There’s nothing unusual about nothing going as usual here. That seems to be true for all missionaries I’ve ever known. That’s probably true in all forms of ministry back home too.
Last night brought one of those “normal” abnormal events.
I should preface last night by what happened Friday night when we were looking at a free day on Saturday so we didn’t pay any attention to the clock. We played games and read until almost 2 a.m.! So last night I was exhausted and decided to get to bed much earlier. That’s when I got a call from Ivonne just after 10 p.m. telling me that her son, Julio (about 25 years old), had gone up to Camp Koinonia in the morning to sell literature at a conference there and he hadn’t yet come home and calls to his cell phone were going straight to his mailbox. Up at the camp there isn’t really much cell phone reception and in between the camp and San Juan there is no reception for most of that 45 minute drive either. They have an old diesel Ford van that routinely breaks down and so there was no telling where he was or in what predicament he might be. The weather was cloudy and down here it was about 50 degrees and falling and a few thousand feet higher at the camp it was probably in the 30s. Not a good situation for getting stranded. So…what to do?
I offered to send an email to the missionaries at the camp and hope that they receive it and would either reply or call me back about what they might know about Julio’s whereabouts. Then we’d know whether we needed to go look for him or not.
Keep in mind that not only is the camp somewhat remote, cold at night, nearly 9,000 feet…it is in an area of the region that has had some security issues in recent months. With the ongoing war on the drug traffickers and drug lords in Mexico, some of these bad guys have moved east in the state of Michoacan and apparently closer and closer to where the camp is located which is just inside our state of Queretaro.
A couple months ago a neighbor of the camp was severely beaten one night by a truck full of heavily armed masked men and everyone in the area seemed to know that it was a drug-related issue. A fast low-flying helicopter was routinely seen traversing the hills near and even over the camp about every other Friday for awhile and it was not a government or Red Cross helicopter. It was drug runners. The neighbors all felt it would be unsafe to be out and about after 9 p.m.
Both of the missionary families living at the camp have Nextel and they receive emails and can make calls IF they have their phones turned on and IF those phones are located in one of the couple of spots around the camp that for some reason get enough reception to actually work (most of the time). One spot is at the amphitheater. But not the entire amphitheater…just the top row, but not the entire top row…just the right side of the top row, but not the entire right side of the top row…just one particular seat (an adobe block). If you stand on that one seat and don’t move a few feet left or right or up or down from there, you get reception! Well…who at the camp would happen to be standing on that stone with their phone on at 10:30 p.m. on a Saturday? Apparently, no one. I never got a reply or email.
So at 11 p.m. I called Ivonne back to tell her I’d gotten no response and I offered to drive and look for him. I was glad to know that she and her daughter and son-in-law had already planned to do this themselves. I offered to drive and they met me at the literature office nearby at about 11:30 so we could start the search.
As we headed up the mountains leading up toward the plateau I kept thinking I’d better be watching the guardrails and curves as an old van like theirs could easily lose its brakes. Being able to see headlights was a blessing. I told them that in Guatemala about half the drivers don’t even use their headlights but at least here in Mexico that usually isn’t a problem. This is a holiday weekend (Day of the Revolution) so I was concerned that there might be a lot of drinking parties and drunk drivers but all the traffic we saw appeared to have things under control.
We eventually got up to Amealco, the town nearest camp, and muddled through the fog that is a nightly occurrence up there. We never did see the van anywhere along the way and arrived at the camp where it was now after midnight and it was dark and quiet. We were relieved to see the van parked there and I was thankful to run into someone awake who knew where Julio was staying…cabin 2-A. His family awoke him to find out that he had arrived late and was simply staying the night because it isn’t safe to drive at night up there! He claimed to have told them that he might get up there later in the day so he might stay overnight but none of them remembered hearing him say that.
In a few minutes we headed back home and Ivonne apologized a few times for which I replied that it was better to know than to not know, and I was very grateful that there hadn’t been any problems with the van and everyone was safe and sound. We made it back home safely and I tucked myself into bed at 1:30 a.m. and pretty much fell into a coma for about 10 hours.
I woke up around midday thinking…Paul told Timothy to be ready in season and out of season and maybe I shouldn’t stay up late on a Friday night when the following Saturday would be free. You just never know what unplanned thing you might be doing on Saturday night instead of catching up on sleep. Fortunately, today is the 12th anniversary of the church and the service starts at 4 p.m. rather than at 10:30 a.m. So at least I didn’t miss anything!
I just hope Julio made it home today or else….