What About This?

In the aftermath of the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, I have found myself in conversation with many different people. The clash between those gathered for the “Unite the Right” rally and the counter-protestors has brought a number of issues currently facing our country to the surface, and lots of questions and opinions have been fired back and forth. I have tried to puzzle some of them out in the following dialogue.

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“While there may have been Neo-Nazis, members of the KKK, and other white supremacist groups in attendance, the issue at hand in Charlottesville was the removal of a statue. These statues are strong symbols of southern heritage, a reminder of the valor of people’s ancestors, and taking them down is an attempt to rewrite history. How can we allow part of our history to be erased?” 

To begin, it is important to understand the nature of history. It is not a stable, empirical thing; rather it can change depending on who is telling it and what lens that person is using. Does that mean that there is no such thing as hard-evidence fact or truth of events that can be uncovered? No. Although accounts can vary, as with a scientific reality such as gravity, there are certain immutable facts that can be determined about an historical event. However, depending on how a person or a group views an event, it can change how they feel about it as well. In turn, emotions can lead to differing interpretations of events, and the omission or addition of parts of the story.

Statues are not built to tell a story. Statues are built to elicit an emotion from the person standing beneath them.

I recently spent a week in Berlin with a friend, and enjoyed an afternoon in the German history museum. This giant two story building tells the story of over 2,000 years of Germanic history, from Roman conquests to the Hapsburgs to the World Wars and finally the Cold War. What struck me was the full half a floor devoted to recounting the history of the Weimar Republic and the rise and control of the Nazis. The depth of detail was hard to process and more than I could absorb in a few hours, and no holds were barred in the gruesome story-telling. One could easily imagine how the Germans would want to forget such an ugly piece of their past. But rather than shy away, they have done their best to teach young and old what happened, and how not to have it happen again. What you do not see are statues or flags from the Third Reich, as these symbols were quickly removed from public display. Removal of public symbols did not remove them from history; instead they have been moved to museums and books, where students can learn from the past.

The removal of the confederate flag and confederate statues does not erase the history of the Civil War, neither does it change past events. Their absence removes an emotive symbol of a positive view of the Civil War, where slave-holders become heroic defenders of state’s rights. Were there Confederates who died defending their homes and livelihoods from perceived aggression? Yes, of course, which is the heritage wished to be preserved by those who protest the removal of statues. Are people entitled to hold these views? Yes, in a free society people must be allowed to see history how they wish. But the soldiers who died defending their homes and livelihoods died to defend an institution that used the forced free labor of black people.

History is not being erased. But keeping symbols of the confederacy in public spaces validates their actions in defense of slavery, and allows for a history where white supremacy was justified to be publicly legitimized. As long as we continue to idolize these individuals, how can we ever hope to claim that racism and racial division are a thing of the past? Best to keep such things in museums.

“But Lee wasn’t the only slaveholder in American history. Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, as did George Washington. If we begin pulling down statues of anyone involved with slavery then many of the public ‘symbols’ of our founding fathers will be removed. It is a slippery slope.” 

Unlike Robert E. Lee, Jefferson and Washington both had important roles in the founding of the country that had nothing to do directly with slavery. Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence and an important framer of the Constitution. Washington not only led the colonists against the British, but was the first person in a modern government to hand over the reigns of power voluntarily under the laws of the Constitution. It is important to understand and learn from the cognitive dissonance inherent in owning human chattel while writing the words, “All men are created equal”, especially appreciating that Jefferson and Washington were flawed men who helped start a good yet improvable system. However, their historical significance is altogether different than Lee’s, who’s only legacy is being a leader in the defense of slavery.

“Well, regardless of the morality of their protest, people with any point of view are allowed free speech in this country. They should have been allowed to speak their point of view, even if you claim it is wrong.”

