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Florencio Varela, Argentina is one of the poorest townships of the greater Buenos Aires, metropolitan area. The streets are unpaved and strewn with garbage and sleeping dogs. I approached the home of Raul, a young man who had attended our services a couple of times.

I was nervious. I had heard of his father’s alcoholism and violent outbursts. I approached the front gate and clapped my hands (the traditonal way to letting someone know you are at their door). The father looked out the half inch crack between the door and the doorframe through which an angry eye was pointing at us. A gruff voice then said, "Yea, what do you want!"

"I came to visit Raul. Is he home?"

"No!" came the response, no further explanation.

"You know," I said, "I don’t think I’ve ever met you." At that, I stuck my hand out over the barbed wire fence in a gesture showing I wanted to greet him."

This of course forced him to open the door, come out and shake my hand, for the worst crime in Argentine society is to refuse a greeting.

After chatting of few seconds about the weather, I said, "Wow, it sure is cold out here. Maybe we should step inside so you don’t catch a cold."

"Alright," he replied, still in his gruff voice."

However, he did not shut the door. "After few minutes, I said, "you know, with the door open like that, I bet all your heat is just swooshing outside."

"Yea, maybe I should shut it."

After a few more minutes, I said, "You know, I bet you’re tired after working all day. You’d probably like to sit down. Could we sit around the table?"

"Sure, he said," and pulled up chairs for all of us.

In this way, we gradually moved into the home of this man who had raised up boundaries, shutting himself off from the world outside. Soon we were praying for his alcoholism and for his relationship with Christ.

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