Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Week in Guatemala: Strangers No More

I spent last week in Guatemala with two colleagues from the Spanish Department at EMU (Eastern Mennonite University). We were there to review the program for our students at the Anabaptist Seminary called Semilla and the ancillary program CASAS for teaching Spanish and the Guatemalan cultural and historical realities.

Occurring at the same time as our visit was an encounter between forty young adults from Indonesia, Europe, Africa and Mesoamerica. Their theme was “Strangers No More.” The encounter was underwritten by the Dutch Mennonite Church.

What a blessing it was to share space with this group during our stay in Guatemala. Conversations with both young people and their leaders during our meals proved to be a gratifying experience.

First, it was impressive that this encounter took place without the presence of any North Americans; leaders or youth or resources. Too many of us assume that a gathering like this can only happen if it is planned and executed at the initiative and organization of the church in the USA—especially if it happens in our hemisphere. It was gratifying to see this assumption refuted.

Secondly, we hear so much about the church in Europe dying, and yet the European young people I met as well as their leaders were quite committed and active in their churches. Our critique of Europe is like us seeing the speck in their eye while ignoring the log in our own. The church in the USA is close behind Europe in losing its importance. It seems to me that Christendom is what is dying in both places, and I am hopeful that the remnant will represent a truer form of Christ’s church. It was gratifying to be able to come to this realization.

Finally, hearing several dialects from Indonesia, Spanish with varying accents from Mexico through Nicaragua, a number of African dialects from Tanzania to Zambia along with Dutch and Frisian was a real joy. I didn’t need to understand the words in order to sense the joy in their faces. It was gratifying to interact with brothers and sisters from four different continents.

Strangers no more. Our man-made borders make us strangers. Following Jesus brings us together. “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). How gratifying it would be if everyone, but especially Christians, would recognize this. 

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