I have a problem. And after my trip to Guatemala with Nola, SHE knows I have a problem! Maybe you and Nola can help me with this.
How My Problem Got Started
For years, Cesar, Bill, and I have been working to varying degrees with some tough guys. Cowboys. Ranchers. Farmers. Motorcycle nuts. Prisoners. Etc. To be sure, in prisons, we have met some of the meanest, baddest hombres you could imagine. In addition, we have run across some bad dudes in Guatemala. There have been a couple of times after an event when someone in the know has told us that we had just spoken to a known narco-trafficker (and we didn't know it).
We have figured that if we present the good news of Jesus to people any which way we can, that inevitably we will encounter some rougher characters. And here's what's funny. The more we are successful in winning the tougher-to-reach men, the more we have women getting excited!
"Whoa up there, Steve! You said women get excited?!" Yep. That's what I said.
As you have heard reports of our male-dominated events, you might not be aware of how women have strategically helped us out. I don't get it, but many women love these knuckleheads! (I mean, "slower to respond" men!) And they get really happy when their men begin to change for the better.
Latin American Men and Church
Here's some sociological background. In Latin America, women have responded well to church outreaches and the efforts of churches of all kinds. Yet, in many cases, the men have been slow to respond. Among certain groups of men (like cowboys and ranchers), men rarely attend church, because they feel that they don't belong there. Truth is, most evangelical church leaders are scared of cowboys, because they have the reputation of being trigger happy, womanizers, heavy drinkers, and the like. So when church people are scared and resistant to these rough and tough guys, that feeling has helped repel a whole class of people from the church.
Latin American Women Often Feel Alone at Church
Because of this reality, many a cowboy and rancher wife has resigned herself to attending church for the rest of her life without her husband. But when we have done an event for cowboys and seen dozens of them respond in faith and then get started going to a Christian Rancher Group or a Cowboy Church, the wife is often overjoyed, and comes to thank us for what we have done.
The Women Start Getting Happy About Their Men
And here's where we started hearing more and more from women. They loved the fact that we play, tell stories, and eat with their guys, but they wondered if we could help them do the same thing with their friends. You might recall a couple years back when, in a scheduling snafu, we had a group of 9 of our North American cowboys show up at a city hall to do a women's event! Cesar and I didn't tell them much of what they would be doing until the morning of that event. I wish I had snapped a picture of the guys at the breakfast table when we told them that our given topic for the day was "Improving a Woman's Self Esteem!" I think a couple of them about spewed out their coffee in reaction to that idea!
Our First Women's Event With a Group of ... Cowboys?!
Fortunately Cesar had a plan for us to play first and get the ladies laughing. Then we storied a couple of Bible stories. And then our saving grace came at the end of the event when we served a meal to the women with the help of some of their cowboy husbands. One woman commented after the meeting that it was the first time she had ever been served by a man in her life. Women were begging us to come meet their husbands or to come back and do more with their groups of women.
Ladies Invitations Won't Stop
So after that unlikely beginning, we started paying more attention to the ladies. For the last two or three years, we have been doing experimental meetings with women in the Quesada, Guatemala, region (where this city hall I just mentioned above is located). There, a core group of women are working with the mayor's office to do micro-business training for women in their region. They teach skills like sewing, cooking, and making various crafts that can be sold to improve the family income. In addition, these groups speak on many family-related subjects, and they also speak up for women and children who are encountering abuse or neglect. Currently, they have about 38 active groups of women in the various villages working together and meeting regularly.
Last summer we hosted 4 ladies from Quesada who came to Kansas City, and some of you got to meet them. They have each started the women's equivalent of a Christian Rancher group. Right now, they are trying to figure out what they are going to call themselves! What they want to do is introduce the Play.Story.Eat. process with every ladies group in their region. In the meantime, ladies from other nearby departments and towns have met us to say that they would like to do the same thing in their regions. We haven't done the math yet, but we believe that upwards of 100 or more of these ladies groups would be open to learning how to start Play.Story.Eat. groups among their lady friends.
"I had no idea what you were talking about," Nola said to me that first day in Guatemala with these ladies. "Now I see why you have been asking for more ladies to come on these trips!"
Note that the best mission trip connections come in exchanges. You teach them something in exchange for them teaching you something. One of Nola's most fun days was the day the ladies taught her how to make tortillas over an open fire.
"I want my tortillas hot and crispy!" I demanded while seated at the table and while Nola was slaving away, slapping out a tortilla.
"Ooooo!" the ladies reacted, waiting for Nola's response. Nola shook her head back and forth, and, squinting her eyes, looked directly at me and gave the unmistakable "you-better-watch-out" grin!
"Machistas!" cried one of the ladies. "Esteban has become just like our Guatemalan husbands!" And they all cackled even louder.
In spite of my best efforts to the contrary, during those days with the ladies, they treated Nola like a queen, and even threw her a birthday party with tons of food and cake and special dishes. And that has been a little of a problem for me since coming home! She kind of got spoiled! But such is the cross I have to bear.
Your Help is Needed
Before I dig my grave any deeper with my wife, let me get to the bottom line! I need your help. Can you help me get the word out about these women? Can you pass this email on to others? If you are a woman, would you pray about getting trained in the Play.Story.Eat. method and then go on a trip this year to interact with these ladies in Guatemala?
And if you do come down to Guatemala, could at least one of you bring your husband? I don't want to be the only man demanding hot tortillas!
Yes, with your help, maybe I can get these women off my mind and into your hearts.