Saturday, June 2, 2012

Crazy Day

Yesterday was a really crazy day.  One of those days when you really wonder what's going on, you know?

Miguel originally had another trip planned to the mountains this week and was to be gone from Thursday to Sunday.  But then the pastor that was coming to give the conference sessions had to cancel his trip because his mother-in-law became very ill and the whole family had to go to California for a couple of weeks.

So then we decided to go to another Totonacan community in the mountains and were planning to leave today, Saturday. As we were making plans for that trip, Miguel's mom called from Venezuela to let him know that his pastor, Gilberto Nieves had passed away the day before.

Pastor Nieves was very influential in Miguel's life and is what would be considered a 'padrino' here,  something like a godfather.  In many ways, he was more of a father to Miguel than his own father.  Pastor Nieves was Miguel's pastor from the time he was young, baptized him and was also instrumental in how Miguel came to be a missionary.  Miguel was also very close to the family and spent a lot of time at their house as a teenager.

So when Miguel found out that Pastor Nieves had died, he really wanted to be able to go attend the funeral (an accompany his mom back here to visit us!). It's not easy to get to Miguel's home town in Venezuela from Mexico on such short notice, but Miguel found a flight leaving Mexico City around 1:30 a.m. that would get him to Caracas at 7 a.m.  He would have been arriving at his target location early afternoon, which was good since the funeral was planned for around that time.

So we hustled to get him ready and Miguel made his reservations online.  The instructions included the options of paying either at a bank or at one of the local grocery stores and Miguel had to pay within 9 hours to keep his reservation.  Neither of the bank options worked, but he was able to successfully pay the 8,000 pesos (around 800$) at the grocery store and they gave him a receipt for the payment that also indicated his reservation number.

He did a little shopping and then came back to finish packing.  I sent him off in a taxi around 8:30 p.m. to the  Estrella Roja (Red Star) bus station that would take him directly to the international airport in Mexico City, which is a really convenient bus service to have and cheap at about 18$ one way.  I heard from him a couple of times before I went to sleep and didn't expect to hear from him until he was in Venezuela.

At 1:40 a.m. I got a message from Miguel saying he'd missed his flight.  Turns out that his payment never showed up in the airline's system, so they wouldn't issue his ticket.  They told him that he had to pay 24 hours in advance, silly, because sometimes there are emergencies, people!  Then they told him that he should have paid at the ticket agency in the airport, even though the airline had only given him 9 hours to pay the ticket or lose the reservation.  Paying the ticket at the airport is risking not getting a seat if the flight suddenly fills up!

They were not helpful, in short, and at one point one of the agents at the ticket counter lied to Miguel when he asked for a manager. The man said that all of the managers had gone home by then, but Miguel later discovered that there were actually TWO managers on duty at that time.  He spoke to one of them who looked over his papers and said he'd go check something and be right back...only he never returned.  The other manager just handed Miguel a complaint form.

The only thing they would do for him was to change his reservation to the following day, but that wouldn't get Miguel there in time for the funeral, so he just decided to come back home.  He asked the airline for a refund, but they referred him to the grocery store and said he'd have to get the money back from them.  The most likely scenario will be, however, that the grocery store will just refer him back to the airline!

I had gotten to bed late and hadn't really been asleep that long when I got Miguel's message about missing his flight. Then I had a hard time going back to sleep.  Miguel arrived back home around 4 a.m. and I had to go down to let him in the door and pay the taxi, which further interrupted my sleep.  And Miguel had to get up early to take Micah and some other neighbor boys to the American football practices that Micah goes to on Saturday mornings.  So neither of us got much sleep last night.

Such a crazy day!  I was already emotional from having to tell Gloria that we're moving and seeing how sad she was...and while I was happy that Miguel could go to Venezuela for a couple of weeks, I was feeling the strain of the separation and goodbye (it's a bit disconcerting having my husband be a continent never know what will happen!).  And then just like that, he was back, snuggled with me in bed and not going anywhere.

