Tim Curtis Link Letter no.37 October 2020
Greetings from Rio Verde in the Paraguayan Chaco.
It’s good to be back after a slightly longer than expected time in the UK for home ministry.
I had good flights back to Paraguay. I was accepted for a Paraguayan government-chartered “repatriation flight” for the last leg of the journey, as there have not been any commercial flights into the country since March.
I completed the mandatory 14-day quarantine at a government-approved “health hotel” and tested negative for COVID-19 once before leaving the UK and again seven days after I had arrived. We were only allowed out of our rooms to collect our meals during our time in quarantine. The room was comfortable, with an en suite bathroom and air conditioning, but it was a relief to be let out of quarantine after two weeks. I give thanks that I was able to return and for the help from my travel agent in Asuncion in getting together all the relevant documentation for the journey.
Back in Paraguay, my first impressions were that traffic was quite subdued in the capital city, Asuncion, and the shops and supermarkets less busy than usual. Everyone was wearing face masks in the streets and in the shops. There were hand washing facilities outside of every shop and business, hand sanitiser, and somebody to take your temperature.
After I had the car serviced in the city, I drove up to the Chaco on 28 August. Once in Rio Verde, everything struck me as exceptionally dry. In fact there was some unexpected rain in mid-August which eased the drought situation in many communities, so thank you for your prayers, which were promptly answered! Although there is no water in the house, there is some in the translation office underground water storage tanks which is sufficient for washing and showering. I am able to buy drinking water at the local supermarket. Please continue to pray for rain.
The house was just as I had left it, my books were fine and not eaten by termites or nibbled at by mice as feared, and the Bibles in the translation office were also fine. My colleague Victor Gonzalez had seen to it that the house and office were kept clean. I am continuing to look after the centre and I am able to work in the spacious translation office building.
As I have mentioned to some of you, COVID-19 cases have been rising very quickly in Paraguay over the last six weeks, and there are reportedly over 30 cases in Rio Verde, which only has several hundred inhabitants. Several of my colleagues have tested positive or have been exposed to the virus, and so are in isolation. Various restrictions have been reintroduced by the government in the Mennonite colonies. For the moment, most trips to indigenous communities have been suspended, as some of them are in semi-lockdown, or local leaders have closed their access roads. The death of a visiting Toba indigenous pastor a few weeks ago from COVID-19 in one of the communities near us in Rio Verde brought home to everyone how serious the situation has become. There have been no pastoral retreats since March and we are not sure when these will take place again. We would value your prayers for wisdom as to how to continue to support the Chaco churches and pastors during this continuing coronavirus crisis. Please pray also for the president, the government, the doctors and nurses and healthcare workers as the pandemic begins to hit Paraguay with full force.
There is good news regarding the much needed improvements to the Trans-Chaco Highway. Tarmac is just beginning to be laid down on the second carriageway north of Rio Verde. A 12km section extending to near where Beryl Baker lives will soon be completed.
Another piece of exciting news is that the first and main stage of the new aqueduct project, a 200km-long water pipeline running from Puerto Casado on the river Paraguay to Loma Plata, has been completed and opened by President Mario Abdo Benitez. It has cost 100 million dollars and taken eight years to build. It is hoped it will benefit the towns, farms and ranches in and around the Mennonite colonies as well as the nearby indigenous communities. It will also be extended to take water to the town of Mariscal Estigarribia, and as far south as Lolita, very near El Estribo, home to a dozen or so Enxet communities.
September is Bible Month in the Hispanic world. It is celebrated in September because the first Bible in Spanish, the Reina Valera, was published in September 1569. It is known as the Biblia del Oso, the “Bear Bible”, as the illustration on the cover showed a bear trying to reach a container of honeycombs hanging from a tree. It was translated by Casiodoro de Reina and revised in 1602 by Cipriano de Valera. The Reina Valera became the most widely read Protestant Bible. For the Catholic Church, the celebrations in September recall St Jerome’s translation of the Vulgate into Latin. The first Scriptures in Enxet or Lengua, as it was then known, were the Gospels and Acts published in 1911 by the British and Foreign Bible Society. The importance of the Bible in the daily life of so many of our indigenous brothers and sisters is a reality, and one only has to look at the messages of encouragement and comfort from the Bible on social media to be reminded of this. Give thanks that for so many people, the words “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth”, from Psalm 119:103, are a source of strength and comfort.
