Halloween. A day I’ve never understood and probably will never understand. But here in Guatemala people are preparing themselves for this day for weeks. The stores are full of creepy clothing and candies, houses are being decorated and shops have special discounts. This week I learned a lot about Halloween and Guatemalan culture and the thing that most surprised me was that churches absolutely don’t approve celebrating Halloween. And to keep people from going to dark Halloween parties, the second biggest church in the country, La Mega Frater, held a completely free, four hour church service/concert. And when Guatemalans give a free concert, they do it big! For weeks there had been a sign on the side of the road saying Evan Craft would come and perform. Evan Craft! It probably doesn’t ring a bell in your head, but here in Guatemala Evan is a pretty big deal. Thanks to Evan, I can now communicate in Spanish. Evan Craft is an American gospel singer who mainly sings in Spanish and I think his music is pretty awesome. So, needless to say, I looked forward to this evening very much.
We were told the church would be a chaos, because hey, it was a free concert… just saying. The concert would start at eight, so we planned to be there at seven to have at least a seat. But after a long day at the office, we were so tired we decided to walk to the church at 7:45. So smart, wasn’t it?! No. Because I am now going to tell you the story of what happened after we left our house and I am pretty sure you’re going to laugh and say: “This is typically something that could only happen to two Dutch interns in Guatemala.” I think so too. Here’s what happened.
Upon arrival at the gates of the church, there was a really big crowd still waiting to get in. It seemed a little weird to us that the gates were still closed, so we asked why we couldn’t get in. “The church is so full, that we can’t let everybody in at the same time. You just have to wait.” So we waited, and waited, and waited. After about ten minutes, a guard opened the gate on the other side. The whole crowd pushed itself to that gate, so Megan and I got separated for only a minute. She was pushed through the gate and you wouldn’t believe it: the gate closed right between me and her. Literally, the gate closed before my nose. She was inside the church, I was outside.
“Sir, we are here together, can you please let me in?”
“Sorry, I have orders from my boss.”
“How long do I have to wait to get in?”
“I don’t know. Half an hour maybe, or maybe we won’t even open the gate anymore.”
“But she can’t get out and I can’t get in!”
“Just wait, we’ll see.”
So for an hour we waited, only separated by a door of steal. We could talk to each other, but the guards refused to open the gate. The crowd behind me started to push more and more and the space between me and the door got smaller and smaller. It was only a matter of time until I would be crushed against the gate, so I started to softly push back. I was lucky I am not as tiny as the Guatemalans next to me, so at least I could continue breathing in some fresh air. But the crowd got bigger and bigger and angrier and angrier. “Open the gate!”
“I am sorry, we are not going to open the gate anymore. The church is too full.”
“But you can’t let us wait for four hours to let her out!”
“Okay, I am not going to point at the gate, but the main entrance is still open. I will wait for you there.”
There was still an option for me to get in! The people around me started to laugh, because Megan and I were communicating in Dutch and nobody could understand. But they knew something was happening. So I told everyone the doors wouldn’t open anymore, so it would be better to just go home. I made my way back out of the crowd and walked all the way to the main entrance where only the cars could enter. I had to walk outside of any gated area, on the side of the road, so as fast as I could, with my phone pressed to my body and my hoodie on my head, I ran to the only gate that was still open, where Megan was waiting for me.
“Hey sir, the guy on the other side said we could enter the church here.”
“No you can’t, it is full.”
“Yeah, but he said he would call you to say we could still enter.”
“Nobody called me. Which guy was it?”
“I don’t know… Guatemalan, speaks English, dressed fancy in a suit…”
“I have no idea.”
“Can we go and search for him?”
“Yeah, jump on the back of this motorcycle and we’ll try to find him.”
So Megan got on the back of the motorcycle and flew across the church site to find the security guard who could get us in, leaving me behind at the entrance. My heavens, what an adventure again… While I was waiting for Megan to return, I got asked more than once if I was part of the band too. The first time I honestly answered that I didn’t, but the second time I proudly answered that I knew every single one of the band members. What, because I am blue-eyed and white I have to be part of the band?! After waiting for another eternity, I heard my name through the phone.
“Are you Mariela?”
“Okay, get on the motorcycle too, we will bring you to your friend.”
So I jumped on the back of the motorcycle and with my hair in the wind, we flew to the other side of the church. A fun experience, because everyone was looking at us, trying to figure out if I was famous. After an hour of trying to get into the church, I saw Megan in the distance. We made it! We both got released by the security guards and then we were free to attend the concert.
While we made our way up the stairs we saw the concert hadn’t even started yet. Turned out there were two hours of preaching first and then the concert would start. Pfiew, we hadn’t missed anything! And lucky as we were, two workers of the church offered us their seats, so we could enjoy the concert even more. Around 10pm my hero Evan finally got up on stage and rocked the evening. It was so cool!
We could not see the artists after Evan, because the next day we were going to the Kite Festival in Sumpango and we had to leave at 6:30am… but what a night it was!
Eres mi principio y mi fin
la razón por la que quiero vivir,
Cristo eres tu mi pasión,
mi corazón por siempre es tuyo Señor