Zambia & Latin Link

The Lusby's trip to Zambia August 2010

At the end of July Nigel, Lesley and Chris ( from the Minster) embarked on a long-anticipated trip to Zambia, primarily to spend time with Bishop William in Chipata and with the people of our link parish of Msoro. To say that this was a departure from our usual choice of summer destination would be putting it mildly – when you are used to Cornwall or Pembrokeshire, then Zambia certainly comes as something a little different. It is probably true to say that we now know the true meaning of the term “culture shock”.

This trip was an amazing experience in many ways – exciting, breathtaking, frightening, stressful, beautiful, welcoming, tiring, mind-expanding, humbling are all words which come to mind in trying to describe the different aspects of the stay in this incredible country.

In the near future, we will be producing an evening presentation which will include descriptions, photographs and other details so this article is by way of an initial report. It is true to say that we are still getting our thoughts together, having seen and experienced so much in the two weeks we were there. Zambia is a beautiful country, with huge areas of open countryside, or bush, with no people. It is over three times the size of the UK, but with less than a fifth of the population. There are centres of population such as the capital, Lusaka, with about 1.5 million people and a few other large towns, such as Chipata (population approximately 80,000). However, many people live in rural areas and these are largely undeveloped, with many villages consisting of huts made from mud with grass roofs. The people here are mainly subsistence farmers, living primarily on the maize they grow, supplemented with a few vegetables, fruit, eggs and very small amounts of meat.

The infrastructure of the country is, for the most part, quite poor, with very few tarmac roads, little in the way of public transport and an economy which is struggling. Having travelled over 1100 miles during our stay, we now certainly appreciate the roads in the UK. Four and a half hours in a pick-up truck on very bumpy dirt roads is an experience which should not be repeated too often. However, the main reason for our trip was to spend time with the people with whom we have been communicating for the past 15 years or so. We stayed with a number of different people – Bishop William and his family in Chipata, Fr James Phiri in Katete, Fr Rogers Banda at Z.A.C. in Lusaka and, of course, the people of Msoro. We were also fortunate in being able to spend two nights at the South Luangwa game reserve, an experience not easily forgotten.

Msoro is a remote area in the Luangwa Valley and is the place where the Anglican Church was first established in Zambia, by missionaries who had travelled from Malawi. It is now the focal point of the Eastern Diocese and we were staying at the mission station. This comprises St. Luke’s Cathedral, St. Francis Basic School, St. Luke’s Secondary School (which is linked with Swanmead), St Luke’s Clinic, a small Deanery and a number of houses for teachers and nurses. The surrounding area consists of small villages of subsistence farmers.

We were allocated a small house near the cathedral, which was basic to say the least. However, the welcome and hospitality shown by the people was remarkable; these are people who have very little, but who are more than willing to share what they have at all times. Their trust in God is absolute and is very humbling – at the Sunday service, there were 331 people in the congregation and 110 children in the Sunday School. The worship, especially the singing, is wonderful and the four and a half hours of the service passed relatively quickly!

As indicated earlier, there will be a presentation in the near future and details will be advertised. In the meantime, we would like to express our thanks to all those who supported and prayed for us on our journey. Please continue to pray for all our friends in Zambia – they see us as their great friends and partners in Christ

Nigel, Lesley & Chris


For more pictures see

Photo gallery
and details about Zambia Link

http://www.bathandwells.org.uk/index.cfm?fuseaction=mission.content&cmid=291

Latin link with Frances

frances-004.jpg

Hello! My name is Frances Tresidder

Hello! My name is Frances Tresidder and as part of my ‘gap year‘ in 2009 I went to Argentina in a team with 9 other people, with a Christian organisation called Latin Link. You can see below, an account of our stay there.

Frances enjoyed her time there so much that she went out to Brazil in 2010 with Latin Link on a different kind of project. She writes……..

Latin Link in Brazil 2010

On the 1st July I will be flying to Recife, Brazil to spend a month helping on Christian summer camps with a Christian organisation called Latin Link.

I am in a team of 6 flying from the UK. In the first 3 weeks we will be working in a poor area in Recife called Tejipio, where the church that we will be joining is teaming up with an NGO called Compassion to run Christian projects among the families there. They are taking the initiative to run 3 summer camps for 11-16 year olds in the Congregational Church Bible School where the teenagers will be introduced to the gospel and challenged to make a commitment to Christ, whilst also being taken out of their home environments to have a week of fun activities.

We will be joining the project to help with the day today running of the camps, being assistant dormleaders and spending time doing activities with the teenagers, like drama, sports and swimming! In the last week we will be helping on the Bible Centred Ministries (MCB) camp, which is an evangelistic English teaching camp. The camps will be for people of ages 16+ and we will be helping as classroom assistants and helping with the day to day running of the camp.

I am so excited to be going to Brazil to help support a project that is hopefully enabling about 150 teenagers to hear about Jesus and will show them love by providing each of them a week of fun and sharing the gospel with them. Please pray for me that I may continue to trust God in this time that I am sure will be very challenging; learn Portuguese in the last few weeks before I leave and continue to learn it while I am there; that my team and I have a safe journey over to Brazil, and that we may continue to have Jesus Christ at the centre of our hearts and motivations throughout the camps.

Frances Tressider

There are more details of the time we spent away in Brasil at http://www.stepteams.org/view_team.php?team=101


email recieved 12th July 2010
hello everyone :-)

we finished our first camp yesterday! It was an amazing and tiring 4 days- we got to know some great kids and they had a chance to hear talks and have Bible studies, and we hope they had loads of fun too. There were about 75 children on the camp! I know of 3 boys who became Christians on the camp which is amazing :-)

so today we are having a rest day and catching up on sleep, and then the next few days are for getting ready for the next camp, which will be for teenagers from age 15+.

Please pray for the children who have just left camp, that they would continue to think about God, and that they would continue to learn about God and trust in Him as the camp leaders continue to try and support them in their home environments. For next week's campers- that they would learn more about God and God would change their hearts and that they would accept God as their Lord and Saviour. For those who are already Christians, that it would be a great opportunity for them to grow in their knowledge of God. For energy for the next camp and that language barriers wouldn't be too much of a problem.

Love,

Frances


email recieved on her return

Hi everyone!

Thank you so much for praying for me and my team for the last few weeks. I am sorry about the lack of contact after the first few emails, but we had very limited email access.

There are more details of the time we spent away in Brasil at http://www.stepteams.org/view_team.php?team=101 if you would like to know more about what we got up to (really should have given that address before, sorry!)

The third camp was very similar to the first 2 camps, except with different age groups. However, the last camp was in a different part of Recife called Aldeia. This camp was an evangelistic english teaching camp, where the standard of english was very very good! Because of this, we had different roles on this camp than on the others. As well as doing the washing up and serving the meals, we each had a room of campers who we were the leaders for, organised the sports in the mornings and afternoons and some of the evening activities, including a ceilidh. The camp also had 2 english lessons a day and 2 meetings every day; one in morning and one in the evening, which included talks on 2 Timothy in the morning. We then had a Bible study on the 2 Timothy passage studied after the morning talk. I really enjoyed all the camps, getting to know lots of new people, and seeing God changing lives, with people becoming Christians on each of the camps, accepting Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. Please continue to pray for those who became Christians, especially Diago and Camila who were on the second camp, that they will be strengthened by God, continue to trust in Him and would live in a way pleasing to Him. Also please pray for the Brasilian leaders that they would be able to continue to support the campers who have gone home.

