This January, the delegation from Como Park Lutheran and Lutheran Church of the Resurrection visited their partner congregation Cristo Luz del Mundo in Santa Amelia, Delores, Peten. Several of us had a heightened sense of 'what will happen this time?' since our prior trip in September 2016 had its greater-than-normal number of surprises.
What really struck me this time, now my sixth trip to visit our brothers and sisters in Santa Amelia, is how much laughter was a part of the experience with our family in Christ. Laughter because many of us share inside jokes about prior trips. Laughter because we know each other well by now. Laughter as we learn more about and with each other. It is amazing the transformation I have witnessed within our own delegation, but even more this time with Cristo Luz del Mundo. They, too, were laughing.
Standing around a respected elder and midwife of the congregation, Rosa carefully constructed a clay pot as was done when they had to live in the mountains for protection. Janet Christianson brought along a camera that produced immediate photos on paper and handed a picture of Rosa making the pot to a gentleman standing near Rosa, instructing him to give it to her when her hands were clean. He said something in response, and all the people around including Rosa were laughing. He had told the crowd that he would hang the picture at the head of his bed and pray to her. It was such a genuine moment.
Another time, we were helping plant peanuts in a farmer's field. The peanuts soon ran out, and we learned that the farmer had not wanted to overwhelm us with too much work, but now he was thinking he should have brought more peanuts because of how quickly we completed the task. We all laughed together.
Our main project was to install stovepipes in congregation members' homes. These were great moments for working together, determining where to place the stove, helping them fit the pieces together, and teaching them how to use the stove. Did we laugh while doing this together? Of course we did!
Each time we visit, we don't quite understand how that little amount of time draws us ever closer to our brothers and sisters in Christ. For me personally, it was also a time of honor and celebration. In 2016, with my broken Spanish, I learned from a woman that she was pregnant. She then said she was going to name the child after me and wanted me to be the godparent! My heart went aflutter. I could hardly believe my ears. So when I prepared for this trip, it was with anticipation and wonder. Will it really happen? As we arrived in the village and were greeted, I shook hands with everyone lined up to the door of the church. When I saw this little girl being held by her mother, I knew: this is Ruth, my soon-to-be goddaughter! And we celebrated with her baptism.
So we laugh. We celebrate. We learn from each other. We share close moments more and more. Come, let us continue to walk with each other on this wonderful journey that Christ calls us to do with intention - but also be open to surprise each time.
Como Park Lutheran Church, St. Paul