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Praise in Paraguay

Paraguay, South America? What’s in Paraguay? Who goes there? My friend Kathy called me and said, “Let’s sign up.†I agreed. Sounded intriguing. Plus, this would be a new location for Global Missions Project. I liked the idea of being a trailblazer. I signed up to be the keyboardist and Kathy, the drummer.

Kathy and I met on my first GMP trip to Germany last year. We were paired together as roommates. Kathy’s musical expertise, coupled with her Jersey accent and witty personality, was sheer delight to this intimidated and rattled Southern belle writer and healthcare professional whose delayed flight caused a chaotic start. The Lord surely blessed me by bringing Kathy into my life at the perfect time. We have become good friends.

The Celebration Orchestra, as we are called, is a group of musicians that present the gospel through music. Everyone converged in the capital of Asuncion in Paraguay for our first rehearsal. Music charts had been sent to each participant a month beforehand. Still, I was apprehensive about debuting my new iPad rather than using printed music and maneuvering a foot pedal to turn pages.

Around thirty-five of us from at least eight states arrived in the country that recognizes the guitar and harp as national instruments, along with a cellist from Guatemala and a violinist from Brazil. Another twenty musicians from Paraguay joined us. The Celebration Orchestra was honored to accompany a fabulous singing group of Mennonite men called aDorIOS on several songs. They doubled as our mission partners and hosts.

Camp Kirkland, an internationally known composer and arranger, directed our 50+-piece orchestra that swelled to 90 for one concert. Our group traveled to either side of Paraguay (pronounced by the locals as “Par-a-gwiâ€), presenting eight concerts in schools, universities, concert halls, churches, outside, and at a police academy. Each concert was different. The thunderous applause and whoop-hollering from 400 police cadets was energizing, but my favorite and most touching time was at the youth event when they held up their phone flashlights and sang with gusto to “You Are Good.â€

Our visit to the landlocked country in South America proved spiritually advantageous and musically enlightening. Members of the orchestra, including myself, had opportunities to instruct students through Master Classes. I enjoyed sharing my musical knowledge, and they seemed appreciative. But I’m not too old to learn a thing or two myself. My Rhythm peers (drummer, bass player) broadened my playing skills allowing me to discover an element of freedom through jazz. I’ve never played jazz (other than what was written on the page), but they gave me a few tips to loosen me up on our jazz numbers. By the end of the week, I heard myself throwing in offbeat chords an octave higher and leaving the left hand to the bass guitar.

Aside from our concerts, we ate at multiple churrascaria restaurants. What’s that, you say? It’s like a Brazilian steakhouse where the servers come to your table with a variety of seasoned meat on long skewers and cut off a hefty slice. It was all delicious. I think I ate enough protein for a month!

Our time wasn’t all work; there was a little play. Our group enjoyed a city tour in Asuncion and an amazing afternoon across the border to see Iguazu Falls in Brazil. These falls are one of the seven wonders of the modern world. They were an incredible sight, with numerous falls around every corner. After finding myself alone, I decided to brave the massive crowds on the elongated pier leading into the heart of the river. Once I finally reached the end of the pier, I looked up to see a sight that made it all worth it. Around the bend of a set of falls were two additional sets of falls. Glorious! A beautiful rainbow arched in front of the powerful cascades of water, causing me to gasp and offer a silent prayer of gratitude to God for His eternal promise.

Over the week, we shared God’s message through music and testimony with over 4,100 people. At times I felt an exuberant joy of the Lord as I played. It was a humble honor to play with so many accomplished musicians. The Lord allowed me the privilege to go and use the gifts He had given me to bring glory to His Name. What a blessing!

“My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies†(Psalm 57:7-10).

To learn more about Global Missions Project, check out their website at http://globalmissionsproject.com. Whether a jazz group or an orchestra is your thing, consider using your instrument for the Lord. Recruitment is through word of mouth.

Karen Allen


  1. Pam Alverson on August 4, 2023 at 10:43 am

    Loved reading about your trips and ministry opportunities. So interesting to read. You are blessed and a blessing. You have been blessed with many gifts.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Karen Allen on August 4, 2023 at 12:51 pm

      Thanks, Pam. Been thinking about you. It’s time for us to do lunch soon and catch up.

  2. Elaine Mizzell on August 4, 2023 at 11:41 am

    This was an amazing journey! I’m so glad you could participate. ❤️❤️

    • Karen Allen on August 4, 2023 at 12:50 pm

      Thank you for your prayerful support. It was indeed a unique mission journey. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Kathy on August 4, 2023 at 1:06 pm

    Looks like we had fun! ❤️❤️❤️

    • Karen Allen on August 6, 2023 at 3:55 pm

      You know we did!

  4. Susan Kohari on August 4, 2023 at 5:50 pm

    What a beautifully written account of our adventure in Paraguay. So thankful that God allowed us to become friends and serve together in South America. Already looking forward to the next time.

    • Karen Allen on August 6, 2023 at 11:06 pm

      One of the things that make these GMP trips so special for me has been the terrific friendships I’ve made along the way. You, dear one, certainly qualify. I feel like it is God’s way of blessing me for being obedient to using His gift of music. Kathy and I can’t wait to visit you in October. Thanks for commenting.

  5. J.D. Wininger on August 5, 2023 at 6:02 am

    Busy, busy my friend. Make sure you find some time for just you and God.

    • Karen Allen on August 6, 2023 at 3:55 pm

      Yes, yes. Always. Thank you. It can be challenging at times but too important not to.

  6. David E Luellen, PhD on August 5, 2023 at 1:52 pm

    Asunsion! Iguazu Falls! Thanks for the memories, Karen!

    I conducted a short-term course for graduate students in “Par-a-gwi” in 2002 for the University of Alabama. One weekend, the University’s coordinator in Paraguay escorted me to Brazil and Iguazu Falls. To this day, I can call on the pounding, roaring, thundering Falls! Without doubt, Iguazu Falls is one of the most visually exotic natural locales in the world.

    As a child and teen, I lived less than one-hundred miles from Niagara Falls. My family and I often visited the Falls … in summer’s swelt and winter’s snows. Both Niagara and Iguazu are magnificent statements of God’s power and majesty. And they are flat out different. Graciously, the Creator has enabled me to experience them both.

    Returning from that Paraguan assignment, I framed and hung two photos that I had taken of Iguazu Falls on my office walls. Since retirement, those photos have been packed away. Your blog has signaled that it’s time to hang those photos once again. I’ve already dug them out.

    • Karen Allen on August 6, 2023 at 3:53 pm

      What a joy to read your comment, Dr. Luellen. And even moreso, to see one of the photos you took. You have lived (and continue to) such an interesting life. I’m glad I inspired you to recall some fond memories. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Barbara on August 6, 2023 at 10:52 pm

    Oh, that I could have been with you, but this was not the time I’d hoped it to be. I’m so delighted to hear what an amazing experience it was! GMP Celebration Orchestra is an absolutely awesome experience. I’m planning to be back, and it would be great if we did another tour together. Our God is an AWESOME God.

    • Karen Allen on August 6, 2023 at 11:12 pm

      I can’t tell you how many times I thought about you and how much you could have added to our orchestra. Even though the harp is Paraguay’s national instrument, I learned it is only played in one key there! They would have been mesmerized by you but it would have been crazy hard to get a multi-keyed harp on sight. Of course, there will be other opportunities. Now that I am home, I think of you whenever I look at the beautiful sheep calendar you gave me. I love that thing! The drawings are so precious. Thanks again, Barbara. I hope things are going well for you.

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Ewe R Blessed Ministries / Karen O. Allen

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