Meeting the People of Misiones

Friday, January 26, 2018
Oberá, Misiones Province, Argentina
Today is Friday and our day to be with some of the people of the United Church of God here in Oberá.  It is taking me a little time to understand the relationships and timeline, but by writing it all down, I think I’m getting it. 
We were picked up in the morning by Benjamin Kukla.  His wife is Olga  who is the sister of the older patriarch Guerino Ritter and wife  Sarah (Pelinsky).  That’s where we were being taken for a visit in the country and, as usual, a fabulous barbecue.  The people love their barbecues!   Lots and lots of meat in great amounts.   
I’ll be commenting further about the details, but these are the people who have separated from the “Church of God Who Keep the Commandments of God in the Faith of Jesus.”  This was in 2013.  Since that time they have been without a pastor.  The issue separation was the Holy Days.  The COGWKTCIFOJ asked them to leave in a very unpleasant separation in 2013. 
One of his sons is Mario Ritter who picked us up at the airport last night.  Some of his others sons were at this gathering:  One of them was Ulysses, another was Ezekiel who like to be called Allen.   Allen was born to Sarah when she was 48 years old!
Sarah and Guerino’s Ritter’s father started this group in 1949.  In 1972 they learned about the Holy Days but kept quiet about them.  They were part of the Church of God 7th Day for many years.  Another young wife was Griselda who is daughter-in-law to Benjamin and Olga Kukla.
Guerino’s son Victor and wife Elise along with two children were killed in a tragic car crash two years ago today.  This was a few months after their first visit from UCG pastor Jaime Gallardo from Santiago. 
The spoke of a Ukrainian colony, a settlement a short distance away.  They also spoke of a radio station that is owned by one of the members (will have more on this tomorrow).
Ukrainian colony nearby with radio station.  One of the members of this group is Ladik (Vladislav) Malchevsky and wife Manka or Mari who we would see the next day.  His brother was Miguel Malchevsky who our friends in Ukraine came to visit here back in 1996.  We were able to put all these pieces together.   It was fascinating. 
This territory of Misiones is where Nazi war criminals came to hide after World War II.  They told me that Martin Bormann’s home was about ten miles away.  Talk was that even Hitler hid out in this area.  Peron of Argentina protected the war criminals,but after Peron was no longer in power they emigrated to nearby Paraguay where they were protected by president Stroessner. They would have taken us to see the hideaway, but said it was difficult getting up there. We were more interested in being with these people!
We were intrigues by Mate!  This is a plant that makes a tea that so many drink.  They carry a mate cup and pour hot water into it.  They seem addicted to it!  You see them walking down the street with their mate cup, metal straw and a hot water bottle.  They pour hot water over the tea leaves.  We were given a gift of a mate cup when we left.
From here we drove out to the nearby land that they had bought to build a Feast site.  They were putting up a building and a some cabins for people to stay.   They are hoping to have the Feast up and running in a year from now.  It was exciting to see their enthusiasm as they worked together.You can see a video of their 2017 Feast of Tabernacles in this YouTube video here at  https://youtu.be/uofNNsY5oFo
In the evening we went to the home of Ariel and Sylvia Burger.  Mario and Rosanna Ritter came by our hotel and we drove out together to his very nice home in the country.  He owns a saw mill.  They have two young boys Jonathan and David.  Ariel Burger and Rosanna Ritter are brother and sister.
We came there at 7:30 pm.  We sat around a table of hors d'oeuvres.  We nibbled on them and they were very good for almost two hours.  And, we thought that that was our meal.  But no!  This is Argentina!  Dinner is not served until 10 pm!  The big long table is set and we are invited to come it.  Out come the ribs and other wonderful cuts of meat! 
Ariel is a deep thinker and obvious leader.  He is 40 years old.  Last night, the other leader who picked us up Mario Ritter is 36 years old.  
Ariel learned about the Holy Days from the Israelite Church of God of the New Covenant. He came across the teachings of the Worldwide Church of God that he said explained them better.  He studied the Holy Days methodically for five years while in the Israelite Church of God.   And then with Mario Ritter and Mario’s father Guerino.
He had so many questions. WHY keep the Feasts?  What is the purpose?  He had doubts, but came to understand them when he really started keeping them.  He said you had to KEEP them to understand them.  
This was a very enlightening evening.  We’re always making new friends.  I just wish that we knew how to speak Spanish! 
Looking forward to tomorrow.  We are told that services start at 9:00 am.  We leave the Burger’s home about 11:30 pm after a wonderful evening.
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2018-06-25