Tuesday, March 26, 2013

We aren't in Kansas (or the Quad Cities) any more

I am a planner. For me there is comfort in order.  I realized that I had forgotten my watch at home shortly after we reach the airport in Chicago. We considered buying one, but at 2am most airport shops are not open (go figure), so we agreed God would just have to do His God thing. Turns out that His 'God thing' was Guatemala Time. Now for a little cross cultural education. If you've never been far from the North American boarders, then you don't know that time is relevant to your current location. I am not talking about time zones. You see there is North American time, and since you most likely are a North American you are probably accustomed to fashioning your schedule around a clock. In my culture, if the the group leader says to be at the bus at 6:30 a.m. and be packed and ready to go, then there is a high probability that 9 North Americans will be packed at the bus and ready to go at that time.  But as you may recall, Miguela is not in North America, instead it's in beautiful and breathtaking Guatemala.

"Guatemala Time" as we came to appreciate means...'we'd like to starting thinking about doing this around this time, so show up as close to that as you can.' - that's a rough translation, but it's actually pretty accurate. It was explained to us later that Church should not be a source of stress. Church should not be rushed, or feel rushed. The people have so many stresses already. Why make church stressful too? When they are all there, then they will start. No worries. It will be fine. Just in case you are wondering, this did take some getting use to. The perception is that Americans are always in a hurry, because we are always on time and in a rush to start. I've always thought that being on time was both expected and polite. It's easy to see how something as simple as time could have such broad implications. Now we understand one another a bit better. Eventually we would just ask, "American or Guatemala Time?" and the answer was always Guatemalan. So we'd show up 15 minutes late but actually be just on time, and it was fine.

The Service on Wednesday night was unlike anything we've experienced before. Scheduled to start at 6:30, actually meant a start time of about 7:15pm. Classified as a praise and testimony service, it actually felt a little bit like "open mic night at Miguela First Church of the Nazarene." The local church in Fray brought in the praise band, complete with drums and electric guitar.  There were numerous musical specials and congregational singing, several Pastors and other leaders spoke. At one point in the service everybody stopped, turned and started smiling at the Americans. That's when the interpreter came over, huddled down by our pew and said, "Hey guess what? They are so happy that you're here, they would just love for your group to sing a song." Did I mention that we are not in fact a traveling singing group? So I stood up, motioned to the others in our group (with some waving hands and the biggest smile you have ever seen) and as we walked down the aisle to the front of the church we picked a song that we all knew most of the words to. One song turned into three. It was magical. Note to self ~ next time come with songs to sing on the fly.

It was about this point that the verse in Hebrews 10 that says "don't give up meeting together as some are in the habit of (not) doing.. popped into my head. When these people meet they mean it! Nobody in this crowd worried about mowing the grass or beating the Baptists to the restaurant for a good table at lunch.

At 9:15 Simone came to me and said "They are going to sing two more songs." I smiled, "ok". Then she smiled and said "and then they will start the preaching." Then she smiled even bigger. It was one of those, 'everybody is looking at me' moments. I smiled with all of the sincerity I could muster, took a deep breath and relayed the message. First to Matt, the the Seth and Jay ~ their faces were priceless.  Yep we are not in the Quad Cities any more. How long has it been since you were in a 3 1/2 hour service? The children came and went. There was a vendor who was selling chocolate dipped bananas just outside the church door ~ so people would get up, get a snack and bring it right in to munch on.  Occasionally one of the community dogs would wonder in, only to be shooed off by an usher or greeter.  They even have counters in Guatemala, who tirelessly keep track of how many people where there.

And then it happened. We saw the nursery. The women carried the babies and small children in blankets on their backs. We'd often see them walking along the road, with the baby blanket rope balanced on their heads. But tonight, tonight was special. As the little ones would fall asleep, the mommas would hang them from the walls. Seriously. At one point there were at least 3 sleeping babies hanging from the walls.

I felt inspired. We have walls at our church. We have Menards. Menards has hooks. 'BOOM! I had a great new idea of how to address our staffing issues in the early childhood department. My inspiration was not embraced by my home church mamma's...but that's ok. They still love me, and I love them. But seriously, I am inspired. These people on this night were not concerned about the time, the traffic, or the children's sleep schedules. For this moment, on this night they knew where they needed to be and what they needed to do. They were together. In God's house. For God's glory. AMEN

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