Thursday, November 17, 2011
We got up half an hour earlier than usual (6:30 instead of 7) to get ready and have breakfast, because instead of having devotions at the house, we were having them at the church (which is about an hour away). So I set my alarm for 6 in order to have time for my devotions. It went off, but I didn't get up.
The devotion was excellent...about moving away from what is comfortable and familiar in order to have a wider range of service and usefulness, with the illustration of the hermit crab, which has to leave its comfortable shell in search of a larger one, and some striking personal examples from her life.
After devotions, I got back in the van. I was paired with U, and several other ladies also came with us. First we dropped J off at the bus station. She is going to lead the women's house in Sevilla until the new year.
Then we went to the grocery store to pick up food donations. We filled the back of the van with what they ave us, and then we brought it to the rastro (secondhand store) where we unloaded it into their food bank.
Then we went back to the house, where R, Lucy, U, and I made some crafts to sell. I was doing the lettering on some plaques that had artwork depicting a certain verse.
The new girl, Q, joined U and I in the afternoon, while R and Lucy went to clean the school that C and I had cleaned the day before. We let Q paint on a plaque, and she asked me to write her daughter's name on it with a verse she had selected. I did, and she was inexpressibly happy with it. Her daughter, Mayte, is 10 and lives with her grandparents.
Curiously, a few of the plaques I was supposed to write on disappeared at some point during the time we were sitting there.
One interesting thing that happened was that suddenly a bird flew up from the floor and crashed into the window, trying to get out. U got up to try to catch it, and so did I, but it flew up from the corner where it had fallen and crashed into another window. Then it flew down the hall. I opened two outside doors and followed it down the hall. I found it on the ground, so exhausted it didn't make the smallest protest or struggle when I picked it up. I took it outside and it seemed half-dead. It was sort of laid stiffly over on its side with its beak open. U came out with me and I asked her where I could give it a drop of water before I let it go. She turned on the hose and wet her hands and held some water up to its beak, at which point it flew over to a bush. It clung there, almost upside down, still panting. Then it darted into a thick evergreen bush, and U and I went back inside.
When R got back from cleaning the school, she was unhappy that we had made the plaque for Q's daughter. She explained that no one was allowed to make personal gifts, because these crafts were things to sell.
Later, she discovered that the few plaques were missing, and that became a pretty big deal. I said that they were there, and then they were gone, and the only person who was there with us was Q, but she never...well, I never saw her take them, so I didn't know if she did it or not.
R said to me, "You don't know us. All of us have had to survive on the street. I could leave you without clothes without you knowing it." I burst into a laugh.
"You don't believe it, but it's true," O said.
"I could get your necklace off just walking by you," R said. "I could get all the coins out of your pocket without you feeling it."
"No, it's not that I don't believe you," I said. "It just gives me such a vivid mental image."
"Q has been here before," R said. "And you have to realize that we know her and what she's like. She has sticky fingers. This is why we can't leave her alone, ever."
"Okay," I said. My whole sense of safety was being shattered. Not just Q, but all these women knew how to do this. And I was about as innocent and unsuspecting a target as they could wish for. Most of them were already changed through the work of God in their lives, but I realized that the only thing standing in between me losing my stuff was each woman's self-discipline, inhibitions, and responsibility. And that invisible barrier surely lay in a different place for each individual. And I could not possibly know where that was for any person. For that matter, the only thing that stands between me and any kind of crime by any person in the world is that person's inhibitions. Self-discipline is where the rubber meets the road. No matter what the law says. All my life I have been around people whose barrier of "What I Will Not Do" is approximately equal to the Biblical standard (and approximately equal to my own). Even general American society, Christian or non, is more restrained (and therefore "safe") than most other countries. But suddenly my assumption was shattered that any given person would have that invisible barrier, this internal impediment to, say, stealing, lying, or committing a violent assault, against whoever they wanted, at any time they wanted.
R came back in with Q, and Q started telling me that the two plaques she had painted were not the ones that were missing. I said, "I know. I know you painted blank ones. But do you remember the 4 or 5 that were sitting right here? One had two flowers, one had a gold ring around the edge, a couple of oval ones and a couple rectangles?"
"No. I don't know what you're talking about. I've never seen them." Q said.
"Remember how you pointed to the two blue flowers and showed me?" I said. "You pointed at the flowers and said you wanted to paint some flowers."
"No, I have no idea," Q said. "I never saw them."
R broke in and said to me, "Okay. Until Q behaves herself, she has lost her bookshelf. She will have to keep all her books in a drawer from now on until she can show us that she can be trusted. And we can not ever allow her to be in our room alone without you or I present.
I nodded my understanding, and Q, who was standing there, understood, too, by reading R's lips.
"I don't care if she gets mad at me," R continued. "That's not important. What is important is that she learn that things don't work that way around here. This is for her own sake, for her own good."
"Okay," I nodded. "Yes, I agree with you."
So R took away Q's bookshelf and she had to move all her books into the salon. There were two little leaflet-type booklets, maybe 24 pages or something, that were hers, and these she took and ripped out the first page, which had her name written in it. "Here," she said sarcastically. "You can have these. I can't have books anymore--If I can't have a shelf, I don't want them. So you take them. They're for you."
"No," I said mildly. "Don't do this to your books." But she crumpled up the ripped-out pages, threw them in the trash, and stuffed the booklets in with my books on my shelf.
About 10:00 pm...or after, I'm not sure... A got a phone call and burst into tears. I was just passing through the hallway where she was when she got the call, and the look of agony and pain on her face was unforgettable.
R and O got one each side of her and they went into her office and closed the door.
When O came out, she whispered to me, "Su novio" (her fiancee). I had heard the girls praying for a "P," and I had asked who he was. "A's fiancee," they told me. "He is a Betelito, too. they had a wedding date set and everything, but then his kidney got really bad and he's waiting for a transplant."
News trickled out little by little that he was now in a coma and wasn't expected to come out of it. Most of us girls went into the salon to pray. We prayed fervently and unitedly for healing for P, and strength for A, who had left for the hospital.
At one point in our prayer, I had a curious, but definite sensation that God had answered our prayer and granted healing. I felt a peace, and an assurance that was so deep, the natural thing to do would have been to break out into rejoicing over God's answer. But I didn't, because I felt like, "Am I hearing right? Is this really God? How do I know?" So I kept it to myself. But the feeling didn't go away, and I decided, "Well, at any rate, I'm just going to give in to it and believe it's true and see what happens. What do I have to lose?"
After our prayer time, everyone was very quiet and we tiptoed to our beds.
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