English Fellowship Church, Quito, Ecuador. Motto: "Where hundreds of godly and intrepid Americans, willing to leave their culture and country thousands of miles behind, demonstrate God's love to a pagan culture, by worshipping him exclusively in English, the only true language the real God understands."
It’s not hard to see where my dread of Sundays comes from. In Chile, my parents liked to use my brother and I as live props. Sunday mornings we got sat in the front row. After the service, we shook the hands of each of the parishioners on their way out. We said, “Dios te bendiga,” so many times the phrase runs on repeat for me forever. God bless you. Sunday nights were worse. My parents took us to Alliance churches all over Santiago and Vina del Mar. Exotic missionaries who sacrificed all to demonstrate God’s great love: we always got called to the front. We were to asked to say words, in Spanish, about the glorious way the Spirit moves.
It was far worse in Quito. Sundays in the dorm made me sick before they started. Sunday mornings, it was suit and tie and a walk to "English Fellowship Church", the city’s non-denominational, all-purpose, English-speaking, all-rounder. Sunday morning service was the American Christian community’s principal social event; a who’s who of Christian broadcasters, teachers, doctors, bush pilots, American military and god-fearing oil magnates. Two hundred Americans making sure American is what they would always remain. That was the best part.
After lunch at the Christian & Missionary Alliance dormitory, it was mandatory Rest Period. You can’t really call it solitary confinement because most years most of us had roommates. So it was Double Solitaire-y confinement. During rest period—which extended from the period after lunch until evening church service—we were obliged to lay silently on our beds, but only after we had written our parents a letter. The letter was mandatory. Letters were to be laid on the desk of our dormparents’ office, on our way downstairs to Sunday supper. Letters were presented without an envelope: all had to meet with the approval of the dorm parents. All letters had to be positive and uplifting. To offer upsetting news to our parents, who were chosen by God for important work, was regarded as un-Christian. It was therefore not permitted.
Rest Period was weird because it was practiced only by our dorm. It wasn’t a requirement of the school, and no other denomination required it of students in their respective dormitories. Our dorm, the Alliance dorm, was bordered by a soccer field on one side, and another dorm on the other. The boys’ wing looked onto the soccer field. Every Sunday during rest period I sat at my desk writing my parents a letter. I was not allowed to talk to my roommate who was writing a letter beside me. We were staring down at a soccer game between our school classmates, a game which we were not allowed to join. Since we were not allowed to play music on Sundays, and TVs were not allowed in our dormitory rooms, all we could hear was the sound of kids our own age playing and shouting, “Gooooooolllll!” We all wrote letters telling our parents how great the dorm was and how lucky we were to be here.