Saturday, October 26, 2013

Educating a Girl: Day 1,102

I'm really bad at making posts for significant marks; so, today is the 3 years and 1 week post.

Today a fellow missionary here in Guatemala contacted me about a rumor she had heard that involved the school where I used to work.  She was unaware that I no longer work there.  However, I had had the good fortune of running into the principal this week on the bus and chatting all the way home; so I was able to give her some details.  This invariably led to me asking her about quite possibly the brightest student I have had the pleasure of teaching.  She doesn't know the girl, but she said she could ask around.

Ana is a really smart young lady.  She was the only one in the entire school who had passed my class by the third marking period.  (You need an average of 60 for the year to pass the class; even if she had gotten a 0 in my class the last marking period, she would have passed.)  But she is not just smart; she is also kind.  A lot of smart kids are ostracized or picked on by their classmates, but Ana was well-loved.  There was never a question of who had achieved the highest grade (in pretty much any subject), but no one seemed bent out of shape about it.  However, Ana's mother (don't know if there is a father in the picture or not) doesn't believe there is value in educating girls.  Ana only arrived to my class through a generous scholarship...or two.  In her 9th grade graduating class of 12, ten continued on to 10th grade.  Only the top of the class and the bottom of the class were kept home by their parents.  Ana could become anything she wants to be if she were only allowed to continue school.  She could be a teacher, a doctor, an astrophysicist, or even the president of Guatemala.

And then I apply that to my own life.  Actually, first I'll let someone else apply it to hers.  Addisyn is a missionary kid (MK) here in Guatemala.  Her family attends my church.  I don't really know her, but I know who she is.  In that link, she shares her thoughts about going to college, about the worth of an education.  And reading her entry a couple weeks ago (and the short exchange I had today with someone else) made me reflect upon my own education.  My parents always told me I'd need a degree to do anything with my life.  With all due respect, I am probably "over qualified" for what I do...or at least my degree probably isn't the right kind of training.  Admittedly, having a bachelor's degree (regardless of major) has been important, or more correctly, going to college for the time I went there has been important.

While I could not have taught middle school English as a foreign language (EFL) in a private school without my bachelor's degree (which is in religious studies, by the way), the mission work I do does not require any special college degree.  God prepares those He sends out, not college, not a degree.  However, He prepared me in college.  He worked to put me in a strong Christian community my sophomore year.  He introduced me to amazing faith-filled people, people who did mission work at least for a time, people who would unknowingly validate the calling I felt to become a missionary.  He also sent me one other important person.

When I was growing up, there were lots of things I wanted to be.  I wanted to be the first female president of the United States. (Annalisa Simmer for President 2020!)  I wanted to be Santa Claus. I wanted to be a lady farmer.  I wanted to be a trapeze artist.  I probably wanted to be lots of other things that only my mother remembers.  And, well, most of those don't require degrees.  In fact, not one of them absolutely requires a degree.  And as time went on, it became obvious to me that what I really wanted to be was a wife and mother.  Yes, I am a person with many talents who could probably do most anything she puts her mind to, but I don't consider being a wife and mother a less worthwhile pursuit than being the president.  The other person I met in college was my fiance.

When you lose someone like a fiance or spouse, you sort of feel like your entire future disappeared with that person.  And while I can't say this in retrospect with 100% certainty, I think I felt like that was my one chance at love, marriage, and children.  I was 22; it was 3 years before I came here to do full-time ministry.  Twenty-two year old single women with nearly $10k in student loans (all paid off due to two people who I love and respect a whole lot) do not receive foster children; they can't get approved for adoption.  And I'm certainly not one of those women to use a guy just to get an offspring.  So, as I saw it, all hopes of being a wife or even a mother were cut off.

Love is a funny thing.  It hits you where you don't think you'll find it.  It comes in unexpected ways from unexpected people.  I more or less have a family here in Guatemala.  I have 4 brothers, a set of parents, 3 nephews and a niece in addition to the church family that I have here.  (I may potentially have more than that; it just depends on how people are feeling and how willing they are to claim the crazy white girl.)  They have chaperoned me, invited me to weddings and birthdays, defended me, visited me, and helped me with manual labor.  They have loaned me money.  They have watched my animals.  They've been wonderful people.  And the children who I help work to get a better education?  They're kind of like my kids.

I may not be a wife and a mother, but I am a woman very much loved.  I thank God for the blessing to be able to live among and serve these people, and if He only gives me another 3 years and one week to serve them, I'm not sure it will be enough for my overflowing heart.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Mission Moment: November Newsletter

As a reminder, these are the updates I write for my sending church.  They need to be turned in by the middle of the preceding month.

