubt this has caused our injectors to not work efficiently, and surely contributes to our nice puffs of smoke out the tailpipe. Paraguayan congress is talking of passing an emissions law, so even if we decide to push this off, we'll likely be legally obligated to fix this problem in the coming year. Might as well fix it now and be ahead of the game and enjoy the better fuel economy.

Shovel and Hammer $50

We have mud tires and 4-wheel drive, but hey, we're still going to get stuck sometimes. We need a good shovel to dig out our tires. We also need a sledge hammer to pound a stake into the ground so we can winch ourselves out of sticky situations. I'd prefer to get nicer quality tools so the handles don't give out when we need them most.

Tarp $150

God's blessed us with a big trailer to haul our things back and forth from our supply town to the tribal community. But the Chaco is as dusty as the moon. One trip and everything is coated inside and out with dirt. A tarp will keep our supplies dust-free(er) when we make these trips. The price seems steep, but that's what they cost here.

Spare tire trailer $150

While God blessed us with a trailer, we have no spare trailer tire. It just wouldn't be prudent to make trips with a spare-tire-less trailer. We'll need to get a rim as well. Ideally we'd have two spares.

House needs

We've been blessed in a way that very few missionaries are: there is already a house waiting for us in the tribal community where we will live. This house was offered to us by our coworkers free of charge. That said, there are some things we'd like to have done to the house.

Run power lines $2200

Yes, we're planning on getting power run out to our tribal house. While living like the people seems admirable, it's extremely time-consuming. Imagine how much time we would have leftover for church planting if we spent all our time gardening and hunting (no refrigeration), washing clothes by hand (no washing machine), and couldn't study and work after the sun set (no lights). We'd be learning the Nivaclé language for an excessive amount of time. In the past the missionaries have used generators and solar panels. Generators are expensive (diesel) and time consuming (they tend to break down a lot). Solar panels produce very limited electricity. Being hooked up to the grid allows us have all these time savers without having to maintain the system or having the power constraints we would otherwise have.

Air Conditioning $400

Ok, power yes. But AC? Common, you're missionaries! Here's the thinking with buying an AC unit for our tribal home. Temperatures are north of 110F much of the summer. And without AC, it's common for temps to surpass 100F inside the house. Now, imagine this: You've worked hard all day learning language. Language learning is mentally exhausting. The only way to refresh your brain is a good night's sleep. You lay down on your hot bed in your hot house that is still holding in upper 90s heat. Try getting a good night's sleep lying in a puddle of your own sweat. With AC we'll get a good night's rest and be bright eyed and bushy tailed to learn language the next morning.

Furniture $400

So we've been here almost 3 years, but some furniture we've held off getting just because we didn't want to move it to the tribe. Some things include dressers (we've been using boxes) a couch (using coffee table) and a table that doesn't need to be on constant life support.

Moving needs

Rent Truck $500

We currently live about 400 miles from the tribal village we're moving to. Some stuff we won't take with us. Other things – like our washing machine and stove – we will take with us. Unless a whole parade of friends with pickup trucks decide to make the trek northwest, we'll need to rent a truck.

Rental House Repairs $250

We've been renting a house in the capital since we got here. We have the best landlady in the world who believes in our mission, so has cut us a financial break in many areas such as monthly rent (relatively cheap) and didn't require a deposit. We believe it's only a good testimony to leave the house how we found it. This will require us to repaint, patch some holes in the walls, and repair some appliances. Again, typically this would be paid for by the owner from our deposit of 2 months rent, but since she didn't charge us this we feel it's only right to do these repairs ourselves.

Till All Are Reached

Jon and Jen Quast

Don't Be That Guy
Oct 2013

“Hey Jon, here’s a knife.”

That’s a simple enough phrase. Someone gets my attention and allows me to know that a sharp metal object called a knife is accessible. Yet, this phrase can have significant changes in meaning depending on its context.

Imagine that I was on my hands and knees crawling around looking for something. Someone comes up and asks what I’m looking for. I say that I’m looking for the knife my grandfather gave me when I was a young boy. This person then starts looking with me. After a little while he says “Hey Jon, here’s a knife.”

Or imagine that I’m eating Thanksgiving with my family. The whole family is gathered around as mom brings out the steaming hot turkey. We say grace and we all wait for dad to carve the bird like he does every year. But to my surprise this year he lets me know the honor is mine by saying “Hey Jon, here’s a knife.”

What if me and another person had been captured and tied up. We want to escape very badly, but they’ve tied our hands and feet pretty well. Right when I’m about to give up hope my heart leaps as the other person says “Hey Jon, here’s a knife.”

In those three situations a simple phrase like “Hey Jon, here’s a knife” takes on significantly different meanings. In the first the person is essentially saying “I think I’ve find your grandfather’s knife over here.” In the second he’s saying “Would you do us the honor of carving the turkey?” In the third he’s saying “Quick! Cut the rope so we can get out of here!”

“Hey Jon, here’s a knife.” What’s my context you ask? I’m in rural Paraguay with a group from my church. We’re just finishing up a medical outreach in a needy area of the country. A decent group from church has gone, and we’ve enjoyed sharing our meals together. Today for lunch we’re eating hot dogs before hitting the road to go back home. I pick up a bun when one guy says “Hey Jon, here’s a knife.”

What on earth is he really saying in this exact situation? I instantly send an order to all the little guys sitting at their desks inside my head. “Quick! Search the computer database for situations you would need a knife for a hot dog lunch!” All the little guys start pecking away at their keyboards. One guy tells me that maybe I need to cut the hot dogs into slices to eat with my macaroni and cheese. “Nope, that can’t be it. Keep searching!”

Finally one of the guys who works at a computer inside my head suggests that maybe this isn’t one of those pre-cut buns. I look down at the bun and see that it is indeed pre-cut. But then the guy suggests that maybe the person handing me the knife thought my bun needed to be cut. Ah-ha! That’s it! Problem solved. I thank the guy and send him home early for the day.

(Disclaimer: there are no little men inside my head. This is a metaphoric attempt to visualize the abstract concept of thought.)

I go ahead and fix my hot dog the way I like it: ketchup, mayonnaise and of course the hot dog itself. I’m a sucker for hot dogs, so I’m actually pretty happy as I begin to scarf it down.

About half way through my first hot dog I stop. I’ve suddenly noticed something I missed before. I look around the room; there are perhaps 12 people sitting around enjoying their hot dogs as I am, with one major difference. Every single last hot dog around the room has a slice down the middle, kind of like the hot dog bun itself. Inside the slice has been squeezed the ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and golf sauce.

I quickly cram the rest of my hot dog down my gullet before anyone sees me and my non-conformist condiment ways. Can it really be that I’ve lived here for two and half years and don’t even know how to eat a hot dog correctly in this country? I look over to the table and my disbelief is confirmed. There a guy has placed a hot dog in the bun and sliced it down the middle. He has then squeezed all his preferred condiments in the slice mark. You learn something new every day.

In the words of comedian Brian Regan: “I’m just trying to go through life without looking stupid. It’s not working out so well.” This is what living in a new culture is like. Everything – even the most seemingly simple of things – is done differently, and you’ve got to be like Sherlock Holmes and discover the new right way to do that thing. Sometimes you make mistakes and it’s a big deal. Fortunately other times instead of putting ketchup inside your hot dog you just squeeze it on top like a weirdo with a beard-o.

When you begin to look to have spiritual input in people’s lives, you don’t want to be the guy who never learns how to behave in a new culture. In Paraguay you don’t want to be the guy who consistently forgets birthdays. You don’t want to be the guy who doesn’t interrupt to say hello to everyone in the building. You don’t want to be the guy who wipes the tereré straw with his shirt before drinking after somebody. All of these things would be a road block to gaining an audience.

