Monday, April 30, 2012

Cultivating a Christian Attitude (Day 558)

Here in Guatemala it is quite common for a couple to have a baby, live together, and get that order.  (Although, sometimes they live together before having the baby.)  I have one co-worker in such a position.  She and her partner have a son who is a little over a year old.  Because I don't have all the details, this won't be a very long story.  Basically, his parents don't like her, and her parents don't like him.  And if this were a simple question of boyfriend/girlfriend, this culture would tell them to leave it alone; however, there is the baby involved, and because of that, my friend and her partner seem determined to make it work.

My friend told me the other day that her parent was upset because he hasn't had time with the baby in a long time; so she (we?) concocted a scheme to let daddy see and spend time with his son.  It was apparently not as well-concocted as my friend would have liked, and we returned home to a very upset mother.  (Although, based on the circumstantial evidence the mother used against my friend, it would not have held up in the court of law.)  What bothered me was not so much that my friend got "caught," but how her mother talked about my friend's partner.

The family is supposedly Christian (Evangelical Lutheran).  I sat with them in church yesterday morning.  And I realize that Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven.  I have my own sins which I struggle with too.  However, what I witnessed last night coming out of my friend's mother's mouth is part of an attitude which I think would not be difficult to change.

I think all parents want their children to grow up and marry good people and live happy lives.  Since there's already a baby involved, I think my friend's mother would be much better off praying that this young man will change AND acting as though he has already changed.  I think she would find much better results.  But my friend has just shown up for work; so I think I'll go say "hi!" :)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Blessed (Day 548)

I had someone call me on the phone yesterday and ask me if I was supposed to be here, maybe I was supposed to go back, etc.  This was a very difficult conversation for me to have because there are very few things which I am sure about in this world, but to where I have been called is one of them.  So, for this person to insinuate that I shouldn't be here--or to even question MY calling--was pretty offensive to me.  God made my calling to Guatemala very clear to me, and every step of the way, He has led me very clearly and very surely.  He knows my tendency to get side-tracked and stray from the goal and has therefore made things very, very clear to me.  He has put things in my heart and taken things out.  He has put people in my life and taken people out.  It has come to the point where I wonder if I have free will or not, but then I realize that I don't mind.

I have been blessed by so many people in my life.  On Facebook, I tend to list the people who I am thankful for on a semi-random basis; however, I am so overwhelmed by how blessed I have been that I felt the need to share about some of these people in a more public place: here.

First, I am thankful to Heidi A. It is because of her (with God's divine direction) that I moved from the Hogar in Mixco to Antigua.  It is because of her that I no longer live alone and therefore have a safer environment.

Second, I am thankful to Carmen and Daryl.  They are the owners of Hotel Casa Rustica where I lived for 3 weeks.  They not only helped me in those early days when I didn't have 2 pennies to rub together, but have continued to help me through hiring me to teach English, gifting me a guard dog, and many other reasons which I won't all list here.  They know what they've done for me, and I just wanted to say "Thanks."

Third, I am thankful to Shawn Smith.  Through his work in Guatemala, he helped me obtain a job in the school where I still work to this day.

Fourth, I am thankful to Nury who has helped me from time to time to make a little extra money through massage or translation.

Fifth, I am thankful to Annette who, although I've never taken her up on the offer, has said that I'm always welcome at her table should I find myself in need.

Sixth, I am thankful for Juana who was my next-door neighbor in my first few months of living in San Antonio.  She made sure I never went hungry...or at least not any hungrier than herself.  She, her daughter, and her daughter's four children have brightened my life immeasurably.

Seventh, I am thankful for Saul, another one of my neighbors and really the first person I knew in San Antonio.  After Juana moved out, he made sure that I still didn't go hungry and had something besides bread to eat every day.

Eighth, I am thankful for Saul's sisters: Livny and Merly.  Livny entrusted me with teaching her daughter English who, we found out, does not like to learn alone.  Oops?  Livny and Merly have walked the streets with me and racked their brains helping me find a new place to live.  They are also available just for chatting from time to time.

