Scott's Entry #10

"Goofus and Gallant:  Scott's Split Personality"

Anyone who ever spent some quality time in the dentist's office as a child (or even an adult) probably remembers "Goofus and Gallant."  If these two characters aren't burned into your brain, allow me to explain.  Goofus and Gallant are a regular feature in the "Highlights" magazine, tucked somewhere between the "Word Find" and the "Which Object Doesn't Belong at Zippo the Clown's Birthday Party" brain-teaser.

The premise of Goofus and Gallant is very simple.  Typically, the magazine post cartoons of the two boys side-by-side.  For example, one picture will typically show Gallant doing some version of a 1950's Boy Scout good deed.  The caption would be something like, "Gallant always helps old ladies carry their groceries to the car." 

Yes, Even The Chickens At Our House Have A Goofus/Gallant Spilt Personality Disorder

At Times, I Actually Fear Them

Directly opposite of Gallant is a picture of his evil twin, Goofus, doing something that will probably get him a stint of 5-10 in the pokey without parole.  For example, "Goofus steals groceries from old ladies, sells them, and uses the proceeds to start a weapons smuggling ring in Columbia."  The moral of the story is that we should all be more like Gallant and less like Goofus.  If we could just accomplish this simple task, the world would be a bright shiny place.

I LOVE Goofus and Gallant as much as I love anything that reminds me of my childhood.  The problem is, I don't think the message sunk in for me.  Lately, the culture shock has been setting in pretty hard.  The honeymoon is over.   I am no longer a tourist on vacation here.  Instead, I am a full-time resident who can't complain to the front desk manager if  a)  roosters crap directly on my door during rainstorms or  b) if the cook decided to start a fire using old tennis shoes and trash very near my laundry which was drying on the clothesline. 

As I sit here in a smoky t-shirt, contemplating sweeping up the poo on my doorstep, I think of how my "Missionary Attitude" isn't always as one would think.  I mean, I have never been a  missionary before, and have never run across a job description when I was scanning HotJobs.com looking for my next career move.  Still, I thought that the life of a missionary was filled with prayer, church services, and lots of peace, love and understanding.  Missionaries go through life praising God every minute and saving the world, right?  However, now that I am a missionary, I find these ideas fall short of reality (unless I'm not properly fulfilling my duties.)

During a typical day, my attitude shifts from a "Gallant" to "Goofus" perspective.  One day, I might be thrilled to be a part of the community here, seeing Christ in the eyes of strangers.  The next minute, a similar situation may have me asking myself, "So... is it REALLY that hard to keep from spitting on the floor or picking your nose while you teach me a new Spanish word!" 

For those of you that think missionaries are unrealistic Jesus Freaks, here is a "Goofus and Gallant" peek into my daily routine.  You will notice that, at times, my thoughts are filled with cynicism, spite, and a healthy dose of sarcasm.  Is this bad?  Maybe.  Is this real.  Absolutely! 

There are some who might think that Gabby and I aren't "real people" - that we're made of some kind of "super doo-gooder" blood.  In actuality, we just took a peek outside ourselves and found that we wanted to try something a little outside the norm.  However, peeking outside yourself doesn't mean that you totally LEAVE yourself.  We're still left with all of our perspectives, our likes, and our dislikes.  I say this to reiterate the point that absolutely ANYONE can choose to volunteer their time to those less fortunate.  Like any job, there are times when you despise your environment, your boss, or your pay scale ($100/month is pretty meager compared to Gabby's old Dell wages).  Still, the benefits are INCREDIBLE!  So, if you have been sitting back thinking that you could never be a missionary or do a heavy dose of volunteer work because you're "just not that kind of person", please take these words to heart.  Though I haven't interviewed a lot of missionaries, I would like to think that many have these same juxtaposed views of their work.  It's just natural.  The key to making it all worthwhile is spending more time in Column A than Column B.

Gallant Says:

Goofus Says:

4:03am:  The sounds of God's creatures wake me from a deep sleep.  Though unable to quickly drift off again because of "nature's call," I am happy to be experiencing a more simple lifestyle.  I thank God for the opportunity to truly understand the life of the Guatemalan people. 

