With a home congregation that travels regularly to Guatemala for visits with a partner congregation, I knew exactly what to expect on my recent trip with the Saint Paul Area Synod to visit the Iglesia Luterana Augustina de Guatemala.
I was prepared to be inundated with extreme heat and humidity. I was prepared to sleep in beds different from what I'm used to. I was prepared for mosquito nets and bucket baths. I was even told how much I would enjoy myself on this trip - over and over by such a wide variety of people - the very fancy, the very rugged, the Spanish speakers and non Spanish speakers alike. I was sure I knew what to expect - and I was excited!
What I wasn't prepared for was the overwhelming sense of love and the presence of God I would feel while spending time with the community in San Antonio.
I wasn't prepared to have an entire church community present for my arrival, for the spectacular musical welcome, for the fireworks shot off in celebration of our arrival. I wasn't prepared to be fussed over, so well cared for that even a flush toilet was crafted for our arrival! I wasn't prepared for a Pentecost worship in which being sure of feeling the Holy Spirit felt like a task already achieved with gusto - or for prayers that sounded like being present at the time of the actual Pentecost. I wasn't prepared for the worship in a new temple to be so beautiful, so rich, and so well attended. I wasn't prepared to have the honor of gaining the sweetest baby for a godchild, or for the gifts and deep gratitude given to me by her mother.
I wasn't prepared to feel like a day and a half of spending time with people would make me feel as close to them as people I've known a lifetime.
In short - the stories you hear are amazing, moving, so clearly affirming of faith. You've heard it over and over again - that these trips are life changing even when you don't speak the same language as the people in the communities - but there is something about actually being there that no story can ever prepare you for.
It's the Spirit of God at work as we walk together in the mission we share. It's the realization that no matter how different we are from our brothers and sisters in Christ from all over the world - no matter the things that separate us, we truly are Sisters and Brothers, One Body of Christ, and no one way of being the church is more accurate or right. And somehow, no matter how deeply you know that before you visit the ILAG, your sense of knowing will be deepened, your sense of being loved broadened, and the mission we share will seem just a bit closer to possible after you visit.
The Rev. Stefanie Fauth
Redeemer Lutheran, White Bear Lake