Free speech is a tricky issue, and must be looked at both from a civic and a governmental viewpoint. When freedom of press, freedom of speech and freedom of religion were written into the First Amendment, they were freedoms protected from government interference. For all of European history, negative speech against the monarch or the ruling religion would guarantee you jail time, if not death. The Founders recognized the need to protect criticism of one’s government in order for it to function democratically, otherwise someone criticizing the Catholic church and the Kennedy’s would have had the Secret Service arriving at their house to arrest them. What is not protected under the First Amendment is the freedom to force other people to listen to you. Neo-Nazis, confederate flag carrying Ku Klux Klan members, and other types of white supremacists are free to gather and scream their bigotry all they like, but they are not constitutionally protected from people opposed to hate and racism joining together and yelling louder than them. Further, in a fun twist of logic, since neo-Nazis are fascists and a fascist government is intolerant, we as a tolerant society must be intolerant of intolerance. Allowing neo-Nazis unbridled free speech jeopardizes everyone else’s right to the same.

“But the anti-fascist protestors were not simply yelling at the other side, they were attacking them with pepper spray, fists and sticks. As Trump said, there was violence on both sides.”

Yes, they were; and that is, in my opinion, both wrong and unhelpful to their cause. Although Antifa aligned groups believe violence is justified, it only deepens neo-Nazi and KKK convictions that violence is the answer and there can only be one group victorious from the bloody struggle. But I also recognize why Antifa groups use violence. Since one could make a logical conclusion that a tolerant society must be intolerant to intolerance, then preserving that tolerance may require resorting to violence. I still condemn it as wrong, but thinking along their lines of logic can be helpful in understanding their actions.

“So therefore, Trump isn’t wrong in condemning both sides. Overblown charges of racism towards the president are dishonest, as he has condemned white supremacist groups in the past. He is simply stating what you just said – violence is wrong.” 

Yes, the president has made comments condemning racism in the past and present. They are in existence and irrefutable. I can think of no instances where Trump has been aggressively, outright racist in calling for an ethno-genocide or declaring all black people inferior. But the point isn’t that he is racist; it is his comfortability with racists. It is hard to believe that he isn’t worried about the support of these fascist groups, considering his mysterious and sudden quiet in condemning them. Maybe he was away from Twitter? Except that on Sunday morning he Tweeted about the resignation of the Merck CEO, Ken Frazier (a man of color no less), a full 24 hours before he made a peep specifically condemning fascists. His silence is odd considering the president has much to say on many other topics that he is quick to respond to, without the level-headed air he has shown in regard to Charlottesville. Does this make him an outright racist? No, I don’t believe it does. Does it bring into question his ability to make critical decisions about the good of America in the face of his voting base? I absolutely think it does. All of this after asking the Countering Violent Extremism program to focus only on Islamist extremism.

“Why should Trump have to call out those groups in particular? Besides the young man who drove his car into counter-protestors, the anti-fascist groups were just as violent towards the fascists as the other way around. Antifa is especially bad. They’re a neo-communist group who want to put anyone that disagrees with them in a gulag. Stalin was responsible for the death’s of twice as many people as Hitler. They’re both equally bad.”

A few thoughts. While Antifa members may have used violence against these neo-Nazi groups, there are several important differences that distinguish Nazis from anti-fascists. First, Antifa are not communists. In fact, anarcho-communist websites have denounced Antifa groups as not communist. Rather, they operate along anarchist principles, meaning (simply put) that they oppose totalitarian government and operate horizontally, without any formal leadership. Their focus is on disrupting racism and fascism where they see it publicly rear its ugly head. They feel that their use of violence is justified, since the rhetoric of Nazis and white supremacists calls for violence against those who are different. Claiming that they want to throw anyone that disagrees with them into a gulag is simply ridiculous, as a gulag would be representative of a totalitarian state, the very thing which they are trying to resist against.

It is for this reason that it is completely disingenuous to posit that Antifa groups and white supremacist groups “are equally bad”. One of these groups is striving to eliminate Blacks, Jews, and others from existing in our society, and the other is trying to stop them, albeit with clubs and pepper spray. That is why Trump should be calling out white supremacist groups in person, instead of creating a false equalization placing these two organizations on equal sides of the spectrum. Further, when you watch the videos and hear the stories from Charlottesville, much of the violence which involved Antifa members were in moments where militarily armed neo-Nazis tried to beat unarmed, peaceful protestors.

