Our van came to a stop outside a row of buildings. We were in the town of Tlacalula to attend the morning church service, but I couldn’t see where the church might be. First of all there was no parking lot, no signs or banners, no big cross on the roof, just a humble building tucked into the city. As we entered the wide open doors (which remained open all service) I realized that although it had no outward markings of a “normal” church, it was very much a church inside. What is a church inside? Isn’t it a group of people joining together to give praise to God, worship him for who he is in spirit and truth, thank him for the grace he has extended us through Christ and look into the Bible for the words of life, reaching out a hand of love to our brothers, sisters and community. I know there is a lot more that goes on behind the scenes, but coming in as outsiders gave me a wonderful perspective into the simplicity of church. The building itself was simple. There were no worries for carpet stains as the floor was made out of bricks, the metal roof acted as the ceiling and the colors were vibrant and warm. As we entered we were greeted by some of the ninos (children) from the orphanage. They were asking us to sit next to them saying, “aqi aqi” meaning “here here” and pointing to the chairs at their sides. The chairs were what we in America use for outdoor patio chairs, you know the stackable kind, which were surprisingly comfortable although we didn’t do much sitting. I saw Luis, one of the teenagers we played soccer with the night before, standing behind the keyboard on stage. He smiled at me as the band continued to sound check. While we waited I thumb wrestled with Baltazar and Izar. Soon the music started and it was quickly apparent that they were not measuring decibels. The band was great and the songs were heartfelt and genuine. Most of them were songs we might sing, but with the words in Spanish and the zeal of the people, they became very fresh to me. I found myself deep in the presence of God. After a couple songs, Habakuk, the young pastor, took his place on stage and greeted everyone. He was speaking in Spanish so I really couldn’t understand anything. except he kept saying wow. I knew he was talking about being in awe of God and his wonderful love for us because of the way he was saying it. He was asking us all to say it with him and every time we tried he would jokingly remind us that God is so good that we need to have more emphasis in our wow. It was fun and worshipful at the same time and focused us on the goodness of God. As he wrapped up, the band started back in and we sang many songs. I raised my hands in worship and was flooded with waves of emotion. Joy was the mainstay and tears lined my eyes as I joined with my Mexican church family in lifting up the magnificent name of Jesus. Habakuk came back up, and as the music played softly, he started to preach the gospel. He read from the Bible and then launched into an explanation of what God has done on the cross. How would I know this you ask? When I don’t know the language you say. Well today I heard the gospel not in words but in action. As tears filled his eyes, Habakuk passionately pleaded with the people in that beautiful church. He spoke for quite a while and I was glued to his message. I realized that the gospel is the same in every culture. It is the most wonderful news that we have access to. It is the power to break the grip of sin in our lives. It is the hope for sinners. It is a passionate expression of God’s love for us. It is my saving grace. So there was Habukuk sharing God’s passion in the gospel and there I was crying, filled with awe for Jesus our wonderful savior. I didn’t want it to end and was incredibly inspired to share in that same passion throughout my life. As Habakuk finished, the band kicked in with a few more songs and we all stood to worship the one who brought us all together today under the glorious name of Christ. When the songs were done they dismissed the children to sunday school and we left before the “official” message started. I think we all gained a better perspective today for what church is, and I plan to store this experience in my heart.
Oh yeah, and we went to the market. But that is another story.