This past weekend was an exercise in extremes…from sadness to joy, from spiritual darkness to the celebration of youth.
As we were finishing up our youth group Bible study at around 10 p.m. on Thursday, we received a call that Roberto had suffered a catastrophic stroke, and was at the point of entering eternity. Mayra and I drove to the hospital, and I was able to read several Bible texts to an unresponsive Roberto on a ventilator. He passed away some hours later. On Friday several of us from the church drove to Blanca’s home (Roberto’s wife), and participated in a singing and preaching time, with an open casket placed in the patio area of the home. As the afternoon transitioned to evening, many people sat in the makeshift meeting area. The gospel was clearing presented!
Roberto and Blanca have attended our church faithfully for the last two years, although we really didn’t know much about either of them until more recently. After several weeks of absence, they were both in church two Sundays ago, and we greeted them with affection. Now we know that they were basically the only two believers in their entire extended family. In spite of this, Blanca was firm that she wanted a Christian service, although after our time at the viewing was done, the rest of the family took over, and we had to endure close to an hour of rezos, of Catholic liturgy, with lengthy and often blasphemous sections repeated over and over. The virgin Mary is the clear focus of these prayers.
Our Saturday was very different! We received an invitation to participate in Jessy Naomi’s fifteen year old celebration about a month ago. The family asked Rod to help with the symbols part of the service, where different physical objects are given to the young woman to remind her of spiritual principles. A crown speaks of royalty, of being God’s princess. A ring reminds the girl of purity. A lighted candle talks about her being light, and an example. A broom speaks to servanthood (a more common, mundane symbol, which usually produces a chuckle or two), and the presentation of a Bible. Pastor Ismael then gave a devotional. It was neat to hear the parents express the importance of this service, this part of a longer rest-0f-the-day celebration. Among the festivities…a mariachi band, a rather traditional dance time, and of course, a good meal!
Which was the best activity of the weekend? Well, I guess that depends on your perspective. Ecclesiastes 7:2,4 says: It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.