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

Thursday, August 19, 2010

La Fiesta en la Iglesia

The fiesta (party) at the church was not only a great deal of fun, but it was also remarkable in at least two ways as I think about Trinity.

First of all, it was celebrated on the day of the feast of the Assumption of Mary. That is also the name of the particular congregation where the fiesta was held. Some of the other Lutheran pastors here spoke of how they annually celebrate the life of the congregation on a special day. That would be easy for us, since there is already a day named ¨Trinity Sunday.¨ It is the Sunday after Pentecost, which is 50 days after Easter. I think it would be wonderful fun to reflect on the name of our church each year, and to celebrate in a way that would bring us all together around the ministry we now share, and have shared down through the years.

Secondly, the fiesta was a very major event for the whole community. There were lots of vendors just outside the church grounds, selling cooked food, pastries, rides, and various kinds of toys. On the church grounds the fireworks were being set up all afternoon, to be set off after dark. The church was decorated inside with more Easter lillies than I have ever seen in one place. There was ethnic dancing and at least two musical groups, one of which provided music to which we danced something like a polka. There was fantastic food including a delicious chicken dish, and another with tender pork. Of course there was rice and beans, with the usual condiments of hot peppers, red and green salsa, onions, and cilantro, but there was also a variety of soda and plenty of beer. However, the most remarkable thing is that there was no charge whatsoever for any of this: not the entertainment, nor the food, and not even the beer. The people of the congregation provide everything for everybody and use the event to give a wonderful gift to the community! There were hundreds of people there. It was not the congregation of our hosts, but it was in the neighborhood, and so we went.

I have never seen or heard of a congregation giving such a lavish party for the community. I have no idea of how one would organize such an extravaganza, but it was marvelous to behold!

Listening without Translating

When we learn a language as children, we just listen and speak, eventually. Then when we try to learn a new language, we have to translate everything in our mind. The two methods I am using, one on the computer and one at our school, try to bypass this need to translate. It is working. I am now able, for about a week, to listen to Spanish and comprehend what is being said without translating first in my mind. It is harder to do this in speaking, but I am excited that my mind can still learn as I did as a child. We are working a lot on grammer. The rules are rather easy to understand, but putting them into practice is more difficult. On Saturday,
Doreen returns to the US and I head for my final week in Mexico City. I am so very thankful that I have this wonderful opportunity to study for such a long time!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

First Sermon in Spanish

The congregation was all men. Most of them were dressed in various shades of yellow, although many of them had shades of khaki. They were all very intent on every word I spoke, and that in and of itself seemed like a miracle, because I spoke only in Spanish.

We were in a prison. We were invited to participate with our host, Fernando, who is a Eucharistic minister in the Catholic Church. I spoke for only about 2 or 3 minutes, giving a reflection that I had not expected to give until Fernando announced my presence and handed me the microphone. I usually have more preparation time!

The men who were wearing yellow had already been sentenced. The ones in khaki were waiting for a trial, and some had been waiting for ten years. Thank God and our constitution and for Habeas Corpus!

I spoke of how God had called Abraham and he obeyed, not knowing where he was going or why. I also feel called to learn Spanish, although I have no clear idea why. The history and the culture here are facinating! So much to absorb. So much to study. "Listen, listen, God is calling.¨

Saturday, August 7, 2010

¿Como estas? Sehr gut, und einen?

We are having a great time learning Spanish. Remarkably, all of the instruction is in Spanish, and we must ask our questions in Spanish. I cannot describe how this actually can work, but I do know that I am getting more confident with this new language, and I have been in a variety of situations where I can actually communicate to strangers in Spanish! This is not to say that in class we cannot use our native language as a backup, but our instructor, a university professor, speaks only Spanish. One of the students in my group of three was from Germany. When he would get stuck on a word, I found myself translating Spanish into German. Go figure!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Arrived in Mexico

Our biggest surprise when we arrived was the excellent bus trip from the airport to Cuernivaca. The security to get on the bus was almost was it is to get on an airplane in the US. We did not need to go through one of those machines, but our carry on bags were searched and we were wanded. There was a stewardess on board to serve drinks and a snack. The driver was about the safest bus driver we have ever experienced, and the bus was as modern as any I have taken before.

The home where we are staying is rather modest, but we have a three room suite that includes a bedroom, living room, and covered terrace. Our hosts are devout Roman Catholics who are leaders in their church. Francisco served as the equivalent of a worship assistant, and Angeles organized the various processions, some of which included us. I read one of the prayer petitions in Spanish.

After church, we went to a home of one of their relatives and had a real Mexican lunch. Needless to say, I do not know the names of all the things we ate, but they were all delicious. Then we watched La Lucha on television. This is that sport that looks like wrestling, but is clearly staged with people jumping on each other and hitting each other with chairs. Sometimes the referees also through a few blows! It turns out that our host was one of these wrestlers in 1974, and his wife was his trainer, with some medical credentials. The sport is not really about who wins, but rather about the entertainment and the extreme athletic maneuvers of the participants. Now we watch it, too!

Our hosts are wonderful! We have meals together and discuss things that we all are doing. They are also active in a local union, and I went to a union meeting last night. The meals are all authentic Mexican and have a great variety. The most interesting thing is that they speak no English whatsoever, so all of our conversations are in Spanish. We are truly being immersed!

The afternoon thunder storm is on the way, so hasta luego.

A Sunday in Rhode Island

On the last Sunday in July, we made our way to Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Providence. Our intent was to experience the Spanish service there. However, the usher at the door informed us that the service was now mostly in English because most of the members were now comfortable with English. Go figure! After a while, new immigrants learn English and then just blend in with the rest of the population. Just like the Germans and the Swedes did.

There was a Spanish service scheduled for the afternoon. This was an experiment to see if there would be enough interest. We did not stay as we were headed for Connecticut to see Joshua.