These two sides are not equal. All violence does the same damage, but not all violence has the same origin.

“You never answered my other point from earlier, that Trump is simply calling out all violence. Obama never called out violence committed by Black Lives Matter and other black supremacy hate groups, even making the inference that it was white people’s fault that these attacks were happening. BLM and Antifa are not fringe groups, as white supremacist groups are. BLM and Antifa represent the heart of the left. Why is there no outrage from leftist leaders over their actions?”

In response to the first point, Obama has condemned violence, decrying the Dallas police shootings in 2016 as an act of “racial hatred”. Although the shooter claimed to align himself with the BLM movement, the movement itself did not claim responsibility, and likewise condemned the violence wrought upon the police officers. But we need to unpack a bit further the other claims made in that sentence. First, Black Lives Matter is neither a black supremacy group, nor is it a hate group. Groups like the New Black Panther Party, which is a black supremacy group do exist, and have been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as hate groups. The BLM movement has been specifically defined as a non-hate, equality focused group. They work closely with non-black groups and people, and encourage white people to attend their marches, protests and rallies. Be careful to not equate criticism of white people and white America with black supremacy. If you are uncomfortable with harsh criticisms of white people, allow me to quickly remind you of the past 500 years of racial history in the Western Hemisphere.

Around 1500, a whole host of European countries began realizing that native slave labor in the “New World” was going to run out (do to disease, rape, execution and general inhuman treatment). Their brilliant solution was to begin shipping millions of western Africans kidnapped from their homeland to the “New World” plantations, because white people were superior (ergo, white supremacy). Treated as disposable workhorses, these people created vast amounts of wealth for Spain, England, Portugal, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, and Germany (through trade with these countries) via free labor, allowing the societies to grow, flourish, and head further around the world to abuse and kill perceived inferior beings. This went on for far too long (~300 years) until the Brits decided to give it up in 1807. The Americans didn’t catch on until 1863, when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by Abraham Lincoln.

The abolition of slavery and a civil war did not magically heal 350 years of wounds. During the Reconstruction Era in the south, the newly minted black Americans created a labor shortage on southern plantations, so plantation owners began renting off parts of their land to farmers, and demanding payment in the form of grown goods and money. There was no need to care for the workers at all, incredibly low wages could be paid, and “sharecroppers” could be fired at the slightest provocation. In conjunction, soon after the war groups of freed families began to wander the South. Vagrancy laws were put in place whereby anyone without a job or anyone walking at night could be arrested and made to work on a chain-gang, essentially placing loads of black people back into slavery. Jail time often carried fines, and because the prisoners could never pay off their fines they became stuck in a cycle of perpetual servitude.

Jim Crow laws and lynchings during the late 19th and early to mid 20th centuries made it nearly impossible (and terrifying) for blacks in the south to even attempt to improve their position in life. Neither was the north blameless for harm caused during this period; northern industrial towns reacted to the flood of black Americans seeking jobs by red-lining them into ghettos (creating the foundation for today’s inner cities), and few black vets returning from WWII reaped the benefits their fellow white vets received (like a house or a college education).

The modern drug war, begun in the 1980’s, has been waged primarily in communities of color despite higher drug use in white communities. Crack cocaine, a form of cocaine no more or less dangerous than its powder counterpart and associated with black communities, up until a few years ago carried penalties 100 times greater than powder cocaine (a drug associated with white communities). Discriminatory policing allowed and allows cops to search, arrest and have convicted many black and brown people for even the smallest infraction of drugs, thus eliminating them from future jobs or public service, pushing them back into the only thing they have left; crime. Our prison population is currently at 2.2 million people, with African Americans 5 times as likely to be incarcerated as whites. Large populations of people of color in the criminal justice system allows politicians and civilians to conclude that black people must be criminal, despite clear statistics showing almost the exact same rates of drug use and crimes committed by whites and blacks.

