After spending a night in Buenos Aires to recover from the long plane ride, I took a ferry across the river to Uruguay. The Rio de la Plata, means silver, but in fact it is quite a muddy brown. It has the largest mouth of any river in the world, and crossing it from Buenos Aires to Colonia, Uruguay, takes three quarters of an hour. It is fun seeing the tall buildings of Buenos Aires disappear over the horizon as we head north to Uruguay.
Once arrived in Colonia, evidently the oldest city in Uruguay, founded by the Portugese, I boarded a lovely, modern bus to Montevideo, the capitol city, two hours to the east of Colonia. Evidently Montevideo was founded by the Spanish to establish a foothold that was not Colonia. We rode through lush green countryside, well watered, with farms having lots of cattle. I remarked to my friends that it seemed a lot like Vermont, sparsely populated with more cows than people. He replied, “Last count it was 6 to 1.” Although there were some very nice houses along the way, there were also signs of poverty, such as shipping containers that had been transformed into residences. Some of it was quite ingenious.
As we neared Montevideo, there were factories, oil refineries, and what appeared to be car assembly plants, all signs of prosperity. I recall glancing through some investment advice recently and an article that caught my eye recommended investing in Uruguay. Evidently this was well founded advice.
Just before leaving from Buenos Aires I got an email from my friends, the Richlines, with whom I had hoped to stay, saying that the whole family was down with a stomach ailment and they didn’t think it was a good time to have other people in the house. I had agreed to stay in a hotel but the latest email said that their colleagues, Ray and Michelle Call had
offered to have me stay in their guest room. The Calls are amazing people. They have 8 children, of whom 7 are living at home: ages 17 years to 8 months. The oldest daughter is in California at college. They are very loving, hospitable people, who seem to enjoy having company.
While I was with them the Calls had dinner guests from Brazil. A young couple, Joao and Gigi, had just arrived to work at the Brazilian Embassy in Montevideo. They ate fluent in Portuguese, Spanish and English, which they learned as visitors in Tennessee and Arizona.
Ray Call and Mark Richline are co pastors of a new Presbyterian Church in Montevideo.
Ray and Michelle and I had lots of good talks about various aspects of Christian ministry. One of my goals in visiting them was to do a prayer walk through the neighborhood where the church meets (they meet in a local community center) and accordingly the last full day that I was in town, Ray and Mark and I started at the meeting place, praying for the Lord’s blessing on the new little congregation and for a real sense of God’s presence in their meetings. As we walked through the neighborhood we prayed for the people who live there and for local businesses. Interestingly, we met a man whose business–glass working, both replacing panes of glass and more artistic pursuits of making glass trays, ornate mirrors, etc–had been relocated to a large garage on the street behind the community center. There was a woman, an Evangelical Christian, who was displeased that this gentleman had to work outdoors in all kinds of weather and offered to rent him the large, empty garage next to her home.
Why start a Presbyterian church in Montevideo? Isn’t Uruguay a Catholic country like others in South America? Actually, no. Evidently Uruguay is a very secular place, and to people who believe the gospel, that means that they need to go and share the good news with people who live there.
Montevideo is a beautiful city, with tree lined streets and green plazas, and a lot of coastline along the Rio de la Plata. We drove along the road that parallels the river, and the most exclusive section of town seems to be the riverfront condos across the street from beaches, although I think I’d rather swim in the ocean! The architecture and the atmosphere are very reminiscent of Europe.