I fall back to sleep.

4:03am:  A rooster with a broken alarm clock pulls me out of a fitful sleep.  He is perched just outside my room.  I would fall back to sleep, but the pressure building in my bladder keeps me from returning to dreamland.  Cold and rainy, I roll out of bed wearing the same smelly socks from the day before because every "recycled" piece of clothing means less time washing in the big sink (pila). 

Knowing that it's cold, dark and muddy on the walk to our pit toilet outside, I find our "emergency bucket" in the corner of our room.  I am slightly appalled by living in the same room with anything that is better off being flushed.  However, being lazy, I answer nature's call, happy that this handy bucket is there to hear my reply.  Note to self:  see if I can install one of these when I get back to the States.

Gallant Says:

Goofus Says:

5:24am:  Nature awakes me again.  The rooster is having a big day, and he wants me to be a part of it!  Though having trouble getting back to sleep, I am happy that I still have 30 minutes left to lay in bed and rise to the sounds of the morning.  

5:24am:  If that rooster doesn't shut his flappin' beak, he's gonna' get a taste of my size 11!  I toss and turn for 15 minutes and he still won't be quiet.  I get up AGAIN and open the wooden door that serves as our only window.

Outside, I see the brown-feathered menace sitting atop a big pile of wood just 4 feet from my widow.  I grab a plastic bottle and attempt to hit him with it so he'll evacuate the area.  Unfortunately, my arms are just a bit too short, and the rooster looks right at me without moving and COCK-A-DOODLE-DOOS right in my face.  I yell "Ya Basta" (enough already!) and close the window, secretly satisfied with the knowledge that he will soon be on my dinner plate.

Gallant Says:

Goofus Says:

5:50am:  My alarm clock wakes me up.  I walk out my bedroom door to be greeted warmly by my host brother, Edwin.  I make my way to the pila to splash some cold water on my face (what a feeling!) and brush my teeth.  There is something very inspiring about starting your morning outside, without the artificiality of morning TV and conditioned air and water. 5:50am:  My alarm clock wakes me up.  I walk out my bedroom door to be greeted warmly by my host brother, Edwin.  I am taken back to conversations in which people said Guatemalan life was "laid-back and slow."  Sorry... NOT TRUE!  My family is always up at the crack of dawn, waiting to tackle a  day of non-stop work.  I just want a Krispy Kreme delivery truck and a nap.

Freezing my keester off, I mosey back toward the pila.  At this point, I would sell my WIFE for a hot faucet and clean, drinkable water.  I suffer through washing my face in water from the Antarctic.  As I brush my teeth, I pray that the tainted water on my toothbrush won't turn my stomach into a churning symphony by breakfast.

Gallant Says:

Goofus Says:

6:00am:  My host brothers and I head for the mountain behind the house.  We plan a short run up the winding path to give our legs and lungs a workout.  I love sharing this activity with the brothers.  It makes me feel like a part of the family, and I truly value their friendship.  They have welcomed me with open arms, even though I am often a drain on their family and have taken the best their home has to offer.  They are truly an example of God's unfailing grace. 6:00am:  My host brothers and I head for the mountain behind the house.  What has this country done to my body?!?!  The lack of a healthy diet has me losing muscle and energy like CRAZY!  I look like Screech from "Saved By The Bell!"

The run up the mountain is laborious, cold, and damp.  I pray for a miracle... that the Lord will drop a Gold's Gym into my backyard... complete with free weights, Power Bars and personal trainers.  I make my way up and down the peak, avoiding large piles of horse poo and ankle-crushing stones.

Gallant Says:

Goofus Says:

6:40am:  We return from our run up the mountain.  I take a small load of dirty clothes out to the pila.  As I do my laundry, I am satisfied that I need nothing man-made to clean my clothes.  It is a beautiful thing to realize how little material things matter here.  A washing machine is just a luxury... not a necessity.

I put on my swimsuit and fill a small bucket with cold water.  I use a sponge and some soap to bathe myself.  I recall how much time I used to waste getting ready in the morning in a vain attempt to look how everyone else expected me to look.  Here, it's simple.  Clothes are just to keep warm - nothing more.  You smell how you smell.  Nothing needs to be perfumed.  That's the way life should be.  Simple.

