Roughly two weeks ago a virtual axis shift occurred. Seemingly everyday since another temblor or after shock rattles the societal crust, exposing unexpected fault lines. If I feel so deeply and continually shaken, I have to ask myself what – or Who – is my foundation, sand or Rock? (Matthew 7:24-27)
I did not watch the inauguration that Friday. I did not participate in a march that Saturday.
That Sunday, we attended the launch of a church purposefully situated in Albuquerque’s “International District.” While the moniker aptly describes the diverse population, the pocket of neighborhoods comprising the International District are also prone to diverse and serious urban issues. The name is a deliberate invention of residents and city government aimed to promote a more positive image, and discourage the use of the area’s common grassroots nickname.
Spanish was almost exclusively spoken, and sung, and prayed. Keith knows none of that language and I very little. We sat in the midst of a population so connected to one another by such basic communication, but only able to grasp tidbits of literal meaning. And yet we were not excluded. The pastor’s message: God is Creator. God is Giver. He’s a God with plans. Indeed; amen.
We sang a couple of Spanish versions of familiar worship songs, and I experienced a glimpse of what mass worship of “every nation, tribe and tongue” might be. (Revelations 7:9-12) When, perhaps, with our lips we’ll each voice our own language, but with our ears and hearts we’ll fully understand the others. Selah.
Of course, food completes a celebration! Everyone was invited to linger, tour the newly renovated facilities, but mostly meet, talk, eat, build relationships. The lovely aroma of freshly grilled meats wafted into the building from the caterer’s griddle set up outside. Although initially we had no intention to stay, the authentic Mexican-style small doubled corn tortillas, fried on the spot and topped with three different choices of meat, were irresistible. We waited in line to load up a plate to share.
After choosing garnishes from a tempting array – shredded cheese, roasted peppers, green and red chile, beans, rice – we stood in the bustling gathering space, heads together eating our prize. We were halfway finished when the pastor’s dad – who speaks limited but decent English – invited us to join him and his wife – who speaks none – at the “VIP table.” We sat, just the four of us, and over delicious tacos and varying language hurdles practiced international relations.
They came from Chihuahua City, Mexico, to rejoice with their son and his family in this long-time-in-coming-finally-realized-dream-with-God-new-church. Understandable pride tinged the joy they felt, as pastoring is apparently the family trade. They shared a bit about their own church and showed us pictures of their very musically talented grandchildren. We described our adult children and laughed about language blunders.
We told of a church-trip we made almost 5 years ago to Chihuahua, when we partnered with an organization that offers education and services to improve the lives of impoverished Tarahumara children and their families living in the city. This sparked greater connection, as the couple described their regular visits to a Tarahumara village in the sierra (mountains) to bring much needed clothing, shoes and coats – as well as music, love and hope. They showed us more pictures: of the children, of the pastor playing guitar surrounded by them singing. We spoke of the difficult lives these children face given the lack of basic necessities.
As we were getting ready to leave, we hugged and thanked each other for the lovely time. They shared their contact information with us and invited us to visit. And somewhere between the taste of Heaven during worship and the taste of tacos around a family table I found my footing firmly planted on bedrock.