Pray for us as we continue learning how to be relevant ambassadors for Christ in this country.

Till All Are Reached

 

Jon and Jen Quast

Looking Ahead with a Vision

Aug 30, 2013

“Dear partners in the expanse of the gospel,

27 months ago, we got on a Paraguay-bound plane, hardly knowing what the immediate future had for us. Since our arrival we have faced life's ups and downs, moments of encouragement and discouragement with Spanish, and even seen our family grow to five.

The only thing we were certain of when our plane touched down in South America was that God had brought us here to plant churches among the unreached in this country. Things have finally developed to the point of sharing them with you. After many months of prayer, hours of conversations with future co-workers, meetings with field leadership, and even a few Skype calls to pastors back home, we have decided to be the 3rd family to commit ourselves to planting a church among the Nivaclé people of the Paraguayan Gran Chaco region.

Our coworkers have lived among the Nivaclé people for a couple of years already. They have already learned much of their language, though the Gospel still has not been presented. We hope to join this team early 2014 to help with Bible translation and discipleship among the future believers. Of course, we ourselves will need to learn to speak Nivaclé first.

Our time in Asunción, Paraguay is not yet complete. Jen continues to push hard in Spanish, our kids are growing more comfortable with overseas life, and Jon is working on lessons to communicate truth in a Paraguayan context. But we anticipate being able to finally begin life among the people He has led us to in just a few short months.

Thank you for the years of continuous "stand-behind-us-ship". It has been a journey. It is a journey. We're just glad to be on it together."

Thanks again for your prayers and your interest. And thank you for helping us reach into the darkness. If you want to dig a little deeper into what we are doing, maybe you'd be interested in learning why someone would rub a toad on their leg, and what our response should be as missionaries.

Till All Are Reached

Jon and Jen Quast

I've Been There

July 7, 2013
 

It can get pretty cold in Paraguay during the winter. (Michiganders and New Englanders are not allowed to lecture me on cold…I’m from a Georgian swamp. I say 45 and raining is pretty cold) But today, it’s unseasonably warm – in the 80’s. That’s not too hot, but the heat index is always greater while riding one of Asuncion’s many city buses. This afternoon the sweat is dripping off of me and all the other packed-in-there-like-sardines-passengers of bus #18. Added to this delightful 45-minute one-way bus ride is the purpose of my trip: I’m going to the dentist for a root canal.

Please, don’t feel sorry for me. Years of poor dental choices have led to this glorious moment. I had told the dentist to just pull it, but she said it could still be saved. As I walk the 7 blocks from the bus stop to the dental office, I mull over whether it’s actually going to be worth it. I may be a grown man, but I’m still terrified of the dentist.

I approach her office. No turning back now. I man up and let her know I’m at her door in the customary way: by clapping my hands as loud as I can. When she comes to the door I’m slightly confused. She’s not dressed in her normal dentist garb. “Please forgive me Jon. My dentist drill broke, and they were supposed to fix it this morning, but didn’t show up until after lunch. I tried to call you but was out of minutes and the store where I buy minutes was also out.” Well, I’m sure you can imagine my feeling of absolute…

What would you feel in this situation? Anger? Frustration? Go find a new dentist? Just imagine it for a moment. You are a missionary with a million things to do. You have 3 kids and a wife at home. It’s hot. You’ve already spent an hour (ONE WHOLE HOUR!) to get down to the office. And now, after all this, she wants to know if you can come back tomorrow. Oh no no no. But would it surprise you if I said that my first emotion in this situation was absolute…empathy?

One of the things we value is getting an insider’s perspective on life wherever we are. Understanding what life is like for people helps us build relationships better. After 2 years in the capital city, we have experienced a lot of life. We’ve learned what is fun and what is frustrating. At times we have even gone through culture shock. I can now completely relate with what my dentist is saying.

I know what it’s like to wait all morning for the handyman to show up. Once we waited all morning for an AC repairman to show up. I cleared my schedule all morning so I could be at home. No one showed. When lunch time came we began cooking. As we sat down to eat, he showed up. Now, not only could I not enjoy lunch since I was supervising, but it was the baby’s naptime. Guess which room the AC was in.

I know what it’s like to run out of cell phone minutes. The majority of people – ourselves included – aren’t on plans. We have to buy minutes as we need them. You never run out at a convenient time. I ran out during a trip once and couldn’t let Jen know that I had arrived safely. Oops.

I know what it’s like for the store to not have minutes to sell you. I once spent hours going from store to store in search of minutes. This store was out. That store only had minutes for a different cell phone company. This store owner is sick today and didn’t come. That store owner doesn’t have change for my larger bill.

As the dentist tells me what happened, I can’t help but smile. “Tranquilo nomas. Todo esto me ha pasado a mi también.” Don’t worry about it. All of this has happened to me too. It was nice to say it and actually mean it.

While my neighbor and I chat about 2 weeks of continuous rain he says, “None of my clothes can dry on the line.” Yup, I’m right there with you buddy.

“Sorry I’m late, but at a major intersection the bulbs in the traffic light burned out. Now people are just driving how they please. Two lanes in each direction turned into five lanes in each direction, and traffic is now backed up twenty blocks.” I know what that’s like too.

“Dengue fever comes with a headache unlike any headache you’ve ever had before.” Don’t remind me, I’ve had dengue fever.

We’ll never be completely Paraguayan, nor are we trying to be. We are who we are and that’s ok. But we do want to have good relationships. That doesn’t just happen. It only comes about when we share a lot in common. We ask ourselves “What do people in this culture like? What do they hate? What motivates them, and what discourages them?” Most importantly “What do they believe?”

We’ve come a long ways in two years, and we continue to learn every day. We’ll have to do this all over again in a tribal village one day. Until then, we keep growing in our relationships with our Paraguayan friends. More and more we are able to say “Hey, I’ve been there!”

“I’m going to poke your tooth’s nerve with my metal spiked hook now. Raise your hand if this hurts.” Yes…I’ve even been there.

 

Three Suppers in One Mexican Night

June 12, 2013
 

"Come on Jon, you have to eat this. These are 'tacos al pastor' and you haven't tried them yet. Please, oh please, come on ..."

No matter how delicious this meal looks, I'm having a hard time actually saying "yes". It's not that I don't want to try them - trust me, I do! But it's 9:30 PM, and I have already eaten supper - twice! I could barely force the second one down. I doubt I'll mentally be able to ingest yet another meal. But the crowd is begging me. "(Sigh) Oh, ok guys. But seriously, just ONE taco."

You might be wondering about this reference to tacos, since tacos are non-existent in Paraguay. Turns out I was in the Mexican state of Chihuahua where New Tribes Mission had its very first discourse analysis workshop completely in Spanish. Where I live and work in Paraguay, we anticipate having Spanish speaking coworkers someday and want to be able to offer help in every area of our missionary work, including discourse analysis. It's for that reason that my field sent myself and one other person to Mexico. We participated in this workshop as listeners with the hope of learning how to explain this important subject in Spanish.

The workshop took place at a NTM facility nestled in the beautiful Eastern Sierra Madre mountain range. After having lived in very tropical Paraguay for the last two years, the climate difference for me was profound. It's pretty hot there, but you don't feel it do to the area's 0% humidity. No humidity means that it is also very dry. In fact, it's a desert area, and has all the great things you'd expect to find in a desert. Cacti, jackrabbits, roadrunners, bobcats, and horny toads were just a few a the visual treats I enjoyed. (I found out the experiential way that horny toads will squirt blood out their eyes if they feel threatened. I know now ...)