This is the legacy against which Black Lives Matter is marching and protesting. Have we eliminated slavery? Yes. Have we passed Civil Rights? Yes we have. Have they been upheld? Sort of. But have we neared a society in which white people can be justly offended for criticisms of themselves and their society? Absolutely not.

We cannot, because even after laws are passed, racists convicted, and lawsuits won, black people are STILL rejected from jobs and housing for no reason other than their skin color, they are STILL subject to indiscriminate beatings under the legal auspices of the drug war, and they are STILL subject to be shot by police while unarmed, and almost always passive and non-threatening.

Criticism is not only warranted; not criticizing white people would be intellectually and morally dishonest, as long as these inequalities continue.

Yes, BLM and some groups aligned with Antifa are part of the leftist movement whether people choose to align themselves with them or not. But they are part of the leftist movement because they are opposed to denials of the above history, because they are opposed to the ongoing oppression and policing of black and brown bodies, and because they are actively trying to use word and deed to dismantle a system which keeps oppression in place.

Further, the left has overwhelmingly decried the actions of the violent few. After the Dallas shootings, after the violence at Berkeley, and after the attack on several Republican senators, many, many liberals at all levels of the public and private sectors were quick to speak up and speak out in condemnations of violence, as well as share expressions of sadness and pain for those who suffered.

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I have heard many people expressing sadness or frustration at the Charlottesville events and the removal of confederate statues from the public sphere. More than once I’ve heard people say, “Why can’t we just let go and move on?” My answer is that conflict resolution never functions by sweeping issues under the rug. Ask any long-term married couple about how to resolve problems and they will probably not advise you to ignore them. Instead, they’ll advise you to try and understand where the other is coming from, to learn to listen, and to learn to admit your faults. I can’t make anyone agree with what I have written, but I can ask you to engage with and seriously think about what I have said. I can’t make anyone agree with what I have written, but I can illustrate a point of view spoken by myself and many others and hope that it is heard. It is only when all of us can wrestle with issues together that we can find a way through.

Keep on Lovin’

This will be a short post, but I think an important one.

I want to just share a bit about some thoughts I have been having. Recently, and even more so this trip I have been deeply moved and challenged to action by the most important commandment of Jesus, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. Sounds great right?? I feel like people often kinda skip over this, knowing its important but just sort of saying, “Ok Jesus, got it!” and moving on. Kind of like the ultimate Christian meme: everyone sees it, goes “yea!!”, posts it to Facebook, and then keeps doing whatever it is they’re doing.

Love is powerful my friends. We often talk about love, talk about loving God and Jesus and each other but I don’t think we stop often enough and reeeaaaally think about this. Jesus said in Mark 12: 30-31, “The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.” Whoa. I’ve started to really see this verse as so, so, so important, not just because Jesus said so but also because of what it really means for us as Christians and for literally everyone in the whole wide world. When in doubt, love it out. Seriously. In whatever situation you run into, first remember that before any ideas, thoughts, prejudices, conflicts, anger stuff, hurt feelings, or just straight up grumpiness, Jesus says to love. And what does love mean? Love is complicated for sure, but to me it means connection. Jesus wants us to be connected and to get along and build his kingdom and create a world that is not full of divisions, but rather full of connections. And how do we do this? Well, I think we do it by doing our best to get along with others, see the best in others (despite our many human faults), try and bring the best out in them, bring the best out in ourselves, and create something superbly beautiful, amazing and to me, frankly, super-duper inspiring. You know those little cartoons of a bunch of cartoon humans holding hands in a little circle? Kind of like that. I know it sounds all hippy-dippy Kumbaya type stuff, but I sincerely believe there is real power in that. And I think thats why Jesus gave that commandment out as the most important. Its so incredibly easy to fall back on our human nature and NOT love. But we are called to be MORE than our human nature, because God is way MORE than the world. I’ve been reading a wonderful book about peacemakers by Mr. Dan Buttry, and read about person after person who’s response to violence, conflict, disagreement and oppression was not the normal human response of more conflict, but non-violence and peace. And you know what? Almost all of them were successful in their efforts. And I believe its because they acted out of love. Love for all involved, including the perpetrators. And good things happened! So is this love stuff still so hippy-dippy Kumbaya, or is there real power there? I would say there is.