Thanks! :-)

Love,

Frances x

Latin Link in Argentina 2009

Latin Link sends groups of people all over South America on mission trips; on short term (step) and long term (stride). Its aim is to “love God and our neighbour; to be an expression of God’s heart for Latin America; to work cross-culturally with churches and in co-operation with others; to help people develop their God-given potential in the service of others.”

For the first two months I will be going to a city called La Plata, 60 km south of Buenos Aires, and we will be working with a church called 'Iglesia Evangelica de la Union', helping to restore the roof of the church building and paint the walls at the front of the church, as well as helping in youth and children's work within the church.

I will then be travelling north to a city called Salta for a further 2 months, where I will be helping to construct a room next to a church which will be used for Sunday school and for community and social action projects. A few of the activities we may be involved in are arranging after school clubs, organising help with school work, completing street evangelism and arranging house groups.

I want to go on this trip because I want to do something for God; I want to let others know about Jesus and how amazing He is. Furthermore, I think it is important that this is done through my actions, by helping others as well as working within the church in Argentina.

I am really excited to be experiencing this, which is so different from anything else I have done before, and to be serving God. At the same time I am also very nervous about the cultural change and being so far from home.

Our teams will be writing on the Latin Link webpage every couple of weeks while we are away, so if you would like to hear news of how my team is getting on then please look on the webpage which is http://www.stepteams.org/teams.php

A Message from Frances \\ “I would like to thank everyone at the Minster Church Ilminster for the overwhelming support I have received for my forthcoming trip to Argentina with Latin Link. Thank you for your prayers and I look forward to telling you all about it when I get home”.

Reflections on my Adventure

Written for the parish magazine on her return. Photo gallery

In March of this year I flew to Argentina with nine others, to live there for four months working for the Christian organisation, Latin Link. Our team of ten was about to embark on two different building projects in Argentina.

Our first project was in a city called La Plata, about an hour’s drive south of Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires. The church that we were part of, and working for, had a congregation of about thirty people, and was using an old bakery, built in around 1884, as their church. However, the church needed a lot of restoration.

We started by clearing out the main room which was full of old building materials, cement mixers and rubbish. We then replaced the roof with new corrugated iron, so that it would no longer leak. We also painted the front of the church and constructed a white ceiling, inside. Lastly, we constructed a window frame and knocked through part of one of the walls to make a doorway for the church, which all of us found a little nerve-racking because we were not entirely sure whether the whole building might collapse or not!

Other than building, we got involved in the church services, telling our testimonies, giving a sermon and helping in Sunday school. Furthermore, the church highlighted to us the importance of finding time to spend with other people, valuing every person and being more selfless with one’s time. This is illustrated in Argentine culture, where people are usually found talking to friends whilst drinking the national herbal drink called maté.

We left that project happy to have made so many friends, but sad to leave them. We then enjoyed a holiday of three days at Iguazu Falls, reflecting on our first project, and then travelled to our second project in the city of Salta, in the North-West of Argentina.

In the suburb of Floresta, in Salta, we were living in the Pentecostal church that we were involved with. We had two parts to our project. The first was to build an extension onto the church. The rooms that we built are going to be used for the youth sector of the church, where they can meet regularly for their Saturday youth meeting, and for homework and social clubs. The second part was to help the mothers of the children in the local area, to cook lunch for the children on weekdays, with food that the church raises money to buy. We all took it in turns to cook and build.

Other than this, we also got involved in some children’s entertainment sessions on Saturday afternoons by singing songs, taking part in dramas and giving out bread and hot chocolate. Furthermore, half way through this project, the pastor of our church took us to a small village in the Andes in Argentina, where we took part in the church services and explained why it was that we were in Argentina. It was a great chance to be a witness for Christ.

Particularly in this project, God taught us a great deal about the importance of patience; building work would often be slow and frustrating, with a lot of waiting around. God taught us to be calm in these situations.

We all felt that we learnt so much about God, and that God was looking after us throughout our time in Argentina, and lastly we felt that we made a difference to peoples’ lives through our work on their churches and our community work.

I would like to thank the Minster for all the support that it has given me, before and during my time in Argentina.

Frances Tressider

Update 3 July 09

Hola everyone!

Well our time here in Salta is nearly over I'm afraid to say and I may only be able to fit in one more team report after this one, sad I know. The past few weeks have been very busy for the team on the building site, as the Pastor has started coming to the site to guide us as no-one else is free at the moment. As a result, we've started to get loads done but we've started working as late as 8pm quite a few nights, and the day after we got back from our San Marcos trip at night, we were straight on the building site at 8.30 a.m. the following day! But the long hours have paid off, meaning we've now completed the whole of the 2nd floor having made all the concrete pillars and bricklaying all the sides (which admittedly, we did have a lot of help with!) and the top has been completely concreted over, leaving the 3rd floor completely clear for the chapas to be put on top when they arrive.

To try and make these last days a little more fun and interesting for the team before we all separate to go travelling, we've been having themed entertaining nights. Firstly, due to the fact that during most of this trip everyone has joked that I am posh (coming from Oxford) Helen and I arranged a “Cheto” (posh) dinner for the team on our domestics day. This came complete with napkin holders, mock Latin Link-approved 'wine' (squash) and three course meal, while everyone had to speak in their most accentuated posh voices and eat with their best table manners. The team coped very well I thought, although they have a long way to go. On other domestics days we've also made a Pub Quiz for the team, and had a night where everyone had to dress up as each other but with an added twist, meaning we had Zoe dressed as Frances if she were bald and Indian, Kate dressed up as Steph if she was a punk rocker and Charlotte dressed as Chris if he were prime minister. Thankfully no-one was insulted by their impersonators! On top of this, Steph and Chris had been working for several weeks on a top secret project that they kept hidden and finally revealed the other night to in fact be “Mafia - The Board Game” which was basically Cluedo, but with our team being the suspects and with the possible murder weapons being things from our time here in Argentina - things such as illness, a grinder, and Paula the dog! Needless to say these distractions have been very much appreciated by the team and every domestics team is constantly thinking of new ideas we can use during dinner times!

The past several weeks haven't been so fortunate for Frances however, having had a bad record of losing things while here in Argentina. Two weeks ago she left her camera just outside our 'apartment' (our name for the accommodation in the church) and it disappeared without a trace. We thought it might have just been lost somewhere in the house or under Jonny's bed (where most things that have been lost end up, including - bizarrely - Zoe's trousers!) Despite our searching, we found absolutely no trace of the camera and could only conclude it had been stolen by one of the kids who come to the church for the feeding programme. Disaster struck again only a few days later when during a quick chomp on some chocolate, part of France's back molar came loose and popped straight out, firmly embedded in the guilty piece. In spite of all these losses, there is a happy ending to both events. Frances has now had a perfect filling put in, and only a few days ago, Frances' camera suddenly re-appeared back in the exact place where she left it! We were told by the Pastor's mother that she had seen a young boy running out of the church, but she didn't know who it was. It seems he must have realised the error of his ways and returned it. Luckily all of the photos are still there and the camera is working fine, so now Frances is finally back to normal!

