A bunch of us at Tierra Nueva got together a few weeks ago to talk about our Spanish worship service. The tremendous diversity that is typically referred to as the “Hispanic community” has challenged us to re-think how we move forward with our faith community.
Most of the farm workers these days are far from fluent in Spanish and far from Christian. They speak Triqui and Mixteco and pay homage to a diversity of gods and goddesses. Many go to brujos (traditional healers/witch doctors) and practice a very syncretistic religion. They need to be introduced to Jesus through direct prayer and simple but dynamic Bible study. They also need church to come to their apartments or camps as they work long hours, and have large families of kids that need to get off to school early. So we’ve decided to make our Sunday night Spanish service shorter and simpler and visit people and establish faith communities in people’s homes using Luke 10 as a model.
In Luke 10 Jesus sends 70 recently appointed disciples two-by-two into every town and place. They are to look for sons/daughters of peace who will receive them. In India and Mozambique the body of Christ is growing fastest through leaders who spiritually discern which homes to visit and then practice Jesus’ approach of blessing people with peace, not moving from house to house, eating with the people, praying for this sick and announcing “the Kingdom of God has come near to you.” I got to experience the power of this last night and Salvio, Victoria, Emily, Mike, Chris and others at Tierra Nueva are stepping out in this way too.
Last night Emily encouraged me to call on a Triqui-speaking family who hadn’t been coming to Tierra Nueva for many months. Unfortunately I went alone, but you can come along now back into this encounter. After dropping my son Luke off at gymnastics I called Felipe (not his real name) who welcomed me to his apartment without hesitating. As soon as I stepped through their door Alejandra (not her real name) sat me down, offered me a soft drink and brought a bowl full of hot tortillas and meat to me and Felipe.
I wondered if they were discouraged because Alejandra had been healed of a swollen and painful leg problem several times, but the pain kept returning. I suggested that maybe it’s possible to lose healing if you are going to more than one god for help. I invited Felipe to read Exodus 20:1-4 and learned that he hadn’t been able to read for a long time, which I figured was because he’s 50 and probably needs reading glasses like Gracie and I do. In fact this had frustrated him, causing him to lose interest in our Bible studies. I suggested that we go together later to get some glasses at Food Pavilion, and then read Exodus 20:1ff’s “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me” and talked briefly about how God wants us to recognize only one healer/liberator/savior—who we know as Jesus.
“Like you Felipe or me, how would you feel about Alejandra being with another man while she’s with you?” I asked him. He shook his head. They had a big poster on their wall with the American flag on it and I said “in America many Christians pray to Jesus but also believe in the flag and put their trust in the political system. Maybe it’s because we don’t trust that only Jesus can rescue us. We want to be sure we’re protected so we go to more than one god. Does that happen in Oaxaca?” I asked. He nodded reflectively. I then asked if we could pray again for Alejandra.
Before we began praying Felipe started chatting away in Triqui to his wife. I asked him what he was saying and said he was explaining to Alejandra that we can only serve one God. I was super encouraged that he explained it to her completely on his own. I prayed for her but nothing changed. “It’s the same,” she said matter of factly. He told me more freely that he thought it was witchcraft. So we prayed against that, but Alejandra said the pain was still there. I asked if they had an idea of who is cursing them. First he said he didn’t know. Then when I kept asking he said he thought it was his ex-wife who was mad at him for leaving her in Mexico years before and not sending money, and then for his relationship with Alejandra.
I talked with Alejandra about how important forgiveness is and she forgave without hesitation. Then I prayed, sending back blessings, love and peace to the woman who cursed them and to the brujo/a. After this prayer Alejandra said all the pain left and a big smile came on her face.
After praying for Alejandra I said “let’s go to Food Pavilion Felipe to get you some glasses,” and off we went in his van. It was fun choosing the glasses together, trying to figure out the strength and model. We came back and we tested out his new glasses by him reading Romans 12:21 “do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” We had talked about this before we sent back blessings, peace and love to their enemy, and Felipe smiled and was really into the verse and excited he can read again. It brought us all great joy to see the Kingdom of God come close. So much joy that I can’t wait to go out again.