Once again, many thanks for your support and prayers.
With love in the Lord Jesus
Paraguay: rain. Mission partner Bev Richardson asks for continued prayer for rain in Paraguay. Pray for enough rain to fill the waterways, but not so much that it causes flooding. Pray too as St Andrew’s College and Chapel reopen using a hybrid (digital and face-to-face) approach, that this would help as many people as possible.
10 September 2020
I had a lovely call from Beryl this afternoon. Beryl was in Asunción and she had spent the morning making sure everyone had her new phone number. She was speaking to me on Whatsapp so no charge to Beryl. Her vehicle was now starting properly and she had driven down to the capital for five days. Her problem at her
Asuncion house was the large sliding gate on her garden behind which she keeps the car safely. The gate had come off its runners and it fell on Jorvy her caretaker who looks after the house in her absence. Beryl had managed to get it secured and her friend Sylvia was going to organise a team of people to try and get it open again and put it back securely on its mounting.
Rhett is hoping to visit the ranch again and in the meantime most of the workers and their families will stay on the ranch. Like here in the UK the Covit 19 infection rate has gone up and there have been more deaths. Beryl at Rhett’s request is getting the supplies for the workers and their families but she does get help from the workers and the staff at the shops to unload the supplies. The schools are all closed and even in Asunción the churches are closed and Beryl can see the services on the internet.
The biggest problem is no post getting through from the UK and although she can get money from the ATM in Asunción she cannot access her bank account on the internet and check the balances on her account.
Many of the medical suppliers are closed but Beryl is continuing to see her patients. The church Indians are staying in their villages and there are less infections because everyone is being more careful with their personal hygiene.
Tim Curtis is now back at his home in Rio Verde but the drought is still causing a water shortage and bottled water is being bought for all drinking water purposes.
Beryl can hold services and Bible studies for the women on her veranda.
Please pray for an end to the drought. Pray for the people in Asunción who have a curfew every night from 8 pm till 5am the next morning. Pray for all the children unable to go school. Pray for Beryl herself that she will remain in good health and she will continue to get her medical supplies. Pray for the continued supply of good internet connections to enable her to keep in regular contact with her friends and colleagues and with contacts in the U.K.
Prayer by Thomas Merton from the app Lectio 365 (21 4 20)
Give me the strength that waits upon you in silence and peace.
Give me humility in which alone is rest,
And deliver me from pride which is the heaviest of burdens.
And possess my whole heart and soul with the simplicity of love. Amen
On Monday, 31 August 2020 Timothy Curtis wrote to Julie Faggan with the latest news of Beryl :
Thanks for sending me Beryl’s newsletter. I got back to Rio Verde on Friday, after completing my 14 day mandatory quarantine at a government-approved “health hotel”- I will actually be based in Rio Verde, and only do occasional trips to Loma Plata for shopping and paying my Wifi bills. I will most likely be working about a week each month in the Mennonite town of Filadelfia, helping out with the Northern Enlhet Bible translation in my role as consultant. Otherwise I will be based here at the Anglican Centre. Visits to indigenous communities are on hold at the moment because of a local outbreak of coronavirus.
I have not seen Beryl yet, but I had some telephone conversations with her when I was in quarantine. The reception / signal etc was terrible, and I could not understand everything she said. Anyway, the WIFI is up and running again here in Rio Verde, so she is always welcome to drop in to write emails and to have a cup of coffee.
I have had to buy drinking water, which fortunately is available in the local Rio Verde supermarket. There is still some water in the translation office water storage tank, so I am able to use that for showering and washing dishes and clothes.
I will keep you updated