Thursday, January 22, 2009

Another unavoidable rule of life

Most people are familiar with Murphy and his famous law, “whatever can go wrong, will.” It states clearly and concisely one of the little interesting facts of life on this planet. There have been books written about it, and other people have discovered other similar laws; we have Finagle's law, Godwin's law, Hanlon's Razor, and the Peter principle. I would like to propose a new one, that I have observed to be invariably true, and I would like to modestly suggest that it be called Riggs's Rule of Time and Events. It could be stated like this, “whenever there is too much to do in the time you have, there will be something else to do as well.” This law was operating at it's finest this last Monday.

Since moving from Lima, about a month ago, we have been waiting for our furniture, the bulk of our clothes, books, etc to get here. During this time, we have had many false alarms – the truck will be there on Friday, or Tuesday, but after we stayed home waiting, canceling meetings, missing church, basically prisoners in our apt.; the truck doesn't show up. The first truck – we were only supposed to have one truck, but that is another story – arrived 3 days after we were told it would. And it arrived when Munay had about 1,397 people from every pueblo in the region for a meeting about forming an agricultural cooperative. So, on the only day that there was no room for a truck in the property, we had a truck. Now that is merely classic Murphy, but the second truck is Riggs's Rule.

Last week we were repeatedly assured by the local manager of the trucking company that the truck would arrive Saturday morning. In the meantime, Cayo Vargas, brought a young couple out to meet us. You may remember them from the last blog. David is a Peruvian, who went to Brazil to study to be a church planter. While there, he met Leila, a Brazilian studying at the same Institute. As happens so frequently at Bible (Bridal) colleges and institutes, they fell in love and David proposed, she accepted. They wanted to have their civil wedding in Peru, because his family could not make it to Brazil. They had spent almost all their money just getting here and on the paperwork for an international wedding and needed an inexpensive place to have the wedding. It was discovered that, since we are not Peruvians, we couldn't be the Padrinos. So, we thought that we had dodged a bullet. Cayo suggested that they hold the ceremony here in the auditorium. We thought that this was a great idea and readily agreed to help with the decorations and clean-up. After all the wedding was to be on Monday, we had nothing else to do, because we would have finished not only unloading and hauling everything up to our second floor apt, but gotten a good start on putting it all away.

Since we are VIP's ( Visibly International People) they still wanted me to participate in the wedding, and who can say “no” to that honor and privilege. I would just have to dress up and read some scripture. Piece of cake, right? Who sees Riggs's Rule beginning to rear it's ugly head, hmmm? The trucking company called and said that the truck was running behind and would be here late on Saturday. We believed them, thus proving to anyone who still had a doubt, that yes, several of our screws are loose or even missing entirely. We waited all day Saturday – no truck. Sunday morning early we got a call, “the truck is in town, will be out there shortly.” We spent Sunday afternoon waiting for the truck and helping decorate the auditorium for the wedding, Chris got to do the high work. He climbed up a stool on a chair to stand on a table on a table. Still no truck. That night at 7 we went to church, where due to more interesting coincidences having to do with transportation, the guest preacher hadn't shown up. Guess who had to preach on 5 minutes notice = )

The wedding was scheduled for 11 in the morning. By 10 there still was no truck. We had been finishing decorating the auditorium all morning and were still in work clothes. We waited as long as possible, then went up to get dressed for the ceremony. Then the truck showed up. Right after the wedding guests had begun to arrive. Our dog, the aptly named Bother was on the truck and soooo excited to see us. It is amazing how aromatic a dog can get in a truck on a cross country trip in the summer. We quickly unloaded the truck and hauled everything up the stairs and did an astounding quick change. As we came down the stairs I was trying to fix my tie, which had decided to be either 3 inches long or hang to my knees. When Cayo brought over a man to meet me, I realized that I hadn't yet tied my shoes. Nice to meet you Mr. Mayor.