6:40am:  As I wash my clothes in the ice-cold water of the pila, I slowly lose feeling in my hands.  It takes 40 minutes of scrubbing to wash 3 T shirts, 2 pairs of pants, 3 pair of underwear and 3 pairs of socks.  I dream of my washing machine and dryer at home... wearing a shirt one time and tossing it into the dirty clothes basket without a care.  MAN I MISS THAT!

I'm sweaty, smelly, and cold.  I want a hot shower the way Elizabeth Taylor wants a new husband.  I curse the cold water as it hits my skin.  I can only wash my face and armpits before my body can take no more of the cold.  The rest of me will just have to be stinky. I have a nasty case of bed-head, and my skin is coated in the film of diesel fumes from the day before.  I make my way back to my room to put on the SAME DARN CLOTHES I WAS WEARING YESTERDAY!

Gallant Says:

Goofus Says:

7:30am:  Someone knocks on my door to invite me to breakfast.  For us, one of the luxuries of this culture is that every meal is provided for us.  The mother of the house does all of the cooking, and she's quite good at it, given the resources.  By this time of the morning, the rest of the family has eaten.  So, I usually take breakfast alone.  Frequently, one of my family members comes in to join me at the table and says, "EAT!  There are plenty of tortillas and tamalitos!"  I say a prayer to protect all of us volunteers this year, and to keep my family and friends safe.  I enjoy a small but hearty breakfast - lucky to have food in a country where so many people go without.  I say "Muchas Gracias" and leave for the day. 7:30am:  Another morning, and yet another time when I don't get to choose what I eat.  My body lusts after a bowl of cold milk and a heaping pile of Lucky Charms.  Instead, I arrive at the table to find last night's dinner on my plate.  Sometimes it's beans.  Sometimes it's beef stew.  Sometimes it's eggs with beans.  Usually it's whatever the family has on hand.  My drink is warm sugar water (EVERYTHING IS SUGARED HERE!) I am just used to the "choice" of the U.S.... the culture of independence.  Here, you get what you get.  I choke down another plate of unidentified vegetable with a sugar water chaser and head for work.

Gallant Says:

Goofus Says:

7:48am:  I hike over the hilly path toward the street.  I pass massive boulders, two horses grazing, a woman washing clothes at the well, and several children.  They are happy to practice their only English words on me "Goodbye!"  "Thank You!"  I gaze at the volcano, surrounded in a halo of clouds and can't believe I actually get to look at this beauty every morning. I walk the remaining five minutes to the street.  I think how much I will probably miss the serenity of this moment. 7:48am:  My morning hike begins.  I look down at the path to avoid the mud, horse mess, and garbage that litters the path to the bus stop.  I miss my car.  I miss my garage.  I miss cleanliness.  As always, everyone on the path takes a second glance at me... or stares at me.  I feel like a freak.  On the cusp of another day of volunteer work, I have several thoughts.  I miss my wife (she's off on another 9-day trip).  I count how many months I have left in Guatemala and wonder how I can possibly take one more day.  I dream of a plane ticket and friends and family greeting me at the Austin Bergstrom International Airport.  I tell myself to "suck it up" and get to work.

Gallant Says:

Goofus Says:

7:56am:  The third bus to pass finally stops to pick me up.  I am happy not to have to fight traffic.  This mode of transportation is cheap, effective, and the only way for the poor to get around.  I find a seat on the bus and marvel at the diversity.  There are men, women, and children.  Some speak ancient languages.  All have a story to tell me.  I can feel God's presence around me, keeping me safe.  He is asking me to reach out and to become a part of people's lives here.  Riding the bus is one way to get close to people here and understand their way of life.  It's crowded... but it's community. 7:56am:  How many freakin' busses will pass before I finally get one to stop!  I hop aboard to find 78 adults and 15 kids crammed into a space suited for 40 third-graders.  I kick and shove my way past the first few rows of seats.  I finally cram myself into a space.  It's not a seat.  One of my cheeks is resting on the lap of a Mayan woman while the other is hovering in mid air.  My muscles cramp.  Every molecule of air on the bus has the hint of a smell of rotten tomatoes and burning trash.  I would lighten my load and put my backpack on the rack above my head, but the space is already occupied by a box full of chickens and a monstrous squash. Of all of the people on the bus, only 20% have probably bathed in the last three days.  I'm a proud member of the remaining 80%!   I think to myself, "There is not enough Purell Hand Sanitizer on the GLOBE to keep me from getting sick this year!"

