Monday, November 29, 2010

Like a soap opera

For the last few Saturdays, Abraham, Six, Ken, and I have been spending the afternoon in Huejotzingo, helping the kids memorize their parts for their small Christmas play, taken from the accounts in Matthew and Luke in the Bible. Each Saturday has had it's difficulties and frustrations. On the first one, only a handful of kids showed up, so we passed out at least the principle parts. Right at the end of our time there, a few other children came, and one of them was upset to find that only minor parts remained. With ill grace, she agreed to a small part in the play, but she did not actually accept her role.

When we returned the following Saturday, we found that this girl had been working throughout the week to persuade the other children to trade parts with her, so she could have a larger role. She also made fun of her cousin who does not know how to read, convincing her that she could not participate. When we talked with the other children and helped them see that they could indeed continue with their original roles, the girl renounced her smaller part.

Throughout the following week, the girl continued her campaign, working on the play's narrator to persuade her to drop out so the other girl could take over her role. She succeeded in making the narrator drop out, but we still would not let her take the place of the narrator, knowing that it was better not to let her have her way in the scheming.

This past Saturday, however, came the most difficult change. I could not go out to Huejotzingo due to a nasty cough, but when Abraham and Six returned to the house, they told me what had happened. The girl who had been trying to manipulate her way into bigger roles in the play has been with us on Sundays for a long time. She is not a believer, and her life is the stuff of the worst soap operas. Our prayer was to share God's love with her, so that she could change and follow his guidance.

It would seem our time with her is over, however. Abruptly, she, her mother, and her brother have moved to Michoacan to live with her estranged father. Her older sister will be moving to Playa del Carmen. Meanwhile, her cousins, the two children I wrote about in the previous post, have moved back to Oaxaca. Please keep those two families in your prayers. Both of them are involved in illegal activities, and they leave in Huejotzingo messy problems that involve other family members that we still work with.

Please pray also for the Alameda family. Half the children in this family join us every Sunday afternoon and are involved in the Christmas play. On Thursdays Abraham began a Bible study with their father and also began teaching him how to read, but the obstacles are constant. This week Abraham will not be able to go because the father will be working the whole time. The family is devoted to the Virgen de Guadalupe and the traditions passed down to from their parents, but they also willingly invite us into their home and discuss the Bible stories openly and ask many questions.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Amen to that!

I'm thankful for so many things. In no particular order: family, friends, an apartment to live in near both the seminary where Abraham attends and the school where we teach, food, lotion in this dry climate, a job I enjoy, good health, markets, blankets on cold nights, my laptop, music, time spent with my husband, books, and so very much more. I'm thankful for people like you who pray for Abraham and I. We need your continued prayers. I'm thankful also for those who support us financially. You make many of the above-mentioned blessings possible.

We have this week off from school, and it has been lovely to wake up later and spend time relaxing or finishing tasks that cannot be accomplished when we go to work every day. On Thursday we will be celebrating Thanksgiving with my mother- and brother-in-law and some other PCS teachers, along with a Mexican family that used to work at PCS. We'll be potlucking and will have most of the normal feast food plus rajas con crema and tortillas.

On Friday Abraham, Six, Ken, and I will be discussing and writing out a vision statement for Huejotzingo. As the time approaches for our probable move to live in Huejotzingo, Abraham asked Pastor Manuel of our church if he thought we were the people to be missionaries in Huejotzingo. Manuel said he would discuss with the elders and ask them to write yes or no and the reason why for either answer. We will know their response early in December, and the vision statement will help to clarify what we believe God is calling us to do at the mission. Please pray for us as we prepare the statement and as the elders consider Abraham's question. Pray also that there will be a place for us to live, preferably land we can buy where we can build a house (and the funds to make this possible).

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Kids of Our Lives

Last week, my fifth and sixth grade students joined the rest of the elementary for a field trip to a small museum display about the Bible. The exposition that we saw was a traveling section from the larger museum ManĂ¡ in Mexico City, and due to its reduced size, we only spent an hour there. It was an hour well spent as the kids heard about ancient clay tablets of the Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls, illuminated manuscripts and much more. They had a chance to see Bibles translated into various different languages and also Bibles written in creative formats like Manga and only pictures. A professor had come to explain the contents of the display cases to the children, so they were able to understand better what they saw.