Ok, I’m rambling. But this all ties to Mexico in the people down here. Love to them is not a meme that you post on Facebook, it is a thing you do. Not that people in the States don’t love and take love seriously and act it out, but this love that connects and binds permeates the people and the culture. Like all people, they have conflicts. Like all people they have unresolved conflicts which sit in the community as painful reminders. But the community of love that is at work in these people in truly inspiring. The hospitality of love through gracious servanthood that is shown to us, the acceptance of us as outsiders, the patience and kindness and willingness to include us in everything that happens. Its hard to put into words, but I will definitely leave Mexico with a renewed and seriously alive feeling of what love is, and how powerful this love that God gives us is, and the wonderful things that it can do.

Becoming the Bridge

As I work and live here in Mexico, I’m finding that my journals continue to be lessons that God is placing before me to be learned, so here goes another!

This trip to Mexico is now the third major mission trip I have been on in Latin America in the past three years. All of them have involved me learning and improving my Spanish skills, and have formed in me a love and deep interest in the language. I love speaking Spanish! Around the end of my gap year I had the realization that my ability to speak Spanish now allowed me to communicate with so many new people, well over a billion! This was a powerful discovery, and has pushed me to work even harder at my Spanish.

I have viewed my ability to really communicate verbally with people in Latin America as a central part of my mission work. Not only have I been able to help with physical work, but it has really allowed me to be a part of a community and interact and hear other people’s stories and share my own. I have felt a direct correlation between the improvement of my Spanish skills and my ability to connect with others.

I spent this past week in the community of Huacapa in the state of Oaxaca with a group of folks from the States. Really amazing group who came and worked hard and brought themselves far from their homes to share in the love of God that is alive in Huacapa. However, none of them spoke more than a few words of Spanish. This led to the usual interesting mixture of symbols, grunts and emphasized English words that no matter how loudly you say them will never be understood. I clearly remember those days. But I have moved on from them, and now have the ability to really connect with people verbally, and I soon found myself deeply connected the the people of Huacapa.

I will freely admit, I had to wrestle with feelings of self-pride at being able to communicate in a way that others couldn’t. After all, I have been working hard at my language skills for three years, and this is the payoff; I get to communicate in a way that others who have not worked so hard don’t have the ability to do. I knew these feelings were not good, but they still entered my brain and I had to be uncomfortable having them.

One way my Spanish ability manifested itself was in translation. Being one of five with Spanish proficiency, I was often asked to translate different work needs, or explain something about a community, or simply explain to Estadounidenses or Mexicans what the others were saying. I kind of took it for granted all week, appreciating my ability to clear up situations but not seeing much more value than that. And so the time went.

The last day of our week in Huacapa, the church members and the group members sat in a circle and shared words, thoughts, thanks and praise to God and one another for the week. As the de facto translator I was asked to translate what each person said from English to Spanish or vice versa. As people began to open up about their experiences, and the deep ways they were touched by God and one another, I began to see my Spanish ability in a new light. I was no longer using my Spanish to only connect myself to others, I was using it to connect others to others. Through me, God’s love was able to be more freely communicated by people who deeply wanted to express things to one another, but were unable because of the language. As I passed words around the circle, I began to feel like a bridge. I was no longer “John, who has all this Spanish skill and can talk to people”, instead I began to feel myself disappear. I melted away, and what was left was the verbal connections of profound love, thanks and attachment everyone in that room felt for one another. It was yet another incredibly humbling moment, and I was so thankful that I had this ability which I could give to everyone, Estadounidense and Mexican alike, so that they could share in a deeper way what was on each of their hearts.

