The churches I work with are organized geographically into sectors. Xela and it's nearby towns are in Sector 7 of the Consejo Altiplano. I'm not sure how many people are actually in this area, but I'd guess somewhere around 500,000 people live within 20 miles of Xela. There are a total of 4 Central American Churches here with a tiny 5th congregation trying to get enough people to be called a church. At what point it was determined that a certain number of people are required for a group to be called a church remains a mystery to me.
I've been translating a discipleship program called "f.e." and teaching it to the leaders of the churches both here and in other areas. In this area, Sector 7, I was supposed to just be teaching the pastors and elders the material so that they could then in turn teach it to their churches. It morphed into me teaching all the church members - the very thing I hoped to avoid. I have erred in some way and haven't yet been able to determine if my goals were bad or if I just dropped the ball. Anyway, we were meeting monthly from 3:00-5:00 pm on Sunday. I doubt we could have chosen a worse time, but that's when they said we could meet. I could not meet last month because I had to travel on the one Sunday the churches were not having an activity and so we pushed it to August.
Yesterday was cool and drizzly. A wonderful day to nap or build legos with a five year old. But I needed (and wanted to, of course) teach the 9th session to these folks. And to be honest, working on Sunday is what I do and, Lord willing, will always do - it's life as we know it. In June we had a good group of 40 and so I was looking forward to it. I kissed the wife and kiddos goodbye and headed out.
The session was supposed to start at 3:00 so I arrived 5 minutes early so I could sit and wait 15 minutes before anyone showed up to unlock the church. If I get there 5 minutes late, one person always shows up early and asks me why I was late and makes a good humored joke about how they thought gringos were always on time. If I get there early, everyone is 10-30 minutes late. It's just how it goes.
One pastor shows up, then another, all by 3:05. So we stand outside in the drizzle while a homeless woman relieves herself 20 feet down the street and wait for the others. The pastor of the church calls me and asks if we are having the training today. Not a good sign. At 3:15 he arrives and he and I and the other two pastors determine that no one is coming. It starts raining a little harder and no one has keys to open the church so instead of getting wetter, we plan to meet at 3:00pm "en punto" (on the dot) in about two weeks to figure out what to do. The intermediate decision was that everyone in the Sector must be ordered to attend the session.
I stated, still in the rain, that I didn't want anyone obligated to come - I wanted those who wanted to come to come. Since that clearly wasn't working, they told me that in their culture you have to order people to come to church or they won't come.
So, today I prayed and asked the Lord to help. In two weeks we will meet from probably 3:00 to 7:00pm and hopefully during or before that time the Lord will help us to a solution.
I just need to make sure I get there on time.