Gallant Says:

Goofus Says:

8:37am:  After one bus change, I arrive at the gate of my "office."  I work at the Instituto Biblico Presbiteriano Maya Quiche.  It is a group of buildings with classrooms, sleeping quarters with bunk beds, and a good-sized cafeteria.  It looks like a place for a summer camp.

Most days during the week the place is empty, save for the other employees.  It's peaceful, hidden in the shadow of a mountain.

Everyone here greets me warmly with a handshake or a hug.  Our first item of business for the day is a short Bible study.  I am always invited to play my guitar and sing a couple of songs.  I am thrilled to be able to be a part of worship in a different language!

After a short Bible reading, one of the employees leads a prayer for the day.  I am always near the top of the list.  They obviously appreciate my presence here and care for all of the volunteers.

I have my whole day ahead of me.  There is an opportunity to do a lot of good here.  Everything that I will be doing today is needed by the people here.  Without volunteers, the people here simply do without many development opportunities.  I think God for the chance to do His work on earth.

8:37am:  After changing buses at the bus stop that would make a NYC subway station look like the Ritz-Carlton, I arrive at the gate of my "office."  I hop off the bus while it is still moving.  A cloud of thick diesel fumes engulfs me like Pig Pen in the Charlie Brown cartoons. 

I wonder about the place where I work.  It sits empty a lot of the time.  Seems like a bit of a waste to me.  The lack of energy and activity at the Institute is draining for me.  I need a fast-paced, people-filled atmosphere. 

I make my way into the meeting room for our morning Bible Study.  It is typically short.  I am invited to play and sing some hymns for them.  Unfortunately, I only know 2 or 3 in their language, so it's like a broken record every morning.

The whole thing is in Spanish.  A couple of the leaders speak WAY TOO FAST for me!  It's a bit like attending a lecture where the keynote speaker is Mush-Mouth from the Fat Albert cartoons.  I feign attention. 

The prayer begins, and EVERYONE IS PRAYING ALOUD AT THE SAME TIME... IN SPANISH!  I can't concentrate, and I have a hard time getting into the moment.

I think about my work for the day.  I have to serve 26 church groups equally this year with classes in music, English, leadership, and Bible Study.  The churches are spread all over the place (some 3 hours away by bus).  None can work with me in the mornings.  I can't travel at night due to the danger.  This leaves very little time - weekends and afternoons.  At best, I'll visit each one once every two or three months.  How can I make a difference?

Gallant Says:

Goofus Says:

11:42am:  I have been doing several things this morning.  My supervisor has asked that I design a children's playground for the Institute to attract local kids.  I also need to create a website for the Institute and teach the admin how to manage it.  Finally, I have to develop curriculum for all of my classes. 

There is so much need here!  I am happy that I have come.  For many subjects, I am the group's only resource.  I am needed and wanted.

The Institute has a small computer lab, so I am able to create documents on some hand-me-down machines from the states.  It is such a luxury, as there are few communities with computers here.  I am lucky to have electricity, computers (a comfort of home), and a adequate space to work in.

11:42am:  At times it seems like my employer has NO PLAN!  First, they want me to design a playground!  WHAT?  Like I'm qualified for that! I hope they don't have strict safety codes here.   Next, I get to build a website for the Institute and teach their admin how to manage it.  With only a dial up internet connection on ONE computer, this is going to be incredibly frustrating.  To top it off, the power goes out AT LEAST once per day, and the voltage fluctuates constantly, wreaking havoc on any electrical device here.  The lights brighten and dim as if the office were sitting on "The Green Mile."  There are no resources to upgrade anything.  It'll be a miracle if these computers last the year!