So yeah Mexico is beautiful and I got squirted by a horny toad, but this was not a tourist trip. This was a trip with the very specific goal of learning how to explain discourse analysis in Spanish. Discourse analysis is just a $5 term meaning "figure out how people talk." In our mission, we say that all people do ten things when they talk. The trick is learning how to do them in another language.

The workshop was a valuable time to continue furthering my understanding of discourse analysis, and how I would help guide a Spanish speaking missionary to understand the concepts. But what I enjoyed even more than this was the time I got to spend with the Mexican missionaries. NTM has a Bible school and missionary training center in Mexico that have trained many missionaries who are now working in tribal locations. These guys are my new role models for dedication. One completely Mexican team has been working for 8 years to learn a tribal language that has 7 (!) levels of tone. For perspective, that is more tones than Mandarin (4) or Cantonese (6). These guys are still going strong 8 years later, dedicated to bringing the gospel to these linguistically isolated people. I loved each meal time because it offered me more time with these Mexican missionaries. But also because, well hey, I'm a sucker for Mexican food. This isn't the stuff you can just pick up at Taco Bell - this is the real deal. A guy suggested a try to eat them without them touching my lips...Tonight we are eating a meal that consists of tostadas (a tortilla size chip), refried beans, and tuna salad. You spread the beans on the tostada, and then pour the tuna salad on top. It's so good that I have eaten way more than my fair share. "Huh? What's that?" My buddies are daring me to eat another jalapeño. Supper number one is in the books.

Every meal I attempted to get near at least one of these missionaries. I was enriched getting to know people like the girl from an urban Mexico area preparing to go to Papua New Guinea. Or the young indigenous man from Guatemala getting ready to go to the Asia-Pacific region. I met a Mexican man God is leading to a closed country. Also I became acquainted with a Guarahio tribe native-tongue translator. It's beyond evident that God is raising up people from around the world to carry His gospel to places it has never gone.

After meals, I attempted to continue my fellowship as long as possible. Tonight, after dinner, my friend Edwin from Guatemala asks if I'd like to go with a couple of them to get a hamburger in town. Having just gorged myself at dinner, I am reluctant. I finally decide to go, but I won't get a hamburger. After we pull up to the roadside stand I realize how weak my willpower is. They have bacon double cheeseburgers. There's no way I can resist supper number two.

As soon as I get back, I am informed that I'm invited to a going away party for the guy who is preparing to go to a closed country. He wants to learn English before he goes, and is heading for the US in the morning. So, now you know how I got here - sitting at a table with 10 Latinos, trying to get the other half of this taco down my gullet. I feel like a beached whale. But relationships are important. And I don't know enough about Mexican culture to know how to say no in an appropriate way.

Just because they speak Spanish in Mexico doesn't mean that the culture is anything like Paraguay. In Paraguay, I greet all female friends with a kiss on each cheek. In Mexico, it's only one kiss, and I'm still not quite sure when I'm supposed to do it. In Paraguay, food is seasoned primarily with salt. In Mexico, food is flavored with a wide range of condiments including chiles (hot peppers) and avocados. In Paraguay, guaraná is the preferred soft drink flavor. In Mexico, it's apple. Yes, I'm definitely in another country.

Finally I've gotten the taco down, but to my disbelief they ask if I tried the salsa. "No, I didn't." They say the consumption of another taco - you know, to try the salsa - is therefore a necessity. Oh well. When in Mexico right?

Supper number 3 is in my stomach, and a very worthwhile experience has been wrapped up. Thanks to the great folks in Mexico for expanding the gospel's reach!

 Till All Are Reached

 

Jon and Jen Quast

A Culture Event 15 Years in the Making

May 19, 2013

It's 9:15 pm, and I'm standing outside in a line of people trying to get inside and out of the light rain. Rather than starting our normal bedtime routine, I'm wearing a tie, and my wife has donned high-heeled shoes. We're both a little nervous. We feel like we might be out of our social league.

"Your name sir?" asks the bouncer.

"Jon and Jen Quast."

"I don't see your name here on my list" he replies. Check again buddy; we need to be at this party.

As missionaries, we are very interested in learning our host culture. This learning takes place inside of what we call "culture events." A culture event could be anything that happens in the culture. Some events happen daily like cooking lunch, or taking a siesta. Other culture events only happen once in a while like weddings and funerals. In tonight's case we have been invited to observe our very first "quince" (say "keen-say") – a girl's 15th birthday party.

The bouncers have finally found our name on the list and we go inside, instantly being drowned in a sea of sky blue, white, and sand brown. The rented facility has been decked out in these, what I presume to be, the favorite colors of the birthday girl. The hangings on the wall, a guestbook, a quintuple-decker cake, little balls hanging from the ceiling...everything has been united into one theme and reminds us that we are all here for one reason.

We step through the next door, and after leaving our birthday gift in a big box with all the other gifts, we are greeted by our hosts for the evening – the girl's parents. Her father often helped us through the process of getting my driver's license and vehicle registration. As my wife greets his wife with a traditional kiss on each cheek, I wrap him up in a big hug. He is beaming with pride as he invites us to have our picture taken with the quinceañera – the birthday girl – before taking our seat at an assigned table in the next room.

No one knows how the tradition of celebrating a girl's 15th birthday started, but today it is celebrated all across Latin America which suggests a Spanish origin. Although the history is not known, there are no doubts as to the present reality. "It is every girl's dream" says a man at our table. "All girls dream of having a party like this."

Don't be thrown by the use of the word "party." This isn't a cake and ice cream event. This is way more. The waiter reminds us of this by letting us know that we need to go into the other room. "The service is about to start."

We're not really sure what is going on, but like good buffaloes, we follow the herd into the other room. The room is packed with teenagers, has a stage, and what I'm guessing is a dance floor. The birthday girl – having changed her dress since we took our picture with her – is sitting in a chair on stage with her immediate family behind the chair and our church's youth pastor standing in front of her.

As we would learn, this is called "el culto de acción de gracias" – the Thanksgiving service. This is the moment where we all "give thanks" to God for this girl's life. This is a common denominator for all Paraguayans. It doesn't matter what religion you're associated with, all will have a service – or a mass – to thank God. It is a very interesting moment. The pastor is preaching, and we are all in the room, but he isn't talking to us. He is talking directly to the girl, telling her not to wish she was older. She needs to enjoy this phase of life. But she also needs to recognize that she has started a new phase of life.

After watching a video of pictures from the girl's life arranged to the song "Never Grow Up" by Taylor Swift, we return our attention back to the youth pastor for the ring ceremony. He explains that the ring is a symbol of God's love and the parents love. But more importantly it is a covenant to guard her purity until marriage. After this he invites her father forward and gives him the ring. In what looks like a very tender moment, her father places the ring on her finger, and leads her to the dance floor.

The girl and her dad are standing on the dance floor when the music starts. It's a slow waltz. After a brief wait, they begin their dance which is met by the applause of everyone present. Posing and smiling for the cameras they continue dancing for what is perhaps 45 seconds. That's when another man – her grandfather maybe? – walked up on the floor and cut in. After that, man after man waited about 15 seconds before walking onto the stage and cutting in to dance with the birthday girl. "Get up there Jon!" says the guy next to me. I shake my head, "I just want to watch and learn this time."

Back at our table with 6 other people, we want to know what this is all about. It's 11:30 pm and we are all enjoying a buffet dinner of assorted pastas, but we are concentrated on getting to the bottom of what happens now in this girl's life. "She can date now" and "she's allowed to wear high heels" are a couple of answers said with uncertainty in their voices. I ask "is she now considered a woman?" "Oh no" they all say "she's not a woman yet." "Then why all this? What is the significance?" United in their reply the all say essentially the same thing: "She's no longer a girl – no longer a child. But from this day on she is in the process of becoming a woman."

