Sunday, January 22, 2012

Alto Refugio: Volunteer Profile

The Alto Refugio website has a new section to display current volunteers. They asked me to write a testimony basically just saying why I was here and what I do at work. You can read it here or take a look at it on the actual website.

My name is Tim Regier. I have been volunteering at Alto Refugio (High Refuge) since the end of September, 2011. I am from the state of Kansas in the United States but I am here in Paraguay for 10 months doing voluntary service. I came with five other young people from the U.S. as part of a program of the Mennonite Mission Network.

I have felt called to serve my whole life. I’ve known for a while that I wanted to do a year of service after high school, but I did not know how or where. When I started looking at the options I had to choose between serving in the United States or abroad. I felt that being in a different culture with a different language would challenge me more, so I decided to leave the country. Mennonite Mission Network sent me to Paraguay, and I believe that my call here has been confirmed. It just happened that I ended up working here at Alto Refugio, the place that was started by David and Judy Schmidt, my relatives. I have seen the evidence of many of my relatives’ work here in Paraguay, and I feel that I am continuing my family’s connection with this country.

My work here at Alto Refugio is not strictly defined, but I always find places to plug in. In the mornings I do whatever is needed. This can be a number of things, including working in the pantry, carrying boxes, cleaning, or playing with the kids. In the afternoons I have been working on refining Alto Refugio’s website. I have always been interested in computers and I think this experience will help me decide whether it is something I am interested in studying in college.

One aspect of Alto Refugio that I really enjoy is the devotion in the morning. Every day, about half an hour before Alto Refugio opens its doors, some of the workers gather to sing, pray, read scripture and share together. Even though I sometimes am tired and have trouble focusing in the early morning, I appreciate the Christian focus and the sense of family the devotional creates. It allows us to start the day well, and to serve the patients as Christ would; as family.



A few months back in July, I was at the Pittsburgh 2011 Mennonite Convention. One afternoon, I went to a seminar about doing short-term service with Mennonite Mission Network. The seminar was very casual; just a few former service participants talking about their experiences and answering questions. One of the former participants, Rose, had done Radical Journey in Paraguay. She told a story about her host dad, Alfred, who is a pastor. His house was robbed, and in the process he was stabbed by the intruder. Later, Alfred visited the man in jail. They made amends, and the man told him that he had found Jesus and wanted to become a pastor. When I heard this story I believed I was headed for Bolivia. Plans changed, and I'm now in Paraguay. I go to the same church as pastor Alfred, and have heard the story from him now too. Today in church, the Alfred stood up and said he wanted to introduce someone very special. The man who had stabbed him came to our church for the first time today, and he brought his whole family with him. After the sermon, Alfred invited those who wanted to give their lives to Christ to come to the front and pray with him. The man and his family all came up to pray. He and Alfred embraced as they prayed together. It was a very special experience. The man was forgiven by Alfred and by God, and was transformed because of it.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Connections Article 2

Another article I wrote for my home church's news letter, Connections.

Last time I wrote for Connections it had been only 3 weeks since I left home. Now it has been more than 3 months! My team arrived here in Paraguay on September 20th. The time has gone by very fast. It’s hard to believe it’s already December!

The Radical Journey team in Paraguay lives with host families. My host-parents names are Francisco and Mercedes Diaz. I have three siblings here: Janette, Daniel, and Laura. They are all older than me. I could not have hoped for a nicer family. One of the advantages of having older siblings is that they can take you places and do things. A couple weeks ago they got me and the two other guys in my group in on a weekend day trip that included rappelling down a waterfall! Our house is not huge, but it is very nice and very comfortable. Riley, one of the other guys from my team, lives with my host-mom’s sister and her family. (So, he’s kind of like my host-cousin.)