Finally, I get to develop course materials in Spanish.  The problem is, I can hardly speak it.  How in the world is anyone going to gain anything valuable from my classes this year?!?!  It takes me two hours to type a simple 2/3 page letter.  I crave an English speaker right now!

Gallant Says:

Goofus Says:

1:30pm:  It's lunchtime!  My host mom packed a sack lunch for me.  What a treat!

I open the bag to find some chicken, vegetables, and tortillas.  It is far more than I can eat at one sitting.  Again, I remember all of the starving people in the immediate area, and thank God that I have food.

1:30pm:  It's lunchtime!  Since there aren't any groups using the Institute this week, the cafeteria is closed (which could be a blessing in disguise).

I open my lunch sack.  Inside I find some of my least favorite vegetable (which is a staple here... it's a cross between a potato and a squash, without the good flavor.)  There is also some chicken and some tortillas.  Since the room temperature here rarely gets above 65 degrees, it's all cold.  There is no microwave to heat it all up.

I eat the chicken in hopes that the cold temps have kept the salmonella away.  I eat the veggies without chewing.  As for the tortillas... I need more corn in my diet like Jennifer Lopez needs more cushion on her backside.  I eat one and save the rest for home.

Gallant Says:

Goofus Says:

3:23pm:  I am teaching a music class in Pajac this afternoon.  I wasn't planning on it, but the pastor here requested that I come, so I'm here.

As is the custom here, the class was scheduled to start at 3:00.  Though it's twenty minutes past 3, a few people are finally straggling in.  This laid back pace is OK by me.  I have to remember that I am simply a volunteer, teaching a "luxury" class. Many of these people are leaving work early... giving up valuable Quetzales... just so they can attend.  I hope I can give them something of value.

 

3:23pm:  I am teaching a music class in Pajac this afternoon.  I wasn't planning on it.  At a meeting two weeks ago, I asked a group of 30 pastors to give me their top 3 preferences for days of the week and times of day to hold training classes.  This would allow me to develop a schedule taking into account as many of their preferences as possible.

Maybe my Spanish is bad, but every group of pastors came back to me with SPECIFIC dates and times to come.  This wouldn't have been bad, except EVERY ONE wanted Saturday or Sunday.  I told them I would take their feedback and develop a schedule.

Well, three of these yahoos just told their congregations that I would be showing up on October 25th at 3:00pm.  The problem is, they were ALL from different churches.  So... I just had to choose one and blow the other two off.  What part of "We're going to DEVELOP a schedule" didn't you understand!

When class begins, I find out that two of the people had been told that this was an English class, two more thought they were going to learn guitar (though neither have guitars), and the fifth was here because she heard we were going to learn some new songs.

I had arrived simply to build a class schedule, but noticing that the people who had scheduled me to come to the church WEREN'T EVEN THERE, I decided to teach folks how to read music.  I hope coordination won't be this much of a pain in the neck in the future.

Gallant Says:

Goofus Says:

5:07pm:  Class is over.  I had an absolute BLAST teaching music!  Though I don't know everything there is to know about reading music, I was able to convey the basics to the five people there.

Everyone was taking notes and paying attention.  There was no "fading in and out" here.  These people are so hungry for ANY knowledge, that they are thrilled to be in a classroom setting.  It is such a refreshing change of pace from the corporate environment where training is often an intrusion... but at the same time... a God-given right.

After the class, two young men from another church (who were expecting me to teach THERE) came to meet me.  They wanted to talk to me about teaching classes for their congregation.  They are DYING for knowledge.  They offer to drive 100 minutes round-trip to take me back and forth to their church each week.  There and back TWO TIMES equals over 3 hours of driving! They flatter me by saying that they heard that I am a "dynamic, exciting young guy from the U.S." and they just want their youth to be exposed to new concepts.  They tell me that knowledge is hope for them.

I doubt that I can help them, as it would mean making 25 other groups VERY jealous.  I tell them that it is unfair to serve one group more than another.  They understand but are persistent.  They promise me that they'll work more to encourage my heart.  I'm guessing I'll see them again soon.  It's nice to be such a sought-after commodity.