Today (October 11th) is the last day that I'll be watching my little charge. His older sisters have finished school for the year; the school year here runs from January to October. For two barely teenagers, they shoulder an incredible amount of responsibility. As for their uncle, Carlos, he has undergone surgery. His sister, Mari, says that he is being incredibly stubborn about not staying in the hospital. Yes, hospital says are costly, but so are hour-long ambulance rides every one or two days.
The good news for me is that this means I can get back to the work in Los Encuentros. I have a lot of people to meet with as I've been delegating work during the past month and a half. So, now it's time to collect the results of that delegation and see what's what. In reality, I try to stay as uninvolved as possible because my physical presence often causes prices to rise; it's racist, but it's the reality that I deal with. However, some of the people I delegate tasks to don't always see the urgency; so, I am sometimes forced to wait or do things myself.
October 19th is the completion of 3 years here in Guatemala. I feel that God still continues to mold me to serve the people better. Recently that has come in the form of literature. My reading list for the month of October includes: “Toxic Charity” by Robert D. Lupton, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paulo Freire, and “When Helping Hurts” by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. They arrived yesterday, and I've already found parts of “Toxic Charity” to apply to the work in Los Encuentros, Solola. Feel free to check these books out from the library or buy them to read along with me!

The Care and Keeping of a Missionary
This month I ask for your continued prayers for the family of the little boys who I was watching. I would also like your prayers that the work which I delegated during the past month and a half has been completed.

Thank you for your love and support over the past 3 years. As always, you can contact me via my e-mail:, and you can read more about the adventure—because life is an adventure when you're not the one steering the ship!—on my blog:

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mission Moment: October Newsletter

 One thing which I have learned over the years is that God will guide me no matter what the situation. Sometimes I misunderstand what He wants from me, and I have to refine the plan and try again.
The day after I submitted the last newsletter article, I received news that the house where I had been planning on living would only be available to me for 4 months (but rent free). A couple days later, I found that the cost of moving would be 2 months-worth of my current rent. So, I weighed and measured the situation, and decided on August 30th to stay where I am living. A few days later, one of the few neighbors who knew I was moving saw me in the street. And on September 8th, the daughter (Mari) of that neighbor showed up at my door. It seems that her brother is quite ill and may die. Her mother has gone to care for her brother (who lives in another town), and Mari's two sons have had to care for themselves during the day. The two boys are aged 2.5 and 6 years. The older one attends school in the morning meaning that the younger one was left alone in the house. The God-part in all of this is the date that the boys started this: August 30th. So, for the past week, I've been a nanny; end date is undetermined and based on whenever their uncle gets better or dies.
When you look at this, it's easy to see the hand of God in it all. He knew that this family would need me, and He knew that I didn't have obligations in Los Encuentros until October. He gave me a reason to not move...and then He showed me why.
So, while the move has been called off and I'm temporarily doing something else, plans to help in Los Encuentros have not been canceled. The new plan is to commute out to Los Encuentros every other week and spend 2-3 days in the community at a time. It will result in a slightly modified plan involving less English classes for the kids, but other than that, it remains the same. I would like to live closer to the community which I am serving, but it seems that for now that's not in God's plans for me. Right now He needs me to serve where I am to a family which is hurting and in need. For now, I'm delegating some work in Los Encuentros seeing about school costs in the area as well as looking at the costs of building a house for Maria and her children Elena and Juan who I wrote about in August.
Additionally, Guatemala dealt with a fairly strong earthquake on September 6th. I already had some houses on my list which were damaged. I need to make sure that those houses are still standing. If they aren't, houses need to be planned for them as well; in fact, if they aren't, the money which was proportioned for a house for Maria and her children may need to be redirected to other families with more urgent needs. I don't like to do that with money that was given for a specific family or purpose, but sometimes it is a necessary reality of the work here.

The care and keeping of a missionary

This month, I'd just like to ask for a lot of prayer. I'd like you to be praying for the families whose homes were in poor repair that the houses keep holding together. I'd like you to be praying for the family of Mari as they deal with the financial and medical needs of her brother and the possibility that they might lose him. (He is 29 years old.) I'd like you to pray for Mari's two sons—Jonotan and Otto—as they deal with spending time with me. I'd also like you to pray for Mari's two daughters who are 2 of the top 6 students in their 7th grade class (in a public school which has more than 200 7th graders) but who may have to drop out of school if their family can't find the money to send them to school. I'd like you to pray for all of the families which I work with in Los Encuentros as they deal with the confusion of me not moving out there like we all had planned on. Finally, I'd like you to pray for some patience in all of this for me. I know God has a plan; sometimes I wish He'd just spell it out a bit clearer for all of us.