The main event that we were lucky to be a part of in recent weeks was a rugby match on the 13th of June of England vs. Argentina (aka “los Pumas”) - in Salta! We made sure we arrived very early to get the good seats and watched in quiet anxiety as the stadium began to fill up and we became surrounded by passionate Argentineans. I would guess that in the packed stadium that can hold 20,000 people, there were probably no more that 50 English supporters, of which we are 10! The match started in the mid-afternoon and we quickly began to feel quite uncomfortable when by half time we were losing 6-21. On top of this, every time we stood up to cheer, we had paper and plastic cups thrown at us, and every rendition of “Swing Low” was instantly drowned out by the Argentineans with their variety of chants. The second half began and England were on much better form, pulling back the score to 22 -24, but just before it looked as if we were about to win the match, the full time whistle went. We were obviously sad that we hadn't seen England win, but we reflected that maybe if they had, the plastic cups being thrown at us could have turned into glass ones! The Argentinean supporters were very gracious afterwards though, and some even got photos taken with us. Afterwards we met up with Hans, Rebecca and Paula and went to the stadium exit and got autographs from most of the members of the England team as they left the stadium. They were obviously pretty gutted about the defeat, especially as they had beat Argentina 35 - 17 in Manchester the previous week. We found out later that sadly the Salta match hadn't been shown on UK TV, but Emanuel from the church in La Plata had seen some of us on Argentine TV, which made us feel somewhat better!

On the 20th June we took another trip back to the poor village of Cerrillos, on the outskirts of Salta where we have done kids work before. It was a similar event to the last one with clowns, drama and songs on a big stage, with hot chocolate and bread for the kids after. This was then followed by the church's youth meeting where we performed a drama and got the whole audience involved with a song. There were more songs and more drama from lots of different people and the church even served up some delicious choripan (chorizo sausages in a bun). However, because we had been constructing concrete columns all morning and afternoon, we were absolutely exhausted and so had to leave before the end. The next morning we had the Pastor, his wife and son round for breakfast with us, where he told us the whole history of how the church had begun really small and then had grown at an incredible rate. He has hundreds of incredible stories about how they've been improving the lives of the local community and the communities of other areas by teaching them about the need for good hygiene and toilets and how they brought clean water up to the village. He also told us about his future plans to try and start a school because of the high drop-out rate there is in the schools and to teach children in a different way to try and solve some of the problems that this causes in the local area. It was amazing to be able to speak to him personally about all he has planned and how he has been working in such incredible ways for God.

Funny moments of the week:

- “Dinner tonight is a surprise but I can tell you it involves sticks and something you might eat on a Friday night” - Steph (implying kebabs). “What…sword fighting?” - Jonny

- “I've decided I'm going to marry a European, they're all so beautiful” - an eight-year-old boy from the church

- “I'm never that ginger!” - Sam Vesty from the England rugby team when told he looked like Jonny

Praise points of the week:

- For Frances' camera being returned safely - For the progress we've managed to make on the building site - For safety on the building site, considering the height we've been working at and the number of times someone has almost fallen off the roof.

Prayer points of the week:

- For team morale as we finally come to the end of our project here in Salta and that we wouldn't be sad about leaving. - That we would be able to round off the project well and get lots done in the last days - For the Pastor's future plans and for guidance and help with any obstacles he may face.

Chausitos!

Tío José

News from Frances July 4th

Dear All,

The trip to the mountains was absolutely amazing but very challenging!Charlotte suffered from altitude sickness so did not do the 12hr walk we had to do to get to the village of San Marcos, but instead she stayed in Santa Victoria with Steph. The walk to San Marcos was hard, and we were all very out of breath and we had to walk for 2 hours in the dark! It was quite scary considering that we were still up a mountain when it got dark, but fortunately the moon was bright enough for us just about see where we going! We visited the school there and handed out toys and teddies. We also had soup with a goat´s head in!! I can´t say that i ate all of it!It was a brilliant trip that had its tough moments but was so much fun. Overall, we were in the villages of San Marcos and Santa Victoria for a week, and had 18 hours of church services while we were there.

When we got back to Salta, we started work straight away, and have worked very hard since then!We have managed to complete the second floor and the roof of it as well. This has involved a lot of cement mixing!

When we got back from the mountain trip we went to see the England vs Argentina rugby match that was held in Salta. It was so much fun (even though England lost) especially because we were sat right in the middle of all the Argentinian fans! When we arrived back at church we were mocked by the youth group quite a bit!

We now have 1 day left of our second and last project here in Argentina. Tonight the church has a celebration for us, and we are performing the dance of Salta that we have been taught. We are dressing up in the clothing that they wear for it as well!

On Monday, the team starts a 5 day team holiday around Salta which we are all looking forward too! Then my trip to Argentina will have sadly finished. I have had such a great time here and have learnt so much, and can´t wait to tell you all about it when im back!

Love Frances x

Update 22 June 09

Hola again from Team Argentina!

Well it's been ages since my last team report, but the past couple of weeks have been very busy for the team, as we spent most of it on a trip organised by the pastor of our church to a tiny remote village called San Marcos, located in the mountains near the border of Bolivia. It was an absolutely incredible trip, of which we were very privileged to have been able to go on, but so much happened during that one week that fitting it all in to this team report would have been impossible. So please accept my humble apologies as I try and recollect to you the events that took place during our time out in what must be one of the most uninhabited areas of Argentina.

On the last Saturday of May after having concreted the bottom of the whole of the second floor, there was an asado thrown in celebration for all the work that had been done because so many people had joined in for all the cement mixing that needed doing. Feeling very satisfied with our first asado in Salta, we went downstairs where Daniel - one of the young people from the church - taught us some traditional folk dancing which ranged from absolutely no physical contact, to cheek-to-cheek dancing (which we were later told by the Pastora was too physical for us to be doing). To demonstrate that the cheeks needed to touch, Daniel brought Jonny over and tapped the side of his own face. Jonny, thinking this was some kind of dance with attitude, promptly slapped him.

The next Sunday we all took a trip into the centre of Salta to stock up on needed supplies for the forthcoming expedition. We went into the central market and bought a load of warm clothes for the freezing mornings and nights that the Pastor and Pastora had repeatedly warned us about. We all made sure we had plenty of layers to keep us warm (in Zoe's case, a million layers was just about enough) and then piled into the local Vea supermarket to grab a load of chocolate and biscuits to keep us well fed. If there's one thing that has really surprised the team about Salta, it has to be the amazing music that the 'Vea' chain of supermarkets always pump out of its stores. Every time we go into a store, we are greeting with either some awesome classic 80's tunes or very recent dance music. The team often gets so distracted with dancing to the music in the store that we completely forget to buy key ingredients for meals. We're convinced that Vea is actually a nightclub posing as a supermarket and we're currently trying to find out when they have their Drum & Bass night.

