…and some days the bear eats you.
That’s how the old saying goes. But, in Argentina there are some days where you are eaten and eat on the same day.
I broke down last night. Completely. I had one of those days where it seemed like the entire country conspired against me. A string of unfortunate encounters with businesses culminated in me having to drive away from a drive through at McDonald’s, having already paid for my food, but without dinner. The service had been so slow that I was going to be late to pick up Ellie from school. I had already been waiting more than 15 minutes for a bag of cheeseburgers, and I pleaded with the girl at the window just to give me whatever WAS ready. She was in no hurry to help, though and I had to just abandon hope and leave so my daughter wouldn’t be waiting alone in the dark for me to show. Obviously, this was not a popular decision with Scott.
I made it home 10 minutes before I was supposed to go to my first of two classes that night. I had a car full of furious kids who wondered why we didn’t have dinner. I was frustrated and angry. I got home exhausted, upset, and battling a cold. After I spent 20 minutes frantically trying to find my materials for English class, I just collapsed.
I went into my room, closed the door and fell on to the bed. I was hungry, tired, and furious at the whole country. I seriously debated just packing up all my stuff and going back to the States. I was that low.
I was being eaten alive by the bear.
Then, inexplicably, something happened. I can only assume someone was praying for me. Oddly enough, my internet reset causing Instant Messenger to chime. I got up to see who was trying to talk to me, only to find out it was no one. But what I did find was some encouraging messages on Twitter. After a few moments, I began to feel my irrationality pass. I decided that I would go to my second class (that starts at 9:30 at night).
I made my way to Marcelo and Ester’s house. You may recall that Marceo is 29, and learning to read for the first time after being orphaned as a child.
It was a landmark class, really. It was the 22nd lesson in Marcelo’s literacy book. It marked the final lesson in the first book. It was all about the letter ‘b’ and ‘c’. As it turns out, it was far and away the most difficult lesson we had ever done. Typically, Marcelo has been flying through his lessons, advancing quickly. A typical lesson takes only about 30 minutes. This one was a struggle. We spent almost an hour and half on it, but just before 11 at night he successfully read the following paragraph on his own:
Ramón, Ana y todos leen la Biblia. Por la lectura de la Bibla conocen a Jesús. Jesús curó a Ana y al ciego. Ana y el ciego alaban a Dios. Todos los sanados alaban a Dios. Todos los sanados conocen y aman a Jesús.
Translated, that reads:
Ramom, Ana, and everyone read the Bible. By reading the Bible, they know Jesus. Jesus healed Ana and the blind man. Ana and the blind man worship God. All the healed people worship God. All the healed people know and love Jesus.
Just a few months ago, I was teaching him the letter “a” and was learning the word “ana” in his first lesson. Now, a few months later he was reading on his own about Jesus. It was stunning. The whole day had been worth it. All of the frustration had paid off.
As it turns out though, at 11:00 at night, my day had only just begun.
As we finished the lesson, Marcelo’s friend Silvio, who had been waiting and listening quietly, began to talk. There’s always people at Marcelo’s house. I’ve easily met 15 or 20 different people just by going to do reading class with Marcelo. Silvio looked at the sheet Marcelo was reading from. The sheet had a Bible reference at the bottom. He called for a Bible, and began reading from Matthew 9. It seemed Silvio had an agenda.
He asked me a few questions, and then said to me. “I know you. I know all about you. I mean, I don’t really know you, but Marcelo talks about you all the time, and I have a pretty good idea what you are all about.”
He didn’t say it in a nice way.
Silvio then began to pepper me with questions and half accusations. He challenged every aspect of my life and theology, beginning with the question, “Do you really think that Jesus is God?”
I prayed a silent prayer and dove in. Over the course of the next two hours we covered every possible area of theology while Marcelo and Ester and another friend listened. We discussed:
The divinity of Christ, the purpose of the law, the nature of the Bible, the 10 commandments, the nature of the church, the trinity, eternity, the end times, Jehova’s Witnesses, the Catholic church, salvation, the nature of baptism, the nature of religion, what it means that Jesus was in the image of God and what it means that He was the “firstborn of all creation”.
We read from the Psalms, the gospels, and the epistles. I told stories of David, of Isaac, of Cain and Abel.
As I was reasoning with him, I was aware that every level of my Christian training was being tested:
What I learned as a child at Eagle Creek, lessons from my first year of Bible quizzing, things I discovered on my own, advanced ideas I learned at Grace College and Seminary, things taught me by my team here in Argentina, and things Deb and I had discovered through our ‘read through the Bible in a week’ projects…it was all on trial, and the opposing council was hostile.
Silvo had experience with religious people and thought he knew me. As the Spirit gave me words to say and answers to his questions that he had never considered, he thawed. Marcelo and Ester grew increasingly excited as the tone of the night changed from “the trial of Nate Dunlevy” to a night of great encouragement from God’s Word. For better than two hours went back and forth, and by the end Silvio was delighting in hearing things from God’s Word that he had never considered. It was astounding. By the end, he was no longer giving me the third degree, but was asking honest questions that he really wanted answers to.
Finally, Deb called wondering where I was (after all, it was 1 am). We ended the night with hugs as he thanked me for taking the time to talk with him, and we all agreed that there was nothing better than spending time talking about God and reading the Bible.
I’ve been doing class with Marcelo 1-2 times a week since October.
Last night, it all started to pay off.
Yesterday, Argentina was a bear.
Some days, you eat the bear.