Thursday, April 26, 2012

hora chapin

Brandon here. Or there. Anyway.

I have our blogs and website, etc, in my e-mail sig file. I forget that's there and that anyone who reads an e-mail can in one little click go to blogs that we have not updated in months. I say I'm too busy but the reality is that I have time I just wasn't sure anyone was reading. But that's sort of not the point. Sure, we want people to read, but what happened is that I began corresponding with some folks who were here serving at "my little refuge", an orphanage nearby, and they mentioned they went to our blogs to see more about missionary life. Shame. Because this one hadn't been updated since...I have no idea.

So, here's a little Spanish lesson and a few things about getting places on time.

I teach adult Sunday School from 9:30-10:30. In the US that means folks show up at 9:30 and we end at 10:30. Mostly. Here...not so much.

There are different ways to measure time. We can talk about the fact that an hour is 60 minutes no matter where you are and that Einstein thinks if you obtain sufficient velocity that changes, but that doesn't matter. Guatemalan Birthday party invitations always give the time 30 minutes before anyone is supposed to arrive. It says 3:30, get there at 4:00 or later. 5:00 would not be too strange. Show up at 3:30 and you'll be lonely. It's called 'hora chapin'. Hora means time. Chapin means Guatemalan. It's Guatemalan Time. 

So. Back to Sunday School.

I prepared 12 sessions of 60-90 minutes each and have 17 weeks to teach them. No problem, right? Except that 9:30 is hora chapin. So I show up every Sunday at 9:25. Set up. And wait. By 9:45 there are 2-3 people there. Well, at least normally. By 10:00 we've got 15 or so. I end at 10:30 because I said I would and we get about 30 minutes of good time together. 

I knew this going in and asked my Guatemalan friends for suggestions. I was told we needed to have an enrollment sheet called an inscripciĆ³n where folks put their name and check when they came and then sign their name, which is supposed to add to the commitment. I did that. I was also told that for those who attend 80% of the classes a diploma or a certificate will be given. Those are big here. You get a certificate for just about everything. So I did that and got 34 folks signed up.

Still, 9:45, I have 3.

So what constitutes attendance? How do I say someone has been there 80% of the time if they just come for the last 15 minutes? Does that count?

I have 4 weeks to figure this out because I won't teach this week due to a regional meeting of folks occuring during Sunday school. I was informed of this last week. And then after that I have four weeks because the anniversary of the church is the last week of May and they cancel Sunday school. 

Reality is that no one will attend 80% of the time - it's a mathematical impossibility. And I can't really give them a diploma for finishing the training because I will only get midway through 8 of 12 sessions. So what do I do?

I would love suggestions. Truly.

Reality again: the point is not to finish, but to teach those who are there, where they are at, and roll with it. It's frustrating from a gringo's perspective because I want to finish what I started just to finish it, who cares if I learn anything. Time is money, investment, right?

Maybe it's me who needs to adjust my idea of time?

And yet we are called to 'redeem the time because the days are evil'. Is it ok that they come to a 9:30 class at 10:00, or do I confront that and try to encourage them to get there on time because it's the best thing to do? 

I tried to laugh about no one getting there on time, make self-depreciating gringo jokes, I even asked the  adults why the college kids got to their class on time but they seemed unable. None of this worked, of course. I asked other church members and they told me that Sunday, people just want to relax so it's hard for them to get there on time. I asked if we should make it from 10-10:30 but they laughed and said people would still come late.

So I just throw the lesson plan out and roll with it. I got frustrated, don't get me wrong, but I'm not here to teach people to arrive in a timely manner - I'm here to teach people how to walk with Jesus - and sometimes that's done best hora chapin.  


  1. Brandon,
    I think you guys are the coolest people on the planet, and far be it for me to give you advice...but since you asked...
    I heard an amazing truth from a missionary that lived in India for many decades. He said, "It is much easier for you to become like them than for all of them to become like you." He had to learn that lesson the hard way, but basically he discovered that once he became more Indian his life got much easier. I know without a doubt that you guys are following that truth, but sometimes it is good to hear it again. I say that you should continue to roll with it and keep your focus on Him Who Controls All Time. As far as the certificates, it is just a piece of paper. My degree? A piece of paper. Your degree? A piece of paper. In the end it isn't our pieces of paper that define us or that win our neighbors to Christ. But if a piece of paper gives them confidence and a sense of accomplishment and will serve as a reminder of their progress, then you are 100% correct when you say that the point is not to finish but to teach. I say give them a certificate. It doesn't have to say that they completed the course, but maybe that they attended. :)
    Again, you guys rock, and I hope you take this in the loving spirit that it is intended. :)


  2. Brandon - you and Jenny are AMAZING!