Friday, January 27, 2006

Oratory and the little church in the mountains

When I was in High School, more than an overachiever, I was over involved. I wanted to try everything once, and I did just about. I learned a lot doing this, I also spread myself pretty thin most of the time. In about 8th grade, I joined the Forensics Club. In the beginning I thought Forensics club was kind of creepy and wondered how you would study dead corpses in High School, then I heard someone say a speech during my English class and our teacher had her explain what was this Forensics Club (English Speech club). I joined. Truth is that I would have probably joined even if it studied dead people, as long as they didn't do it in the dark. I started in Humor, but the category was always very sought after and being the youngest didn't help (the moderator at the time regarded seniority as more important than quality). Then, Ben became the moderator and everything went for the better. A few weeks later my coach Mrs. Benitez and him decided I was serious and so should be doing Oratory. I don't think for a second that I was very good at doing speeches or anything, but Oratory was a hard category and hardly anyone was any good, so I had nothing to lose. I did it. "A woman could one day be President" was the first speech I did. Later I did "And God created man" by David Van Treese. I was actually a double with a drama speech I can't remember the name of, but was only an alternate in that category (although my last year, I almost had to do my speech). There are many stories and times tied to my Forensics Club tenure, ending with a competition where our team did well enough to move up a category (I got 8th place or something like that), but we were pretty much given different rules than everyone else, (our coach couldn't speak English, he was actually the French teacher). We brought fewer people than we could because we were told the rules had changed, we came to the competition to find out everyone knew the rules were revoked, but us. Our school's English faculty was very sweet about it and after a very stressful competition day where we were done wrong and our French teacher learned to speak English in an all of a sudden burst of anger, they all came to be there for the awards ceremony and ocngratulated us all. I would do it all over again. My last speech: "And God said, let us create man in our image and after our likeness, so God created man. These words indicate God's creation of man as equals. Come with me Mr. American, let me introduce you to peaceful little quiet city, the year is ..." This brings me to the point of this post. Come with me Mr. blog reader, let me introduce you to a little Baptist church in the mountains.

The year is 2006. When I say it is in the mountains you can see that I am not kidding. The church has no walls, no kitchen, no paid worship team, no central heat (it actually gets pretty cold in the winter for even US standards), no central AC for the hot summer. When it rains you get wet. However, you must make sure you come to service early, because the Church has many more attendees than chairs.

Why do 300-400 people from a small town in Puerto Rico, some of whom don't have cars, many considered too old by most to be coming such a long way come to this church? The pastor rarely preaches just a happy message, and is not afraid to point out the things that are wrong. They don't come in search of a great praise group (but they are far from refined or professional). The choir is not bad, but have no formal vocal trainning. They don't come because the place is hip or cool or jazzy or in, just look at the picture. They don't come for food, although occasionally they used to have fund raising food cooking, this is made considerably harder by their current kitchen-less facilities. They don't come for fancy coffee, most of the time, and unless it is a sunrise baptism service, there is no coffee other than the one sitting in your stomach. So what do they come for?

They come because the Word of God is preached there. Because a Church that follows God's direction is attractive to the faithful. They come to feel the almost unbearable presense of the Holy Spirit. To witness the many lives that come to Christ week after week.

This is not to say that I agree entirely with everything they do. But it is to say that God glorifies himself in that small church in the mountains. They don't have lots of money, and if they do, they certainly don't flaunt it.

One day they dream of having a nice temple, like the one God directed them to leave in the middle of the town of Cayey, PR, in search of service to their Jerusalem. The place where they meet to worship today will one day be the basketball court of the school God is leading them to start. One day they will again have walls, although probably no A/C or heat. One day they will have a kitchen that serves warm fellowship meals and coffee, but not to be up and coming, but to enable the Church members to spend all day at Church with no need to leave to eat lunch, to reward those who made the step of faith of coming to witness baptisms at 4AM on Thanksgiving day. One day they will again have a baptismal pool inside their temple once again so that anyone that believes can be baptized like Jesus was himself one day baptized.

The weird thing is that their move doesn't feel like a step backward while so many moves I experience today do. They had a church, and they had a stove and they had a fellowship area (which they rented from a business), they had fans for the summer and they had walls. The difference is that they did not arbitrarily chose to leave everything the had in search of something better, they were instructed by God to leave their comfortable situation in the small mountain city to reach out to other areas, to enhance their ability to serve others.

Over the 103 years of their existence, this small mountain town church has planted small churches in areas of this small town where people are less likely to drive and even less likely to go to Church far from their community, where the roads are not the best. Even at the main temple, it takes just a short look around at the many generations, social standing and varying degrees of education and professions to realize the long reach their ministry has had over the years. Looking around at the other Baptist churches started in the surrounding towns by missionaries from the First Baptist Church of Cayey (the small church in the mountains which is the subject of this post), and the success of these, no one can underestimate their impact in my beautiful island that sits in the Atlantic Ocean on the Caribbean Sea, made of volcanic rock.

No comments: