300: The Bridge Week

San Roque Bridge

Photo by The Barba himself

This is my 300th post here at Rambling with the Barba.

I timed it so this milestone post would fall on a very special day. This is the launch of The Bridge Week here and on the mission blog as well. It’s time to let the cat out of the bag.

Honey, bring that bag over here. Try not to shake it too much. I’ve found they don’t like that.

This is the launch of The Bridge Week. It’s kinda like Shark Week but you’re less likely to have a limb bitten off. It’s sorta like Bike Week without the booze, broads and boulevard beasts. It’s similar to finals week with all the hype and none of the stress.

The photo at the top of this page is the San Roque International Bridge. I took this shot about a mile and a half from my house. The bridge spans 8,366 feet crossing the Parana River. It unites the cities of Encarnación and Posadas. The countries of Paraguay and Argentina. The developing third-world with the first world. The crossing here puts you less than 100 miles from Brazil.

This bridge has become the symbol of the city of Encarnación, much like the Statue of Liberty might make you think of New York, or the Gateway Arch brings St. Louis to mind.

This landmark is more than just a physical reminder of the city. It has come to represent what’s happening here as well.  Many young people leave their rural homes to come to this city for higher education. They come seeking a high school with a certain specialty or for a degree at one of the 16 colleges and universities located here.  In that way, Encarnación bridges the gap between the poverty cycle and positive change for the future.

Because of its proximity with Argentina and Brazil, residents of Encarnación import much more than just goods from their neighbors. They are exposed to culture, technology, and lifestyles that stand in stark contrast to the traditional Paraguayan culture.  Paraguay spent many years sequestered from the rest of the world by a dictatorship, making these influences from other countries a relatively new thing.

It causes the country to leap frog the natural evolution of development. New cultural norms and the integration of technology spring into place without the benefit of time for adjustment. The young Paraguayan is thrown into situations that are intimidating, overwhelming, and quite plainly, dangerous.  It’s basically too much, too fast.

Nearly 40% of the city’s 125,000 residents are between 14-29 years old. Many make the move here alone. Outside of their element they find themselves disoriented and in need of a friend.   Most of these young people have no experience with God outside of the rituals of mass and ceremonies. They don’t have a relationship with Him or spiritual companions to fall back on.

The crash of this new world with the one they’re accustomed to pushes many to the common Paraguayan vices. Access to a more modern culture and its negative influences coupled with the desperation of living in a developing nation traps many in drug addiction, crime, pornography, alcohol addiction, and gangs.  Many feel helpless to breaking free from these destructive behaviors.

Is there a way to bridge the gap between this God-sized hole many haven’t filled and the Savior who came to rescue them? Can He use us to help build this bridge?  

The vision God’s given us for this city is exactly that–to build a Bridge.  Not only a spiritual bridge, but a literal one.  As Bridge Week continues, I’ll be sharing exactly how we plan to do that, and how you can get involved!

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