It’s election season in Guatemala – a presidential race, nonetheless. Posters plaster every possible edifice – from telephone poles and bus stops to rocks and trees. More than 20 candidates fight for face time throughout the City. Election season in Guatemala means that every day is parade day. Really. Picture your 4th of July parade – the floats with oversized pictures of politicians, their minions passing out water bottles, candy, balloons, etc. I see this every day.
Today while I was waiting for our leader meeting to start in El Recuerdo, one of these parades came marching in and set up camp directly in front of the neighborhood doors. I couldn’t help but laugh – a candidate parading through the slums, seeking votes from people whose lives haven’t changed and won’t change regardless of who is running the country.
I went to the meeting, and when we finished 2 hours later, the impromptu parade was still stalled in front of El Recuerdo! All the people of the community were inside (picture a long alley with doors on either end – they’re locked every night at 10 for safety). All the people from the political party were outside. No one interacted. The politician’s minions didn’t enter into the community, attempt to hear the voices of the people, and answer their questions. No – they sat outside and floated balloons. And this is the grand tactic for winning the trust of people!
As I was driving away, I couldn’t help but compare this event to another that happened a few months back. We were in El Recuerdo with a work team when I noticed a bunch of kids running around with balloon animals and silly bands. The community leaders sent me, the “clueless gringa,” outside to play her role and investigate. I encountered a group of gringos who were in Guatemala with a recognizable Christian organization. I introduced myself to their leader and after a bit of small talk, I asked, “what’s your relationship with this community?” His response? “Relationship? We’ve been coming here for years.”
We’ve been coming here for years. But, none of the community leaders knew him. And he didn’t even enter into the community – he stood on the outside.
The group put on a drama and passed out some tracts, and then left. I haven’t seen them since. There’s danger in trying to publicize Christ like we try to publicize politicians. Jesus came in person, not in pamphlet. I do recognize that there is a place and a need for Christ to be shared in numerous ways – at times a relationship paves the way for a street evangelist’s word to be heard, and at times a street evangelist opens the doors for us to point our friends and family toward Christ.
But Christ’s method was relationship – he would have walked through the doors of El Recuerdo, entered into homes, listened to stories, and told some pretty great stories himself.
In Young Life, we model our ministry after Christ’s ministry, our method after his method. I’m not proud of everything in YL – we have our fair share of faults, but I’ve never heard anyone criticize a YL leader for hanging out on the outskirts, for not entering into the world of kids.
While our method may at times appear to be madness, I can say that I am proud of every one of our leaders who share life with kids and earn the right to point them to Christ.