Conversation at church

Scene: Lunch at church.

Me, looking round the group of youngsters (and always wanting to find connections): This is the table of the only children.

Girl beside me: I’ve got nine brothers and sisters.

Me: On your father’s side?

Girl: Yes.

Me: And do you see ever see them?

Girl: Three of them. One was really old, like forty-five or something, and he died already.

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Church heritage

Remember our church’s cool “Family of the Week” slot?

One week, the family of the week was one of the founding families of the church. Unusually for a Colombian Protestant church, my church is over 100 years old, being one of the oldest Protestant Churches in the country.

A line-up of very elderly people, all siblings, stood up to introduce their family, beginning with their grandfather, their parents, the twelve siblings, 70 grandchildren, 85 grandchildren and 35 great-grandchildren.

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Family of the week

Here’s a nice idea that our new pastor has implemented:

Each week, at the end of the service, a family introduces itself.

Some families have produced powerpoints with cute baby and wedding photos,

others sing for us, still others bring along family members who usually don’t attend church.

They say what they would like prayer for and we pray for them.

For me, it’s been a revelation to find out how many of the congregation are related and how many come from the Coast.

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At the weekend I met one of those people whose worth shines through immediately. He was a young lad, probably in his mid-twenties, working in a church plant in a small town on the coast.

Here’s a snippet of the conversation with him:

Lad: You see, I’m a campesino (a peasant farmer) and it’s hard for us to get an education. But my father supported me, thanks be to God, and I was able to complete the course at the Bible Institute.

Me: So were you to live peacefully on your land all this time?

Lad: Oh no. In 1995 things got very difficult and we had to leave our farm for two years and just survive on bits and pieces. I was just little but I remember it was very hard. We lost everything, all the food ready to harvest, everything. The house fell into ruins. Then in 1997 my father had the guts to go back and he’s worked his land there ever since.

Humble, determined and committed, utterly unsung. How good to know that in the end, the last will be first.

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A struggle in church

So on Sunday I was sitting in church behind a street person who spent the service lovingly examining and chewing a fingernail on his left hand, I mean really gnawing on it with great gobs of glistening saliva.

And all I could think was I have to shake that man’s hand and I have to do it without showing any repugnance.

So I started thinking about Jesus touching the lepers. But when the service ended he shook hands with about ten other people before getting to me so I didn’t get the brunt of the gloop.

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This week in church they told us that the plot of land

on which the property stands was bought in 1913 for 13 pesos.

It was a significant plot in a very central location.

Today a bus ticket costs 1800 pesos.

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Conversation in church

One thing I love about my church is that there are lots of extremely sweet, loving, elderly people.

I was talking to one of them on Sunday, a little lady who had turned 81 that week.

This is how the conversation went:

Me: So, Doña Ester, how many children do you have?

LL: 13 made it to adulthood but two have died.

Me: So did you have babies who died?

LL: I lost 5 babies.

Me (doing the math): So you were pregnant 18 times?

LL: No, 17. I had twins, too.

I could only say: Doña Ester, I admire you very much.

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Taxi Ride to Church 3

So today, one of the streets I have to go down on my way to church was closed off, and just as I was working out an alternative route, I spotted two seminary students who go to my church getting off a bus.

I paid the taxi driver, and jumped out of the taxi, yelling their names all the while.

We discovered why the street was closed: a bicycle race. The peloton swished by in one direction, and then in the other before we could cross.

A man was sleeping on the pavement, sitting up, jacket over his head.

I chatted on to cover my embarrassment as we passed the scantily clad prostitutes, and so we arrived at church without further incident.

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My pastor gave his testimony in church on Sunday, that is, he told the story of how he became a Christian.

He could remember the exact moment, almost 20 years ago. He went to a Christian meeting, casually dressed, dirty after a long day walking, and he went to mock, and somehow, when someone asked who wanted to commit their lives to Christ, he raised his hand.

But a little postscript to his story struck me:He said: A year later, I found out my name was on a list of people the guerrilla wanted to kill…

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