We somehow made it through the service, we got great seats – right in the back row - and were dazedly half listening to the mayor read all of the legal mumbo-jumbo of a Peruvian civil wedding - “paragraph 407 ... the husband may not prevent the wife from voting in any case, even if she will cancel his vote by voting for the opposing candidate, or even if it means that she can't cook lunch that day. The in-laws, as well may not …” and so on and on. Suddenly I heard the phrase, “honored national of the United States, Meekay, will now do the arglebarzh” (at least it sounded like arglebarzh). I looked around in sudden and sheer panic at the standing room only crowd in the auditorium. They were all staring at me expectantly. Not all prayers are answered “yes”, I know this because the earth did not open and swallow me. I stood and smiled tranquilly and hissed at Tammy, “what is an arglebargle? Wadda I do?” She smiled at me pleasantly and gave me a gentle shove. I thought wives were supposed to be Helpmeets.

As I gravely walked across to the mayor, with sweaty hair and smelling of dog and absolutely no idea what I was supposed to do, the phrase “dead man walking” kept running through my head. I had one chance, Cayo and his wife, Elizabeth, were the Padrinos (official witnesses) and she was standing where I would have to pass her to get to the mayor. Maybe a quick question and answer could pull my bacon out of the fire. “Eli”. I whispered, “what am I supposed to do?” She gave me a smile and said, “entregar” “Deliver?” Deliver what? How? The next thing I know the mayor is handing me a stiff piece of parchment paper with signatures and seals and stamps and smiling and shaking my hand. I wisely stand there holding the paper, a statue couldn't have done better. After a couple of seconds that sped by like eons, the mayor nods toward the couple. I smile stupidly and stick the paper at the couple, they won't take it. Cayo catches my eye and whispers, “say something”. I wonder how the Gettysburg address would sound. Instead, I beam proudly at the young couple, just as if they were my idea and thank the mayor for the opportunity, mention how happy I am to be there (not entirely the truth, all in all I would rather have been somewhere - anywhere else) and ask God's blessing on the young couple, encourage them and say a brief prayer. Then I hold the document out again and (sigh of relief) Leila takes it. After shaking the mayors hand, I stride back to my seat. Or I try to, Tammy is being brought up front and we are placed in the front row on the side in full view of everyone.

For it is time for Lunch, in no time at all we find ourselves with huge platters containing a half of a fried chicken, 2 massive boiled potatoes, 2 cups of mote' (kind of like hominy on steroids) and ocopa sauce. This is accompanied by a fork, a plastic fork. Do you know how hard it is to eat a half of a fried chicken with only a fork (can't use your fingers in the front row) or peel mote' when you have to keep one hand on your plate. I smoothly threw half of my first potato on the floor, where it rolled over to the bride and groom...

At 6 P.M. We got back upstairs to our apartment, and were greeted effusively by Bother. We fixed coffee for Cayo and Elizabeth and introduced them to Bother (who greeted them effusively as well).We were tired, sweaty, smelled like dog and we had to assemble our beds before we could sleep. And we were happy. Even though, Riggs's Rule was fully operational, we spent the day with our friends here, we had participated in the marriage of a wonderful young couple, we met some wonderful new friends, had a great lunch and didn't need supper. All was at peace, we were cozy and content – then the phone rang.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