On Tuesday we had a little bit of a shock when lunch turned out to be the regular soup with added finely chopped cow's stomach (“chopped small so that the kids can't pick it out” we were told by the cooking ladies). In the afternoon we stopped work to go to the health centre down the road where there was an event raising awareness for respiratory disease, for which we donated some clothes. When night fell, we did some last minute packing (taking as little as possible with us), said goodbye to Priscilla and Rebecca at the bus terminal, and set off for La Quiaca, on the border of Bolivia. The plan was to travel from La Quiaca to a small town called Santa Victoria by car and then hike to San Marcos, spend a day and then come all the way back again. We were going to travel to La Quiaca with the Pastor in the bus but as he was now coming with a guy called Dante he had to wait to take the next one. The coach was absolutely freezing, but arriving early morning in La Quiaca was even colder. We had a brief breakfast in a cafe and then jumped into a small truck and took a very long trip up and down winding roads in the mountains to the town of Santa Victoria for lunchtime in the house of the local Pastor, Santo, a good friend of Pastor Wilson. After lunch some people took a walk around Santa Victoria while the rest of us took showers. We then went to the youth hostel in the town (we mused as to how many tourists they really get in such a remote place) to dump our stuff and unpack. We made our way to the church where we spent ages up the front talking about why we were in Santa Victoria and sang a load of songs and gave testimonies. The church prayed for us and then just as the service was about to end, Pastor Santo asked for for people from the church to help lead some donkeys with our stuff to get us to San Marcos, and we realised we were well out of our depth…

Thursday morning we woke up very early only to find that Charlotte had been sick 5 times during the night, and was feeling very rough. We discussed this with Pastor Wilson and decided that since Charlotte had no energy she should stay behind in Santa Victoria with Steph to look after her whilst the rest of us went off on the trek. We jumped in another jeep which drove alongside a river and got off when the path started to fall apart and began climbing. Instantly we realised this was going to be a lot harder than any of us had anticipated as the first mountain we had to climb was very steep and we had to keep stopping to rest. The sun was also beating down strongly and so we were all sweating heavily which made the ascent so much harder. Luckily the path flattened out quite a lot and so we managed to have quite a relaxing walk with incredible views of the mountains, stopping only for lunch (corned beef and flat bread). The path began to get a little more difficult and eventually we reached our 'half way house' which belonged to a woman from the church who offered us a meal but we had to press on if we were to get to San Marcos. After crossing a river bed and refilling our bottles we began climbing an incredibly steep mountain which considering how tired we all were was absolutely exhausting and we had to keep stopping to catch our breath. Luckily when we started climbing, the sun went behind the mountain to give us a cool climb up. We met up with the donkeys at the top which gave everyone a little ride and then the sun began to set and it got dark and cold. On top of being exhausted, several members were suffering from altitude sickness and so I can't actually remember most of the rest of the walk to San Marcos because of how utterly drained I was. We ended up walking up and down steep slopes for 2 hours in the dark but we had been provided with a full moon which was as bright as street lamps to show us the way. After one final, almost-vertical climb, we reached the church where they had just finished a meeting (they didn't expect us to make it in one day which made us feel a lot better about how tired we were). Finally we all got to go to bed, with all the boys sleeping in the church and the girls sleeping in a nearby house.

In the morning we got up and had a nice little wander around the tiny village which was really quite incredible as it is so basic in some places with mud huts and yet had solar panels in others! We got to visit the local school where we unloaded all our bags that were full of kids toys and sweets which they loved and we got to have a little bit of time to play with them as well. We had been told that they were cooking an asado for us which obviously we were very excited about but when we arrived to eat we were presented with a started of which I can only describe as 'Severed Goat's Skull Soup'. With tongue intact. Seriously. Needless to say, it wasn't quite what we were expecting and we were a bit apprehensive about the rest of the asado, but it turned out to be alright. They served it alongside these tiny thin red potatoes that they leave out in the sun to sweeten which were really good, and we were also told we were the first English people to have ever been to San Marcos. In the evening after spending a long time airing out our smelly shoes, the church had a service where everyone who had come along from a different town was asked to sing some songs and the service went on for ages. We were desperate to get an early night but the church meeting went on for so long the boys didn't even get into bed until 1 a.m.

The next morning we set back off home and after many long goodbyes to the people of San Marcos we left. The route back was a lot easier because it was mainly downhill in comparison, but it was still exhausting and at one point the pastor split up from us to go a completely different way and we didn't really see him for most of the rest of the walk. We arrived back at the beginning of the evening where Charlotte and Steph were waiting for us and we all hugged and talked about all the events that had happened. We went back to Pastor Santo's house for tea and bread (which by now had become the only things we were eating and drinking) and showers. Twenty minutes before the next service at the church was due to start, Santo asked us which one of us was going to do the sermon. In a desperate last minute effort, me and Jonny decided we would do it and so quickly jotted some things down on pieces of paper about Psalm 121, which we had found really helpful and relevant to our journey to the mountains. We got up the front and took turns explaining alternating verses while Steph translated. The sermon seemed to go quite well, at least as well as a sermon with 20 minutes preparation can go!

On Sunday we had another 2 services during the day and did a lot of walking around Santa Victoria, and Paulino, a local from the church who had driven us from La Quiaca invited us to his house for an asado as it was his birthday. We were immediately suspicious, given our experience in San Marcos, but the asado was incredible, with 4 different kinds of meat which seemed never ending, and birthday cake after to finish. Thankfully no severed heads were found during this meal. On Monday Pastor Santos took us on a drive to his patch of mountain where he is planning to build a retreat and several condors also swooped past us which was awesome to watch. For our last night in Santa Victoria, they had another church service out in the main square, where we performed a drama and some songs and then the church began playing songs which went on for about 2 solid hours and involved everyone holding hands and running around the square. It was almost as exhausting as the mountain climb itself. We went back to Pastor Santo's house for a goodbye meal and collapsed into bed, having had endured a grand total of 16 hours of church services in the time we had spent out of Salta. The next day we got back into another car and left for La Quiaca. As we climbed the steep roads we began to pass through heavy thick fog, and then suddenly we burst through the cloud and were given a spectacular view of the clouds hugging the mountains with the sun shining all around. I couldn't help but think that for views like this, all the effort had been so worth it.

Funny moments of the week:

- Zoe's trousers ripping all the way down the back during the night climbing to San Marcos

- Pastor Wilson Amen-ing his own name in church when he was asked to give a sermon

- Charlotte and Steph finding a whole gutted sheep in the back of Pastor Santo's house.

Praise points of the week:

- That we got to San Marcos and back safely, given the dangerous route that we took and how God watched over us.

- For the awesome time that we had in the places we visited and the amazing opportunity that we had to visit them.

- For the incredible people in both Santa Victoria and San Marcos and all the amazing work they have done for God there.

Prayer points of the week:

- That the work in these places would continue and that despite the remoteness, the churches would continue to grow

- That the team would be able to easily get back into the working routine

- That the people who we met during our time would be encouraged by our visit and continue to keep working for the glory of God.

TÃo Jose

Update 2nd June 09

Dear All!

We arrived safely in Salta 3 and a half weeks ago after a 23 hour bus journey from Iguazu Falls, very excited about our next project!We are living on the outskirts of the city of Salta, on the second floor of the church that we are working with. Salta is a city built on a plateau, with mountains surrounding it from all sides, including the Andes on one side. We live at the base of a small mountain which is so beautiful, and has a cross built at the top of it which we can see from the church. Half of the team have walked up to it having eventually found a path; most of the team had attempted on numerous occasions before but could not find a path, only a lot of branches, thorns and trees, and an old river bed as a path!