"Times have changed" says a woman in her golden years. "When I was a girl, there weren't chicken companies in Paraguay. We just had chickens in the yard. So for my quince, my mom grabbed 5 or 6 chickens and invited just my family, not my friends. We didn't even have money for Coca-Cola." A man at my table concurs, "A lot of girls these days are given a trip to Disneyworld in Orlando instead of having a Thanksgiving service. It's arranged by a travel agency, and they go with 50-60 other 15 year old girls. You can imagine how that goes since there is no parental supervision."

It's 2 am when an elderly woman – the "community grandmother" – let's me know she's ready to go home. We had agreed to take her home since she lives in our neighborhood. But first we must thank our hosts for a wonderful time. "Our culture is a little different than yours isn't it?" says my friend the girl's father. That would be an understatement.

On the way home I ask grandma "What in your opinion is the best thing about the quince tradition?"

She thinks about it for just a moment before confidently replying "I like the part where they give the girl a ring and challenge her to purity – it's very important for her now that she's becoming a woman. Things have changed a lot. Among us Christians, they didn't used to allow dancing and music at these parties. But now they do, and I don't mind it. These are youth having fun, and I realize that things change. But I'm glad that we still emphasize the need for her to remain pure."

It's 3 am before we get to bed. We're exhausted but glad we got to take part in such an important event in Paraguayan society. Tomorrow isn't going to be fun when the kids wake up at 6:30 – or in just 3 hours time – but we wouldn't trade the learning experience that it was.

Happy Birthday miss Quinceañera.

Back to Spanish

April 2013
 

We might sound like a broken record, but we are still plugging away at Spanish. But here's a twist for you. What would you guess would be the most useful language learning device? If you said a book, a computer program, or a class you would be wrong! In my wife's case, a smartphone app called What'sApp has helped her progress faster than anything we've used to date.

We've struggled to find ways for Jen to get interaction with Paraguayan ladies. That's because in the capital city, life is very fast paced, and few have time to sit and chat. Enter WhatsApp. My wife can text with a group of ladies from church all day. Not only are her relationships growing, but so is her language ability! We are so thankful for the opportunity this has provided.

Meanwhile, Jon is getting ready for a conference that he will attend in a couple of weeks centered on discourse analysis. You've probably heard us make mention of this before. To simplify, Jon is studying how to tell a good story in Spanish. When he returns from the conference we'll give some more details on what exactly he's doing with this.

Thanks for your prayers and your interest. And thank you for helping us reach into the darkness.

Till All Are Reached
Jon and Jen Quast

 

To read the latest about the Quast's family life written from Jen's perspective and with lots of pictures, go to http://jonandjenquast.blogspot.com/

Beetles, Ducks, and Waterfalls

March, 2013

Recently, we were able to travel and visit two tribal communities where New Tribes Missionaries are currently working. Among other things, this trip allowed us the opportunity to get a glimpse of what tribal village life means for us as a family. In one location, missionaries have young children like we do, so we got to observe their example and ask practical questions. In the other location, over 70 local kids took part in a kid’s program, in which our kids participated on a limited basis as well. That provided us a glimpse of how our kids will do with relationship building.

First, although we knew this, we saw that our kids like “country living.” One of the most memorable moments of the trip was when Jade found some beetles. You should have seen our beautiful little girl with nails all painted up, looking for and picking up, not flowers, but beetles. No squealing or being afraid to touch here. No, the beetles apparently are great fun. In fact, the beetles became a problem as the kids started fighting over which beetle was “their” beetle. All parents can relate with this situation.

Our kids loved being outside the confines of the concrete jungle we live in now. Here in the city there’s a lot of traffic, a lot of noise, and a lot of artificial light at night. But out there, there’s no road. The only noise is the sound of the goats being goats. And at night you are completely overwhelmed by the magnificence of God’s creation by starring at the Milky Way Galaxy and the occasional falling star.

But we also got a glimpse of what tribal village life might mean for us as a family. As we visited houses with the resident missionaries, the kids interacted with the local kids. Kids, as you are aware, don’t need to speak the same language. Kids are kids, and will be kids regardless of communication barriers. At one house, the kids begin playing with ducks. This particular tribe keeps ducks. Our kids just ran around trying to catch the little ducklings. The kids who lived there thought this was a great idea too, and joined in the great duck chase of 2013.

While the kids played with ducks, Jen and I turned our attention to visiting with the people who lived at this particular house. Ok, how do we visit with people when we don’t speak their language? Again, children save the day. Jonas was our icebreaker. One of the ladies who lived at the house had a little girl just a little older than Jonas. She wanted to hold Jonas. Jonas obliged. Sure, we couldn't speak much to each other, but we had something in common. We are parents. She is a mother. We were establishing relationship, and language learning comes through relationships and for relationships.

I think we have often wondered how tribal ministry will practically work being that we have young kids. In the back of our minds we have wondered what we would do with our kids while we build relationships and learn language. We saw that our family life and tribal ministry can be integrated. Mom and dad focus on visiting. Kids focus on being kids.

Of course, we are a family. And since we are a family, we need to dedicate time to our family relationships too. We can’t just focus on tribal church planting 100% of the time and neglect our family life. There are times when we just need to enjoy each other. But what can you do as a family? Opportunities for a fun afternoon exist even in a tribal village. At one village there was a nearby creek complete with waterfall. We decided to escape the heat and give it a visit.

We had a blast. We walked to the creek. Hiked up-creek towards the noise of the waterfall. At the waterfall, the water has carved at a large sandy bottom “pool” shallow enough for our kids feet to touch bottom. We splashed around. We swam. We took a “shower” under the falls. We hiked to the top to see it from that perspective. We just wore ourselves out having fun as a family. Imagine, having fun in a place where there was no cell phone coverage, no power, no running water, and no Wii Sports. Yes, even in a place like that you can have quality family time. The waterfall in the village will always be one of our more memorable afternoons as a family.

So what did we learn? I think that God used this trip to confirm that tribal church planting is something that our family can do. Our kids loved it. As we interacted with adults, our kids interacted with kids. Jonas even opened doors for us to build relationships. We saw practically the integration of ministry and family. But we also learned that we must keep things in balance. Our family relationships need to be nurtured as well, and opportunities for this exist even when living in a village. God is always teaching us something. This time He did it through beetles, ducks, and waterfalls.

 

 Till All Are Reached

Jon and Jen Quast

 

 

God Answers Prayer

February, 2013

As we prepared to go on a trip recently, I was faced with more anxiety than I have ever experienced during our time so far on the mission field. Philippians tells us to be anxious for nothing, but that doesn’t mean that we are always obedient. Even missionaries. The prayer and supplication part of the verse we had covered. I asked in our most recent prayer team email to pray for “ease at checkpoints.” But it wasn’t until the night before we left that the Spirit broke me and I gave up my anxiety to trust Him.

Jamen picking a fresh pineapple on our trip I was worried about these traffic stops. They are very common here. Generally, if you are obeying all the rules, then there is no problem. However, that is the problem. Are we obeying all the rules? Of course we want to obey all the rules, but sometimes there are some rules that are very different from those that we are used to. Things like speed limits and which side of the road to drive on are easy.

But they are some rules that are very different from what we are used to. For example, did you know that you can’t turn a right at a red light in Paraguay unless posted? Or did you know that you can’t go through a yellow light? Going through a yellow light is just as wrong as going through a red light. Instead, here they have a flashing green light that lets you know it’s about to be yellow. Another one that can be hard for me to remember is that on the main highways your headlights must be on. Even at high noon you must have them on. Also, don’t forget to keep your fire extinguisher up to date.

