It is a little surreal to be sitting in Paris, reflecting on Iceland and reflecting on Ecuador experiences! Yet, when I started this blog, it was with the intention of bringing together words of hope and promise while connecting different experiences… and so this connecting of different places in the world seems to fit in. As it takes me time to absorb and reflect, this post will focus on Ecuador and the other pieces will get knit together throughout the time I spend traveling and reflecting back home this summer.
When we first arrived in Ecuador, I was awestruck by so many things–the new (to me) smell (somehow I always notice smell when stepping out of an airport), the driving (crazy!!! Lines are suggestions apparently…!), the houses built right into the side of a mountain, and the mountains that looked nothing like the ones I have known my whole life in Colorado. I was also impressed with our little community thus far–making this trek across the globe, for one the first time in an airplane, for many the first time leaving their home country, and smiling ready to see where the bus driver, who would soon be our friend, would take us for our first night of sleep. As we spent our week working alongside Marco and his family to build Rescate-a community center in Cajabama that will house needed services like dental, health, and childcare as part of it’s mission to serve those in need in the local community and to reach out to the many villages on the outskirts, we were connected not by common experience or culture or even language but by a love that transcends language and personality and reaches together through the call of the Holy Spirit.
On the Sunday we were in Ecuador, I was invited to preach at the worship service in San Miguel. Pastor Manual (Marco’s father) invited me and I, a bit surprised and certainly unsure of my ability, agreed. They teased me saying the sermon is usually an hour.. which I do no think that is a joke… but I said an hour was a bit out of my realm and they of course said, “no problem.” That is one of the parts of this culture that I adore and one of the parts that seems even the most foreign. “No problem” and “In God’s time or God willing” are common phrases. They are not trite, they are true. The people have the same kind of hopes and dreams buried in their souls but their view of life is much longer and much more expansive. It is connected beyond themselves, beyond their own time in this world. For example, one village we visited has been working on building a church. Not only do they want a place to worship, but they also want a place to gather, to have time together in fellowship, food and music. The walls are built. The windows beautifully frame the views of the patchwork mountains and the gorgeous sky. The floor is there and we gathered to play with beads and sidewalk chalk and pipe cleaners and balls. There is no roof, only plastic chairs, and doorways without doors. We asked how long they had been working on this building–‘something like 2 years’ and how long would it take to finish and they said, “Oh, God willing it wil be finished.” (Just imagine our church contractor giving us that kind of a time frame!) Part of our service was to bring and and unload more cinder blocks for the building, so as God provides, things are built (the blocks took so long getting there and there was so much joy in the celebrating together in music and food that we did not actually get to unload them, but they were delivered!).
So with the spirit of God willing and no problem, I prepared a sermon for the next day and gave it with youth from our FoCoLu team reading the scripture in Spanish and Marco translating the words that I wanted to say. Here is the text from the sermon I gave. The words were true that day in the complete spirit of what we were experiencing and as I read them today they are still true not only in Ecuador, but in all the places and in all the sounds and all the languages I am hearing along the way.
Scripture- Pentecost Acts 2:1-17
Thank you for your welcome. Thank you for your allowing us to come to your beautiful country Ecuador and here to your beautiful church and home village. I have only been here a few days, but I, as well as my friends who came with me, are in awe all the time of the beautiful things we see and hear in your country. Back in our home town today they are celebrating Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit and so that is why we read to you from Acts, because today here in Ecuador we can celebrate Pentecost too.
I love to hear you speak. I do not know all the words but when I hear you talk, I can hear God. Let me tell you why. When I was a little girl, I would listen a lot–a surprise I know because now I am a pastor and I talk a lot! (Yes they actually laughed!) I especially loved to listen to voices, all kinds of voices. I would imitate them–I would try to sing like famous people like Madonna (they laughed here too, so guess they know Madonna!) I would also try to sound like my grandmother who had an accent from the south United States which was very different. I wanted to travel the world and hear all the different languages, all the sounds. And my favorite story from the Bible was this one that you just heard from Acts. The story of the Holy Spirit coming and what did the Holy Spirit bring? Diversity–many languages, many people, many colors, many kinds of beauty. And not only did the Holy Spirit bring diversity, but she also blessed it and made all the sounds of the languages a gift from God.
You might remember also the story from Genesis about the Tower of Babel? A different kind of story where the people were made to speak different languages, as a kind of punishment. But here, through the resurrection of Jesus, God comes again and shows that the different languages and different people are all loved and all a part of the blessing of God. Here in Acts, many languages, it is a gift! There wasn’t one common language–they could all speak and understand in their own language! Wouldn’t that be wonderful today?? (Many nods and and smiles and amens here) There wasn’t one language, but there was a common understanding.
See we have many ways of talking, there are thousands of languages all over the world. Many, many ways to say Hello, for example.
English–Hello, Spanish–Hola, French– Bon Jour, German–Guttentag, Hawaiian, Aloha
And! In all these languages there is only one way to say Alleluia! Now Alleluia is a Hebrew word which means Praise or Worship God. But all alleuia means praise God through the globe today! In our own home of Ft. Collins, Colorado in the United States of America and here in San Miguel Ecuador! This word Alleluia unites us no matter where we are what language we speak.
Alleluia! God’s gift of love is for you and for me!
Alleuia! Jesus has brought us this love!
Alleluia! The Holy Spirit surrounds us and fills us and moves us to love others in the name of Jesus.
Some of my friends with me from the United States know your language. Some of my friends have learned a few words while here. All of my friends and myself have wanted to be able to talk speak with you better so that we can know you and share to together how we are sisters and brothers in Christ. Today we all hear this promise from God. We have a common language of faith, a common language of the Holy Spirit, a common language of love. Each person here is created by God and in the image of God. Each person here, and not with us today, is a beautiful gift to our community and world. We live in different lands and wake up to different sights, and hear different sounds when we go to sleep–but we are on in God’s love, one in Christ, one in the promise of the Holy Spirit with us. Alleluia! Amen!