Our aim is to add to the second floor and build a third floor on the church. So far we have built 4 cement columns on the third floor, made a ceiling of cement for the first floor/floor for part of the second floor, and sanded and varnished A LOT of doors! Everyday there are 2 people who are designated to help with the cooking for the feeding programme. We help the mothers of the children to make lunch, which usually includes a lot of chopping of vegetables, and even grating tomatoes. I didn´t know you could do that!Do we ever do that in England?

On our first Saturday in Salta we visited an area on the other side of the city, and played a part=2 0in an entertainment that our church put on for the children there, by singing some songs.We also gave out hot chocolate and bread afterwards. In the services at our church we sang some English songs and Jonny and Kate have told their testimonies. There is a youth serive on Saturday evening that starts at 8.30 and lasts for about two and a half hours, and then on Sunday evening the main service lasts for about 3 hours! Whilst we have been here, a member of the church has sung a song in the language of Quechua in one of the services. This is the indigenous language of Peru and Bolivia.

When we arived in Salta it was about 28 degrees, but in the last 3 weeks, the temperature has dropped!It is now very cold; we are wearing hats and gloves, and loads of layers all the time!Zoe has even been wearing 6 layers today!

We are leaving for the border of Argentina and Bolivia tomorrow, to visit a very remote village in the mountains (about 4000m). The pastor of the church we are working on is taking us, and we will be walking for 2 days to get there , after travelling by bus to the border! We are all very excited! Please pray that we would be safe and that we do not suffer from altitude sickness (especially because we have no time to acclimatise before beginning the walk). Also, please pray that we make the most of the time we have here, that we manage to fulfill God´s will for us here in Salta, and t hat we will learn more about God at individual quiet times and as a team at our devotion times. : - )

Love Frances

Update 15 May 09

Hola and greetings from Salta!

Well our time in La Plata has sadly come to an end and I am currently writing to you from the beautiful mountainous city of Salta in the North of Argentina, where we will be spending the second half of our time in South America. I'm pretty far behind with my report writing so this report will have to be a record of our final days with the church in La Plata. In fact, writing this report has been particularly difficult because of how emotional the whole experience was for the team!

We begin on the 30th April with our last day on the building site where we managed to shift the majority of the rubble we had created over the past 7 weeks into a skip outside the church. It was really weird clearing up the church knowing that we would never be doing any more work on it ever again. To celebrate this ultimate day we all stuck our hands in concrete and wrote our names in them. It was really satisfying to see what we had all accomplished but everyone could see that there was lots more to do and we all wanted to stay and help fix more of the church up. In the evening most of the church all met up in the centre of La Plata to go to an all-you-can-eat pizzeria where there was a translation confusion as to whether a 'pretty lady' or in fact a waitress would be bringing round the pizzas. We then went on to a nearby ice cream shop for a quick refreshment and then to a snooker club where we didn't actually play any snooker but instead stood on the balcony all night taking photos and having an all-round fun time.

The next day we took a train into Buenos Aires (which hilariously costs less for a return trip than getting a single on the bus into La Plata) with all the youth from the church for a tour of the capital city. We visited the neighbourhood of La Boca and the famous stadium, home of the Boca Juniors football team, and along the way bought some Bell Peppers for a snack which the Argentinians were horrified to discover we eat raw. We also took a trip into the slightly more central area of Palermo and at one point walked out into a square right in the middle of a protest, with angry protesters on one side of us and riot police on the other. Safe to say we made a quick exit.

On Saturday Marijo and Rudolpho threw us a big leaving party in the house with all their friends. There was loads of food and drink and they even got a magician in to perform for the party! Lots of cards and presents were exchanged and a great time was had by all. In the evening we all went to the church for the final youth meeting where we all said a little bit about what he had learned during our time in La Plata and the pastor's wife spoke about how we had been a real blessing to the church. We played a load of games together and then me and Jonny were sent out with a group of the Argentinians to buy supper for everyone. However, every place we tried seemed to be closed as it was about midnight, and so we ended up going to a little corner shop where the Argentinians ordered for us and bought about 100 Pesos worth of crisps, biscuits and coke, much to mine and Jonny's horror. When we explained how this food was meant to be dinner for the 30-odd people back at the church, they went back and bought another 20 pesos worth of biscuits…

We spent the rest of the night around a bonfire in the church back garden singing songs, playing the guitar and reminiscing together. At the end of the night most people went home but we all stayed overnight inside the church with Alex and Edu, with threats made to any of the potential snorers in the team (mainly myself). The next morning was our last church service and so was extremely emotional for everyone. Dany and Priscila arrived, as did Marijo and family and the church was pretty full again. Me and Helen gave our testimonies and then Nadia got up the front and read out a goodbye message to all of us to which everyone burst out crying. We were invited up the front of the church by Hernan for a final send off and everyone hugged each other and cried some more. I think Hernan's shoulder must have been dripping wet with our tears by the end of the service.

In the afternoon there was a huge goodbye asado out the back of the church and everyone just sat in the sun eating, singing more songs and enjoying one anotherÂ's company. It was one of those moments when everyone was just so relaxed and happy, and time almost seems to slow down as if to allow the moment to stay just that little bit longer. We said our final goodbyes to most of the people in the church and then in the evening we all went round to Alex and Manq's house with all the young people from the church for a final party with lots of pizza. Once again we had to say goodbye to everyone which brought on lots more tears, to which Jeremy told the girls, 'You're always crying!'

The next morning we woke up and had some frantic packing and cleaning of the house before we were due to leave. Dany turned up for our first project debrief and a little bit of information about our new project in Salta and then we said our final goodbyes to Marijo and most of her family, and loaded up our huge pile of bags into the minibus and set off to the bus terminal with Alex and Rodolphito. We were met at the station by Manq, Edu and Matias for some truly final goodbyes with lots of hugging and photos. We all got on the coach and cried as we waved goodbye to the amazing friends we had made and to the city we had called home for 7 great weeks of our lives. Half an hour later Charlotte gave us a goodbye letter from Marijo and we burst into tears again.

We spent an amazing time on our team holiday at the Iguazu Falls on the border of Argentina and Brazil and had a really good time just chilling as a team, ready for whatever was waiting for us in Salta…!

Well that's all for this week, but one of the main memories that will stay with the team about La Plata has to be all the hilarious times we had on the bus that took us in and out of La Plata every day, so here - in no particular order - are the top 5 bus moments:

- Chris telling his (completely fictional) history of City Bell and being told to be quiet by an old man - Charlotte falling into various people as the bus accelerated - Jonny hanging out the side of the bus as it drove off - Everyone singing 'I'm a believer' on a silent bus with Chris' headbanging - Charlotte and Frances jumping off the bus 2 stops early to avoid the ticket inspector (for legal reasons I should explain that they had paid for their tickets but the machine didn't give them one)

Praise points of the week:

- That we had a really nice time in Iguazu relaxing together as a team

- That we had an incredible 7 weeks in La Plata that we will always remember

- That we have arrived in Salta safely!

Prayer points of the week:

- That we would be able to make a really good first start in our project in Salta

- That we would also be able to make good friendships in this new project.