Ninth, I am thankful for Klemente whose friendship has been invaluable.  We have shared everything from Bible study to revival concerts to money.  When in need, ask a friend.

Tenth, I am thankful to Antonio and Sonja S.  They are my spiritual and moral support around here.  If there's anything going on, I can call them.

Eleventh, I am thankful for all my co-workers at the school, especially Conny.  They've always been there for me whether it was sitting and talking with me on the bus so that I didn't look like the crazy gringa who no one wants to be around or looking for houses for me, sharing food with me, inviting me to festivals, or paying my bus fare.

Twelfth, I am thankful for my Guatemalan "brother of the heart" Jorge and his family.  They have invited me on family vacations, taught me how to drive a motorcycle, been there when I needed someone, invited me to family parties, and scared off more than one Guatemalan suitor for me.

Thirteenth, I am thankful for the Tuy-Bixcul family (and Carlitos who, for all practical purposes, I lump with them even though he is not related).  They "don't see" skin color.  When I first met them, I paid the same price as any Guatemalan.  Now that I know them, I typically pay less (the family price).  I've helped name one of their family members.  I help in their stores, often working the cash box by myself.  It's a confidence that I have no desire to break ever.  And while, at times, I fight a bit with one of their members, as a family, I feel very much a part.

Fourteenth, I am thankful for my vet.  So are my animals...I think.

Fifteenth, I am thankful for the couple from whom I buy my bread.  They are amazing and sometimes give me a little extra when money is tight for me.  They also helped me find the house that I'll likely be moving into in a week and a half.

I'm sure there are more here in Guatemala, and I haven't even touched on those of you in the United States for whom I am thankful.  Maybe in my next post.  This post took a lot longer to write than I had planned (because of unplanned interruptions), and I am tired...with so much still to do before tomorrow.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Is it difficult to trust God? (Day 537)

Daniel asked me tonight if it is difficult to trust God.
"Many people have trouble with it," I replied.
"Why?" he asked.
"Well..." I hesitated, trying to figure out how to explain it, "in life, many of the people we know, that we trust, let us down.  You spend so much time with a person.  You think you really know them.  You say that you'd have their back if they ever needed anything, but then times get rough, and that person vanishes or doesn't want to help or something.  So, when someone who you can actually see and visit and talk to lets you down, well, many people find it so much harder to trust and invisible being that they can't exactly meet."
"And what about you?" he asked.
"For me it's not too hard," I responded.
"Why not?" he inquired.
"Well," I began as I sat down, "He has been there for me every step of the way.  Yes, things have gotten tough for me from time to time, but God has always been there for me and I've never had too little.  Been close, though...."

At the end of 2007, God taught me what love really is.  Throughout 2011, God taught me to trust in Him.  One really amazing lesson every 4 years?  Can't wait to find out what the topic will be be for 2015!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Visa War: Part 2 (Day 533)

(A friend of mine decided that I should call my struggle with this display of American superiority "The Visa War;" so, there it is.)

Dear U.S. Government,
You make my job as a missionary quite difficult.  I try to teach the people to "respect the rulers of this world," but they reply "The rulers [especially the American government] don't respect us."  Admittedly, I didn't sign on for an easy job, but if your goal is to keep people from illegally entering and working in the United States, do us both a favor and don't keep out the ones who just want to legally visit.
The Gringa on the Ground

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

With Liberty and Justice for...well, not you. (Day 532)

(Para leer en español, siga hasta la mitad.)

The United States of America means something different to every person.  To many children growing up in Guatemala, it is this country of opportunity--opportunity to get the best education, opportunity to buy the latest technology at the lowest prices, opportunity to experience snow--which they will never be able to legally visit.  In fact, this idea that the United States is unreachable legally is the reason that many don't bother trying to go legally.

To me, growing up in the United States, it obviously meant something quite different.  It was a country of freedom and equality, innocent until proven guilty, everyone has an opportunity to succeed, and--maybe more than anything else--a melting pot of cultures.  Through my life, I have heard of injustices done by the United States (some which have struck Guatemala quite hard), but I had never actually experienced an injustice by the United States until today.