It can be a little stressful when you are being questioned at these stops. Unfortunately, stressful situations can impede communication in another language. I just would like to always avoid these checks. Not because I’m breaking the rules, but rather because I don’t want to get into a situation where I am unsure of exactly what is going on and what I should do.

God answered our prayers in a pretty impressive way. Of the probably twenty checkpoints we passed, we were only stopped at two. One check just asked to see my driver’s license, and the other only checked to make sure we were all wearing our seat belts (which we were). No one pressured us or made us feel uncomfortable. At all the other checkpoints we were just waved right through without even being stopped, despite them stopping other vehicles. One man conducting a check even gave me a thumbs up as we drove right on through.

I think it’s in our moments of weakness that God really steps up big for us. I know that God will likely allow us to be in an uncomfortable situation at some point in the future to grow us more into the people He wants us to be, but on this trip He decided to answer our prayers and grow our faith. It’s impressive that after so many times of Him proving Himself faithful I still have the audacity to be surprised when He hears my prayers. By this point I should have ample experience to know that the Lord is good, but He keeps having to remind us.

 Till All Are Reached

Jon and Jen Quast

 

 

Summer Vacations

January 28, 2013

It’s not uncommon for folks who live in the city in Paraguay, to have a second home out in the country. Normally this has been left to them by a parent. Some may have a farm that they still run out in the country, although they may have a job in the city. This home in the country can serve as a little get away from the hectic city to breathe in the peace and quiet of the open spaces.

During the summer, people frequently visit the country on the weekends. They may or may not take an actual week-long vacation, but they will get away as often as possible on the weekends. It is also not uncommon to invite your friends to spend the weekend with you. We have been invited to the country the past 2 weekends. Unfortunately we couldn’t the first weekend, but this weekend we did.

We have tried to make the most of our time in Paraguay, but we’d be lying if we said we understood all the ins and outs of Paraguayan social life. Much of the social life in the capital takes place at night, and for family reasons we have only gotten involved on a limited basis. But this weekend gave us excellent insight into social life, and specifically social circles here in Paraguay.

But that’s not what I want to tell you about. This weekend for us was an amazing time to see something that we’ve never seen before: our kids fitting in. Our kids like Paraguay. They like the food, and they like the fun times we have. But our kids really haven’t made any national friends since we’ve been here. The reason for this is mostly the language barrier. Our kids have been really resistant to learning Spanish, and we haven’t pushed too hard in this area.

There were other kids Jamen and Jade’s age there at the farm this weekend. No, my kids still don’t speak Spanish, but fortunately you can run and tackle each other and laugh all within the context of just being a kid. At the farm there was also a little fishing hole. The kids had a blast fishing for most of the afternoon. For most of the kids, mine included, it was their first time ever fishing. Many of the kids kept asking me, “tío”, to get their fish off their hooks for them.

It was a great day. It was more than just getting some more things checked off from our culture checklist. It was more than just pushing through those moments when your brain doesn’t want to speak Spanish anymore. It was more than just our kids having fun. These people are our friends, and we cherish the moments we get to spend with them.

By all counts it may have been the perfect day. Even our temperatures in the 100′s cooled off and we enjoyed temps in the 80′s. A nice treat here during the summer. But then all of a sudden, our good day headed south fast. Jen and I were sitting and chatting with a lady about New Tribes Mission and what we do. The kids were just playing when all of a sudden Jade began to vomit. We didn’t think too much of it. We were just embarrassed since she was inside at the time. We cleaned everything up when it happened again. It was at that time we decided that we should go home.

Jade continued to vomit on the ride home. She kept falling asleep in between spells, which really worried me. I was trying to decide if we should take her to the hospital. I was speeding (or probably just going the speed limit…I’m a Sunday afternoon driver at heart) as fast as I could through ridiculously busy Saturday night capital city traffic. Then Jamen started. Then myself. Then Jen. I was going as fast as I could in bumper to bumper traffic with my window down in case I needed to…you know.

By God’s grace I made it within two blocks of our house before I had to get out of the car. We had a pretty miserable couple of hours after we got home. Poor little Jonas was just crying in his car seat (in the house) not sure why nobody was coming to put him to bed. We would have called for help except our phones are prepay, and Jen was out of minutes, and I couldn’t find my phone in the chaos. Whenever I got a momentary break I thanked God for getting us home safely, prayed that we would be all right since we couldn’t call anyone for help, and thanked Him that this “suffering” was nothing like what other people suffer on a daily basis around the world.

 Till All Are Reached

Jon and Jen Quast
 
** Bonus blog column **
 

Plunk. Plunk. Plunk. That is the sound of December and January here in Paraguay. Summer is here and with a vengeance. What goes plunk plunk plunk you ask? That is the sound of mangoes hitting the ground in the backyard every 3.7 seconds. Mangoes are in season, as are a variety of other fruits.

While you are listening to Jingle Bells and snuggling on the couch to the soft crackling sound of a nice fire, we sometimes feel like we are living inside the fireplace. Many of us here have the lofty goal of keeping it below 100*F inside the house. While you sip hot coffee in the morning, we chug water from a garden hose attempting to stay hydrated. But apart from the heat, summer is a really fun time in Paraguay. Mostly because of the fruits that are in season.
 

Read the rest here

 

Paperwork

January 21, 2013

Hallelujah, we can see the light at the end of the paperwork tunnel! The process to become permanently legal to live and work in Paraguay is not necessarily a hard one. It's just long and expensive. But we can finally see an end in sight.

We are now officially permanent residents. With that in place, the final piece of the puzzle was having Paraguayan identification cards. It sounds simple and non-invasive, but it was a 6-different-offices kind of process. But after many man-hours and a cost of around $2,000, all our paperwork has been submitted and accepted. All we are waiting on now is for the ID's to be printed out in early February.

Jonas has his Paraguayan ID (an easy process since he was born here.) His US Birth Certificate should be ready by the end of the week, as should his US Passport. Once we have his birth certificate we can complete the final piece of his paperwork: his social security card.

Our vehicle "title" is still being worked on. I'm told by my Paraguayan friends that I have to be a pain and continually nag until I get this. If I don't, they say it may be years before I get it. So, when I'm done with this column I will commence with nagging. Be praying for my nagging skills in another language and culture :-)

 

Host Churches

We are still very involved with the host church project while our coworker is on furlough. We have been visiting the various churches that have agreed to be host churches for our new missionaries, so that we maintain and grow those relationships.

In November we had a new family arrive on the field and plug in to one of the churches we have been visiting. It's been nice to see this family fitting in well and forming good relationships with the people.

This process is now starting over for us. Another New Tribes Mission family is going to be coming down to our field at the end of February. Right now we're visiting their host church and preparing that for them. This church is very excited about receiving missionaries into their church. They feel like it is a chance for them, a small congregation, to make a difference in world missions.

 

Road Trip

We will be going on a little road trip soon to visit one of the tribal church plants with New Tribes Missions. We're excited to visit the tribe that we're going to visit in particular because it is one of the more mature church plant examples in Paraguay. We look forward to meeting these believers and picking the brains of the missionaries who live and work there.

We are also excited about this trip because we will be taking our vehicle on it's first road trip, and because we had a little extra room. So filling that extra space will be a friend and coworker of ours. We love doing things as a team, and this is an opportunity to plan and organize a trip with a missionary that could be a future teammate of ours in a tribe.

Thank you for taking the time to read this email. We hope that it is a chance for you to feel connected to our life and ministry. If you would like to be involved even deeper, we have plenty of other resources for you in the sidebar such as our ministry blog, family blog, and youtube page. For example, on our ministry blog, I wrote an article on the concept of sin in this culture.