- That we wouldn't be so down about leaving La Plata.

Message from Frances 8 May 2009

Hola!

It is now 8 weeks since we left England, and 2 days since we left our first project!In the last 3 weeks we have made a window and knocked down a hole in the wall for the window to be placed (after finally getting confirmation that doing this would not cause the whole building to collapse!), knocked part of the wall down for a large door to be placed, cemented part of the floor, filled 2 skips and cemented parts of the walls to cover the cracks in the walls.

There has been an infestation of ants and cockroaches in our house, much to everyones´s (especially Zoe´s) digust!

Two weeks ago i told my testimony in church, in Spanish!Steph helped translate it whilst the pastor´s wife helped me practice the pronunciation!For the last few weeks we have had prayer evenings on Thursday nights and on Saturdays we have had a women´s Bible study meeting and then the youth group meeting in the evening. On the second to last Saturday they had 50 people at the Youth meeting, which is amazing considering there were about 12 at the most at the meetings before we arrived in La Plata. i think this is such a great encouragement for the church!

The last week was so great but very sad and emotional. We all felt like we made some amazing friends and so leaving was really sad! After staying over night in the church (and some of us being quite ill that night) we had our last church service in La Plata=2 0on Sunday, which started 20 minutes late as usual!After church we had a huge asado (bbq) so we could all spend some time with the church before we left.

We left on Monday evening and had a 17 hour bus journey to Iguazu Falls on the border of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina, where we are staying now. We visited the waterfalls from the Argentinian side yesterday, and the Brazilian side today ( which we had to do to get our visas renewed). It was absolutely amazing!

We are now all eagerly awaiting our project in Salta. It will take a 20 hour bus journey and we leave tomorrow!

Please pray\\

that we continue get on so well as a team,
that we may stay safe,
that we may adjust to and fit in with the church well in Salta,
that we will be able to do the work that God wants us to do
in the building work of the room by the church and in the friendships that we make.

With love from,

Frances

Update 29-04-2009

Report 3:

Hola a todos from Team Argentina!

Well I must start with an apology for having such a late team report. We've just been having so much fun over the past couple of weeks I haven't been able to write it all down! And anyway its all about the quality, not the quantity that counts as I'm sure you'll agree.

Thankfully the past weeks have been a lot less dramatic than the previous ones, but no less eventful. We begin team report #3 on April Fools Day at the house where the girls had spent the previous night concocting a variety of practical jokes to play on the unsuspecting boys, all of whom were completely oblivious that the day had arrived. Jonny managed to realise the toilet had been cling-filmed over just seconds before a nasty accident, and the shower curtain was eventually found hiding under Kate's bed. However, Chris ended up pouring orange juice on his cereal due to a sly switch the girls had made. Even though Scott got up early and thought he had cracked the system, the girls quickly did another switch and he was fooled several times, much to his annoyance. The Argentinians don't have have April Fools Day (they apparently have something similar on December 28th), but most of them must have felt losing 6-1 to Bolivia was some sort of joke.

The next day we woke up to a shocking surprise - rain. It must have been the first real time it has rained consistently and heavily during the daytime since we've been here. We were all a bit gutted as it was our day off and we were planning on spending most of the day sunbathing and the other part visiting the Republica de los Ninos, a theme park where everything is miniaturised, or so I'm led to believe. Unfortunately both activities had to be cancelled so instead we had a load of the congregation round for lots of card games, poor attempts at Spanish (for me), and lots of Mate.

I think that it's about time I explained exactly what Mate is, due to the fact it is such an important part of Argentine culture. Mate, (pronounced mah-tay) is a hot drink made out of a fairly bitter herb with just below boiling water added to it and is seemingly drunk by Argentinians at all times of the waking day. Everyone in Argentina drinks Mate with a passion and that now includes the Step 2009 team. However, the drinking of Mate is filled with potential faux pas that the oblivious outsider will undoubtedly fall foul of. Firstly, the Mate is served by just one person out of a small gourd, confusingly also called a Mate. Also, you must drink all of the Mate you are given and passing it on to someone else is a definite no-no. Mate is acceptable in any social situation and during a service a pastor will often pause half way through a sermon to take a sip! Before we came to Argentina we were told that the beef was the best part of Argentinian food, but we were never expecting the pastries, ice cream and chicken to be as good as they are! Certain members of the team are now well known regulars of the ice cream and pastry shops!

On Friday 3rd Alex Horncastle, a previous Latin Link Strider and friend of Chris visited us at the construction site with a large amount of Galaxy chocolate which was much appreciated. So far work on the building site has been fairly erratic, with Scott managing to only break one broom this time and the key to the front of the church (inside the lock), although Jonny did help him with that one. Some days we've managed to finish off the painting work that needed doing or cementing over the holes in the floor. Other days have only required replacing ceiling tiles which often only requires one person on a ladder or scaffolding whilst everyone else stands around cheering the worker on or simply drinking more Mate. More recently we've been spending our unproductive time playing 'Truco', a Latin American card game played with a Spanish deck of cards with some cards removed. Truco is a complex blend of bluffing, trickery and distraction and is a bit like a mix of Poker and Trumps. In Spanish, obviously.

On Saturday 4th it was a half day as usual on the building site and in the evening we went to what is essentially the 'mother church' of the one we are working at, with Emi (David's son) who is the youth leader there. We played loads of games which included balloon stomping, arm untangling and chair swapping, though not all at once thankfully. We ended the night outside the cathedral that was beautifully lit up whilst we all chowed down on some awesome late night fast food - burgers and hot dogs - and some pomelo (grapefruit) drink. I obviously had a bit too much of the stuff to drink as I ended up falling off my chair. We got on a late bus home and didn't get to sleep until about 3 a.m. which was a bit of an issue because the next day me and Helen were preaching the sermon at the church which I only wrote 12 hours previously and which still needed a lot of work. The sermon was on The Great Commission, with Kate giving her testimony and Steph translating the whole sermon as we went along with her epic Spanish knowledge.

The rest of Sunday was spent in a glorious day at a birthday party for Hernan's son (also called Jonny) with table football, a bouncy castle and lots of party food. After several burgers and slices of cake we played some football and some of the team went swimming in the freezing cold pool. It was an awesome night and was a really great way just to hang out with the whole of the church. Once again we got back to the house at some crazy hour but we didn't care because the next day we had the day off to just sleep as much as we wanted. On Thursday Marijo and the family came round to the house with a load of Rodolphito's friends who were staying the night in tents outside. We spent the evening playing with them on their PS3 and outside in the garden with a game called 'Pica'. During this game Chris hid under the balcony and ended up falling asleep because noone found him for 3 rounds. Needless to say he had quite a shock when we woke him up. Dany and Flavia also came around again to see us and we performed a song we wrote about how much we love Marijo, which will probably have to wait until another report!

Easter (Pascua in spanish) arrived and on the Saturday before we watched The Passion of the Christ which is a pretty intense film to say the least. We also walked around the local neighbourhood giving out Easter Eggs. Giving a pack to the man in the ice cream shop turned out to be a good idea as we got a 1/2 kilo of ice cream free in return! We now always get a wave when we walk past the shop. Easter itself saw the team split up with half going to David's house and the other half going to Berta's house for Easter lunch - another asado. And yes we are all getting fatter but it's so worth it.