"The Case of the Missing Finger" or "Money, Medical, and Matrimony

We are really immersed in Andahuaylas now. We have gotten started
with the Bible Institute work, joined a church (the Iglesia Evangelica
Peruana Central) in Andahuaylas, and we are really seeing all of the
Challenges here - including ones that we hadn't expected. That's what
I want to share with you.
One new challenge is managing our money - but not in the way that is
usually meant. Since we have been in Peru, we have been using ATM
machines to withdraw our salary. It is deposited once a month, and we
are used to taking out a little as we need it and leaving the rest in
our U.S. bank account to avoid carrying much or having much money
stored in our apartment. That worked great in Lima, but it is a
different story here. Monday we went into town, the ONLY ATM machine
in the city to withdraw money for this week - but it was down for
service. We decided to wait on Chris's Birthday present until the
next day - which was his birthday. But, the ATM was still down, we
asked the manager, what was going on, and he told us that it should be
fixed that day, the technical service guy was on his way. So, we
decided to mostly postpone Chris's Birthday and come back to town the
next day. But, you guessed it, the ATM still was down, and the
manager told us, "Sorry, but he is a long way away and he's taking a
while getting here." In the meantime, we are wondering how we can pay
for the rest of our freight, eat and have a birthday for a 12 year
old. And we have learned a valuable lesson. When the ATM works
withdraw everything at as soon as possible and deposit it in our new
bank account at the local bank.

The second challenge is to be "testigos", official witnesses at a
wedding. Here in Peru you have to have a Civil wedding to be
officially married. A religious wedding is important for Christians,
but without the Civil, there is no official wedding. Another local
custom is that the "Testigos" play hard to get and demand payment,
meals, bribes, etc. to sign on the line. Well, there is a young
couple, a Peruvian who went to Brazil to be trained a as a pastor and
his betrothed, a Brazilian. Now we know from experience that it is
hard for a foreigner to marry a Peruvian - since we just went through
this with Becky. So we understand they are in the middle of a lot of
complicated paperwork - and a lot of costs. This young couple are
coming here to work, he has accepted a call to serve as a pastor here
and she is happy to come here as well. However, they don't have
anything to pay the "testigos" - without them there is no legal
wedding. To make a long story short, someone suggested to them that
Tammy and I would be perfect to be "testigos" and that in the US no
one pays witnesses for a wedding and we wouldn't ask for anything. So
we agreed, now we find out if there is a second shoe to drop. Because
one of our capacities here is Marriage counselor, we were also asked
to counsel them. Oh, and we have to fit it all in in 5 days.

Our third new challenge is medical. Where we live, Munay Wasi, has in
the past had regular medical teams from France, and the locals assume
that anytime there is a foreign group living at Munay, they can come
here and get medical attention, we have been asked to do eye exams and
cataract surgery, to set a broken leg, and to treat a child who has
some sort of crippling disease. But the most memorable happened this
last Saturday morning there was a big meeting of local farmers at
Munay Wasi. We were eating breakfast when there came a knock at the
door, I went to answer it and there were 2 men, some of the farmers,
one who had a rather dirty gauze pad on his hand. In broken Spanish,
because they were Quechua speakers they asked if we could "do a cure "
on his cut finger. Now, we have two boys, and so we always have
bandaids, and antiseptic and antibacterial ointment on hand, and we
are pretty competent to handle a cut finger - we thought! Tammy had
come to the door by this time and she asked him to remove the bandage
so we could get a look at his finger. He unwrapped the gauze and
showed his cut finger - only it wasn't a cut on his finger, it was a
CUT OFF FINGER! It looked like something only sort of sharp but heavy
or forceful had cut/mashed the first joint and a half of his finger
(probably a machete) - I didn't faint (but the world did become a
little blurry for a moment. We had to tell him that we couldn't help
him with this, and asked if he had gone to the medical post. He had,
but didn't have enough money to stitch him up. God intervened in that
Drs. Julio & Maria Elena happened to come out for a visit shortly
thereafter, and the man was still here for the farmers meeting. They
were able to get him treatment.

Whatever else it may be Missionary life is never dull.

