The Adventure Continues

Our Church Council granted me a sabbatical for three months during the summer of 2010. My intention was to learn Latin American Spanish and to explore Latin American cultures here and abroad. Now that I have had some opportunities to lead mission trips to Yuscaran, Honduras, and to visit Mexico three times, the adventure continues.

Seeking New Horizons

Seeking New Horizons

Monday, July 19, 2010

Inspiring Worship in Puerto Rico

Yesterday we worshipped at Iglesia Luterana Sion in Bayamon. The worship was filled with life and joy. Doreen and I were both moved to tears during the service, which is not that unusual, except that we could understand almost none of the words!

What made worship so moving in this congregation that was dying only five years ago? The pastor was very engaged in her sermon, and we could feel her energy and the energy of the people, even without knowing most of what she was saying. The way worship was led had all of the worship helpers connected throughout the service, like when the pastor raised her hands, she was holding the raised hands of the other helpers. The Lord's Prayer was spoken with people all holding hands in little circles, as the pews would allow. There were lots of announcements, including birthdays and awards for people graduating from everything from kindergarten to professional schools. The announcements, both before and after worship, gave us the sense of a real community where everyone cared about what everyone else was doing. The music was like a "praise band," with drums and some local instruments, like a cuattro (sp?) which was a very small guitar with twelve strings. The lead musician played in a jazz band at other times, like another great lead musician I know. The songs, all in Spanish, were from several ethnic traditions, quite intentionally. When the congregation sang, the people already knew the words to many of the music pieces, which freed up their hands to clap or be raised in adoration of Jesus. The passing of the piece took a long time, and we must have greeted at least two dozen people whom we had never met before, and this part of the service came to a close with the choir singing a song calling for silence in preparation for communion. After the end of the service, many people came to greet us, including people who offered us a place to stay if we want to make a return visit.

All in all, it felt as though the Holy Spirit had informed the people that Almighty God was truly present and would receive their worship and praise in this community united in love. It is certainly a place I would want to visit again!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Por que tienes zapatos en la piscina?

Sunday worship at the small church and at the ordination were very special events. We all prayed for Andy and Judy, in Spanish. The people here are very gracious and welcoming. As it turns out, the Lutheran churches are not growing as fast as I thought. However, the greatest excitement is among the youth! D-Guy's work here with Project Connect has fired up the next generation and many are heading for seminary. Boom Chicka Boom!

Most of the time when I speak Spanish to adults, they answer me in English. As we have headed toward Ponce, there is less familiarity with English, and in the pool today I found a five year old boy who was willing to talk with me in Spanish. The best interchange was when he wore his shoes into the water! I think my vocabulary is on the level on a four year old, but at least I can talk to children.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Arrived in Puerto Rico!

Today we begin our sojourn in Puerto Rico. On the plane we sat with a man from here who was filled with wonderful information about life here and where to stay and what to see. For three days we plan to stay in San Juan. On Sunday we will worship in Dorado, not far from here, and in the afternoon we will attend the ordination of one of the local people prepariing for ministry. We have contacted two local pastors from information provided by D-Guy. Shortly before we left home, we had two guests for dinner: Juan and Jack. They both speak Spanish, so we had fun practicing. Juan was born in Puerto Rico and they will both be here later during our stay. Gettiong together with them will provide some more contact with local people, and more opportunities to speak Spanish.
The night before we left for here, I took the placement exam for the CETLALIC program in Mexico. I think my grammatical skills are somewhere around second grade, but my vacabulary is more limited. Nevertheless, this is great fun, and my speaking is getting better, although lmited. Our taxi driver was from Cuba. His first language is Spanish, but he learned Russian in school. Now his third language is English. And he drives a taxi! So much of the world speaks more than one language. It must be a great gift to be able to speak and think in another language. I hope I find out what it's like.

What to Do without Electricity

Over the 4th of July weekend we were invited to a family gathering of some friends whose family owns a few houses on the National Seashore of Cape Cod. The agreement is that the family will not install electricity from the "grid" nor indoor plumbing on the properety in exchange for the houses staying on what would otherwise be a seashore with no homes. Some electicity was available from solar panels and car batteries, so the place was not totally dark in the evening. Then there were also the kerosene lamps, just like the ones my Mom used growing up on a farm in Connecticut. Hot water for showers was provided by a clever sytem of water heated in a black 50 gallon drum enclosed in a tiny greenhouse. By late afternoon, the water was so hot it had to be mixed with cold water, just like in the rest of our homes. The social difference this made was that everyone there was focused on the people in conversation and not on the TV. (We used a radio to keep up with the Red Sox.) Local electricity can indeed be produced adequately for one home at a time, provided there is some conservation combined with new lights that use little power. For one extended family, this seems to keep them all together.