Paraguay Revisited: Asunción

Last week we were able to go to Paraguay for a short survey trip. Missionary Jason King and I along with two interns, Stephen Carrier (completing his internship in Chile) and Robert Becker (a new intern with us) were in two cities, Asunción and Ciudad Del Este. This post is all about Asunción. Asunción is the capital city of Paraguay. We spent the majority of our time there. The city is unlike any city I have been to, combining a third world feel with a few modern malls and even American restaurants (they have Pizza Hut and Coffee Bean!?!?!). Even though the city boasts a population of over 2 million people (including the metropolitan area) it really has a “small town feel” (which is something I love). It is the largest city in Paraguay and is situated on the northern border of Argentina.

Compared to Buenos Aires: Flying from Buenos Aires the first difference you notice is how much hotter it is. The heat and humidity is very strong! It is also much greener, and that is saying something because we have green areas in Buenos Aires. It also has more of an American influence as well. We drink mate (pronounced “mot-tay”) which is a hot tea but Paraguayans use the same tea to make a cold tea called “tereré”, but with the climate so much more intense I can certainly understand why. Another great difference is the cost of things. Asunción (and Paraguay as a whole) is much, much cheaper than Buenos Aires, it was surprising how little things cost there.
Asunción and the Gospel: Okay, so we met with 2 different missionaries that are in Asunción. These are some takeaways from these meetings. There are a lot of churches in Asunción. On missionary suggested that the need was not for more churches but rather leader training (something as he described was severely lacking). The other missionary also commented about the amount of churches but that the number of conservative Baptist churches was not very big at all.
Language: Spanish is one of the languages of Paraguay but both missionaries spoke of Guaraní, the people’s “heart language”. Apparently if you work with anyone outside of the city, you need to learn Guaraní, which I found very interesting considering one missionary told us that very few missionaries ever learned to speak it. Other missionaries said it was spoken throughout the country, whether in the city or not. I spoke with several taxi drivers within both cities and every single one of them spoke Guaraní as well as Spanish and spoke a mix of both Guaraní and Spanish in their homes. Apparently the wealthy class doesn’t speak Guaraní (or at least they act like they don’t) and some of the young people in the major cities don’t like to, but almost everyone else knows it and speaks it or a mixture of Guaraní with Spanish. As an outsider who admittedly knows very little about Paraguay, I think if one of our intern friends were to go there to plant churches, they should learn Guaraní.
Final Thoughts: I think Asunción has great potential for any one considering missions. Someone considering this city could go to the outskirts of the city (where the city is growing) and I think they could see great things happening. Having to learn two languages is not attractive to almost anyone, but the first time a man sees a Paraguayans eyes light up when the American speaks in their heart language (Guaraní), I think they will find it worth all the extra work. I don’t know if either of the two interns that were with us will consider Asunción, but I think they should.

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