So it’s been a while since I’ve written. My bad. Things just get busy, ya know?
Anyways, the God moments from Weeks 6/7/8 all center on the same phenomenon (because there’s no better way to describe it here in
And when I say “church,” I mean what we mean in the States when we say it: church services. Specifically, the church services of two Evangelical Methodist Churches here in
These two churches have been two of the main highlights of my time here in
Why have these churches been influential in my life? Well, there are many reasons, but, most importantly, the church is the gathering point for the community’s life in Christ.
To get to these churches can often be a long, hard, walking trek for the congregation. But it doesn’t deter them. As they come near the churches, they may get their shoes soaking wet or doused in mud, because the roads aren’t in the greatest of conditions. But they don’t seem to mind. And, once the congregations arrive at the churches, the buildings themselves are certainly nothing to gawk at. The choices are a flat slab of concrete with metal posts and a tin roof (no walls included), or a long, narrow, metal garage (literally). The members of the church can sit on peeling wooden pews with metal legs that may not be balanced—thereby causing some rocking to occur during the low points of the pastor’s sermon—or they can sit in plastic picnic chairs (two stacked on top of each other if there’s a potential for breakage). The number of members that arrive to enjoy the spectacle of church varies, but the size of the congregations usually range anywhere from 50-150.
Yet, in the midst of all these differences, one constant remains: the reason that everyone gathers in those churches is because they need to hear about Jesus. And, at certain times during the week, people from the neighborhood gather in these places to talk about Jesus. And it just so happens that these places are called churches, but that’s of minimal significance. What matters is Jesus. Shoot, he’s the whole reason we’re alive. The Costa Ricans seem to understand that very well.
So how do they thank Jesus for that life? Well, they dance, they sing, they clap, they shout for joy, they play instruments and they pray. No, no, I’m not talking about wild craziness during church services. I’m talking about the same reactions that people have when their favorite NFL team scores a touchdown. You know, hugging people you wouldn’t normally hug, high-fiving people you’ve never seen in your life, and talking to people who just don’t really look like you, but happen to be cheering for the same team as you. Yet at these churches, they’re celebrating life. They’re celebrating Jesus. They’re celebrating something far greater than any of them can even imagine.
For those of you who aren’t big on sensationalism in faith, well, these churches have seminary-trained pastors giving the sermons. Two weeks ago, the pastor walked through a passage in Hebrews 6, separating it into three parts and giving a three-part sermon full of the Bible and life applications. This week, the pastor started with a passage from 1 Corinthians about not forgetting the power of Jesus crucified on the cross, and he then went on to redefine how everyone views crosses that are plastered on churches, buildings, monuments, paintings, jewelry, clothing, etc., throughout the world. He probably quoted John Wesley about 10 times. These are well-written messages given by faithfully trained pastors. Great messages. Great people.
Anyways, the point I want to get to is that these services have served as springboards for my work and my spiritual life here. I’m not talking about getting all psyched up by a service and then riding that excitement downhill all week while I wait for it to come again. It’s simply that every time I attend church, even when I take absolutely no expectations into the service, I am touched. I am touched by the passion. I am touched by the message. I am touched by the worship. I am touched by the people who lay their hands on me and pray for me. Because they do that here. They know that the church is a place to heal people—spiritually, emotionally, and physically—and they’re willing to do everything they can to help their congregation be healed at each and every church service. That’s why they have so many services. Because just one day per week won’t suffice for the amount of problems that the congregation faces. This, to me, is the definition of a beautiful church. They’re real with each other, they support each other, they love each other. All because of one man.
Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. The reason why churches exist here. Jesus.
And they’ll tell you that. With absolutely no hesitation.
“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints—the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the Word of Truth, the Gospel that has come to you. All over the world this Gospel is bearing fruit and growing.” -Colossians 1:3-6