Monday, July 15, 2013

One Family, One Church

Today was a church marathon - from 9:30am to almost 1pm and then again in the evening for youth church. The youth church was more lively and had really great singers leading worship so I really enjoyed clapping and humming along with them! One young man even brought a guitar since I had asked if people play guitar there and mentioned that I would love to join worship in the musical language since I couldn't understand the Spanish! I enjoyed playing but need to work on finding songs they know in Spanish.
The highlight of the day outside of worship was being hosted for dinner by one of the elders of the church, Jorge. His wife had prepared roast beef, rice, chopped veggies and fried bananas for us to eat. He had three children present and one elder son who worked as a policeman in another town. Jorge sat to eat at the table with Lora an I while everyone else watched behind us in the small concrete living room. 
(Jorge's family outside their home)

Lora graciously translated for me that Jorge has been an elder for many years and coordinates a lot of the events for the three church plants that this congregation has started. He first described this church work and his role as a negotiator for the regional banana workers union which seemed to fill up his entire schedule, but then I came to realize that his income was earned as a banana sorter. He works for one of the big banana plantations and decides which bananas are "good enough" to be exported and which ones go to market in Colombia. I'll tell you the bananas that travel to the grocery store in the USA do not taste nearly as good as the freshly ripened ugly ones that I have been eating here!

Jorge is respected by the plantation owners because he leads group prayers for staff every morning and stems any possible riots in favor of more productive negotiations. He said this year they had successfully raised hourly wages by 4% which seems like a huge victory needed with current inflation.

His son who I met was working as a security gaurd for the Presbyterian school I mentioned previously in Apartad√≥.  He recently completed his two years of required military service and was offered a full time position at the base where he had worked, but he turned it down because he wants to go on to become a pastor. It is difficult to turn down a secure job like this, but it also seems hard to remain devoted to nonviolence when serving in the armed forces. He and I led a prayer together before we left the house, me praying in English and he in Spanish.

Jorge's  older daughter is in 10th grade and lives at home. She walked us back to the church and was responsible for leading the youth worship we attended. They did not need a pastor there to lead them. They could sing, lead prayers, read scripture and support each other on their own. Lora preached in Spanish as the guest. She is a serious theologian!

What is amazing to me is how much time each Memeber of the church devotes to supporting the community. While we were at church, Pastor Bernardino traveled to a church over an hour from Chigorodó that had been wiped out when a paramilitary group threatened the residents with violence over six years ago. They were forced off their land leaving only two church members who were willing to stay. Bernardino's church has been working with them ever since to keep the church doors open. There is new life there with new members, although the people who left will not come back. I would not want to return either. Experiencing threats and violence is common for people here. From what I can tell, many people living in this bario (neighborhood) are refugees from somewhere else in the region. The work of this church community is very relevant for every one here.
(The view from Bernardino's porch during a rain storm)

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