Alex- July 20, 2014- First UMC Lakeland

Today I was fortunate enough to experience a Hispanic church service for the third time. Like my two previous encounters with the Hispanic church, I was blown away by the passion and faith the people displayed. My Spanish is not the best, or even close to being adequate enough to hold a conversation, so I was lost during the worship portion of the service. But that didn’t matter, because I could FEEL the emotions, the thoughts and prayers, and the faith of the people singing. It was as if the church was not a collection of people who happened to share the same space on a Sunday morning, but a single soul crying out to the Lord. It is something that I believe we have, for the most part, lost in the American culture. Most times we just go through the motions, half singing without meaning or conviction. Here, I have no doubt in my mind that the people are not singing to fit in or because it is just something that is expected to do at church. They sing because that is one of the ways that they can say what they want, no, what they need to say without. There is so much you can say when you are simply crying out the words to a song, and the people here not only understand that but embrace it. We could learn a lesson or two from them. The people throughout this trip have been so kind, so caring and full of a life that I am not sure I can understand. From Kelfi (Our guide), Henry, Frank, Mommy, Pastora Sairy, Juan Pablo, and all those who make us our meals, accommodate us, and share their beautiful home with us, I have learned what true hospitality is. What it means to love with the love of God, and it is something that I will cling to for the rest of my life. I am so thankful for this experience and all of the people I have interacted with. I work with kids on a daily basis from 8:45 to 5:45, yet I was shocked at how universal the language of love is. All it takes most of the time is a genuine smile, a wave hello, a very badly said “Hola”, and the kids beam with joy. They are instantly your best friend, wanting to show you the wonders of their world. One boy, Miguel Jose, was so happy playing a simple game of rock paper scissors that we played for well over 30 minutes, and it would have been longer had his mother called him away. One girl, whose name I can not recall, made it her mission to teach me the Spanish words for paint, to paint, paintbrush, and water bottle. She was so proud when I finally used the word “pintar” in a sentence that she grabbed her friends and started to share with them that I had finally understood. She laughed when I messed up, praised me when I was right, and just enjoyed my company. I’ve learned so much about the joys of companionship, of not needing to speak the same language to love someone. I’ve been able to experience the joys of serving and hearing God’s word through work. We have a couple more days left, and my prayers is that each one of us on this trip would continue to keep our mind open, to experience new things, to enjoy the little things in life, and to learn the lessons that we would never have the chance too if we weren’t doing God’s work.

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