Another way you could connect deeper is to join our prayer team. To join the prayer team, we ask that you commit to pray for our ministry at least once a month on a specific day. Once on the prayer team, you'll receive a special email just for the prayer team filled with specific prayer requests and praises. If that's something that interests you, send me a line.

Till All Are Reached
Jon and Jen Quast

Welcome to Paraguay!

November 16, 2012

We had the privilege of welcoming a new missionary family to join our work here in Paraguay. As we have said before, we are looking to still engage 6 new tribes here in Paraguay, and can use all the help we can get! This family has had many partners get on board with their ministry over the past couple of years, and the Lord showed them that now was the time to come.

One of the responsibilities that I have on the field while one of our coworkers is on furlough is to organize new missionaries’ arrivals. All of our missionaries are involved in local churches while they learn Spanish and Paraguayan culture. These churches have volunteered to help us in this capacity before the new missionary comes down. My wife and I are just the link between the host church here, and the new missionary. We let them know what time the missionary is coming, work with developing a host family, and just serve as a kind of “icebreaker” to help initiate the developing friendship between missionary and church.

This ministry has been a good experience for us. It has allowed us to get involved with a variety of churches here in the capital city. Our circle of friends has greatly grown during this time. Being involved with more people in Paraguay has meant a busier schedule sometimes, and has meant that we aren’t in our own church as much as we would like. It also means that I can no longer walk down the street without bumping into someone and stopping to drink tereré with them. But it also means that we get a broader, more complete picture of Paraguayan culture.

Just recently something has stood out to us in Paraguayan culture that we have never seen before. Since it’s kind of delicate, I’ll remain vague. But as we are getting more involved with people, we are beginning to see what the lost here in Paraguay have not understood with the gospel. When we used to talk to people who were lost, we thought we had a pretty clear understanding of what they had missed. But as we have grown, we see that it goes actually much deeper and effects more people than we had previously imagined. This is yet another example of why learning culture should always precede ministry.

I had the privilege of responding to an email from a child in the Awana program from our sending church in the United States. He asked me if being a missionary was fun. I thought about what to respond to that question. I didn’t want to answer too philosophically, and I didn’t want to discourage a child from missions by saying it wasn’t fun. The reality is being a missionary is loads of fun…sometimes. As I considered my answer, I opted for transparency. Yes, being a missionary is fun. But we aren’t missionaries because it’s fun. Fun comes and goes. If our personal entertainment was our motivation, it would have long faded and we would have returned home. We aren’t here for the fun. We are here because missions is of extreme importance to those who have never heard, and we are convicted that the Lord brought us here.

Pray for us as we seek to be used by God during this time before we reach our ultimate destination in an unreached people group. Pray for this new family as they adjust to life here in Paraguay and prepare for years of ministry here in this country.

Till All Are Reached

Jon and Jen Quast 

Finding Permanence

October 26, 2012

If you wish we had more current material on this blog, then you are not alone. We wish the same. But sometimes…ok, most times, we find that life is a tad too hectic to allow us to keep this up as we would like. Just recently, we have had some very time consuming activities going on. These activities may be time suckers, but they are going to be things that benefit us for a long time.

Wheels


After months of looking, we were finally able to get a vehicle. Many of you have helped us with this, and we are eternally grateful. Finding a mode of transportation is important for us missionaries in Paraguay. We, as a mission, don’t have an aviation program anymore to take us in and out of our tribal locations. That is because there are “roads” to anywhere we need to go in the country. Some roads may be barely passable 3 months out of the year, but they are road none-the-less. Needless to say we needed something solidly built, 4-wheel drive, trailer capacity, wench to pull us out of the mud, and air conditioning as an added bonus. We were able to find a vehicle that met all these criteria.

But it was hard to actually make this purchase. This was the biggest purchase Jen and I have ever made. In fact, it was about 4 times bigger than the biggest purchase we had ever made. Putting that much cash on the line was difficult. As we got to thinking about it, it’s very subconscious. Perhaps some of the mental struggle was that this purchase tied us to Paraguay just that much more. We love Paraguay. We want to be here in ministry for years. But when you make a purchase this big, you are putting your money (no pun intended) where your mouth is and making a physical commitment to the long term. We now have more things to tie us down to Paraguay than we have that would tie us down to Georgia.

Paperwork

 

Since we got here, we have been on a temporary resident status. That’s normal, you can’t do it any other way in the beginning. But temporary residence is only good for a year. We had a time of about 6 months in the beginning on tourist status, and our temporary status year was approaching it’s end. Well we were fortunately able to acquire our permanent residence. We had to sign some papers saying that we agree to abide by the laws of the land, and that we were seeking permanent residence because we plan to do ministry in the country for years to come.

Wow, we haven’t really been sure for years of what US State we are technically residents of. We have moved, Jen and I, 5 times since we got married. And still about 2 years of that we were on the road in the states, preparing to come here to Paraguay. To now hold a document in our hands that says we are permanent residents of Paraguay is out of this world.

What About the Baby?!?

 

And finally we can’t forget the baby! Well, he’s not much of a baby anymore. Our little guy was born here in Paraguay, therefore he has all the legal paperwork of a Paraguayan. He still gets all the benefits of being an American, but with legal Paraguayan status as well. It has been a chore to get all his paperwork completed. Since we are foreigners, there are a few extra steps to do, but finally it’s all done.

 

Till All Are Reached

Jon and Jen Quast

 

A Lot of New

August 9, 2012

We've had a lot of new stuff added to our lives recently. A new baby, a new house, a new job...All these things have led to the creation of a new schedule for us. Let me elaborate a bit.

Jonas is now 3 months old. He's our biggest kid by far up to this point. He's a good baby overall, but still requires a lot of attention. We are also in a new house. Our old house, as much as it was what the Lord provided for us at the time, really wound up not be a good situation. The Lord provided, quite out of the blue, the house we are in now. This is actually the best housing situation that we have ever had. We even have an office to study in so we don't always have to tell the kids to keep it down. :) I (Jon) also have a new job with the mission that has kicked in. While one of our friends is on furlough, I am taking over a project called "host church." I'm responsible for coordinating details between 4 churches that have agreed to be host churches, and 4 new missionaries who are coming to Paraguay. The host church will help these missionaries get used to living in Paraguay, find them a place to live, help them learn language, show them where to buy things etc. It's been a lot of fun to meet believers outside of the church that we attend.

Jen's parents were able to visit us for a month. It was great having them here; they were so helpful with the new baby. Now that they've gone back to the states we are getting back into a routine. We have gone back to a more traditional husband/wife study situation. Jon is now studying full-time, and Jen has gone to part-time. Jon has reached the requirement our mission has for Spanish, and is closing in on the Culture requirement. Jen is working really hard to get language too. Just this week she has started an official course with a teacher, that we believe will really help her in her studies.

What do we do all day?

Even though Jon has reached his Spanish level, he is still working hard to speak better. Right now he is spending a lot of time at the computer analyzing how to tell stories like Paraguayans. This may seem simple, shouldn't they tell stories the same way we do? One of the things that he has noticed is that when Paraguayans tell stories, they normally tell you what happens very early in the story, and then they fill in all the details. When Jon has told stories the way we do, and doesn't tell his hearers what happens until the end, he's noticed that they have a hard time keeping track of the story. This is just one example of the things you can learn from tediously analyzing how they tell stories.

In September Jon is taking a course in Guarani. Guarani is the other language of Paraguay that 90% of the people speak to some extent. When we have made visits to the country, we have met peeople that only speak Guarani and not Spanish. Even though the course is in September, there is a lot of preparation that needs to be done now.