Becoming The Servant

What does it mean to SERVE? This is a question I have been asking, learning about and struggling with for the past three years. Christ teaches us that we are to place others before ourselves, acting as a servant before one another. In Mark 10, Jesus calls us to be great by being a servant, as that is the example he came to show. International Ministries puts lots of emphasis on this servanthood in their orientation for mission trips, and how we are here to help and serve. 

I must confess there are many times while visiting communities that I do not feel like a servant. Even though we have come to serve, we are treated as a great guests in the community. Great expense and trouble is taken to make sure we have the best food (and lots of it!) and most comfortable experience. It is very easy to settle into this routine and have expectations of how we (should) be treated. Today I experienced true servanthood mission, and learned a valuable lesson…

Along with the Myers in Puebla is another mission couple, Chuck and Ramona Shawver. I have met Chuck several times, and this morning was invited by him (through Keith, at 7 am, by waking me up!) to celebrate the anniversary of a church building in a community outside of Puebla. My role here being to visit and meet and share and build relationships I happily went with him. When we arrived, I watched as Chuck interacted with the people of the church. He simply poured love out on everyone he interacted with. I think every single person there had their hand shook, and most received a warm hug, a joke and a big smile. He hugged babies and played with children, unabashedly jumping around like a frog.

The service was four hours long, with music, prayers and preaching. (I might add I have never been in a louder church. I have been to quieter rock concerts). Afterward, a mighty feast was being prepared by the women of the church, and I, for one, was quite looking forward to that part of the festivities. The service ended, and we helped set up tables where the chairs had been. Chuck and I being the honored guests from way out of town, I expected us to be sat at a table with the pastor and regional missionary and have our food brought to us. Just as I started to ask where we should sit, Chuck said, “Come on!” I followed him to the kitchen, where he walked right in and grabbed two plates of food! He promptly turned around and walked out the door, placing the plates in front of two of the hundred gathering church members waiting to eat. Not sure what I should do, I just followed his lead, grabbed two plates and walked them out to two people sitting at one of the tables.

I must confess, I felt really awkward. I mean, here I was, the “guest”, walking right into the kitchen and serving food with the women who had prepared it (not trying to be sexist, but in Mexico it is almost always the women who prepare and serve food). But all it took was a quick look at Chuck and the giant smile on his face as he joked, elbow bumped and served bowl after bowl of stew to the church, and all of my awkward feelings melted away. Once everyone had been served, Chuck grabbed both of us a bowl, and we sat a random side table with several random families and ate our stew, finally sharing in the meal which we had served.

It was an incredibly humbling experience. All of my “guest” preconceptions and all the baggage that they carried vanished in Chuck’s example, and I really had to ask myself an important question. I may be here to help, but does that mean I am really being a servant? I guess becoming the servant means sometimes you have to serve people. Literally.

Patience: Lesson Learned

Some trips are easier than others, but every once in a while plans go quite different then planned…

I left Philadelphia airport at around one o’clock on Thursday the 28th of May, heading through Chicago for Detroit for the orientation session with Sarah McCloy (the other Immerse intern), Dan Buttry, Angela Sudermann, and Sarah Strosahl. I showed up at the airport with what I thought was plenty of time to spare, but was apparently five minutes too late to get my bags on board the plane. As I was standing in line waiting for the woman at the baggage counter to get me on a new flight, I went to check my cellphone, only to realize it was not in my pocket but still in my dad’s car! While still giving information to the woman behind the counter, I asked the nice lady next to me if I could borrow her cellphone, which I then used to call my dad, who was driving back to bring me my phone. He had stopped for food and saw it in the cup holder. He got it to me, and after another round of hugs I went through security. Had he not stopped for food, or I not shown up late I would have left without my phone.

