Friday, January 30, 2015

The Day After Tomorrow : A Night with the Mayor

"Leadership is more than technique, though techniques are necessary. In a sense, management is prose; leadership is poetry. The leader necessarily deals to a large extent in symbols, in images, and in the sort of galvanizing idea that becomes a force of history. People are persuaded by reason, but moved by emotion; he must both persuade them and move them. The manager thinks of today and tomorrow. The leader must think of the day after tomorrow."                 -Richard Nixon
Otto Pérez Leal, Mayor of Mixco, Guatemala
Second largest municipality
Containing the city of San Cristobal
Son of Guatemala's President, Otto Pérez Molina
When my phone woke me with the Shire's Theme from Peter Jackson's film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's the  Lord of the Rings, I had no idea the unexpected journey I was about to step into. Each day here is unique, but some are more so than others.

A invitation was placed in my hand by the owner of Christian American School. We were invited to attend the annual State of the Municipality address. It is the equivalent of being invited to the Governor's State Address in the U.S. 

Our school, Christian American School, has seen dramatic increases in test scores over the past year, with literacy rates improved from 26% to 90%, and math achievement that rose from 8% to 73%. Our school is also unique as a fully accredited Guatemalan school that is full English, using U.S. standards and curriculum, with a foundation of the teachings of Jesus.

Over the past year we've been humbled to find ourselves featured in local print and media, with the mayor choosing our campus as the location for a televised speech last fall. God has given this place His favor and we are speechless and amazed to see His hand at work.

It was a grand event with soldiers of the Guatemalan Army guarding the perimeter in full gear and weaponry. Security included a metal detector, bag search, pat-down, invitation presentation, and a quick I.D. scan and computer check. We were in the Tikal Futura Expo Center connected to Mira Flores Mall. We were surrounded by the power brokers of the city, and even of the nation.

As a pale, long-haired, bow-tie adorned gringo accompanied with my beautiful gringa wife... I was noticeably different in appearance than the average attendee. Kellie and I found ourselves surrounded with cameras while we made our way through security, and again while being seated. Eventually someone learned that we weren't important and the novelty of our weirdness wore off.

Mayor Pérez made a spectacular entrance to thunderous applause, we all stood for the Guatemalan National Anthem, and then he gave his address. Emotion ran high with cheers and applause along with video and powerful audio. Many good changes are happening here, and this night was a time to celebrate.

"In the United States everything is a line, but not in Guatemala, you get to shove it wherever you want!" These were the words that our Director gave us as we made our way to the hors d'oeuvres. She was correct! We elbowed our way through the room, learning the pattern of arriving trays stacked with delights, and eating our fill along with thousands of hungry guests. I was surprised to see how quick and efficient this method worked. No lines needed, although I did see a friend stabbed by a toothpick.

Kellie immediately tweeted,
"So the First Lady of Guatemala just kissed me. ‪#‎quechillero‬ ‪#‎guatelife‬
We ended our night with a private meeting with the Mayor. While we were waiting, his mother made her way out. During his speech, he had made frequent references to her and his wife. His mother, Rosa Leal de Pérez is the First Lady of Guatemala and is a prominent and visible force improving conditions for the marginalized of Guatemala. To our surprise, she came our way, welcoming each of us with a hug and a kiss. We were stunned by her easy and warm personality. She seemed like a grandmotherly friend that had known us our whole life.

Finally we were greeted by Mayor Pérez. To my great surprise, our school director, Vivian beginning telling him all about Journey Church! She invited him to our service and informed him that he would be receiving a formal invitation at his office. His English is phenomenal and who knows... we might put him to work as a translator or at the door to greet people as they come in (if you read this Mr. Mayor, it's only a joke... but you will have to listen to me preach).

"Alcalde Leal. He's tall..." -Kellie posted on Facebook

Our little group: Erico and Vivian, David and Claudia, Kellie and I rode back together and recounted the events of the evening. What an incredible day. Our work here provides some really cool moments when we're willing to accept the invitation. We are reminded over and over that this is God's plan and His doing... not our own. 

I don't know what will come out of our little encounter, but I know that Journey Church, Big Student Ministries, and Christian American School have twice caught the attention of the mayor. We are reminded that our actions are more than just what we do in the moment, but we are working towards the future. We are servants of God and this journey is His.

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