I am currently working at Alto Refugio, an HIV/AIDS hospitality center located across the street from one of the major hospitals in Asuncion. Alto Refugio was started by David and Judy Schmidt. David is Mary Lou Bonham’s brother, and is one of my Dad’s cousins. They continue to serve there today, and I’m glad to have the opportunity to work with them. Andrew from my team is also working there. In the morning I do a variety of things. A common task is batching food such as rice, flour, or beans in the pantry. Alto Refugio receives food donations from a number of area business, which they then distribute to the patients who come in. My job is to repackage the food from the 50 kilogram bags it's packaged in into smaller, individual-sized plastic bags. In the afternoon I have been working on Alto Refugio's website. The website’s purpose is to spread their message and is also a source of some donations to the organization.

Alto Refugio serves the HIV/AIDS community in many ways. Besides giving out the food products that I package, they serve a free breakfast and lunch Monday - Friday. They also give out free medicine. Every other week a dentist comes and see patients for free. They also serve spiritually, with a daily devotional time and a support group that meets on Tuesdays. Aside from all this, Alto Refugio goes into the schools and gives educational talks about HIV/AIDS. These talks promote abstinence and include a first-hand account of what it’s like to live with AIDS. You can find out more about Alto Refugio (and see a little of my work) at their website,

Along with David and Judy I have met a few other family members here. I have also discovered the work of other Regiers before me. In some ways I feel like I’m just continuing another old family tradition. My sister Laura came to Paraguay for a year of service directly after high school. My cousin Greg did the same. A few of my other cousins have also been here and volunteered. A couple weeks after I arrived I traveled a few hours out to a town called Lucero. While I was there I found out my Grandpa Edwin Regier helped build a clinic there. The clinic had since gained additions that almost surrounded the original building, but it was still there, the core of the new building. I think it’s a wonderful tradition, and I hope it is continued in the future!

I’ll leave you with a quick story. Alto Refugio is having a Christmas party for the children on Thursday, December 22nd. On a daily basis we usually have anywhere from five to 20 kids at Alto. For these parties, they expect around 150. Since quite a few of the kids would not normally get a Christmas present due to their situation, we ask for toy donations and give them to the kids. Last Thursday, the 15th, we spent all day sorting and wrapping no less than 200 presents. It was quite a task, but seeing the faces of the children opening them will make it all worth it.

Once again, thank you for all the prayers and support. I’m really grateful to have a strong church community behind me at home.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Finally, Another Post

Well, it's been over a month. It's about time Tim posted to his blog again.

It's hard to believe I've been working a month already. I am currently working at Alto Refugio, the HIV/AIDS hospitality center mentioned in the last post. Andrew from my team is also working there. In the morning I do different things every day. A common task is batching food such as rice, flour, or beans in the pantry. Alto Refugio takes donated food and gives it out to patients. My job is to repackage the food from the 50kg or so bags it's packaged in into smaller plastic bags. In the afternoon I have been working on Alto Refugio's website. The website is a source of many donations to the organization. It was built on WordPress, but it has had some custom code added to it. I'm mostly working with the WordPress interface, but I'm attempting to do some things with the coding as well. A third job that Andrew and I just recently found out about is taking care of the pool. Last December, a small hotel property was donated to Alto Refugio. The eventual plan is to turn it into a hospice. Andrew and I will be cleaning and maintaining the pool there this summer so that the children and teenagers who come to Alto Refugio during the day will be able to use it. Of course, this job has a perk, which is that Andrew and I will also have nearly unlimited access to the pool throughout the hot Paraguayan summer.

I take the bus home from work, but in the morning I ride with my parents and two sisters. My dad passes by Alto Refugio on the way to his work. I don't really have to be at work until about 7:15 or 7:30, but I usually arrive around 6:45 because other family members need to be at their jobs earlier. When I'm tired I sometimes wish I had a different situation, but the bright side is that I never forget to do my morning devotions on work days.

I've been getting a little involved in some musical activities here in Paraguay. I'm playing bass once a month with a worship band at my church. I also just found a small group to play my French horn with. It's a random assortment of wind instruments. We'll be performing some German Christmas music at a church in December sometime. I've also been playing soccer with some guys from the church for a couple hours every Sunday afternoon.