On Wednesday we played 'The Breakfast Challenge' invented by Chris where we all had to feed each other our breakfasts. As you can probably imagine, the spilled cereal to eaten cereal ratio was fairly high and most people were left with a milky dribble down their chins. It was also about this day that during a devotions we discovered the Hebrew word 'Selah' in Psalms. The team has now adopted this as our official word of greeting, departure, or just about any occasion for that matter.

Friday was one of the more exciting days as we managed to get loads done on the building site and then in the evening some of the team went paintballing with Dany, Alex H and some of the guys from the church. The paintballing range is along the way to our house and is basically a small semi-enclosed warehouse which makes for a pretty thrilling close range game. The only available game was Capture the Flag but it was extremely sweaty and the masks fogged up really easily so often you couldn't see where you were running or even who you were firing at. Several of us got shot up pretty bad, with Dany getting shot twice in the back of the head as he ran away with the flag. At the end of the match I took off my overalls to find I had a massive rip straight down the middle of my trousers, probably due to all the incredible diving shooting I was doing. Or maybe I just need to buy better trousers. Anyway we all went back to Emi's house for some great pizza made by Manq with more truco and mate all round.

Well that's just about all the time I have for this week!

Funny moments of the week(s):

- Scott and Steph sprinting after the bus in the vain hope of trying to catch it (unsuccessfully)

- A police car pulling up to 7 of us in a 5 person car and telling us the door wasn't properly shut

- Dany's interesting method of trying to unblock Helen's ear (using fire)

- “I'm just going to put some more tea on because the cat drank mine” - Steph

Praise points of the week:

- No one in the team has had any major illnesses and everyone is very healthy

- Huge reduction in mosquito bites - they don't seem to care about us anymore!

- That Helen's hearing has improved.

Prayer points of the week:

- That we would keep up motivation for the last couple of weeks we have here in La Plata.

- That we would be able to be more consistent with our work on the building site and get more done.

- That we would be able to stay energised throughout the day and be able to sleep better!

Selah!

Tio Jose

Email received 15th April

Hola!!


Frances is in the centre in the blue sweatshirt.

Thank you all so much for your lovely emails, its great to hear from you all!i am sorry i haven´t replied to you all individually.

We are now 5 weeks into the trip! we are all having such a great time!the building work is going really well and is really rewarding. we have painted the whole of the front of the church, replaced the “chapas”-corrugated iron- on the roof, made a white ceiling on the inside of the church. now we are going to knock down part of a wall to make a new door, seal the huge cracks in the walls and and polish the floor. The church building was an old bakery so still has the old ovens in bits of the walls!

We have got on with the church members so well.

It is a very small church (30 members)but with so much enthusiasm and generosity. They have great plans to expand the numbers in the church, and the congregation is mainly made up of students!

One weekend , we had the church service at our house, and most members of the church stayed for more than 24 hours at our house-it is such a family-like church community!

On saturday evening we all gave out easter eggs to people in the local community which was really good!

The ice cream is amazing here and i am getting very used to drinking their substitute for tea called mate!

The family who owns the house we are staying in are so lovely, they bring us cakes and visit us all the time!most argentinians live with their family until they get married, so the fact that we are all 18/19 and living by ourselves comes as a bit of a shock to them!

we have played a lot of football, kate has been bitten by our resident dog (but she is fine now!), the team is getting on brilliantly, it is beautifully sunny and warm (although it is getting a little cooler now), we are having some really good Bible studies as a team, Helen and Joe did the sermon last week in church and most of us have given our testimonies in church!

i am sorry about the poor english used in this email!

Love

Frances x

Update 1st April 2009

Hola de nuevo from the Argentina team!

So it's been quite a while since my last update and life in Argentina has been quite eventful over the past weeks. Our building work on the church has progressed really well and it's been really encouraging to see what we have achieved so far. We've finished knocking down all the old plastering on the church walls and replaced all the 'chapas' (corrugated iron sheets) on the first part of the roof. The front of the church is now also being repainted the national Argentinian colours - blue and white.

But while the construction work has been running fairly smoothly so far, we have had our fair share of incidents on and off the building site. In five days at the church, Scott managed to break 3 brooms and 1 fan. But it's alright because the Argentinians got their revenge in the end. One afternoon after a particularly long and sweaty day of work, all the hard workers joined together for a small game of football in the sun. At a critical moment in the game, a throw-in went wrong when David attempted a diving header for the ball and his flailing hand flew hard into Scott's nose, causing much gushing of blood and fears of a broken nose. Scott's nose appears to be fine now with no lasting damage, but I couldn't help thinking that this wasn't the first time an Argentinian hand had caused pain for the English in a game of football.

Apart from that one accident the English-Argentinian relations have been good. On the 20th all the guys went to the church for a men-only asado, which was pretty funny considering how all of us English guys have such a poor grasp of the Spanish language (and the English language too for some of us). But luckily we had Emmanuel there, a member of the congregation who speaks English very well, and so we had some good banter going, even if some of it was in sign language. The night ended with a massive jamming session where we discovered every Argentinian can play the guitar (other talents all Argentinians have include being awesome at football and being able to whistle like a cricket). They then asked us to tell some English jokes, which was pretty hard when you think about how many of our jokes are based on puns or a knowledge of the English culture. But me and Chris managed to think of two that they did actually understand with translation and found funny. The one's they came back with we could also understand and were surprisingly nearly all biblical (Q: What does salt taste like? A: Lot's wife). We stayed up for ages and got back about 2 in the morning while the girls had stayed at the house having a girly night in.

The next day the owners of the house, Marijo and Rudolpho came round with a big group of their friends for a midday barbeque before we went off to the church for a movie night to watch Madagascar 2 with homemade popcorn (!) which was a pretty awesome night. The film was obviously very powerful as Frances fainted at the end of it, although her iron deficiency may have had something to do with that. The following Sunday was church as usual with an excellent testimony from Scott, and a much needed relax back at our house.

Tuesday was somewhat of an ill-fated day as Steph had been sick during the whole night and was feeling pretty rough. Then later in the day during yet another party organised by the owners of our house, Kate got bitten on the arm by our house dog, Paula. Everyone was pretty shocked because Paula is usually pretty peaceful. Kate was rushed to the hospital and had to have stitches without anaesthetic. The wound has now healed up fairly well but everyone is now slightly wary of Paula, and not just because of how she generally smells.

The rest of the week was fairly uneventful, but on Friday we were invited along to a gig in Buenos Aires by Eduardo from the church who is part of a Christian rock band. Edu's band were last to play, but before that we were treated to several other musical styles including punk, heavy metal, and what I would personally describe as being screamo, although I must admit to being somewhat of a philistine when it comes to that genre. It was wicked to be able to experience the Argentinian night life, especially in the capital city. We went for a late night pizza before arriving back in La Plata at 3 a.m. completely exhausted.

