Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"I'm Sorry. You're not Allowed in our Church." (Day 854)

First, apologies for not writing more.  My life has gone through a lot transitional things in the past month, and we'll get to those in a later post.  At the moment, I want to write about something only vaguely related to anything I do down here.

Here in Guatemala, I attend a church called Iglesia del Camino.  It's a bilingual, multicultural church which I started attending just over 2 years ago when I moved to Antigua.  It is now a half-hour commute for me to get to church on Sunday, but the people are nice and the preaching is good.  Every now and again, I miss a service due to translating or travel, and I try to see if I can get my hands on the sermon so I can read it.

There is no easy way to say what I'm about to say, no way to sugar coat it, no way to make a good story out of it.  So, to skip straight to the "punchline," I met a man.  I don't know if he started attending that church because he saw me in the street and followed me there or if he started following me because he was attending that church.  At any rate, during the course of the last 2 years, this man has been stalking me, the first five or six months without my knowledge.  During the course of the last year and a half, the church has been helping me with moral support and translation services to tell this guy to leave me alone.  (In the beginning, this man would always speak English with me, and because my Spanish was not yet what it is today, I would tell him in English to leave me alone.  That's mostly what I'm talking about with "translation services.")  And, for about the past six months, this guy has left me alone.  I deleted the giant list of numbers from which he has called me which I had stored in my phone.  I stopped watching my back.  I stopped having the closest male answer my phone for any unknown number which called, even if I had to ask some stranger.  I stopped taking extra buses so that he wouldn't realize where I lived in case he was following me to the bus station.

And then on Sunday, no more than 15 seconds after I got on the bus, he got on--I thought, "Oh no.  What are the odds that he'd have business in my town?"--and sat down next to me.  He told me that he would have talked to me at church, but I was with a friend and he didn't want to interrupt.  My friend had walked me to the bus station to take his own bus to his town.  And I sort of wish that I had gone with him and surprised his mother with another lunch guest.  However, if it weren't this week, it might have been the next week or the next week.  I know this because he told me that he had been there the Sunday before--I didn't see him--but could never get me alone to talk with me.  (Someone from my town had accompanied me to church, and someone else had offered us a ride home; so I didn't even get on the bus or go to the bus station.)  At any rate, he eventually got off the bus after I said something about "My boyfriend wouldn't like you sitting here talking to me."

I promptly called the church and talked to my contact there who has been helping me with the situation.  The last time this guy was bothering me, the solution was to simply change my phone number...because the other option is somewhat time consuming and stressful.  After what happened Sunday, and especially now that he knows roughly what town I live in, we are going with the other option.  Today I will be filing a restraining order against him.  This is not something I happily do.  Obviously this man is in need of help, and because church is somewhere where we would run into each other, it appears that church is somewhere that he will no longer be allowed to be.

And I feel bad.  And I try to tell myself "This is not your fault."  But I'm getting him barred from a church.  A church! And I call myself a missionary?

So, I'm asking for your prayers today, for me and this situation, for this man, for my peace of mind, for the ministry that God has given me here.  Thank you all for your love and support.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Mission Moment: February Newsletter

All over Guatemala, schools were filled by students going back to classes for the year, all except the school where I've been teaching. Still owing the teachers 2 to 4 months of pay from last year, no decision has been made to open the school for classes this year. As the school year drew closer and closer with no word, more and more of our students have enrolled in other places. The days stretch on, and still no word. Whether or not an official decision is ever reached, if there are no students, there is no school.
However, this has not been without blessing. Working at the school, I received a check just big enough to cover my rent and about half of my food. Getting the other ends to meet has been difficult. I can earn enough through translating, but when I have to work three days per week at the school, I can't have a whole week free to translate, and therefore my services are unwanted. While no official decision has been reached yet about what I will be doing this year, it is likely that I will be relocating to Escunitla and working on the farm of a friend's family. My house in San Antonio is rented until the 29th of this month; so as of this writing, I still have 2 weeks to finalize my plans. The farm would give me some place to live and work, but it would also give me the flexibility of schedule that I'd need to translate for a week at a time.
This week, I am translating. I am in Retaleheu translating for a group called Children of the Americas. I dare say that this is the largest group (and certainly the largest medical group) which comes to Guatemala during the year. It is a team of about 120 people—doctors, nurses, dentists, physical therapists, pharmacists, surgeons, anesthetists, orthopedics, translators (of course!), and even a sonographer—who take over a national hospital for a week (obviously with the permission of the hospital) and take care of everything from colds to gastritis to cancer to forming limbs where limbs didn't grow. This is my second year of translating for this group, and they're a bunch of friendly folk. It is not a religious organization, but when you ask people where they heard about the organization from, more often than not they'll say, “Oh, so-and-so is from the same church as me, and he was telling me about it one day.” In the pharmacy, they typically hand out a Spanish New Testament to everyone who walks through the doors. Even though I'm translating 13 hours per day, this is my vacation of the year. It's a time where I can literally do nothing connected to my regular life here; although I do make connections and have been sending information on a few children back to a contact I have who deals with special needs children in Guatemala.

Even though my life is sometimes full of uncertainty, I am still certain that this is where God called me to be, and therefore I have no doubts or worries. I know that God cares for me daily and that He will never abandon me.