Today, Edgar--the young man whom I have written about--was denied a visa to visit the United States.

If I may borrow a few lines from some well-written writers: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Wait, what?  All men are created equal.  The "Americans" were saying "We're equal to the British."  So, if you don't mind, please tell me why a Guatemalan should be treated differently?  As an American, I can travel to almost ANY country I want without having to apply for anything in advance.  I simply have to buy a plane ticket and go.  And the majority of countries that I actually do need to apply for something, it's a simple matter of informing the government of that country that I wish to go, and I'm granted the right to go there.

Now, forgive me because I've always done poorly with history, but I'm pretty sure there was some Monroe Doctrine written in the 1820s that basically told the rest of Europe to stay out of the Western Hemisphere, that their oppression wasn't wanted here.  Does that give the United States the freedom to oppress these people?  Oh, in case you're wondering what definition I'm using of "oppression," I'm pretty much pulling those "inalienable rights" from the paragraph above.  Anyone (or any government) which does not allow people the rights "endowed by their Creator" to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is oppressive.  What is happiness?  To my friend Edgar, it was (is) to visit the United States, to see where I grew up, to meet my friends, and to attend the wedding of our friend Christina.  That was (is) what he wanted (wants).

I would now like to present two conflicting legal ideas in the United States (again, forgive me as I didn't study law either): Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat and Immigration and Nationality Act section 214(b).  Now, seeing as I doubt many of you have studied Latin or are familiar with INA 214(b), I'll give you a brief overview of each.  You are all familiar with "Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat" as "Innocent until proven guilty."  INA 214(b) is as follows:  "Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for a visa, and the immigration officers, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status under section 101(a)(15)."  Or, as I read it, "Guilty of illegal immigration without any proof or fair trial."  If you asked a jury--considering all "evidence" that was presented--Edgar could not be found guilty of this non-crime which he didn't and wouldn't commit.

In conjunction with this, I would like to address the $140 non-refundable application fee.  That's completely ridiculous considering the US's completely discriminatory policy on giving visas.

So, to the United States of America, I only have this to say:  Any faith I had left in you or your legal system has just failed.  Any confidence I had in you has just been lost.  What some immigration officer in the US Embassy in Guatemala did today has confirmed that the United States of America is an egotistical and racist country who one day is going to run into a lot of problems and not have anyone to turn to for help.  Don't you get it?  You "help" (interfere) with other countries and ignore your own people.  And then when you do bother to pay attention to their needs, you have no clue what they want because the "ruling elite" of the United States is so out of touch with the common man.  Fix yourself...please...for the good of everyone.

And, as a final note, I am proud to be an American, to be a member of a country where I am allowed to tell the government that it has serious problems with its policies at home and abroad, to be a member of a country which allows me to travel quite freely to countries where there are people much better than ourselves (as a country).


Los EE.UU. significa algo diferente para cada persona.  Para muchos niños, creciendo en Guatemala, es un pais de oportunidades--oportunidades para recibir la mejor de educacion, oportunidades para comprar la tecnologia de moda con los precios mas baratos, oportunidades para tocar la nieve--que nunca podran a visitar legalmente.  En verdad, esta idea que ir a los EE.UU. legalmente no sera posible es la razon que muchos no intentan irse legal.

Para mi, creciendo en los EE.UU., es obviamente algo muy diferente.  Era un pais de liberted y igualdad, innocente hasta demostrado culpable, todos tienen la oportunidad para triunfar, y--talvez mas que todo--una gran mezcla de culturas.  Durante mi vida, he escuchado de injusticias hecho por los Estados Unidos (unas que han afectado a Guatemala mucho), pero nunca habia estado afectado personalmente por las injusticias de los Estados Unidos hasta el dia de hoy.

Hoy, los EE. UU. denego una visa visitante a Edgar, el joven de quien he escrito.

