Saturday, July 05, 2008

Good Time For A Protest

Each year May has great potential for some riots or strikes here in Chile. The month starts with Labor Day, in which Chileans celebrate with tear gas and marches to protest the law which allows the wealthy business owners to employ people for $300 a month, far less than a living wage. May also is a month in which students usually protest the inequality of education. This May’s protests and strikes lasted all the way through June. Two weeks ago they voted for a very important reform to the law. This new legislation will give more administrative power to the national government. The municipal governments had been empowered under the old law. But this was creating a very unequal education, in which the quality of education in poorer areas was not adequate. Students from poorer areas were less likely to get into the university because their education did not adequately prepare them for the national entrance exam.

For our ministry the strikes have historically been harmful, causing us to loose our momentum on campus and loose touch with the students we were getting to know. But this year it has been a tremendous opportunity for us. The reason is that we now how a critical mass of involved students leaders and have a base of contacts already established among the freshmen that allows us to continue our ministry. In fact the strike helped us in significant ways because students had lots of free time. For the newly involved students it allowed them to spend lots of time together during the past 6 weeks. And the contacts that we are developing relationships with were also able to participate more. In the end our relationships with key students have really grown through the shared experiences we had this past month.

Two weeks before the strike started I was able to get an English Club started with the freshmen in Electrical Engineering. We have had English club every week except one. And as a result I have gotten to know Oscar, Cristóbal, Pablo, Jaime and Carlos. I have also been able to continue to involve Alan and Nicolas, seniors who are preparing their thesis, in co-leading the English Club. Students have been enthusiastic about English Club and have also been open to the gospel. With classes re-starting this next week I hope to continue the English Club for a few more weeks and grab lunch with them from time to time to continue the spiritual conversations that we have started.