A Bad Day in the Office
|It is Tuesday morning, September 12th, and I am sitting in my office. So it’s a bad day. You see, today I was scheduled to be in Oaxaca, Mexico with a group of men building a church for a growing community of Christians in San Baltazar. I had to postpone the trip because of the political situation in the area where we would be serving. |
Now most of you are probably familiar with the controversy of the elections in Mexico. But that is not the problem in Oaxaca. The issue there is something much more practical. It is about a teachers strike. And better wages. And respect. And dignity. And fathers who work fulltime yet cannot feed their families. Let me explain.
Every year in May, teachers from the primarily rural indigenous areas of Oaxaca, (pictured here in the city center) come to the capital city to protest low wages. By low wages, I mean educated, hard working people making less than $60.00 a week. And each year after about three weeks of peaceful protest, (protesters live and sleep in the city center in makeshift tents, handing out flyers) the government sits down to negotiate, the teachers get a raise for the following year of a few dollars a month and they go home. This year was no different. Until June 14th. On that day the state government decided they wanted to remove the protesters and not negotiate. So in the middle of the night, state troops attacked the teachers. With guns, clubs, tear gas, and riot gear. Injuring many and creating an atmosphere of animosity, anger, distrust, and fear that still permeates the region three months after the attack.
The troops were unable to dislodge the protesters who remain in the city center to this day. With support of additional teachers and fellow sympathizers from other states, the number of protesters has swelled from a few thousand to at times, more than 300,000 people. There is currently no effective state government. The protesters (now known as APPO) have instituted their own government, have taken over the state television station, many radio stations, and every state government office in the city as well as the governor’s mansion. There is no official police presence in the city, busses are routinely taken to be used as barricades against future gov’t action, and business are closing daily as the tourist business, the life blood of the city, has all but dried up.
Oaxaca has become ground zero in the struggle for better living conditions, wages, medical care, and education for the indigenous people of Mexico. Free public education is no longer free, and the conditions of the schools are horrible. Many schools are little more than shacks made of tree branches and aluminum siding. Medical care, if it is available, is often substandard. That is one reason the infant malnutrition rate in these areas hovers around 20%. A majority of the people in the rural areas have little or no access to potable water and many still live in adobe homes with thatch roofs.
San Baltazar is located in one of these areas. We are in the middle of building a church there. You can read about the project here and the pictures I've posted show you where we are currently. We have the footings and foundations, and the walls. The men’s group we were going to take, was scheduled to put on the roof and install the windows and doors, completing the church.
That is why today is a bad day. Because I am not in Oaxaca. In what I have now come to know and accept as my adopted home, Mexico. Finishing a church. When you serve somewhere for over 15 years, you become attached. And I have. I remember thanking God after my first trip to Mexico that I would never have to return. Boy does He have a sense of humor. And for that, I am thankful.
If you are the praying type, please pray for Oaxaca and for San Baltazar. Many times in the face of extreme poverty and hardship, the only hope one has comes from a saving faith in Jesus.
Finally, we have rescheduled our trip for February 17 – 24, 2007. If you are available and want to see what God can do for/with you when step out of your comfort zone, would you contact me? I’d love to have you on our team. I guarantee you, your presence will make a real difference in the Kingdom.