However the next morning we had to be wide awake because we were having yet another party at our house with the entire congregation of the church. I should probably point out the fact that so far we have not personally organised one of these parties yet, and that this particular party was arranged to be at our house before we were even told about it. It was actually a great opportunity to get to talk with all the members of the church and form some great friendships. We partied late into the night, sharing comedy sketches (we performed the 'toothpaste' sketch), dances and songs of which there often seemed to be more similarities between our cultures than differences. Most of the congregation went home but some stayed the night as the next day we were having church at our house. Charlotte gave her testimony entirely in Spanish which was very impressive, and in the afternoon the action mainly centred around the pool after a sweaty game of football. There we had a match of chicken fighting (where one person sits on another's shoulders and tries to push over two other people in the same stance) with Argentina vs England. For a while England was losing fairly badly until me and Jonny stepped in and put the Argentinians in their place. Hopefully this next week will probably be a lot quieter than the last one!

Funny moments of the week(s):

- Frances getting her glasses caught in Jeremy's eye piercing when going in for a goodbye kiss on the cheek.

- Me and Charlotte thinking we were discussing our favourite ice cream flavours with Fransisco before he dashed off and bought us all masses of it. (He has since been nicknamed 'Mr. Whippy' by the team)

- Kate running out of water half way through washing her hair and being forced to wash in a bucket.

Praise points of the week:

- That Kate's bite wasnÂ't too serious and has healed well

- That we have built some great friendships with people from the church

- That we have been able to make so much visible progress at the church

Prayer points of the week:

- Help with the language barrier

- Prayer for general health and recovery from sickness, etc.

- That even though we don't have much to do this week at the church (as we are waiting for building materials) we would still be able to make a good impact with our work.

Hasta luego! T'o Jose

Update 20th March 2009

Hola y buenos dias from the Argentina 09 Step team!

So, after much frantic preparation, hours of Spanish learning and several hectic moments of last-minute packing, the team have arrived in the the gloriously sunny nation of Argentina! Top exports include beef, the tango and footballers!

Allow me to introduce the team - I am Joe (or Jose as I am now often known) and I will be the report writer for the next 4 months here in Argentina, hopefully giving a good insight into how the team is getting on and what we do on a day-to-day basis. I'm also the devotions co-ordinator, helping lead team prayers. The rest of the team are as follows; Scott, one of our team leaders, co-treasurer and generally tall guy (standing at 2.05 meters). Charlotte is the other team leader and also a devotions co-ordinator, Kate is the Chief Children's Co-ordinator, Jonny is the Chief Recreation Officer, Chris is Chief Drama Co-ordinator, Zoe is the Chief Domestic Goddess, Helen is Chief Music Co-ordinator and Co-treasurer, Frances is Chief Medical Officer, and Steph is our Chief Communications Officer (in other words she has some mad Spanish skills). She's also the person we come running to when we need even the smallest of Spanish phrases translated because we're all fairly lazy.

We took about 16 hours of flying in total with a 5 hour wait at the Sao Paulo airport to get to Argentina, feeling quite exhausted to say the least. Arriving on thursday afternoon, we were met at the airport by Gemma, current Latin Link Strider in Argentina, and Dany Lescano, our main man and supervisor during our 4 month stay here. We took a quick drive to our accomodation in La Plata, just south of Buenos Aires, and I have to say, we have been extremely lucky! We are staying in a fairly luxurious house on the outskirts of the city, which was a very nice surprise, considering that our accomodation wasn't even sorted 2 days previous to our departure from the U.K! We even have a glorified paddling pool posing as a swimming pool, although to get to it requires walking through vicious mosquito territory!

We spent the remaining hours of the day choosing bunk beds (girls downstairs, boys upstairs), and chatting with Hernan, the local pastor of the church, and David, a member of the congregation. We spent most of Friday having orientation with Dany and his wife Flavia at our house, talking about all the vital pieces of information we needed to know in order to get around in Argentina. Topics included greetings with kisses, general health and the drinking Mate, a hot drink that the Argentinians have a phenominal addiction to. More on Mate in a future report!

Saturday we spent doing all the necessary touristy things - we visited the La Plata Cathedral, the largest Cathedral in South America apparently, and built by the Masons. We also went to the local La Plata Museum which had some awesome displays and helped improve our Spanish paleontology vocabluary, which I definitely needed. We then went on the the church we will be working on here for the next 6 weeks and had supper at the church, which was essentially a barbeque of epic proportions. The Argentinians call it an 'asado' and it mainly consists of prime cuts of beef cooked to perfection over an open fire. No vegetarians here please.

Sunday was Charlotte's birthday so we got out all the chocolate and had a bit of a party with balloons and party whistles. We then went along to the church service, a very relaxed affair with a congregation of about 30 or so, in which we stood up the front, introduced ourselves in Spanish and sung some songs. The evening consisted of a meal for Charlotte with a pudding of melted chocolate, cadbury celebrations and gluten-free biscuits all mixed in together, and christened 'Charlotte Mess'.

The rest of the week has been starting all the building work in the church. So far we've removed all the rubble from the room that needs renovationg, knocked off all of the plaster and begin smashing holes all over the place, which some of us got a bit too into.

Well that's all I can write for now as I'm fast running out of internet time!

Some hilarious moments of the week:

- 'I own at crane games!' - Chris heavily medicated with Puriton

- Charlotte getting sprayed with water from the toilet in the church (and breaking it)

- Jonny, Chris and Scott's journey in a car with barely a sentance of spanish between them to speak to their driver. The conversation consisted of 'Coca-cola!…Pan!…Si!'

Some Praise points of the week:

- All our 20 bags arriving safe and sound at the airport, and nobody forgot or lost anything!

- Great accomodation after having almost nothing arranged previously.

- Generally good health of the team.

Some Prayer points:

- Prayer for a reduction in mosquito bites (we're getting eaten alive out here)!

- That our team would be able to stay as one

- We would really get to know the locals even better and gain some really good relationshiops while we are out here

Until next week, hasta luego! Joe

Email from Frances 17th March

hello!

I just thought i´d send you all an email to let you know how im getting on in Argentina!it has been a week since we left Heathrow and flew to Sao Paulo and then on to Buenos Aires-way too long in a plane!

We (my team of 9 others and i) were driven to the city of La Plata to the house where we are staying which is on the edge of the city in a marshland, so there are a lot of mosquitos! A member of one of the churches nearby has let us stay in his house while we are in La Plata.

On our second day the church members cooked us our first argentine bbq!they cook huge quantities of beef on a large bbq called an asado. The Argentines eat late; around 11-12 pm!

We were late to church the next morning because the bus took half an hour to arrive, but this was not a problem because Argentinians are very relaxed about time!we ended up staying at church having lunch until 4 in the afternoon. The church is a lively church with some really talented musicians, so worship is really great! Everyone is so kind and generous and are making us feel so welcome. I probably know the least spanish in our team so am finding that quite difficult, but the members of the church who speak English are helping us learn.

On monday we started work on the church, knocking down plaster on walls and the walls themselves, sanding doors and clearing the garden area. The main job we have to do is to reconstruct the roof on the20church which leaks a lot when it rains, but i don´t think we will be starting that for a couple of weeks.

Today is my domestic day, where i clean the house, cook, wash clothes and get the shopping for the day (and get to go on the internet!) with 2 others in the team whilst the others carry on with building work!

I was slightly unprepared for the weather; i was expecting it to be a lot colder (about 13 degrees) but it´s about 30! I have far too many jumpers and pairs of trousers!

I hope you are all well!

Love

Frances x x x