For the sake of not uploading photos a second time, I'll probably just put the public link to my most recent Facebook album here. It has some photos of my house and the neighborhood I live in.

My Spanish is nowhere near fluent, but it is getting better. It is still frustrating at times. The presence of the native language, Guarani, complicates things. Almost everyone here speaks it, including my whole family. Sometimes I can't tell if I'm just not understanding any of the Spanish or if they've switched to Guarani. Maybe I'll just have to learn two languages this year...

Last week was COICOM, a giant Christian conference. It is held in a different South American country every year. This year it was Paraguay. I attended a couple of the free evening sessions. It was very similar to a U.S. Mennonite Conference, except that everything was in Spanish. It was held in the same place that the Mennonite World Conference was held a few years ago. I was glad to get a chance to see that space. It's a mega-church. Unfortunately I've never been to a mega-church in the States so I have nothing to compare it to. It had a parking garage beneath it and seating for around 10,000 people. The last night, Steve Green performed. Most of his music is in English, but he lived in South America for a time and has a few Spanish cds, so this concert was entirely in Spanish. I recognized the melodies of a couple of the songs though. Alto Refugio received the offering from one of the evening worship sessions, which is a huge gain for them both monetarily and through the publicity it gives them. They are relatively small compared to some of the other groups that were receiving the offerings.

I just got internet in my home, so hopefully the blog posts will be coming a little more often now. Thanks for keeping up with me! Everything's going great!


Wednesday, September 21, 2011


We made it! The bus ride only lasted four hours longer than it was supposed to. We broke down in the middle of the night. Other than that it was a fairly nice trip. The bus seats were practically beds, so sleeping was no problem.

I am staying with Francisco and Mercedes Diaz. They are very nice, and they have three other kids living with them right now. I believe they are all older than me. I think I will be sharing a bedroom with Daniel, (probably not the correct spelling,) but I'm not sure because he slept on the couch last night! I also have two sisters. The younger one is named Laura, (what a coincidence!) and the older one is named Janette. I also have a third sister, Celeste, who is living in the U.S. currently.

My bedroom opens onto the patio. It's not huge, but it has it's own bathroom with a shower. Mercedes has done her best to make me feel at home, telling me that I can use or eat anything in the kitchen and that, "Mi casa es su casa." Tonight I began to test my independence a bit. I got home a little late and hadn't had supper yet, but soon after I sat down in front of the tv Laura came in and handed me and Dani (Daniel) each an egg sandwich. I was still hungry, but I didn't want to ask Laura to make me another, so I took things into my own hands. I asked Dani to show me where the ingredients were. The only complicated part was the egg. Laura had made it over-easy, which I've only done successfully once. It wasn't quite as runny as it could have been, but I'll count it as a success. The sandwich was delicious!

Paraguay is pretty sweet. So far the people have been fairly easy to understand. I think they've been purposely talking slower and clearer to make it easier for us. Today we went into the center of Asuncion to do some sight-seeing as well as get our monthly allowance in Guarani, the local currency. We also got to experience the bus system of Asuncion. It's loads of fun. ;) Two of the buses we rode had absolutely no room, but still managed to let on just a couple more people at each stop.

I don't know what my job will be yet. I've heard two options. One option would be to work at Alto Refugio. Alto Refugio is an organization that cares for people with HIV/AIDS. (Their website: ) I believe that my Dad's cousin and his wife, David and Judy Schmidt, work with Alto Refugio. Another option would be a local school that is run through the Mennonite church. The school would not require the use of public transportation as it is within walking distance of my house. I think the current plan is to work for a bit of time at both of them and see which is the better fit.

I guess that's all for now. I'll try to get some pictures up soon. If you're friends with me on facebook there are a bunch of pictures up from our week in Argentina. Adios for now!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Connections Article

I just sent this off to my church to be published in our monthly news letter, FMC Connections. Enjoy..

