A few days ago, I went out to the village to meet with my families. It was a meeting that was supposed to take place about 2 months ago, but due to schedule conflicts, it didn't. At any rate, it gave me the opportunity to dive further into the lives of the families which I serve. Some of the things I learn, I learn by way of stories in which the people actually share something with me and know they are sharing it. Some of the things I learn are learned by deduction...and accounts from other missionaries.
One of the first things I heard upon arriving Wednesday, after everyone was all settled, was “You kept your word. You did what you said you would do, and here is the evidence.” The government here is apparently notorious for helping once or twice and abandoning the people. The people who I am serving didn't expect me to come back. I guess when the bar is set that incredibly low, two months late doesn't seem like such a big deal, but that doesn't mean it should be acceptable.
Later, as I was dealing with my two 8th grade girls and their mothers, I had a chance to ask them what they want to do with their lives. (I actually had to give them real money to pay their school fees which is why I waited until everyone else had left.) The girls are Wendy and Mercedes, and they each have a different story and a different dream.
I know I have mentioned Wendy before on my blog, and perhaps I mentioned her in a newsletter as well. She and her little sister make baskets out of pine needles, and the family offers all sorts of handmade goods in their store along the side of the highway. They are renting the house they live in. Although poor, most of my families at least own their land. She admits that her parents don't have the money to pay for her education; so she's grateful for the help she receives through the program. Her little sister is also in school. Wendy told me that she'd like to graduate from college, possibly as a lawyer. While I would applaud any moral career choice, Guatemala needs more female professionals, especially in the legal field, especially sympathetic to the needs and culturally-placed limitations of the Mayans. I would love for her to accomplish her dreams; I think it would be a wonderful step forward for that entire region.
It's possible that I haven't mentioned Mercedes before, but if I had to pick just one person who I am doing this for, it would probably be her. Mercedes is the oldest of three children. Her little sister has some sort of undiagnosed condition (despite medical exams by American and Guatemalan doctors and blood tests which were reviewed in Switzerland) which appears to be some sort of muscular dystrophy. The young girl, Clara, is unable to talk or walk and usually struggles with holding her head up straight. I already knew all of that, but what I didn't know is that their father is an alcoholic. (Perhaps it is because he feels powerless to help his youngest child, but I'm not going to make his excuses for him.) This I learned because Mercedes showed up on Wednesday with a failing grade in one of her classes.
Passing is a 60, but I ask 70s from all of the kids because I don't want to get to the last semester and have anyone fail the entire year. So, I asked her why her grade was so low, and she told me it was because she didn't turn in a project. Why didn't she turn it in? Because she didn't do it. Why didn't she do it? Because dad had drank all the money in the house; so there wasn't any money to buy the supplies for the project. Okay...that probably also means that there wasn't food for meals or any number of other important things that people spend money on.
If I ever needed a reason to keep going, it would be for Mercedes. Her mother is exhausted. She actually looked a bit younger/less exhausted the other day, but she still looks like her years are numbered. With the father unable to make objective choices concerning if people eat or not in his household, I can't believe that he'll be the one caring for the family when his wife finally gives out. Luis, Mercedes and Clara's brother, is 13. He has finished the 6th grade and decided that he does not want to keep studying; so he is now working as a day laborer. When there is work, he works. When he works, he can buy food for the family. When there is not work, people go hungry without another income. Basically, Mercedes is going to be her sister's caretaker the rest of their lives. Unless Mercedes can get a good job or marry well, she will have a very difficult life (even without her sister to care for). I can't guarantee that she marries well, but I do know this: if Mercedes can finish her education, she has a better chance at a good job. (She wants to be a secretary.) By staying in school, she also has a better chance at meeting and marrying an educated man who would also have a better chance at getting a good job.
I fear for the kids in my program. I read all too often in the newspaper—and hear stories from other missionaries—about what often happens in many Guatemalan households. I fear for Clara. I fear for Mercedes. I fear for Wendy. But mostly I take solace in the fact that there is a merciful God who is watching out for them and all the other kids.
As I mentioned in July, one member suggested that it might be interesting to learn some of the Mayan language--Kaqchikel--which my families speak. I apologize that I forgot your lesson in the August newsletter. In July, we learned “Matiox” (Ma-TEE-oush) which means “Thank you.” This month we're going to learn the logical follow-up: “You're welcome.” I am not sure how this looks written; so I will only be able to give you the pronunciation.
In English, we say “You're welcome.” In Spanish, we say “De nada” (which literally translates to “of nothing”). In Kaqchikel, we say “Ma-hoon ri ba-noon.” They laugh every time I say it, but they insist that it's the correct response.
The Care and Keeping of a Missionary
I received a lovely e-mail from Hope this month letting me know about a musical mission group that was in Guatemala. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend any of their concerts, but I was really thrilled to get her e-mail. Thanks, Hope! Anyone else who would like to write to me for whatever reason can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As far as my prayer requests go, I'm okay as far as health care goes. I'll be able to have my appointment when I have my visit to the States. However, my friend did not get his visa; so he will not be visiting with me. He believes that God must have other plans; so we'll see what those are!
Thank you for all your support. Your prayers help keep me going, and your donations help children like Mercedes and Wendy get educations to better their own futures and those of the people around them. You can stay up-to-date (more or less) with my blog at http://GringaOnTheGround.blogspot.com. It's just like reading the news on-line, and you don't need to make an account or sign up for anything.