An Empty Church

Yesterday I left for Izcuchaca after the morning routine was finished. I’ve only attempted to go to town a handful of times in the past four months because the combis weren’t running, and taxi drivers apparently couldn’t see me. Steph always could get a ride.

But this time was different. I was picked up almost right away. That was odd. What was more odd was that the taxi had six other passengers in it. So much for social distancing.

Quarantine measures are still in place, which does not allow a packed-out taxi. I was even more surprised at the huge number of people in town. All the banks were open and long lines of people were waiting to get in. I did not figure out why everyone was trying to get into the banks, but I also found long lines at two places for paying electric bills. I’ll pay mine another time.

I made a few stops on the way to Rafael’s, which was my main destination. The closer I got, the more people–and soldiers with rifles–I met. I found the big market was open. This was the first it was open in months, to the best of my knowledge.

The soldiers were enforcing mask wearing. That is still mandatory for everyone. They were also half-heartedly enforcing two-meter social distancing.

Rafael and Elisabet were swamped with customers. They were filling orders through the closed bars over their doors. They let me in while I waited for them until they were planning to close the shop at 2:00.

I helped them serve customers a little until around 12:00. I then went out and did some more shopping, getting back around 1:30. Rafael made tuna patties and rice for lunch. While we had lunch together, we talked about my relationships with my neighbors.

Rafael and Elisabet feel we need to stand up for ourselves when our neighbors seem to be taking advantage of us. I was explaining to them how Jesus tells His followers not to stand up for their rights, but to give and serve and love.

Rafael said, “No, David. (said in a Spanish accent). That won’t work. There’s a limit. If you respond in that way, people will take greater and greater advantage and will hurt you worse. You have to fight back.”

I shared some more of what Jesus said about what we would call non-resistance and proactive love. Rafael’s temper was rising to the point that we joked that the smoke from the burnt tuna patty was coming out his ears.

The main thing he was upset about was that the neighbor’s cows keep coming into our yards and endangering our water pipes. He had several suggestions for scaring or threatening or suing the neighbors. I kept asking him how that would be love. His only response was, “David!”

I told him I appreciated his concern, which is founded in reality. I said that Jesus lived this way. Things got worse and worse for Him to the point He was killed. I’m a long way from that. Rafael said he’ll stand up for me since I won’t for myself, but I refused.

These conversations with him are always enjoyable. Rafael thinks deeply and cares about what God wants, but he isn’t used to taking the Bible completely at its Word. It’s so easy for us to explain away the piece(s) we don’t want to do.

Lunch over, customers started pouring in again. Not terribly surprisingly, we didn’t actually leave until around 4:00. Rafael and I headed across town with his truck over to the church location.

The contract for the rental we were using for church meetings ends this month. Lamar gave me the direction to go ahead and let the contract run out without renewing and to move out the furniture. The lockdown situation here looks like it may be months before we can meet in town again.

The owner said he expected this. He says he doesn’t see how he can rent it to anyone else due to the quarantine, so he asked that we contact him when things open up again.

Rafael offered to help me move stuff. That was such a blessing. We were thrilled that everything fit perfectly into the truck. Everything loaded, we went back to pick up Elisabet.

After they’d both changed clothes, we had to make a delivery of some supplies, which we stacked on the church benches, across town to Elisabet’s brother.

Since we had originally planned to be home shortly after 3:00, Rafael’s had asked for us to help them practice making pizza from scratch. We were finally starting to mix pizza dough after 6:00.

We sat down to eat after 8:00. This is not anything like our normal schedule. Each time one of my phone alarms went off to signal the next item on our evening schedule, Rafael and Elisabet would break into apologies for the late evening.

I felt completely shot by the time we were putting the children to bed. Moments like these, I feel deeply grateful for our boring daily routine. I function better under schedule.

As I drifted off to sleep, I had a few moments to think back over the day. It’s sad that we no longer even have a location in town. We feel very disconnected from our town and most of our acquaintances. We don’t feel we’re reaching very many people, but we’re grateful for the few opportunities we do have.

As we keep thanking God for, we have everything we need. That is precious.

I was thankful for Rafael’s height.
Everything loaded
Rafael wants to learn how to milk. He’s catching on.
Can you tell Steph feels tired? Poor dear.

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