Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Good Tired"

Well, Sunday was not an exception. It was a great day too. It started off with a quick breakfast, and we headed to the convention. I really wanted to go to Santa Laura Stadium that we went to on Saturday. The brothers and sisters there were so amazing. I asked a local brother if that was just in my head or was there a reason for it. He said that a lot more of the rural/outskirts brothers and sisters were assigned there, and they tend to be even more humble and loving than the "city" people. But, I followed direction (faithful in little, faithful in large) and got on the bus to Monumental Stadium. Our bus was a little delayed, so we got there a little later than we were supposed to. By the time we made it through the crowd to where the American delegates were supposed to sit, there were no seats. So we went around to the other side of the stadium to find seats. Even though it wasn't under cover, it was a little shaded for an hour or so, and the sun would be at your back until lunch. We found some seats about 10 rows up from the bottom, which was good because we could actually see the stage area. It was like a sea of umbrellas. They all came prepared with beach umbrellas that they taped to their chairs. You couldn't see out, but at least you were protected from the blazing sun.

Ruthie bummed around until she found a sister that would give her some coffee. They all seem to use instant coffee down here; even in a lot of the restaurants. She poured her a cup of boiling water from the thermos and gave her some coffee. I was just looking around, and I heard Paul scream, "What are you doing?" She had spilt that whole cup (not coffee cup, but like a coke glass) on his leg and her skirt. If we weren't getting much attention before that, we certainly started to get some. It was all down his leg, and she had a spot about the size of a soccer ball on her black and white skirt. I looked back about 5 minutes later, and she was rubbing it with a Tide pen. She asked me if I knew of something that would work better than that, and I told her a washing machine. The people in front of us looked at us like we were crazy. It looked like she was coloring her dress the color of coffee with that pen.

Sunday was the hottest day. It was already hot by the time the session started. The good thing there is that the humidity isn't as high as at home. So even though it was 85, when you did get a little breeze, it was cool. You just had to be careful not to get dehydrated because your sweat evaporated pretty fast.

All I had to protect me was an umbrella so a family down row a little bit asked me to sit with them under their larger ones. I sat next to their daughter. She was a little older than Peyton. Anytime I get warm like that, I can hardly keep my eyes open. Especially after 10 days of 5 hour nights. Its just hard to go to sleep because my body is telling me that although its 1:00 a.m. here, its 10:00 p.m. at home. So needless to say, I snoozed a little during the morning session. Without arms on the seats, that's a little tricky. I woke up once, and I was leaning over looking down at the lap of the girl next to me. She moved over at lunch.

At lunch, I didn't have to walk around as much to meet some local brothers. Since we were sitting on the opposite side that wasn't reserved for us, we were pretty much the only foreigners in the area, so I could just meet the ones around us. It worked out good because they were all pretty familiar with Vina del Mar, which was where we were going to go Sunday night to spend the night with some brothers. I did walk around a little and pass out a few gifts. When I came back, the brothers around us shared some of their food with us. They all come so prepared. The sister next to us had frozen some lemonade soda, and it had melted enough by lunch that it was ice cold. That was so refreshing. I saved one of my white dress shirts to use on Sunday, so that helped with the heat too. There was such a good spirit there. Despite the heat, no one complained. We were all there to encourage and be encouraged and that stayed as the focus of our thoughts. When the session started back after lunch, there was a family from Vina del Mar sitting in front of me named Galleguillos that asked me to sit with them under their sea of umbrellas. They kept me in candy too. As they sun moved, they would move, and I would move with them. I didn't get as tired in the afternoon, because every time I closed my eyes, she fanned me. Can you believe that? There were so many people there that they ran out of water in the morning. Everybody just kicked in and shared what they had. Yes, I took another step out of the comfort zone. I must have really looked hot because one of the families I met in the morning about three rows behind me passed a water bottle down for me to spray my head and neck. By telling you this, I don't want to you think that it was this horrible experience that I'm complaining about because I'm not. It was a wonderful day because I got to see the brotherhood in action. Working hard to use what we all had to take care of each other and still enjoy the program.

The afternoon session was great. The drama was good. The Spanish version is much more dramatic. Especially the mother's part where the son leaves home. They gave some good experiences too. They gave some experiences where a young person had taken it upon himself to witness to several public officials. They gave one experience about someone opposed who had learned the truth and 40 of their family members ended up learning the truth. You should have heard the roar when they announced that there were 59,000 at our stadium, and there were 100,091 at the three stadiums combined. There are only around 70,000 Witnesses in the whole country, and this number doesn't count the conventions that are going to be held later in other parts of Chile. That large number isn't because of the foreign delegates because I believe they said there were only about 2000 foreign delegates, 1300 being from the U.S. They had I think 721 baptized at the three conventions combined. Brother Losch gave the last talk. The stage was set up under a covered soccer goal. it was really nice because after his talk was over, he came outside the cover onto the field, and waved at the crowed on all sides with both hands. It was a nice little personal touch.

