Bishop Lull: God is Not Exiting
Service of Holy Closure at North Emanuel Lutheran Church, Saint Paul (9.17.17) "God is Not Exiting" Act[...]
Having just returned from my 7th visit to the Lutheran congregation San Isidro Labrador in Nueva Guatemala, Sayaxché, Petén, (June 19-21, 2016), I noticed many changes and improvements in the community while at the same time appreciated what has remained the same.
Of course, the children have changed and are growing up. Those I met as babies are now in school. Those I met as preschoolers are now celebrating their first communion, and some have graduated from 6th grade (which means in all reality, their school careers have ended). Those I met as school-age children are now getting married and/or are young parents, and some of the youth have grown up and left the community.
There are physical changes in the community as well. Fencing now surrounds and defines the church property. As you enter the church building, you pass under a black plastic awning and are greeted by the Lutheran Rose to the left of the door and the name of the congregation, painted in large letters, to the right of the door. The broken water tower has been replaced by a sturdier one. There are more lights to be seen at night, as some families have solar panels. One family now owns a car. In keeping with their practice of radical hospitality, church members have improved our guest amenities by adding a handrail along the steps of the latrine and a cement floor to the shower.
Even though there have been many changes, there are many things that have remained the same. Throughout the church there are physical signs of our nine-year partnership: the altar cloths made by OSLC quilters, the framed copies of the Paul Oman paintings that match the paintings in OSLC's sanctuary, the poster of our congregations, the baptismal font funded in part by one of our confirmation groups, and the MN hand towel used for all the baptisms. In addition, the joint projects completed last year (the Luther Rose outside the church building and the tables and benches for the school) are testaments to our working together side by side.
For me, even more familiar than the physical items mentioned above are the emotional constants: the overwhelmingly warm welcome; the smiles that greet us; the profound hospitality and care for our well-being; the open hearts and arms of our Guatemalan brothers and sisters; and the joy that is found in worshiping, eating, playing, and spending time together.
Our Saviors Lutheran, Circle Pines, MN