For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience, they are not the better for having heard the truth.
—A. W. Tozer
Eden is 12 and a firm believer in a variety of mythological forest goblins. In particular, he detests the Pombéro, chief mischief-maker among the fabled Paraguayan creatures. People say the diminutive furry scamp steals chickens’ eggs, drinks cow udders dry, and generally upsets local farm animals. Leaving bottles of whiskey out at night supposedly appeases the nocturnal beast.
I consider letting my young friend continue to believe in these amusing cultural anecdotes, but my sense of duty as a Peace Corps volunteer and, therefore, arbiter of scientific fact, compels me to correct him.
“The Pombéro is a myth,” I explain in a mix of broken Guaraní and Spanish.
We are sitting outside the dilapidated shack I call home. Evening quiet has settled on Tuna, Ava’i, Caazapá, a rural village situated hours from any paved road. As the day’s stifling heat dissipates, it leaves a palpable somnolence.
Éden insists that the Pombéro’s counterpart, Kurupí, has impregnated a number of virgins. To Éden, their newborns are prima facie evidence of goblin tomfoolery.
I attempt to distinguish between myths and legends: Forest goblins are mitos, I explain. When real world people—such as local teenage mothers—are involved with mythic creatures, these stories are called leyendas. Neither are true, I say resolutely. The only way those girls got pregnant is from real men.
Obviously dissatisfied with my explanation, Éden says nothing for quite a while. …