Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Angry Meeting # ... I Lost Count

We sent out our prayer letter for February Monday. I shared about our water story. It seems we have lots of water stories these days, but this one was about the institute. I'm posting it here with more details because it is definitely one I want to remember, one I need to remember.

Eventually we want to dig a well on the pastors institute property/farm. $20,000 has been given and set aside for this. Unfortunately for the depth that we need, we only know of one reasonably priced company that can dig this well. We have been on the waiting list for over a year. They have several government jobs currently that pay above going rate ($65,000), hence we are at the bottom of the list. Yes, there are missions organizations that dig wells, but the ones we have contacted either don't have the right equipment or are more expensive than secular companies. As a temporary solution Jimmy met with the village next door (our current church plant) over and over again to eventually get permission and a contract signed to be able to hook up to their well. The contract says that they cannot turnoff our water for any reason other than us not paying our bill. Not that we thought there would be any future problems;)
{The day there was running water at the farm was an exciting day}
  Jimmy has been having problems at the farm with people stealing watermelons and fish... like ALL of the watermelons and ALL of the fish. During the night someone would sneak on the property, crack open watermelons to see if they were ripe, then they would take all the good ones. The students were raising hundreds of white fish and Tilapia in ponds, EVERY SINGLE one was stolen.
{One of the ponds}
The property is 180 acres mainly of virgin jungle. The wood from that jungle is used to build student houses, bookshelves, tables, etc for the farm. We realize people need firewood. Jimmy had told that village (just that next-door village) that anyone who wanted firewood, needed to check in first and they could take as much "firewood" as they could carry. Well, huge trees are being chopped down without permission. Large Mahogany logs are being removed. One guy even drove a truck onto the property.

   On one occasion a student called and said that he had caught someone stealing wood and that when he asked him to leave, he cursed him and refused. Jimmy called the police to have them remove him. He was a teenage brother of one of the girls that comes to our church. Jimmy didn't want him to be taken to the capital and put in jail with gang members, so he didn't end up pressing charges, he just had him escorted home. The police even had the mom sign a piece of paper that said he was not injured during the incident... which funny enough didn't prevent all the made up stories afterwards. 

Just having the teen escorted home ended up upsetting some of the villagers. They do not believe that they are under Guatemalan law so this made them angry. Mob rule is the law in their eyes. They themselves have been having just as many problems with villagers stealing from them, so they called a meeting about it. One of our students happened to be there at the time, he said that he was just paying the water bill for the month. Somehow during this meeting, rather than identify the thieves, they turned the attention on Jimmy for getting the police involved in that specific instance. They held our student and wouldn't let him leave. There were around a thousand angry people in that meeting. They had the student call Jimmy and say that they weren't going to let him go until Jimmy came to the meeting. Well, Jimmy originally had not been invited to the meeting and had warned the students to stay away. Now, certainly Jimmy wasn't going to show up in the middle of a thousand angry villagers who live by mob rule. Jimmy told the student not to stress and that come noon, all the villagers would get hungry and go home. And it happened just like. About 2 hours later everyone got hungry and that ended up trumping their anger, so they let the student go so that they could go home and eat. Before that though, even with many of our church people speaking out against the decision, some of the outspoken angry ones went and turned off the water to the farm. Jimmy kept going and turning it back on, but then someone behind him would turn it right back off.

During that meeting the town instituted a curfew. Anyone on the street after 9PM gets shot, no questions asked. This scared many of our church members. In this culture, when the sun goes down, it's time for church to start, so by the time you have your service and people walk home, it is after 9. People were afraid to walk anywhere after dark, no matter what time. Even finishing earlier, this has hurt our church attendance and our youth group. It is slowly coming back, but honestly, I would be afraid to walk around after dark now too with that in place.
{The farm with the village beginning on the left}
It stayed like this for about a week until Jimmy could get a meeting scheduled with the town leaders. I was really worried about this meeting. I know that this institute is something that God put in Jimmy's heart to do. I know that God has protected this institute in many ways in the past when people tried to go against it. (I shared a specific story in one of our email updates and there are more I wish I could tell, just because it brings God glory.) Still, I was really worried about Jimmy stepping into a mess like that. The student who had been in the other meeting had been getting death threats... he was scared. Jimmy kept telling me about stories in Acts and how God is with him and will do the speaking and that God is the only one who can work in the hearts of the leaders. That is what Jimmy believed God was going to do- work in the hearts of the leaders.

It was a Monday evening. As Jimmy waited at the meeting place people who could barely walk because they were so drunk started showing up. So I guess Monday night is a horrible time to have a meeting, although it wasn't our choosing. On top of that the meeting had been moved so many times, that by the time it actually happened, none of the students were around to go with Jimmy to translate everything into Kekchi. There were villagers spouting off made up stories about Jimmy and the farm. Jimmy felt completely abandoned, in the pitch dark of night, arguing with a bunch of angry drunks in his third language. It looked for a while like it was going to end in the farm's favor, Jimmy had explained everything that had happened and cleared up many false rumors, but then at the last second someone who wasn't even a leader got up and shouted that they "must" turn the water off permanently. Everyone was over it by that time, so that was the conclusion.

Where was God? How can you have a farm and families living on that farm without water? We were so sad. We went to sleep Monday night feeling alone and defeated.

    Then early the next morning an unknown number kept calling Jimmy. Finally Jimmy answered the phone. It was the mayor of the village. He told Jimmy that he was not able to sleep all night long. All of these Bible verses kept coming to his head. (He does not profess to be a Christian nor does he attend any church). “The Bible says that if someone asks for water, you have to give it to him.” He said that he was turning the water back on. He called all the town leaders who were at the store buying the plug for the pipe and told them that too. Amazingly, these guys who a few hours earlier had been slurring their angry hate towards Jimmy, all of a sudden agreed and decided they shouldn't turn off our water. They got in trouble for this, but have stuck to it.  

I want to get this story down to help remind myself that what is in the book of Acts is true. If God has a job for you to do, He will make it happen. He controls the hearts of leaders, even those who do not profess Him. All of this just brings Him glory.

I have more to share later about how we are learning to live by their cultural rules. We are going to implement some new things before we restock the fish ponds for sure! Praying we can all live in peace.   

1 comment:

  1. Wow - I am close to tears! Thank you for sharing this - I will be praying for wisdom and safety for you all and for God to continue to do His work in this difficult situation!


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