I’m having trouble uploading photos at the moment, but will do so as soon as possible at http://www.flicker.com/photos/bishopmike
Today we headed out early for our two-hour drive north out of San Salvador, to Guaymango. Pastor Walter drove and Pastor Martín joined us.
When we arrived people were already gathered in the church, about 150 or so. We were told this was a youth service. There were scads of darling Salvadoran children. We were met by two church leaders, Irma and Gloribél. They are technically deaconesses, but the congregation referred to them as pastors. Gloribél’s deceased husband used to be a pastor at Atonement Lutheran (LCMS) in New Orleans. Consequently, they receive support from several kind LCMS sources. Thing is, Gloribél is studying for ordination.
This congregation has grown significantly. The leaders talked about being verbally attacked by Catholics, who view them as a sect. Many of them had converted.
The service went as one would expect a Lutheran liturgy to go. A band of guitarists led the singing. (See photos.)
I preached on the Workers in the Vineyard, and was later told they understood every word. They were an enthusiastic group, giving “Amens!” at critical junctures. I have to admit, feedback from the congregation helps the preacher know if s/he’s hitting the mark or not.
At one point in the sermon, when talking about the early workers agreeing to the “usual daily wage,” I asked the congregation what the usual daily wage was. I had guessed $10/day based on my reading. They chatted about it and settled on $4/day. It changed my feelings about the story to talk about the 6 am workers agreeing to work 12 hours for $4. When those who arrived at 5 pm were paid $4 for only one hour’s work, the same that the all-day workers received it didn’t feel so outlandishly generous. But I could tell the story was hitting home. People of all cultures feel the edge of this peculiar story.
Afterwards the musicians taught me a few songs, then we sat with a dozen key leaders and learned more about their ministry. These folks love Jesus, practice an almost Pentecostal faith, believe pastors should be able to marry and that women should be ordained. They believe in serving the poor, and retain their right to speak out against the government. They have grit.
I lost track of time as so often happens in Latin cultures, but I guess we talked nearly two hours. Finally someone said lunch was ready. It had to be 2:00. We ate and talked about our companion synods in Peru and the Central African Republic.
As we walked to our truck, they showered us with hugs and kisses. When will you come back? It is always a hard question to answer. On the drive back I reflected on how much these relationships mean to them, and to us. I grow in faith every time I visit Christian churches in other countries.