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A Pentecostal Sunday…

Hola amigos!

So today my fanily invited me to go to church with them here. I actually had two choices of churches…the Padre and Madre of the house are fervent Catholics, and the daughter-in-law and son are Evangelicals. I decided to choose the latter, as I was very curious about the services and had heard they are like a big fiesta. I also have been reading a reasonably current book that I bought here about the history of religion in Guatemala: Mayan, Catholic, and Evangelical. The Evangelical churches here have a very big presence, particularly with the indigenous people. The reasons for this are many, and include that women find that evangelical husbands make better providers, as drinking alcohol is discouraged by the EvangelicaL sects here. Damaris´family has been Evangelical for 10 years or so-her entire family has converted to Pentecostalism from Catholicism. However, everyone lives together in harmony in the house, and it doesn´t seem to bother the son´s parents that he married and Evangelical and goes to church with her instead.
(so much different than the USA, where some people would have difficulty with this.)

So the four of us(the son, Rafael; his wife, Damaris; their two year old son, Little Mario; and myself) set off acrosst town to get their church, which is quite far away from the area where they live. It took a great deal of walking and a few buses to get there, and then we started seeing lots of people heading the same direction..and I realized that they were all heading to the same church. We walked around a corner, then down a dirt road, and there it was.

The church building was one of those enormous metal buildings, with cement block walls and a cement floor. I learned later that the church had been started in someone´s living room not long ago-and has since grown to 300plus members. The building was purchased by the members, with no help from outside sources.

Looking at the banners on the sides of the church, I realized that it was a Pentecostal church. Later on thruout the services, the church members were obviously Pentecostal, as they shouted out thruout the service,spoke in tongues, and there was also a laying -on of hands.

My hosts were obviously proud and happy I had joined them, and the first main speaker agknowledged them and myself from the stage, followed by great applause!

The service began with tremendous singing, complete with band..electric guitars, keyboards, etc. Everyone seemed to really get into the singing part, and some people were praying at the same time. I was at a great vantage point from my seat to look out at all the church members, who were truly a mix of the modern Guatemalan, mixed with many indigenous people. There were many young people, tons of kids running around, and obviously many people who were very poor as well. There seemed to be a lot of love shared between the church members, much hugging and happiness in general.

The live music part of the service was basically a concert, which lasted about an hour. The songs were reasonably familiar to me, but the difference was they were accompanied by much rythmic clapping and also obviously rehearsed dances by the crowd.

The second hour, there were several speakers..the first speaker talked about some things I did not quite understand, as well as welcomed new visitors(again! There was applause for the way, I was the only gringo there!). The second speaker said several long prayers, during which many people in the congregation cried out, sang out, or burst into tears. There was what seemed to be a call for those ¨who did not know Christo¨to come forward/renew this point, masses of people came up to the front, and stayed there on their knees, on the hard cement, for some time as the second speaker continued speaking for the rest of the second hour.

Then several people, both men and women, announced it was collection time. Everyone that I could see particpated in the collection, which was gathered by women carrying small wastebaskets. The collection was then taken to a back table, where it was immediately counted. People continued donating to the collection during the next speaker as well.

Speaking of the next speaker…when it was time for him to dome up to the stage, there was silence, then great applause. My hostess told me that he was famous for his oratory skills, and that he travelled to all the barrios here(neighborhoods). He was a fabulous speaker, very energetic..he was so booming in voice that he filled this gigantic building, and it was literally impossible not to look at him. He truly has ¨stage presence¨ and during his sermon he would talk to people in the audience alot. People swooned abit, called out ämens¨and it was a very interactive sermon. He spoke so rapidly that I had trouble understanding him at certain parts, but his sermon was obviously focused on the last book of the Evangelical Bible. He talked alot about the end of the world, etc.

At this point, the man that had been speaking before came back, as well as the musicians, and there was more prayer. There was a call for anyone who was sick to come forward, and when no one did, people seemed to be literally jumping out of their seats with joy, and there was much calling out, etc. Then there was a call for any persons with problems to come forward, and probably at least 1/4 of the people went forward. They started listing off the problems, and as they listed them off, more and more people went to the front, trembling and crying..I couldn´t distinguish them all, but some of them were..poverty, being poor, not enough food, no husband or wife, not sucessful in business, family member who drinks too much…At this point one of the speakers began laying hands on the people in the front by the stage. There was alot of the laying on of hands in the congregation, too. People were calling out, speaking out, praying loudly, singing, and there was also some speaking in tongues. It was quite alot to take in. I didn´t want to offend anyone by staring at them and whatever they were doing..but even trying not to look, I ended up taking in a great deal. Also during this whole time, children ran around, were crying, people were eating snacks…the whole thing lasted over 3 hours!

When we left the building, everyone was all smiles..there was food to buy outside the door..such as jello in little cups and chocolate covered bananas and sponge like cakes soaked in bright pink syrup. We bought a few snacks, which the children promptly got all over themselves..although all the adults just smiled at this, and no one was upset at all (that their child had just dumped orange jello and dayglo pink sauce on their clothes!).

We walked several blocks, then hopped on a mini bus for a bit(difficult for a tall woman such as myself to even fit on a minibus..a true feat of a contortionist…plus I ended up with several small children on my lap, who cried the entire time, as they did not want to be on the gringos lap!)

We got off the bus when we got close to their house and also a tiny strret market was at the bus stop. There Damaris bought deep fried pork skins, apparently a traditional food on Sunday here. There were like 6 stalls selling pork skins..but Damaris is obviously a very kind person, and she bought hers from a seller who was blind. They tried to convince me to try one..but I kept saying..¨No-vegetariana!¨, besides which, the smell of the pork mixed with the sewer where we were standing was not appetizing! I ended up walking a bit further, and found a helgado maker(ice cream), which is literally churned right there on the street for you as you wait. We all ended up buying ice cream( as my hosts said, church is exhausting!) and walked the rest of the way home.

Next weekend, a new friend of mine has invited me to her tiny pueblo for the weekend, where I will be going to both Mayan and Catholic services. I´ve been reading a book on Mayan religios practices, in hopes it will help me understand what is going on better when I´m there.

that´s all for now!gigi


7 responses to “A Pentecostal Sunday…”

  1. Bill Ayers says:

    Gigi…Great story! I am really wanting to see photos!!!

  2. Travelclown says:

    Very interesting…

  3. Bonnie McManus says:

    Hola Gigi! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and images with us. I almost felt like I was there. Bonita

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