A big, warm HOLA from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I’ve been exploring and digging through the layers of this beautiful city for six weeks now… Holy moly. This is (apparently) about the time that homesickness sets in during a semester abroad. I definitely miss my family and friends like crazy, but Skype and Facebook have made staying connected fairly simple.
This past week, however, I noticed that I was feeling a different kind of homesickness. I’ve officially named it, “Community sickness.” For all 21 years of my life, I’ve had an amazing spiritual community present in my life. Communities that pushed me to ask and answer challenging questions, supported me through difficult life experiences, celebrated my successes, and helped me create my morals and values. Thanks to these communities–LCM in particular– I now notice the absence of curiosity, integrity, hospitality, service, and justice.
I was CRAVING to share my spiritual experiences/”God Sightings”/life-giving moments with a community, so I sent a frantic e-mail to three Pastors that have supported me through my faith journey, asking for connections in Buenos Aires. They all responded within 24 hours with words of wisdom, names, and places that would help me fill this void. I also reached out to my program coordinator here in BA, and she gave me the address to a Methodist church close to my home-stay.
I decided to check it out and figured I could hide in the back and sneak out if I felt uncomfortable. Like a good little Lutheran, I arrived 15 minutes early to claim my pew. Besides the choir practicing, I was the first one there…so much for blending in the background! I sat down and an energetic Argentine man (the Pastor) came running toward me, greeted me with a, “Bienvenida!” and a kiss on the cheek. He asked where I was from and then asked what church I went to in the US. His response when I told him I was Lutheran literally brought me to tears: Ahhh, sí! Somos familia! Ahh, yes! We are family!
Everyone who came in greeted me with a kiss on the cheek or a friendly wave, and the congregation ended up being around 40 people. I’m pretty sure God was hugging me for the next hour and a half… I felt so comfortable, and I couldn’t stop smiling/crying. The congregation was a beautiful hodgepodge of varied ages, colors, languages, and social classes…
Lady who sings louder than anyone else and somehow makes tone-deafness sound beautiful: check.
Old man who sings lower than anyone else and makes it his personal responsibility to set the pace of the hymn: check.
80 year-old organist who plays at his own speed and doesn’t notice that he’s two measures behind the congregation: check.
Young girl constantly giggling and bouncing from pew to pew, unable to pay attention: check.
I was able to understand (for the most part) the sermon, and I’m pretty sure it was written for me. Or maybe I understood what I wanted to…? In a nutshell, it was about asking important questions, accepting when the answers aren’t always there, and searching for ways to strengthen your faith in times of trial.
When it was time for communion, everyone gathered around the altar at once. It was so powerful for me to hear the Words of Institution in Spanish and to share the meal with beautiful strangers. The pan de vida was passed out to everyone, and after we all received our bread, the Pastor exclaimed, Comimos! We eat! The same happened with the wine and, Bebimos! We drink. I’ve never been a part of such an intimate communion… it was beautiful.
Still standing in front of the altar, we were asked to share our prayer requests with the congregation and our prayers were then held up by the entire group. Again, a very unique and intimate experience.
After the service, I was approached by various members of the congregation inviting me to a Friday night group for students, concerts, and other events around the city. A stellar representation of hospitality 🙂 I left la iglesia feeling re-energized and full of life. I practically skipped home, smiling the whole time.
Maybe I was so moved by this experience because not once did I feel like an outsider. I was greeted immediately as I walked in, and felt the presence and beauty of the Spirit through hymns, prayers, and hospitality. As I was leaving, an older woman yelled, Chau, mi amor! Hasta luego! Goodbye, my love! See you later! Maybe I felt so connected to this community because it echoes the values of LCM and embodies the spirit of who we strive to be.
It’s kind of cool to feel this void, acknowledge it, and respond to it. I’ve learned that I need community. I know what a strong community looks and feels like because I’ve been surrounded by them for 21 years, and for that, I am incredibly thankful. As the semester continues, I encourage all of us to reach out to the girl trying to hide in the back pew. Continue to push your boundaries in hopes of creating a community that fosters curiosity and leaves people skipping home, wanting to share the good news.
Paz y Amor,