Si puedo prestar unas palabras de autores buenos: Sostenemos como evidentes por sí mismas dichas verdades: que todos los hombres son creados iguales; que son dotados por su creador de ciertos derechos inalienables; que entre estos están la vida, la libertad y la búsqueda de la felicidad. Espere, que? Todos los hombres son creados iguales.  Los "estadounidenses" estaban diciendo "Somos iguales con los ingleses."  Pues, si no le molesta, por favor explica a mi porque un guatemalteco debe estar tratado diferente?  Como una estadounidensa, puedo viajar a casi qualquier pais que quiero sin solicitacion.  Unicamente tengo que comprar un boleto de avion y ir.  Y para la mayoria de los paises con quien necesito una solicitud, es solamente un aviso al gobierno de este pais que quiero visitarle, y me dan permiso.

Ahora tengo que pedir perdon porque la historia me costo, pero creo que habia algun "Monroe Doctrine" escrito en los 1820s que mas o menos dijo a todo europa que "alejense de el hemisfero oeste," que su opresión no era bienvenida aca.  Eso dio la derecha a los Estados Unidos que pueden oprimir estas personas?  Si quieren saber cual definicion de "opresión" que estoy usando, estoy halando los "derechos inalienables" del parafo anterior.  Alguien (o cualquier gobierno) que no permite gente los derechos "dotados por su creador" que son "la vida, la libertad, y la búsqueda de la felicidad" es opresivo.   Que es la felicidad?  Para mi amigo Edgar, era (es) visitar a los Estados Unidos, ver donde yo creci, conocer a mis amigos, y asistir a la boda de nuestra amiga Christina.  Eso era (es) lo que el queria (quiere).

Ahora quiero presentar dos ideas legales contrapuestos en los EE.UU. (otra vez, pido perdon porque no estudie derechos tampoco): Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat y Ley de Inmigración y Nacionalidad ("INA," en ingles) seccion 214(b).  No creo que muchos de ustedes han estudiado latin ni conocen INA 214(b), entonces, les doy un resumen de cada uno.  Creo que todo conocen a "Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat" como "presunción de inocencia," un principio jurídico penal que establece la inocencia de la persona como regla. INA 214(b) es como asi: "Cada extranjero estara presumido ser inmigrante hasta establezca a la satisfecha del agente consular, en el momento de aplicacion de la visa, y los agentes inmigraciones, en el momento de admision, que tiene derecho para una visa no-inmigrante por seccion 101(a)(15)."  O como yo lo leo, "culpable de inmigracion ilegal sin prueba o proceso justo."  Si preguntaria un jurado--con toda la evidencia que era presentado--no puede establecer la culpa de Edgar para este no-delito que no ha cometido y no cometeria.

Juntamente con esto, quiero mencionar el $140 tasa de solicitud no-reembolosa.  Eso es completamente ridiculo con la politica descriminatoria de los EE.UU. sobre la entrega de visas visitantes.

En conclusion, a los EE.UU., tengo solo esto que decir: El poco fe que todavia tenia en ti o tu sistema legal ahora ha fallado.  La poca confianza que tenia en ti ahora has perdido.  Lo que algun agente consular en la embajada de los EE.UU. en Guatemala hecho hoy ha confirmado que los Estados Unidos de America es un pais egoisto y racisto quien un dia va a encontrar muchos problemas y no tener nadie para ayudarles.  No entiendes?  Tu "ayudas" (interferes) a otros paises y no pones atencion a tu propia gente.  Y cuando, por fin, pones atencion a sus necesidades, no tienes una idea que quieren porque el "elite en el poder" de los EE.UU. no conoce el hombre comun.  Arreglarte...por favor...por lo bien de todos.

Y, como un punto final, estoy orgullosa para ser una estadounidensa, para ser una miembra de un pais donde tengo permiso a decir el gobierno que tiene problemas muy graves con sus politicos alla y aca, para ser miembra de un pais que me permita viajar con libertad a otros paises donde hay gente mucho mejor que nosotros (como un pais).