5:07pm:  Class is over.  I had an absolute BLAST teaching music! 

However, the learning process was very slow here.   The schools here hardly teach anything!  Critical thinking skills are sorely lacking.  Though he students range in age from 16 - 30, I feel like we're moving at a snail's pace.  If I can only teach this group of people once every month or so, I seriously doubt any real progress will be made.  Maybe they'll be playing "Chopsticks" by the time July rolls around.

After the class, two young guys from another church (that I was scheduled to teach at) came by for a visit.  I was a bit apprehensive of them at first.

They want me to come and teach classes at their church once per week.  They were really pushy.  I tried to tell them that giving them preferential treatment puts me in a tough spot.  Every one of the 26 churches will expect the same, and it's just not possible.

However, they wouldn't listen.  It was a bit intimidating.  I know my Spanish stinks, but when I use two simple words, "No puedo" (I can't), why in God's name won't you understand where I'm coming from!  They wouldn't back down, so I just had to leave. I secretly dread seeing them again and having to go through this same conversation.  While serving one church is better for getting results, my job is to serve 26.  Sorry... can't help you pal!

It's hard to see how I can avoid this kind of relentless, unreasonable request in the future.

Gallant Says:

Goofus Says:

6:01pm:  I finally arrive home.  Though the surroundings are different, I long for the day when this feels like home to me.

I go into my room, a spartan but adequate space, and lay my bag and guitar down on the floor.  I lay on the bed and let the day run out of the end of my fingertips.

To wind down, I turn on the TV (yes... I have a TV, can you believe it?  What luck!).  I scan through the channels and notice all of the imported programs.  Though the life portrayed on old reruns of ER, Kojak, Friends, and others have NO RESEMBLANCE to the life of Guatemalans, it sets an expectation for how life SHOULD BE.  In fact, the same is true in the U.S.  I'm a bit saddened that our culture is exported here to a place where simplicity is a thing of beauty.  With every imported infomercial (yes... they have The Ab Swing, The Ab-Dominator, Five Minute Abs, etc.) comes the desire for material things that 90% of the population can't afford. 

So many people here want my shoes, my jacket, my seeping bag, and a seat on my return flight home.  They all think America is made up of nothing but millionaires.    In fact, the saddest part of life here is that people think life is easier in the U.S.  In one way, they're right.  Life for citizens like me is a cake walk!  But, for illegal immigrants, it's an uphill battle.  To be able to send money back to Guatemala to support your family, you're forced to live in poverty in the U.S.  Your life isn't better... it's just different.  I think my job this year is to tell people that America is NOT how it appears on TV. I hope and pray that I can make a difference by pointing out the beauty that already exists here.

6:01pm:  I finally arrive home.  I would hock my right lung for carpeting and a shower.  Instead, I drop my things on the dusty floor and crash onto the bedspread that is caked with old stains and spills.

I turn on the TV, praying that I will find a show in English to help me escape my surroundings for a while.  In my rapid flipping, I catch a glimpse of an old friend.  That's right, it's "The 'A' Team!"  Holy cow!  What luck!  I remember watching the premiere of this show!  It debuted after the Super Bowl in the 80's!

But alas, it's only in Spanish.  Ironically, even in a different language, B.A. Baracus still sounds like Mr. T.  I silently wonder if Mr. T majored in Spanish at (IPTFU  "I Pity The Fool University"), because the resemblance is uncanny.

I continue flipping, and curse the fact that NOTHING is in English.  Don't they know I live here now?!?!?  I need SportsCenter!  I need Football (the American kind)!  I need The Learning Channel with all of it's cheesy makeover shows and home improvement case studies!  Though this TV in my room is a luxury, it's virtually worthless to me.  I want Time Warner Cable and Pay-Per-View.  I am tired of living without my comforts of home. 

Every over-dubbed U.S. TV show reminds me that I'm not at home, not in the U.S., and not able to visit my family and friends at a moment's notice.  I feel lonely, trapped, and overwhelmed.  I grab my other luxury, the laptop, and type up a few e-mails that I can save to a disk and mail from the internet cafe.

