A day in the life ... of Tim Swan
‘A day in the life…’ is a new Insight series that looks at what the real day-to-day grind is like on the mission field, one country at a time. First up is CMS missionary Tim Swan, writing from Santiago, the capital of Catholic-dominated Chile…
More reliable than any alarm clock, Lachlan (4) and Annabelle (2) come bursting into our room- Annabelle for a compulsory cuddle, Lachlan to show us a piece of his train track. I throw open the curtains and am reminded why I love living in Santiago " the majestic snow-glazed Andes rise 3000 metres, just outside our window!
After breakfast (Cornflakes, what else?), I walk 20 minutes to the metro station. There is frost on the ground, and I pass school children smoking to keep warm, street dogs scrounging rubbish for food, and the poor scrounging rubbish for cardboard to sell. I still can't comprehend how they survive.
I arrive at the metro station, next to a huge shopping mall. All the major labels have boutiques there, and I wonder again at the contrast between rich and poor in Santiago. The train arrives and I am carried forward in the press of people squeezing into the train.
In my few centimetres of personal space I glimpse the headlines of the free "Publimetro' newspaper I was handed at the station: 66% of homes in Santiago have been robbed in the last six months. I thank the Lord that our house hasn't been one of them and that our townhouse complex has a guard 24/7.
Climb up the stairs in the old office building that houses the CEP, the Centre for Pastoral Studies, in the city centre. The area around is becoming more and more like Newtown every week: chic gay cafes and our theological college. May the Lord help us to preach forgiveness and salvation wherever we are!
I look over my lecture for the day, Hebrews 8 " 9, and two things strike me anew:
First, that even though we were cut off from God, he has made a way for us to KNOW Him (8:11). This is something amazing in the Chilean context where God is seen as so distant that our only hope is to approach saints for help.
Second, we know Him because God's own Son sacrificed himself "once for all" (9:26), a sacrifice that does away with sin and even cleanses our consciences (9:14), incredible news for a Catholic country where the sacrifice of the mass is offered day after day, and offers no assurance to the participants.
I ask Paulina, CEP resident tutor, to do a final check of the Spanish in my notes and she encounters several ambiguities. "How long, oh Lord, till I can speak this language?!"
I go to print my notes for the 11:00 class. The printer breaks down again. (Yes, this even happens here in South America!)
Halfway through the class, as I am emphasising that Christ is the only mediator and high priest who can deal with sin, the question comes up "But what about those in the deepest jungles of Venezuela that have never heard this?" Yes, even those in deepest darkest Venezuela need to hear.
Lunch with the students. We are blessed to have a two year, full-time course which allows students time to nut out the thorny issues of life. For some of the lunch we discuss what happens if infants die unbaptised. For the rest of the time I haven't a clue what they discuss, as the fast paced Spanish interchange goes way beyond my Language School Level 4!
After lunch I climb Santa Lucia Hill next door in my quest to get a good photo of Santiago. I'm frustrated yet again " the smog is so thick I can't even see the towering Andes.
I ring the Mapuche Indian Bishop in the south of Chile about a one week church leadership course the CEP is putting on (with guest speaker Simon Manchester from North Sydney). The sticking point is cost: how could his poor country pastors afford the AU$12 bus fare to Santiago? The difference between rich and poor bites again.
Home to dinner/bath/book/bed the kids. Lachlan shows me the day's craft from pre-school. "Did you make that?", I ask.
"No, the teacher did!" he responds.
Our Roman Catholic neighbours call to see if we would be free to read the Bible with them tonight. We have been meeting about once a week to read through the gospel of Mark. They say they'll be over al tiro (right away). They arrive at 10:10pm. Typically Chilean! We read Mark 13 about the end of the age and Julio asks: "But how can we know that we're in Christ's book when he comes?"
It's for questions like these that we're in Chile. It's an exciting privilege. Please pray that we will keep gaining proficiency in the language and that we may teach all around that, "Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those waiting for him". (Heb. 9:28).