After the final prayer, the crowd went wild with applause. They have a custom of waiving goodbye with handkerchiefs. The other side was just a sea of little white flags. They had huge banners that came up telling us all bye and that they would see us in paradise. There was one whole area that held up a good by message in Wheel of Fortune fashion (each person holding one letter). That took a lot of organization. The throat was pretty lumpy that that point. Then they stared playing the vocal version of new version of "I Want To." That's when all of the kleenex came out. I got a picture of this girl about Parker's age sobbing in her grandmother's arms. Very emotional. When I got my composure back I looked back to say something to Ruthie, and she was still doing "the little girl who dropped her ice cream cone" cry. The cheers and applause went on for about 15 minutes more.

When things died down, we talked to the Galleguillos family a little more while we got our stuff together. There's a tradition at the international conventions that the locals will trade their convention badge to get one of ours as a momento. I didn't make it very far with mine. Roberto Galleguillos, Jr. asked for mine. He is a very nice brother in his early twenties. So for the rest of the week, I went around with a badge that said "Roberto Galleguillos" from north Santiago. Remember that because it led to some interesting looks and conversations that I will mention in future postings. We hugged them all bye and headed up the steps. The stadium is dug out of a hole kind of like a bowl in the ground. So we had to walk up about 40 rows to get out. As I was going up the stairs, brothers just stared stuffing my pockets with gifts and cards and thanking me for coming to Chile. Once I got to the top of the steps, all the cameras came out. I had an older sister ask me for my tie for her grandson, so he now has my skinny plaid tie. I was all out of my information cards, but I had saved a few of my postcards to give out. I had taken some post cards that they can peel off one side and stick a picture of their own and mail it back to me. So I started handing those out. When the friends saw you had something to hand out, they swarmed. The great thing though is that they weren't wanting gifts. They were just mostly wanting your contact information or a card with your info for a moment. So many of them want you to come back to stay with them. And it isn't one of those "ya'll come back now" goodbyes. They mean it. I had one sister come up to me and ask me if I would come over and say something to her mother and let her take a picture. So I broke away from the mob, and snuck round the side of the outside wall. There was a little old sister that looked about like Grandmother Brewer sitting in a folding chair. She still had long, dark hair, and her eyes were sky blue almost like a Husky dog's eyes. I talked to her for a couple of minutes. We made out picture together, and I made my way back to the hallway.

When I rounded the corner, there was a little boy and girl that I met on Friday. They wanted me to meet their grandmother. So I made my way over there, and we got another picture made. After about 10 more stops, I knew I had to get going because everyone would be waiting on the bus. When I made my way out to the parking lot where the bus was, I felt like I was being trailed, so I turned around. There was a sister and her son following me. She wanted to know if she could get our picture together. I told her absolutely. She asked if was there anyway she could say goodbye to my fiends. I said absolutely again, and brought her and her son on the full bus and introduced them to the bus and let her say goodbye. They snapped some pictures and exited. When I made may way to the empty seat in the back, there was a young brother from Chile with our captain that wanted to address the bus. He wanted to convey the love from all the Chilean brothers and sister to us for taking the time to come down to encourage them. It was a very nice speech. We were the next to last bus to pull out (I promise it wasn't my fault). As we left, hundreds had lined the lot to wave by with signs. One sign said, "Learn Spanish and Come Back." As we went down the road, the hundreds walking to the bus stops waved and blew kisses too.

That night, threw a farewell dinner for all 1300 of the American delegates. Being the last bus worked out well, because our table was right in front of the stage. I didn't have a good seat and wanted to take some video, so I went up to the front of the stage and sat on the floor. When they said they were going to put on a show for us, I was not prepared for it. It was probably about an hour and a half long. They did a bunch of local dances and things that looked like fancy square dancing. They had a live 10 or so piece Chilean band with a chorus of about 10 sisters, all in their native dress. All of the performers and musicians were brothers and sisters. The lump came back again when I saw them doing all of that with their native clothing and convention badges on. It was just amazing to think that although our lives and backgrounds are so very different, we have the only thing that matters in life in common; we worship Jehovah together.

David Patterson was at the dinner so I got to talk to him for a few minutes. I thought I might see a few other Tennesseans, but I didn't see anyone else I knew. About 11:00, we made our way back to the hotel. We decide that we would get up around 7:00 a.m. and head to Vina del Mar for the day. Sunday was such a reminder of what this trip is all about. The purpose of these international conventions is not to vacation. It is to experience the brotherhood firsthand. But more than that, it is to go somewhere and encourage those that need to be lifted up. I hope that I was able to encourage someone, but there is no way I had the impact on them that they had on me. It's a unique feeling when a total stranger hugs and kisses you and says they can can't wait to see you again in paradise. And they truly mean it. Needless to say, by the time I made it to my room, I was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. But it was definitely "good tired".

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