“Snort, snort!” says the mama pig. “Cluck! Cluck!” say the roaming hens. “Gobble! Gobble!” says the passionate, but not so Romeo-like turkey. This is church? Indeed! This is church in the middle of the Yucatán.
Back in Green, Ohio, I sat in church this morning at The Chapel. It’s a wonderful place. Amazing people, really. Blessed beyond measure, we enjoy stellar Bible teaching and professional worship music. We sit on comfy, padded pews. We pass clean disposable cups for communion. Babies are quietly tucked away in the “cry room.” Located in a separate hallway, children gather around tiny tables with caring, attentive teachers. As the congregation gathers to draw near to God, we stay warm and dry in the winter. We are cool and comfortable in the summer. That’s my church. That’s pretty normal for most churches in America.
But I can’t lie. I kind of missed the pigs and the hens and the turkeys and the babies.
Last week God granted a different view of church.
A highlight of last week’s mission to the Yucatán included visits to the various village churches. Although not exactly the same as in Acts where Paul visits different churches, the experience is probably as close as I’ll ever get. Similar to the early church, the Yucatán churches are not about the church building or church programs, but about a small group of people sharing God’s Word and the Good News of Christ.
The first and most “established” church we visited was in the village of San Francisco. Recently, a new structure was built to house this church. It’s a breezy palapa, or hut-like structure. Visiting mid-day, we did not worship here, but we did have the opportunity to visit with the locals.
The palapa sits on the property of Bernardo, an elderly patriarch of San Francisco. He and his wife were some of the first converts to Christ here. A few months after being baptized, Bernardo’s wife died. He then donated a piece of his property for this new church.
It is not clear to me how many of Bernardo’s family live on the property nor the exact relationships of everyone. However, I welcomed the opportunity to poke around and had a peek inside the kitchen quarters. This tiny palapa was bustling with activity. Four little boys cooked their own tortillas over an open fire. After lunch, they scurried back to school.
Although the children of the Yucatán seem healthy and clean, their diet rarely varies from corn. Typically, they suffer from malnourishment.
Perhaps you might remember Umberto from last week’s blog? It was fun to see him on his home turf. Although I didn’t snap his photo, I did catch this sweet smile of his wife.
On Thursday night, we visited a second village church in Tiholop. Traveling by school bus, we picked up villagers along the way. Arriving to our destination, we found not a church structure, but someone’s home. Here we witnessed the first church service for the newly appointed missionary pastor, Eduardo. What a sweet opportunity!
Unfortunately, I am not Spanish speaking. However, one fluent member of our group shared that Eduardo was speaking on Matthew 6 beginning at verse 25. Specifically, Eduardo taught on “not worrying.” A humble man himself and very nervous to teach for the first time, this was touching. Given that our group had shared this very same passage with Eduardo just two days earlier, this was extremely humbling.
Seriously? I have a pantry ever stocked with food and a closet filled with clothing and shoes. Who am I to teach such a one? And yet, Christ calls us to encourage one another to seek first His kingdom. Despite our differences, in some small way, Eduardo had been encouraged by our teaching and was now encouraging others. Even though I could not understand his message, his sharing our message greatly encouraged my heart.
Afterwards, the church service concluded with pinatas for the children: one for ninas (girls) and one for ninos (boys). Everyone present was all smiles.
Finally, on our last night, we visited a third village church, Chan Calotmul. Once again the school bus picked up a full load. And once again, the destination was a church member’s home. And once again, church was held in a farmyard.
Honestly, I did not know that one pig could make so much noise. The old sow took her position near the fellowship and snorted loudly as her tiny piglets suckled. Many hens clucked and meandered. And the amorous male turkey puffed out his feathers, fanned his tail and literally strutted his stuff and did his thing with an unsuspecting female bird during “church.”
What else can I say? This is village life in the Yucatán.
If a picture speaks a thousand words, perhaps a few words will be spoken below. Imagination is required for sound!
Yes, this is the church. Christ’s church. Our church.
All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them… The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. John 17: 10, 22-23
Lord God, Thank You for Your Church. Thank You for calling us Your own. Thank You that no matter where in the world we are, we are united in Christ. In this crazy, mixed up world, help us be one as You are one. Help us to love You and love one another. Glorify Your Name.