Thursday, May 7, 2009

Together we build our church

About three weeks ago I was invited to join in a staff meeting at Santiago with Toty, the director, and 4 other teachers (Junior, Daniel, Elizabeth, Olguita).

With the new school year starting mid-April, Toty began the meeting by reminding us all to welcome the 10-or-so new students exhuberantly into the family of Centro Educativo Santiago Apóstol. Then she continued by pointing out how very shortstaffed they currently are - in need of a new school psychologist, a new teacher, and a new community liason / social worker-- nevermind classroom space and supplies. Then, with a recent newspaper article in hand about social epidemics, she pointed out that just as the Apostles were small group of people that were able to do something so huge as spreading the Gospel and starting a Church, so too can they start a social epidemic as a small group of people. As teachers and mentors to 50-something former working children, they affect the lives of the kids, who affect the families, who affect the communities. But, what Toty really emphasized as the most important thing is that everything they do must be centered in the truth of Christ, crucified and resurrected. It wouldn´t matter if they had a beautiful building, all the school supplies they needed, and 10 more school psychologists and staff--it would be worth nothing if we didn´t have the love of God in our hearts. We need to trust God beyond all things, putting our faith not in our own efforts but in God working through us.

Toty spoke beautifully and eloquently on these themes for about an hour, then asked us what we think about all of this.

Junior spoke about his desire for a sense of fraternity amongst the staff; Daniel said something that i didn´t pay attention to at all because i was still so blown away by Toty. Then they all looked at me, and asked me what i thought.

First, i said i was without words because i was so moved by everything. Then for the first time in my 8 months working there, i shared myself with my ecua-coworkers, i spoke from my heart. I said that i was really touched by everything Toty said because it is so close to Rostro´s mission and so important to me in my own life. I told them that what Toty said about trusting not our efforts but God working through us is what allowed me to show up there every morning, because i´d never had experience working with kids before, never spoke spanish before, and never taught before--everything they needed me to do for them. I wrapped up my two cents by gushing about how much i love the Foundation and hope to have coworkers like them wherever i end up in the States.

Well they apparently had no idea that i came here with zero of the skills i have now, and they had no idea that i´m as obsessed with them as i am. What a great feeling, to be known. It was scary. I was vulnerable, and i was human.

Then to top it all off, Olguita allowed herself to be vulnerable too. Olguita is this tiny yet larger-than-life woman who has intimidated me for 8 months because of how strict she can seem, how in-control she is over everything (in a ¨i won´t ask anything important of you because you won´t do it exactly the way i want it¨ kind of way), but most of all, how she commands such respect and obedience of a group of pre-teen girls that won´t ever give me the time of day. In this meeting she was nearly in tears saying that she is so nervous for the new students to arrive--what would their challenges be? how would she respond to them? how would she teach them? The unknowns terrified her.

Imagine me sitting there, as this woman became human for the first time in my eyes. How on earth could she feel that way? She knows everything! I talked with her after the meeting and apparently she also had no idea that i thought this of her. And she denied being invincible.

I saw humanity in that meeting, and through that, saw divinity. This is the church. This is people called together. This is solidarity. This is people not working jobs, but working to participate in the building up of the Kingdom of God in Guayaquil. Since that day, i no longer show up every morning in timidness but in joy.

Hey--maybe solidarity really can change the world.

Please pray for the foundation as it struggles with finances and personnel to offer education, love, and reconciliation to Guayaquil´s streetkids.

If so moved, donations can be made to Centro Educativo Santiago Apòstol by donating to Rostro de Cristo and earmarking it for the school.