Just Getting Started

It has been almost three weeks since I was dropped off in Chicago for Radical Journey Orientation, but it feels like it has been almost nothing. As you may have heard, there have been many changes for my team. We are not, as was originally planned, in Bolivia, and we do not plan to go there. Right now, (Saturday the 17th,) we are in Argentina and we will be leaving for Paraguay on Monday. We will be spending the remainder of our time there.

The reasons for not going to Bolivia are numerous and complex. For reasons that are not fully known to us, the Bolivian government has decided not to recognize visas with Mennonite Central Committee listed as the sponsor. This change of heart could have to do with the civil unrest that Bolivia is currently experiencing. The Bolivian government thinks that American missionaries may be encouraging the movement. This unrest would also be another reason for our team to not go to Bolivia, as we do not know whether the country will remain stable for the whole year. Our team was disappointed, but we are learning to let go of our expectations and go where God leads us. This week in Argentina has been great, and we are excited for the opportunities in Paraguay.

Our orientation was in Chicago with the other Radical Journey participants. This year, Radical Journey has four teams: Paraguay, China, South Africa, and England. Joanna Epp is on the South Africa team. Orientation was a time of preparation for the coming year. We had lessons and talked about how things we were going to be, but we also started getting out of our comfort zones a little bit and began to get used to a different lifestyle. We stayed with in an intentional community known as Jesus People U.S.A. We didn’t have access to many of the luxuries that we would have in our own home and we had to learn how to live in community with a wide variety of people.

Argentina has been a wonderful experience for the whole team. The two other males and I are staying in one of the poor areas of Buenos Aires. There is a small Mennonite church about a block away and we live with one of the pastors. We are learning to drop the expectations that we have formed as we grew up in America. Many things still confuse us. For example, why does the man who’s toilet does not have a seat have a large LCD television with cable? Another thing that has been hard for our team is the lack of schedule, or at least the lack of our knowledge of a schedule. Things are going to happen, but we are not always informed when or where. We also do not usually have influence on the schedule once plans have been made. Since Katie and Cara live in a different neighborhood than Andrew, Riley, and myself, we don’t have much control of when we get to hang out or for how long.

Once we get to Paraguay, we will have one month of English lessons as we begin our jobs. Right now we don’t know where we will be working or who we will be living with, but we trust that the Paraguayans will be ready for us when we arrive.

Some prayer requests: That our Spanish will improve quickly. Sometimes the people here call me timido because I don’t talk as much as some of the others. A couple of them know more Spanish than I do, but I also need to be more willing to attempt to say things even if they are not grammatically correct. Another prayer request would be for peace with the unknown, and the inability to communicate at times.

The picture is at the local church with some of the members. The man holding the pizzas in the front is the pastor who is hosting me.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lost In Translation

Everything is going well. I don’t have much time to write, but I thought I’d share a quick story before we leave for Paraguay tomorrow. (18 hour bus ride! Woohoo!)

A couple nights ago we went to the house of a man named Gustavo for dinner. Gustavo was one of the guys who picked us up from the airport and has driven us around a couple times to get our visas for Paraguay. He is a jolly older man who always has a smile.

At one point in the dinner, Herman, our current host, told us he once ate a pizza that was large enough to feed 19 people by himself. It was the kind of deal where if you eat the whole thing you get it free. Riley told me in English that there was a place in Pueblo that had a similar deal with a 5-pound burrito. I attempted to translate this to Herman:
“En Colorado, tiene un burrito cinco libras. Si tu comes, es gratis.”
The Argentinians looked at each other, puzzled. Herman asked, “Un burrito?” (A burrito?)
I replied, “Si. Con una tortilla, y papas, y carne” (Yes. With a tortilla, and potatoes, and meat.)
“Ahh,” Herman said. “En Argentina, burrito es,” as he made a smoking symbol with his hands.
“Marijuana?” I asked.
“Si, si..”

I had told them something to the effect of, “In Colorado, they have a 5 pound joint, and if you eat it, it’s free!” The laughter continued for a few minutes and the story has been retold multiple times since then. Silly Americans..

Edit/Addition: I found out after I posted this that we were not actually leaving on Friday. The new plan is to leave for Paraguay on Monday.