God bless,
Mike

Friday, January 9, 2009

Acostumbrarse - getting used to our new home

Remember the fable about the country mouse and the city mouse? Neither one fitted in in their new environment. They had a lot to learn if they were to swap places. Aesop's story about those 2 mice has always amused me, it is funny to see someone so out of place. Many TV shows have milked this theme for plots - from Green Acres (showing my age) to Perfect Strangers to Survivor, etc. It is always funny to see the confused and befuddled actions of the person put in a different setting - unless you are that person.
We have been living in a massive city of over 10,000,000 with all of the amenities and problems, activities and danger, hurried and frantic pace for over 4 years. Now we are in the beautiful little provincial capital of Apurimac, Andahuaylas. And - BOY! - have we got a lot to learn (and unlearn). Little things like, where can you buy large containers of safe drinking water, a 2-6 week wait for a telephone, or even how to cook beans.
The people here will tell you, with a straight face that we "aren't at a high altitude" - but they mean something different than that means in the States. We are at about 10,000' above sea level. Just about twice as high as Denver. But here in the Peruvian Andes, people live at higher altitudes than anywhere else in the world. So to them 10,000 is not high 15,000 - 16,000 is pretty high. But you know something? 10,000' is high when you are used to sea level. Yesterday Tammy tried to cook some beans. She soaked them a good long while and then put them on the stove as she has done for years. We were all waiting on those beans for a good lunch, but oddly they were still like gravel at lunch time, so we decided to eat something else and have the beans for supper. Wrong! They were still little rock hard pellets. Then we thought to look up cooking at high altitude online. So Tammy did a search about high altitude bean cooking. After clicking and going away for a while (like the old commercial where the guy is waiting on a download and bakes a cake, etc - that is something else different here, real s-l-o-w internet) she found out that, ha ha, guess what? Gotta do it all differently! No one told us that - of course for our friends here, this is normal, so why would they tell us?
I could go on, but, if I write to much it might not send :-/, so I will leave it with this. It is beautiful here, the work is exciting and fulfilling, the people are great, but we gotta go through the adaptation to a new culture, climate, and altitude. Fortunately, we serve a great God who is helping us up when we fall and helping us keep perspective and a sense of humor!

Blessings,
Mike

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Prayer and Praise

Please pray:
  • For Tammy's mom, Annette Meeker, who is recovering from a heart attack. She has had two stents placed, and if all goes well will leave the hospital Saturday.
  • For our (Mike, Tammy, Colin, and Chris's) adjustment here in a new environment. We are having to re-learn how to shop, cook, etc.
  • For safe transfer of our books and other things, as well as our pets. This is complicated because the buses, that until recently carried livestock such as goats in the passenger compartment, now will not even permit cats in cargo. Everything is going by the truck that delivers to the hardware store.
  • For Tim and his fiancee Brittney as they look for God's direction for training and a mission board.
  • For Becky and Miguel as they struggle with the hardships of serving in Lima.
  • For Association Kawsay as we will be meeting to chart our course for 2009.
Praise God for:
  • A wonderful prayerful first meeting.
  • The loan of a motor scooter from one of the brothers here in Andahuaylas to help with transportation.
  • Finding a church home here at the Central Peruvian church.
  • The warm welcome we have received here in Munay Wasi and in Andahuaylas.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

In Andahuaylas for 2009


We arrived in Andahuaylas Tuesday night, December 30, after an uneventful (but looong and boring - 30 hrs.) trip.

All of our things that we are moving are still in Lima, including the pets, to be sent along later (the rates were exorbitant for the time between Christmas and New Years.) Our good friend Paco Laos is coordinating the move of the stuff.

Most people in Peru do not move, and there are no moving companies or truck rentals. In addition you have to have police permission for a move. And boxes are next to impossible to find. We have everything packed in the big raffia bags (see picture) that serve for most of the luggage and business transport here and a few plastic containers for fragile items. And cages for the animals.

We passed a very quiet New Years, as Chris and Mike were sick. They both had eggs over(ly) easy for breakfast on the trip.

Please pray for Chris and Mike to continue to get better quickly. Also pray for the smooth arrangement and safe transport of our goods and pets.

We begin our work here on Saturday, with a day of meetings, fasting and prayer with the members of Kawsay.