After that whole fiasco I went through security and headed for my new gate for my new flight to Chicago. Ten minutes into my wait a voice comes on the loudspeaker and lets all passengers for my flight know that my flight would be delayed for an hour and a half. Great. I guess this is what I get for showing up late, I thought. Worried about my connecting flight I went to the airline costumer service desk and spoke to one of the representatives who told me that there was an express flight leaving for Detroit in twenty minutes, and she could put me on it! Quickly printing me a ticket, and getting the information for my bag (which would still have to take the original route), I got to the new gate just in time to fly straight to Detroit. I arrived in Detroit safely and met Dan at the airport. Twenty-four hours later my bags arrived, letting me change for the first time in two days (which felt really good).

But it wasn’t over. After a wonderful two days in Detroit with the Immerse crew getting oriented, I left again for my final flight to Puebla. Original plan was a morning flight to Chicago, then a quick flight to Houston, then a six hour layover until an evening flight to Puebla. Sounds easy right?? My alarm went off at 5:15 am, and I met Dan outside the guest house at 5:45 for my 8 am flight. I arrived with plenty of time, thinking I had learned my lesson from my previous round of trips. But when I tried to check in for my flight, I was told that my ticket was messed up. After a frantic two minutes of waiting, I was put on another express flight, this time to Houston! Problem solved again! Feeling proud of myself I arrived in Houston with a full day to relax and read.

My flight was meant to leave at five pm for Puebla. At around 3:30 I checked the weather, just to be sure. Instead of a nice picture of sun (what I had been hoping for) there were thundershowers predicted. Over the next hour and a half those thundershowers developed into a full blown storm, which decided to sit right over top of Houston. After several delays, my flight to Puebla was canceled outright. I sat there in the airport and through my hands up in the air. I said, “God, why? What am I supposed to learn or take out of this that you keep throwing these problems in my way?” I stood in line for an hour with everyone else from canceled flights, while talking on the phone with Deb and Keith (my missionary hosts for the summer). We were meant to leave for the coast of Mexico for their vacation on Sunday morning at five am, with me arriving the night before. Clearly it was not going to work for me to arrive in Puebla, so when I got to the front of the line I had my flight to Puebla changed to a flight to Mexico City, from where I would take another flight to Puerto Escondido (where the Myers were headed).

Some quick phone calls opened up the wide world of the interconnected Christian network, and within fifteen minutes I was waiting to be picked up from the airport by the family of a good friend from church (shoutout Karen Mason, thank you so much). They brought me in and fed me and gave me a place to sleep for the night and surrounded me with love. On the drive to their house, the husband Steve asked me if I had prayed for patience, and I joked that maybe that was the lesson I was meant to learn. I went to church with them the next morning and then to lunch. After that they drove me to the airport, where I took a (slightly delayed) flight to Mexico City. My bags had stayed in the Houston airport overnight, and I was supposed to be able to pick them up off the plane the next day (in Mexico City). After going through Mexican immigration, I went to the carousel and waited. And waited. And my bag didn’t show up.

Patience was not something I was feeling at that moment. I was angry, frustrated, tired, smelly and confused as to why I was still trying to get to Mexico. Clearly God didn’t want me to get there. I stayed the night in a hotel in the city, worrying about my baggage and the rest of my trip. What a welcome to my internship! I thought. But I kept thinking about what Steve had jokingly said in the car. What was the lesson I was supposed to learn? Maybe I really did need to learn patience.

I got my baggage the next day at the airport. I got a nice breakfast and read my book. After a few hours of waiting, the boarding time for my last flight drew near. As the boarding time for the flight came without a gate assignment, I heard over the loud speaker that due to weather the flight to Puerto Escondido would be delayed for an hour and a half. And you know what? I took a deep breath, smiled and said, “So be it! I can handle this.” I felt completely calm, and waited for my flight. Forty-five minutes later I boarded a flight for Puerto Escondido, and arrived without any more hiccups (baggage and all!). As I finally was welcomed with warm smiles and hugs by Keith and Boyden, I decided patience was the lesson, and I definitely gained some of it 🙂