Jen, like I said, is taking a Spanish course twice a week. She also has assignments throughout the week and things to practice outside of class.

All the computer and classroom time in the world can't replace the need to be out practice and participating with our Paraguayan friends. We are thanking God for the new neighborhood we are in. In our old neighborhood all the houses had 10 foot walls and weren't very open to meeting new people. In our new neighborhood we have already met and spent time with several of our neighbors.

Till All Are Reached

Jon and Jen Quast

The Trip to Chaco

 

Excerpts From My Road Journal

 

June 20, 2012

We just got back from our trip to the Chaco. Thanks for keeping us in your prayers. Here are some excerpts from my journal as we traveled.

Day One:
This morning we did pretty decent on getting out the door. Only 30 minutes behind schedule. Traffic was good and we seemed to get to the bridge fairly quickly. The bridge. The bridge to the Chaco. Jamen and Jade were so excited to see it. They loves bridges, and this one was especially big. I was also pretty excited. Emotional might be a better word. I fought back a tear of joy to finally be in the Chaco. The Chaco we saw was not the Chaco we had had described. It reminded us alot of Georgia with it’s sandy soil, palm trees, and water birds. The cows admittedly don’t fit a Georgia landscape, but people had described the Chaco as the Kalahari Desert. There are very few people once you get past Villa Hayes. It was so hard to believe that such a large place could be so empty. More than once we had to slow down for “urban zones” which normally consisted of about 10 houses, 2 stores, and 50 goats. I was pulled over 3 times at traffic stops. All 3 times I tried to be respectful and chatty. The 1st and 3rd time Jonas become the subject of interest, which allowed us to move on with no problems (they love that he was born here!) Jen and I talked about how thankful we are that we got here safe.
 
Day Two:
Got up bright and early to do paperwork on the van. It took all of 5 minutes. I chatted with the officer for awhile and was invited to drink terere whenever. Bruce and Julie showed us around town late this afternoon. This city is a lot smaller than I thought it would be. Late morning and afternoon was spent with the Stuckeys. I was very happy with subject matter as we talked Sanapana grammar.
 
…make no mistake, that Chaco is where I want to be. 
 
Day Three:
We didn’t rush this morning, and left our supply center at 9:15. It was hard to believe we were actually doing it: driving to the tribe. The road was pretty sandy and reminded me of driving on Fernandina Beach. That is until we hit random mud and nearly joined a semi in the ditch. Four-wheel drive fixed that. We spent time with both Hidgams and Keefes. We talked tribal ministry and church planting. Paul brought his brother’s horse over for Jen and the kids to ride. They enjoyed that. Only saw and “spoke” to one Ayore fellow. He will forever be the first tribal guy I met in a village. As soon as I met him he wanted to sell me something. That’s fine. I bought a musical shaker. I was shocked at the language barrier. I mean, I know that they are monolingual, that’s kind of the point of us being resolved to learn their language. I just wasn’t aware of how monolingual they are. This guy could understand “hola” and strained and thought of the word “casa”. The rest he rattled off in Ayore. I think that my 0 ability to speak Ayore was semi-shocking to him as well.
 
Day Four:
Last night was amazing. Our first night in a tribe. It was so dark, so quiet, so empty. It reminded me of what other veteran missionaries have told me. That in the tribe the sense of aloneness can be overwhelming. However, I feel like that is a lack of standing on God’s Word. “…And lo I am with you always, even to the end of the earth.” To despair over the solitude would be like Elijah despairing over being the last prophet when he knew that wasn’t true. We most believe truth and stand upon it.  Today was a day I have waited for for a long time. We visited the Ayore Church Plant. It was yet another surreal experience. We walked in, shook a few hands, said “hola” met by blank stares, and sat down. It was a different service. Three identifiable messages, two singing times. I shared a bit through an interpreter who we were and what we were doing at the church, and they took up an offering. Tomorrow back to our supply center town. Looking forward to another dark quiet empty night again tonight.
 
Day Five:
We left the Ayore village in a misting rain. We thoroughly enjoyed the team there. We already knew we liked them, but it was fun to see them in their work. The mist made for a Fun, with a capital F, drive home. Just barely wet creates a slick fish-tailing situation. Got going sideways twice. Flew down a hill to a delighted shrill from Jade. This was all down under the watchful, panicking eyes of my pale-faced wife. Back in the guesthouse without much to report. We are getting the kids caught back up on sleep, and bought some supplies for our journey to the Nivacle village tomorrow. Praying the real rain holds off.
 
Day Six:
After packing the car with what we would need for two days, a few supplies for Humphreys, and a generator, we headed for the Nivacle tribe at about 8:30 under the (now) 4th day of constant misting. 
I must have taken the wrong dirt road to start with. I was told to go straight off the dirt and on to the pavement. However there was no paved road straight of my dirt road. So I picked the one that was closest to being straight. 65 kilometers down the road, I realized my mistake. There are few signs on the trans-chaco highway, and the clouds blocked the sun and my directional orientation (Or, as my uncle would say: “My towardance was off…”) We then had to come back 65 kms and make the right road selection.  We arrived and went through Neuland. There the pavement ends. After an hour of the sloppy mud road and a fun time in the ditch, we arrived at a black and yellow fence in the road. Road Closed. We made some phone calls, but there was nothing to be done. We came all the way back to town in hopes it will open tomorrow.
 
Day Seven:
First thing I did this morning was text Shaun to see if the road was open. It had rained all night at our guesthouse in town, so I was doubtful. About an hour later he called back and my doubts were confirmed: road closed. With nothing else we could do, we decided to bring our Chaco trip to an end. It was such a great time out there. After having the Chaco described by some as a desolate place, the Lord has confirmed to us that there is no place we’d rather be than in the heart of the Chaco, duking it out to see a people group come to know Christ.

Till All Are Reached 

Jon and Jen Quast

 

Introducing ... Jonas Daniels Quast

May 2, 2012

Jonas Daniels was born on his due date, April 27th 2012. As for measurements, well he weighed 3.930 kilos and they didn't measure him. Oh, that's 8lbs 9oz by the way. You should have seen us in the delivery room trying to figure that out. Anyway Jen had about 3 and a half hours of labour. We actually got to the hospital at 12:30 am and he was born at 1:29 am, so just in the nick of time. He's perfectly healthy, ruddy, and with more hair than Jamen had when he turned 1 year old. Big brother and sister are in love with him and have a hard time ever leaving his side.

 

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

 
And now life goes on. (Ob-la-di are lyrics from a song by the Beatles, sub-titled Life Goes On). We are a family of 5 now. A regular, average, family of five. Except God has us living and working in Paraguay to see a mature church planted where there currently isn't one. We are a family on a mission, and we will continue pursuing that until the Lord takes us from that. Keep us in you prayers, and thank you for reading this. It's a pleasure to share our little guy with you.
 

Till All Are Reached

Jon and Jen Quast

A Good Friday

April 7, 2012

So often when someone (like us) comes from a single culture society, we take traditions for granted. They are just things that you do, and no one really knows why, and you can’t really imagine another way of doing it. Why do we paint egg shells, only to then peel them off and eat the egg? Why do we eat turkey at Thanksgiving, but ham on Easter? Our Paraguayan friends are amused and fascinated when we explain what a traditional Easter is like back home.

So what is Easter like here? Well, being a Latin American country, its not just Easter that is celebrated, it actually starts 40 days earlier on Ash Wednesday. This period of time you may be familiar with. Its called lent. Starting 40 days early people will put ashes on their head and go to mass in a sign of mourning. During this whole period of lent the idea is to remember Christ’s suffering and to also, in a way, suffer a bit yourself by giving things up, such as meat (except fish).

