Thursday, May 31, 2012

More First Impressions

When I think back to that first trip to El Salvador, one thing I really remember were the worship services:  lots of worship and lots of trying not to keel over from heat exhaustion during worship.  The good thing is that Lutheran liturgy is pretty predicable, so despite the lack of Spanish in my then-repertoire, I could follow along pretty well.  Language differences did cause some humorous moments did generate one of our all-time favorite worship jokes.  During his very long sermon, Bishop Gomez kept saying "Gracias a Dios" or "Thanks be to God."  Of course, we rookies heard the two words we knew in Spanish, "gracias" and "adios" or "thanks and good-bye."  One of the guys in our group (the same one who got pulled over by the police during our exit from the airport), said, "I kept hearing thanks and good-bye, and I stood up to leave, but the sermon just kept going on and on and on."

My journal entries from the time serve to remind me that there was more to our worship marathon than hard benches, language misunderstandings and sweating through the heat...

After lunch we drove out to Pastor Santiago's father's church, Springs in the Desert, for a special worship with first communions, confirmations and baptisms.  This was so beautiful.  The children were dressed in their best clothes, with the three girls in white dresses and veils.  The service paralleled our own, and I couldn't help remembering our daughter's confirmation.  I watched the pastors -- all of them, from El Salvador and from the US -- bless each child, laying hands upon them just as we had recently laid hands on the children at our own church.  This is a testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit, working in each of us and in all of us, wherever we live.  It was a tear-jerker.  We celebrated with the multitude and then spent some time with Pastor Santiago's family.  Gloria showed us the wood-working shop and sewing cooperative.  The church reaches out into every aspect of the people's lives - because without jobs, without food, without encouragement the people cannot live lives for themselves, for their families or for their Lord.

It is HOT.  

I like Salvadoran beer.  I do not like the nasty pink rice milk stuff which (Greasy) had.  I have to learn the name of it so I don't order it.

At one point we were so hot and tired during worship, that we couldn't help laughing.  It was during a hymn to the tune of "Those were the days my friends..."  That simply struck us a very strange tune for a Jesus song.

Cold showers are nice.

It's funny how time and experience change perspective.  I do remember getting the giggles during that hymn.  It just seemed such an unlikely a song to hear in church, at least in the form of "those were the days my friends, we thought they'd never end...and a verse about raising a glass in a tavern."  But, of course, we Lutherans have a history of taking common tunes, even drinking tunes and converting them to sacred song.  A few days later we sang that song again when we were in our sister community.  We knew each other just a bit better by then, so (after worship) we visitors sang the English-words-secular version of that song and did a little dance to it.  Then it was the Salvadorans' turn to giggle.  We spend a lot of time laughing at each other's jokes and stories, whether we really understand them or not.  

So, to the tune of "Those were the days" I now find myself singing this:
Yo quiero ser feliz
Yo quiero ser feliz
llenar mi vida de una nueva luz.
Cristo esa luz será; en mi alma brillará
y alunbrará toda mi juventud.

I want to be happy...fill my life with a new light.  Christ will be this light; it will shine in my soul and light up all of my youth.


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