Yesterday was the annual harvest service in Big Falls. This of course means work, and lots of it on the part of the hosting church. Saturday was spent with preparations. Clifford was in demand early with the pickup to help carry things to the church, which included bringing a pig that was destined to become part of the feast.
His grandmother, (who lives next door to me) was up early working on projects she was going to take to the church. She made the most delicious buns... but it involved opening and grating several coconuts and making milk from them to include in the buns. What a lot of work! She baked them over an open fire... a skill I have not yet mastered (not to mention the fact I haven't even attempted).
Sandra and I were busy as well, we baked several cakes and made some cookies, besides doing normal Saturday washing.
Around 4:30 we walked to the church to help with the activities there. Sandra went in to help the youth decorate the church,while I stayed in the kitchen with the ladies. Outside the men were busy roasting the freshly killed pork and making chicharon (fried pig skin), while inside the ladies were busy cooking the liver and feet, making poch (a sort of meatless tamale to be served with the pork meat the next day), and making corn tortillas.
I observed the rhythm of the work for a while, listening to the cheerful banter and weighing the best opportunity to take my turn at the low table where the tortillas were being whirled out by practiced hands. Making corn tortillas is an art, and requires the successful completion of several steps. The corn must be cooked just right with just the right amount of lime. Then it mus be ground fine enough for soft tortillas. The resulting "dough" (masa) is then kneaded to the right consistency with water before being placed in the center of a small, three legged wood table about 18 inches high. Around this table are even lower benches, perhaps six inches high. Small amounts of the masa is taken and placed on a circular piece of thin plastic, and crafted by the fingers into a thin, round tortilla which is then placed on the hot comal (metal disk placed over an open fire). At the right moment, it is turned over by hand, then again to the first side, where it puffs up and is removed, placed carefully in the waiting vessel, where they are kept until being devoured.
I can make tortillas. Really, I can. From the first step to the last (even the devouring part). I was taught by a dear old lady who is now with the Lord. I make them on a regular basis in my home. However, most people don't expect a white lady to be able to do so, so it can cause quite a stir. I know this and was prepared for it on Saturday. It was the first time I have joined the circle around the table in Big Falls, so I knew I would provide the evening's entertainment for a while. Finally, I took the plunge... walking over to one of the ladies at the table, I offered to take her place so she could rest, her face registered surprise, but she got up, giving me her seat. I smiled inside as there was instant notice by everyone in the room. Those who seemed so absorbed in their various tasks were suddenly focused on one thing in the room - me. I pretended not to notice, even though I knew all eyes were on my hands, and I wished fervently that I could understand Kek'chi (I only speak Maya) so I could hear what was being said. I worked the masa under my fingers, thankful for all the practice I have had, finally handing the completed tortilla to the next lady to place on the comal... the murmurs rose a little louder, I could hear approval in the tone, and pretty soon they all settled back to work. I provided entertainment several more times as others came in, or as men passed through, but continued whirling out tortillas until someone tapped my shoulder and offered to give me a break... and so the cycle continued.
I was thankful for the opportunity to be a small part of preparation for the harvest service. Making a few tortillas probably didn't make a big difference in the long run, but I was blessed to be part of the family, one of the body, working together to accomplish the job too big for any one by his or herself.
Some day I will have to get some pictures so you can see the process yourself :)
Our new coworker is busy with her Kek'chi translation. She seems to be doing well so far. Her husband and children went with us this past Wednesday for the Bible study in San Jose. They can't understand Maya, but we wanted them to have the opportunity to see how we usually conduct them, since they will be the ones teaching in Kek'chi.
We hope to make a trip to San Benito Poite this week to talk to the pastor about starting Bible study there in Kek'chi. It will be a big sacrifice... Poite is a loooong way away on a rough road... but since it is one of the further villages, they do not get a lot of help. We would like to encourage them, if we can. Please pray for all the details, especially as the road is bad and we are needing new tires!