I also knew he was severely frustrated and very disappointed by the whole situation.  He told me later that it just wasn't a good idea to try to go on such short notice, but I don't agree.  It wasn't a bad decision at all!  Pastor Nieves was a huge part of his life for many years and there is nothing wrong with wanting to attend the funeral of a man like that.  People have emergencies all the time and airlines should be able to provide the services needed for emergency travel like that.  For some unknown reason(s), it didn't work out and we're trusting God that He had a purpose and a plan.

But yeah, a really crazy day!  And now we have some suitcases to unpack...

Hard Goodbyes and Changes

Goodbyes are usually hard, although some of them more than others.  Changes are a constant in our lives on the mission field and all of them bring with them losses and gains.

Change is on us again and we are once more saying goodbyes and some of them are really hard.

The first stage in our ministry plan is completed (woohoo!) and we have been sensing that in order to move forward with the next step of our ministry plan, it will be strategic for us to move to another town closer to the mountains.  The second step of our ministry plan involves a completing survey investigation/research project among the Totonacan people group to investigate the penetration of the Gospel into the Totonacan communities and the discipleship process in the Totonacan churches.  In order to really be able to carry out this survey project, we will have to make more frequent trips to the mountains to visit our Totonacan contacts in the various communities there.

In thinking about a strategic place for us to live, we chose a small town to the north of Puebla that is a hub for bus transportation for the mountain communities. This little town is also the home base of a small mission agency called LAMM. LAMM mobilizes Mexican missionaries to go overseas with agencies such as Pioneers, Wycliffe and Frontiers.  Since LAMM has a partnership agreement with Pioneers, however, any Mexican missionaries that God might raise to join our project among the Totonacan people would be members of LAMM.  This week we had a long conversation with the LAMM director and his coworker and we were able to discuss various ways that we could be of mutual benefit once we live in this little town.

As exciting as it is to be moving forward with our ministry plan, moving away from our cozy home on Totchli Street and away from Puebla implies saying goodbyes to some pretty amazing friendships that God has sent our way.  It also means disconnecting a bit from our local church here in Puebla, although we will continue to work closely with them as we continue to develop a partnership to help them carry out their vision for reaching the Totonacan people.

We're still letting people know that we're moving and it's hard knowing how people like our small group family (and Gracia's best friend who is their daughter) will react. I was able to talk to one of my best friends here last week, Monica, about our impending move and afterwards I allowed myself a few days to really grieve over the loss of her friendship.  We are really two peas in a pod and I have enjoyed Monica's friendship deeply.

What I dreaded the most, however, was telling our neighbors that we were leaving, especially our neighbors Liberal and Gloria.  We have found a rare kind of friendship in this special family and they love our kids as if they were their own.  And while we're not moving away from Mexico altogether and will be living less than an hour away, it still won't be the same as living three doors down from each other.

When we first moved here, I was tempted not to get to know the neighbors that well because I knew our stay here would be rather temporary.  But instead of holding myself back and away, I willingly opened myself up to the new friendships anyway and I found out that just like I read here, the relationship is always worth the goodbye.

So yesterday I worked up my courage and told Gloria that we were moving.  And I was right, she didn't take it very well and ended up sobbing on my shoulder for a few minutes as she tried to assimilate that news.  Then we went to her house and she loved on me with coffee and cookies and we talked of our plans.

Once we decided to move a couple of weeks ago, things started happening really fast!  Another missionary family here approached us with the idea of house-sitting for them during the months of June and July while they take a trip back stateside.  Their house is roomy (with four full bathrooms!) and located on a large property with plenty of space for kids and dog to run and play.  And taking care of their house will also give us the opportunity to move out of this house and turn it back over to the owners without the pressure of trying to pack while living here at the same time.

So by the end of July, we hope to have a house in a different town and be settling in there to focus on the survey investigation and new ministry opportunities.  We plan to continue to visit Puebla from time to time, possibly weekly since Gracia would like to continue her dance classes.  And we do look forward to continuing to build our relationship with our church here in Puebla as we partner together to reach the Totonacan people.

Exciting stuff, but in the meantime, the goodbyes rather stink.