On Palm Sunday many of the churches (not Protestant) will perform a procession. It’ll start in some pre-determined place and a Jesus doll and a donkey will be marched all the way to the church building while all the bystanders wave palm branches. Many people will put a Coke bottle full of water on the steps of the church so that it will be blessed when Jesus passes by. They’ll save this water to be used for when they are sick, or they will sprinkle it on their car to ward off accidents, or use it against bad circumstances in general.

All of the week leading up to Easter is big deal. Most people will travel out of the capital and visit family in the country. Although the only technical nacional holiday is Friday, many people have Wednesday till the Monday after Easter off from work. Wednesday and Thursday are very special family days. We got to experience this with some good Paraguayan friends on Thursday. We arrived early Thursday morning and the men got the fire going in the brick oven while the women went to work on a traditional soup called Bori-Bori. The bori-bori isn’t exactly easy to make, it took all morning.

After lunch we got to the main event: making Chipa. Chipa is a traditional bread made from tapioca flour, cheese, corn flour, and lard. Chipa likewise, is not quick and easy. It takes quite some time to get it mixed up to the right consistency. Then it gets cooked in the brick oven. Its eaten immediately and also a pot of Cocido, a hot traditional drink, is served with it. While the Chipa is eaten right away, the idea is to have lots of leftovers so you don’t have to cook on Good Friday, or as it is called in Spanish: “Holy Friday”. Good Friday isn’t for working and cooking, it is for reflecting on Christ’s suffering.

Since we have a vehicle we are borrowing right now we took advantage of the transportation and made a little trip to the next “state” of Paraguarí, to a town called Yaguarón (which translates from Guaraní as “the Big Dog”. Maybe one day I’ll write a blog on what the big dog is all about, but for now I’ll just keep you guessing) where religious pilgrims go to climb a famous hill. It’s not the easiest hill to climb with a lot of steep uphills, which proves their devotion as they climb. At the top is a very old prayer building where the faithful can pray. The point of Good Friday to many Paraguayans is that Christ has suffered and died. It is a time of mourning, self reflection, and penance.

Sadly, many people in this country see Friday, the day of his death, as more significant than Sunday, the day of his resurrection. To many the cross was a tragic accident, a consequence for our shortcomings. For understand what Jesus said ɾeɡɑɾdinɡ his life “No one takes it away from me; I give it up of myself. I have power to give it up, and I have power to take it again. These orders I have from my Father.” (John 10:18) Christ’s didn’t die at man’s hand as if it were some accident. May we always remember that He laid down His life. Events had been set in motion back in Genesis when God told Adam and Eve “in the day you eat it you will surely die.” Adam was alive when he was created. God had made Adam in His image (Gen. 5:1) and then had breathed life into him. But Adam ate of the fruit and died. Later Adam had a son in his own image (Gen 5:3). If your bloodline goes back to Adam (and it does) I’m sorry but “dead” is the proper way to describe you (Romans 5:12). And its there, right there, the beauty of Easter comes out. The truth is, the only reason we as humans have any value, is because God has decided we are valuable to Him. Let’s not forget, we’re just dirt physically. But God, being rich in mercy, laid down his life to pay the necessary price (Rom 3:23, 1 John 2:12) for our sins. But it doesn’t stop there. He didn’t just pay for your sins, He gave you life. (Rom 5:12-21, 1 Cor 15:22)

Jesus plan never was never to get humanity to clean up their act. His plan wasn’t to show a “better” way to live life. His plan was to fulfill the word of the prophets concerning Messiah, to seek and to save the lost, to show humanity that they can’t clean up their act for they need a Savior, and in the end, the plan was always to lay down His life so that He could rise again and give humanity back the life they had forfeited when they chose sin. Easter isn’t about mourning, its about rejoicing. Easter isn’t about inward reflection, its about looking to Christ. Yes, he suffered unimaginable physical agony, even unto death. But if it wasn’t for His death, there would be no hope for us. It was the only way. And may we never believe that we took His life from Him. Oh no. To believe that would detract from the act of mercy that it was. “For God so loved the world that He gave…” Easter was a gift from God to humanity. An undeserved, unearned, and under appreciated gift. Remember this Easter, its not about what you decide to do or give up for God, its not 50/50. Easter is 100% of what God did for you.

Till All Are Reached
Jon and Jen Quast  

 

One Blade at a Time

February 12, 2012

It’s been years coming. Jon first felt God’s direction to missions with New Tribes Mission in 2004. Jen felt it in 2006. After years of training and ministry with our sending churches we finally arrived to the field of Paraguay 9 months ago. When you’ve been waiting that long to get started, needless to say you can’t wait to run as fast and hard as you can. No one forced us to come here. We willingly followed the Lord here. For us being here is a joy and a privilege. In May of 2011, we were fully prepared to give it everything we got. We were committed to putting in the time and energy to learn Spanish and Paraguayan Culture as fast as we could so we could move on a tribe who is still waiting to hear of what Jesus did for them.

Nothing can take the wind out of your sails more than when you are 100% mentally ready for the task, but you wind up going slower than you’d like due to circumstances. It can be frustrating when you’re sick, or when grocery shopping takes all day, when the bus drivers strike and you can’t get across town to do what you need to, when you have a wonderful day planned of outside language study and then it rains, or in our case these past couple weeks: when your bathroom springs a leak and sinks the floor in your bedroom and then they replace the plumbing and your bedroom floor.

The fruit of the Spirit is patience. So often we only focus in on the first 3 things (love, joy, peace) and forget that also the Holy Spirit is working patience out in our lives.

While our workers were fixing our bathroom, I was impressed by the work the gardener was doing in the backyard. Our landlady had hired him to level off the backyard with topsoil and then plant grass. Now I figured he would do that with sod or seed.

How surprised I was to see him open a bag full of grass, and then as he proceeded to cut individual blades of grass with the roots still attached and plant them one by one. He literally planted the entire yard one blade of grass at a time.

It took over 2 ten hour days to finish. Never complained once.

We had such a great schedule planned next just for the week, but for the next 10 weeks leading up to Jen’s evaluation. Jen is really pushing hard to get in as much study time before the baby comes. We lost a whole week of study do to our house being a construction zone. (A week doesn’t sound bad but for math whizzes like me, you realize that she has already lost 10% of her study time leading up to her evaluation. That’s sounds like a lot more) It is hard - humanly speaking - not to throw one’s hands up in the air when life “sets you back” from what you are trying to accomplish. Humanly speaking it's very frustrating. But then when you step back and look at the situation from God’s perspective, you see that God is seeking to produce patience in your life, and that when you except the situation for what it is you realize that there is a lot to learn in the moment.

This week (really closer to two weeks) Jon got to go to his first soccer game with one of the guys who was working at the house. Jon has picked a Paraguayan team to follow, and one the workers is a fan of the same team so they went to a game. We learned what a normal work day looks like for construction workers. We got to observe how our landlady handled a situation where one of the workers charged her triple what had previously been arranged. Several of the tools and materials utilized were foreign to us so we learned what they call them here in Paraguay. The week didn’t have to be a lost week, but it could have been if we dwelt in the earthly realm of frustration.

So, we still don’t know how long this chapter of our lives will be. We don’t know when this chapter closes and opens on a new chapter of tribal church planting. Sometimes things may not go as smoothly or as quickly as we want. But the cool thing is, God doesn’t put timetables on his kids. He simply says to make the most of your time (Ephesians 5:16) and to be faithful (Matthew 25). And to remember that He is working all things out for good in our lives (Romans 8:28-29).

 

Till All Are Reached
Jon and Jen Quast 

 
To read more of Jon and Jen's adventures as they prepared to depart for Paraguay, click here to access the archives of their posts.