Monday, December 29, 2008
ALLIE UPDATE: 500 Tortillas Later
Hello! Allie Naskret has become a dear friend to many in the ORB community, and a good friend to me personally. As many of you know, her heart is in serving the poor and needy and addressing issues of global poverty.
Things have been pretty slow here lately...My teaching position at the school hasn´t started yet, since the school is on break until January, and my work at the church is very informal and unstructured. I am still looking for places where I fit in and can offer some of my gifts to the people here. Sometimes it is frustrating, because I´m not sure what I´m supposed to be doing or what my purpose is. I am able to understand a lot more Spanish than I did when I arrived, but it is still difficult for me to speak, and I often feel insecure and unsure about what to say or how to say it. I have had to trust a lot in God to bring me up out of my insecurities and fears, but it is a slow process. I have been able to do lots of Bible reading lately (I´m hoping to get through the entire Bible this year) and I have been very encouraged by story after story of God´s steadfast love; time after time, God chooses the most unlikely people to be great leaders and messengers of His love to His people. I just recently read the passage in Exodus where Moses tells God that he is not an eloquent speaker. He begs God to choose someone else to be a messenger to His people. Yet God uses Moses anyway, and he becomes a great leader of the Israelites. God tells Moses not to worry about the words that he will say, because the right words will be given to him at the right time. This passage has been very encouraging to me; I am learning to trust more and more in God´s power to use me, whether I think I can do it or not, or whether I think that it´s happening or not.
Although things have been slow, some of my favorite moments have been when I´m just ¨being¨ with people, whether it is talking to my host mother after dinner, with the glow of the fire lighting up our faces, or laughing with my younger host siblings as we run around the house trying to spray each other with water on a hot day. I have had a lot of time to practice my tortilla-making (and tortilla-eating!) skills, and a lot of laughter and wonderful conversations have taken place over the dinner table or while making tortillas. I think that an important part of my ¨work¨ now is to observe and listen, to learn what life is like for people here, what joys and struggles they face, how they understand God and express their faith in this different context.
I did get to visit the school where I will be starting to teach in January. A man named Eligio came and took me on the back of his motorcycle up the hill to the neighboring town of X´ojola (which is pronounced almost exactly like Chocola - it is very confusing). At one point, he made me get off the motorcycle and walk up a steep and rocky hill. He said that the road was very treacherous, and I guess he didn´t want me to fall off the back of the bike, so he rode up the hill on the motorcycle, while I huffed and puffed my way up the hill to meet him at the top. We finally got the school in X´ojola, and although we didn´t get to go inside (Eligio didn´t have the key), it was good just to see the place where I will be teaching and to talk with Eligio for a bit. Eligio is a teacher at the school, and he is also the secretary of the plenary (the governing body of the Presbytery, which consists of 8 Presbyterian churches in the area). We also went inside the communal health clinic which is next door to the school, and got to chat with a man named Manuel who works in the clinic. While we were inside, it started pouring, and we could barely hear each other over the din of the rain on the metal roof. Since Eligio and I had come by motorcycle, we decided to wait out the rain before heading back. So we waited...and waited. For about an hour and a half. And the rain didn´t look like it was about to stop anytime soon. So Eligio finally ran outside and hailed down a pickup truck (he knew the driver, who was one of his former students). He stuck me in the front seat of the pickup, next to the driver, and told me he would ride ahead of the car in the motorcycle, to accompany us back to Chocola. So off we went. In the back of the pickup, a group of people huddled under a plastic tarp (pickups are used as a form of public transportation here), while I sat in the front seat perfectly comfortable and dry. By the time we got back to the house, Eligio´s clothes were soaked through from the rain. He got off the motorcycle and ran up to the house to bring an umbrella for me, so I could walk from the pickup to the house without getting wet. And he told my host parents that he had returned me, safe and healthy, back to the house, just as I had left. I felt terrible. I didn´t want to be treated special. I just wanted to fit in, to ride on the back of Eligio´s motorcycle in the rain and have it be horrible. There have been many moments like this, where I have been so humbled by people´s acts of kindness toward me. I am realizing now that what Eligio did was not to make me feel like I was different, but to make me feel cared for and loved, like a sister in Christ. I came to Guatemala hoping to learn how to be a better servant, and I have found myself over and over again being served by other people. I am learning to be more gracious and to accept help and kindness from people. I certainly do need lots of help at times, in a new place, where everything is different and unfamiliar and often lonely. God is certainly showing me how to be servant - and it is through the way that the people here have received me and loved me and welcomed me into their lives.