When we returned to school, my students had a number of questions, so we spent time discussing the apocryphal books, the original languages of the Bible, and the Ark of the Covenant. The children were fascinated to hear about how scribes in ancient times and monks in the Middle Ages copied the Bible with infinite care and how Gutenberg's invention of the printing press radically reduced the cost of books and made Bibles available to more people.

In Huejotzingo, Abraham, Six, Ken, and I have begun going on Saturday afternoons to rehearse a Christmas play with the kids. Last Saturday only two of the children showed up, but it was a good opportunity for us, because those two had never heard the Christmas story before. One of them, when I said, "Why don't we read the story in the Bible?" declared roundly, "The Bible is boring!" When I asked what stories he had read from the Bible, he said he couldn't remember any of them.

We sat down with the two children, and I read from the account of Jesus' birth in Matthew. Abraham asked some questions to see if the two understood. I continued reading in Luke, so they were able to hear, for the first time, the real story of Jesus' birth.

The two kids who were with us last Saturday recently returned to Huejotzingo after being away for about four years. They do not have a father, and their mother is not very dependable. The younger boy is staying with his great aunt, and his older sister is with her cousin. Neither child has learned to read, although the boy is about 8 years old, and his sister is probably 10 or 11. We are glad that they have been regular attenders on Sunday afternoons and now on Saturday as well. Please pray for them. They have not asked Jesus into their hearts, although both listen fairly attentively as Abraham teaches Walk Through the Bible on Sunday afternoon. They are also both very vulnerable and both live in less than ideal homes.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

More detailed - Day of the Dead

The dia de los muertos began thousands of years ago with the indigenous people of Mexico who celebrated the goddess of the underworld, Mictecacihuatl. When the Spaniards arrived, they imposed All Saints´ Day, thinking to replace the worship of death. Rather than replace the custom, the Mexicans blended the Catholic observance with their already established one.

Today on the dia de los muertos, many people create altars, preferably with 7 levels, for the dead. On one of the levels is a picture of a saint, and/or the Virgin de Guadalupe. Another level has a crucifix made of limes or tejocote. On other levels are candles, salt, food, and photos of the dead person. Near the altar, the family places candles toward the four cardinal points to guide the spirit of the dead. The candles also provide light for the spirit. People call to the spirit of their family member, inviting it to visit.

Throughout Mexico, some cemeteries remain open throughout the night as family members hold vigil at the graves of their dead. The living burn candles for the dead as they watch the night away.

This video was made as an ad for attracting tourism, but it gives some idea of the dia de los muertos.

Halloween was not observed as such until fairly recently. The influence of the United States can be seen in the fact that many children now wear costumes while they collect coins in their plastic pumpkin heads. The satanic church claims that Oct. 31 is the birthday of Satan, and observes the date as such.

Dia de los Muertos

October 28 - November 2 in Mexico is the celebration of death. Jesus said in John 11:24, "I am the resurrection and the LIFE. He that believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live."

Anticipating dia de los muertos, marzipan,candy, and chocolate skulls
were present in store shelves throughout Mexico

This bread is called hojaldra. It is a special bread made for the dia de los muertos. The decorations on the top represent bones.

These children in costume were performing on a platform in the cemetery

Throughout the time I have lived in Mexico, I have learned more about what the dia de los muertos represents. This year Abraham and I went to visit a cemetery on Nov. 2, the climax of the days. Dia de los muertos is actually a misguiding name, for in Mexico, the observances begin on Oct. 28th as families remember those who died violent deaths. October 29 is for the unbaptized and October 30 for the lonely soul. On October 31, the children who died after being baptized visit their families and leave on November 1. November 2 is the final day, when all the spirits of the dead come together with their living family members. The term "visit" is not used lightly, for Mexicans who observe these days believe that the spirit of the dead returns to them. The living family members usually build an altar in their homes, decorating it with offerings of food, symbols of the favorite pass-times of their dead relative, and objects that the person enjoyed in life. In Huejotzingo, one man told Abraham that at least in their family, they call out to the spirits, inviting them to come back home.
This is an example of an altar inside a shopping mall
The cemetery had this altar in the entryway

Outside the cemetery, a vendor sold miniatures to decorate altars

One of the crypts had this altar set up

Inside the cemetery, a few mariachi bands offered their services to sing to the dead

The cemetery is very large. In every row, highly decorated graves were evident

Please join us as we pray for the light of LIFE to shine on Mexico. Pray that this ancient festival with its connections to the pre-hispanic rituals offered to Mictecacihuatl, the goddess of the underworld, would end.