BUENOS AIRES/MAR DEL PLATA: After leaving Uruguay, I had only a few days to do all that I wanted or needed to do. From traveling south over 400 kilometers in search of the Argentine revival to catching up and saying goodbye to my friends, everything had to be squeezed into a few days.
It is 10am on Sunday in Buenos Aires. The city is still sleeping. Few peope walk the streets. The roads are quiet and easy to navigate. This quietness stands in sharp contrast with any other day. I am walking, looking, searching. My destination is church. A particular church found via Internet. That was my intention. I arrived. I moved on. The church was not for me.
Now I am in the mall. Low on memory for photos. Time to copy my photos to CD. Bad choice. An Internet shop girl knowing nothing. Join-the-dots teaching. Two hours of frustration. Two CDs. One part dead. Glad to be leaving. Now I wanted to go somewhere. Do something.
Change of Plans
This is where my story starts…
As I considered lying in the sun in Plaza San MartÃn, I felt impressed to visit the YWAM base in Buenos Aires. So a subway ride and wander through some back streets later and I find myself standing outside a solid steel door at an unmarked house. I am staring at the right street number, but nothing alludes to being in the right place. I have come this far. I press the intercom button.
It does turn out to be YWAM indeed, and it is not long before someone arrives at the door to let me in. I was expecting a small house. What I entered was a large multi-level dwelling containing an area out the back similar to a warehouse. I climb the steep stairs to the first level where those remaining on base are finishing lunch.
Before long I am learning about this base and sharing with them how I got here and my current activites in Buenos Aires. It is refreshing to speak with such vibrant people. I also ask them about the location of a decent church to which they offer to take me in just over an hour. It sounds great so I agree. While I wait, I chat.
Emily, a vivacious Brit, happily regales me with much of the ins and outs of this particular YWAM base. I learn that this is only one part of a bigger base located in the regional suburbs and here contains the disciplines of art, media, counselling and evangelism within its walls.
Richard, another long term YWAMer staying on the base, fills me in on the greater YWAM vision for Buenos Aires. How their focus has moved from small pockets of need to influencing large organisations and government departments that are effecting the whole city.
A Popular Place
It is a little late when we leave, with four of us taking a bus to reach the church. Our destination is the Rey de Reyes church (King of Kings). When we arrive it is 30 minutes late but, as I am about to discover, the service goes for 4 hours so there is still a lot of it left.
The church is packed with people so full that every spare area of the floor is covered in chairs, right to the steps of the stage. People are everywhere. After a slow negotiation to the very front, we are seated with other late-comers.
The whole service was in Spanish and my level of understanding is not yet enough to listen unaided. Fortunately translation was available for me in the form of headphones. Once I put them on, everything made much more sense. My new friends share an earpiece with me, finding it beneficial to listen in on the English version when the porteÃ±o (Buenos Aires) dialect of Spanish becomes hard to decipher.
Although four hours long, the time moves quickly. At the end of the service we work our way out onto the street. It was a slow push through a crushing crowd of people. Outside, it becomes obvious that there is another service about to begin. A line of people extending down the block and around the corner until out of sight has formed in anticipation. The sight is astounding.
We all head back to the YWAM base, where I farewell my new friends after arranging to meet again on Friday. I leave excited that I have made new friends, and that I now know of a great church here. It was perfect timing for a visit. I have a feeling that I will be seeing a lot more of these guys.
That was YWAM. My first contact.