Gallant Says:

Goofus Says:

7:42pm:  Dinnertime!  I walk out my door and up a small hill to the "living/dining room."  The table is set for 8 people.  Myself, and the other seven family members who are around.  Gabby is gone, as is the father of the family who is the van driver for Gabby's organization.

We sit down, and the family has a small debate about who will say the blessing.  They rotate this duty every night.  Tonight, it's Marlon's turn.  He's 11.

We all bow our heads an listen to his chat with God.  Every night, without fail, the "pray-er" includes a special blessing, thanking God for their new brother and sister - Scott and Gabby - and praying for our safety and success here.  The words are sincere and heart-felt.

During dinner, there is plenty of chatter.  The family is a joyous bunch.  Even without many material goods, they always find a reason to laugh and joke during dinner.  Whether I understand or not, I am always included... either in conversation or as the butt of a joke.  This joyous atmosphere is God's way of telling me that I belong.  It resembles my family in the U.S.  The table is surrounded by people full of smiles and laughter.  Thank you God for this blessing.

7:42pm:  Dinnertime!  Another meal with new tastes and new smells.  Another setting here where I'll feel like an outsider because I won't get all of the jokes, and won't be able to follow the group conversation.  As much as this family tries to make me a part of their unit, I won't ever truly be a part.  I can't communicate anything of great depth in Spanish.  It's like trying to explain how your day went.. only using charades.  It just isn't very effective.

I want a Chuy's Special.  I want a big plate of 20 Hooter's Hot Wings.  I want a Dirty's hamburger.  I want The Pork Tenderloin from Z-Tejas.  But, most of all, I want the company of people who truly know me.  At some point during the day, there is always the empty feeling in your gut that reminds you that you aren't hanging around with your family and friends.  You miss the small things - the birthdays, the lost teeth, the Halloween costumes, a beer at happy hour, a good joke, graduations, baby showers, wedding receptions, church services, etc.  Is it OK to be a missionary and feel like you hate your calling sometimes?

 

Gallant Says:

Goofus Says:

8:39pm:  Time to get ready for bed.  I know it's early, but a new culture takes a lot out of you.

I walk back to the pila with my overnight bag.  I wash my face and brush my teeth.  It's been a good day.  I have shared myself with the people of Guatemala, and they have shared their lives with me.  I am so grateful that this wonderful family has invited me into their home for A WHOLE YEAR!

As I head back to my room, put on my sweatpants and crawl into bed, I think about what more I can do to serve down here.  There really is a ton of opportunity, and I just don't have much time left.  It will be over before I know it.  What a blessing my life is, and how gracious I am for the chance to experience so many different aspects of life on this incredible planet.

Goodnight

8:39pm:  Time to get ready for bed.  And, once again, another chance to remember how much I used to love showers.  I try to avoid the muddy spots as I head for the pila.

Why am I here?  I don't know.  I'm not going to change this place.  I know I am here to share in the lives of these people, but sometimes I just don't feel like doing that.  I miss sharing in the lives of people at home.

I think I'd like to go home now.

 

 

So... I bounce back and forth between these two columns on a daily basis.  Tomorrow will be another day.  Another day closer to returning to the place I love.  Another day closer to my wife returning here to struggle through the joys and sadness with me. 

Through it all, there are three things that keep me going.  The first is the love and support of family and friends.  Without it, I would be lost.  The second is knowing that there are many events in the near future that will charge my batteries.  The retreats with other volunteers.  Visits from family and friends.  Time with my wife.  It's all good. 

Third, what keeps me going is  knowing I have been called here for a purpose greater than myself.  I am only one man... but I have been made in God's image to do His work here on Earth.  Whether I enjoy the job 24/7 is unimportant.  The simple fact that I am here makes all the difference in the world. 

A wise woman once wrote in my Bible...

"This book is more valuable than a college degree.  Pray to the Holy Spirit to help you understand and gain wisdom from these words.  Pray always for guidance and listen.  You will always make a difference in someone's life." 
Love, Mom

And then she noted this verse...

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed in by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'"

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'"

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"
Matthew 25: 34-40