It all started on Sunday when we came home from church and noticed a phone message from an obviously (by the accent) Argentinian man we don't know. Tony, curious, called him back. It turns out that he is a friend of a friend who had been in Argentina a few years ago. Turns out this guy is a pastor. And from Patagonia. He was in our area for a week and called us up.
Now what are the chances that we would meet a pastor... from Patagonia? Around here??
So, since they were staying only an hour away from us, he, his wife, and son, came over Monday for mid-morning mate. (little cultural note: What really impressed me immediately was that they were on time. I couldn't believe it. I told Tony that that was only the second time in my 13 years of experience with Argentinians that they actually arrived at the time they said they would.).
We had a great time getting to know them. Edgardo [here's a picture] earns his living as a civil engineer, and his wife is an English teacher. Edgardo is also pastor and a missionary. They have three children and live in Neuquén, the largest city in Patagonia. So, of course, we immediately bombarded them with a million questions. Edgardo then proceeded to tell us the history of their 20-30 years or so of evangelism and church planting ventures in Argentina.
He, along with a group of three other pastors from (sort-of) nearby cities in northern Patagonia (distances in Patagonia are pretty far), had a vision 15 years ago to plant one church a year in Patagonia. To date they have planted 30 churches. They said 10 of the churches do not have anyone to lead them and most of the younger churches are still meeting in houses. So what they do is travel hundreds of kilometers several times a month to disciple these small groups of young believers that they have won to Christ through their own labors and evangelism.
This is a guy that has a full-time job during the week. And pastors a church. He does not receive a salary or live from the tithes of the church. He supports himself!
When I remarked how dedicated he was, his answer was simply, "The thing is, when you have a call, you can't ignore it."
I guess they're not watching much TV down there in Patagonia.
Tony and I then shared our story and our call to Patagonia. We were honest and said we don't have seminary, and we're not trained in church-planting - we're called more to evangelize and help people. That's what we want to do.
They said, "There is so much to do. We are looking for people who want to work. There is a lot of work, but the laborers are few."
I looked over at Tony, whose eyes had gotten noticeably wider and whose leg was bouncing up and down a million miles a minute and I thought, "Oh, no, this is it. Is this it??"
The conversation went on. We mentioned how we'd like to work with the Mapuche.
Edgardo said, "We work with the Mapuche," and then proceeded to tell us about the work they do.
Tony said, "Wow. But my heart is really in the north of Argentina. I would really love to go work in the north eventually."
Edgardo said, "Funny you mention that, we have been planning to expand into the north for a while now. We'd like to buy some land and build something like a missions center in the North, a place that would serve as a kind of a missions base for evangelism to the North."
I think Tony's eyes got even a little bit wider at this point.
We totally hit it off. I started to chat homeschooling with his wife, and Edgardo turned to Tony and had a conversation that went basically like this: "Listen, what do you want to work in? I know a lot of people, just tell me what you would like to do. I can help you get a job. Even if you come down and don't have a job or a place to live, we could help you with that. We've done that before for people in the church. As a matter of fact, we have a pastor who just relocated to another area of Patagonia and left his house and said if there was anyone that needed it, they could use it. And don't worry about expenses. We could help you out for 2 or 3 months until you find a job. We've paid people's rent before."
It was just one of those God moments. We're still amazed that God brought this pastor, from Patagonia (of all the places in the world), to our front door, and someone who works in exactly the same thing we want to do, who then offered to help us do it.
Just like that.
What are the chances?
We later exchanged information and said good-byes.
That night Tony kept asking me, "So... what are we doing?"
I couldn't answer. (Or maybe didn't want to)
All I could think of, looking around our house, was, "What are we doing to do with all this stuff??"
The next day, a friend came over. I told her our new and interesting news. She remarked how, if it were her, she would go, and immediately offered to help us store some of our stuff in their barn. Since I know they have also been thrift shopping for some new used furniture to replace their old sofas and rickety tables and fill up their big farmhouse, I asked if they just wanted to babysit our furniture for a couple of years. It was a match made in heaven.
So, here we are, recently unemployed, praying for specific direction, and along comes this wide open door. And now our stuff is all taken care of, too....
What to do, what to do???
We talked for several days, prayed, read God's Word, and we seem to be hearing God say "Go". He's opened the door.
We've decided to put missions organizations on hold and think that this might be God's specific leading. Tony has already begun looking for work in Neuquen. The TV station he used to work for in Argentina has a satellite station there. Maybe he can get a job. Maybe we'll still try to raise some funds. Ultimately the only thing left to do is trust God for the finances.
Scary. And exciting!