If variety is the spice of life, my family has found a delicious banquet for a church. Whereas our last church was much like the local culture, boring, uncreative, stagnant, changeless, self-centered, even backward…you get the picture, Iglesia Bautista Betania is vibrant, active, creative, exciting, progressive, cooperative, and continually outreaching. It has a good mix of age groups and on-going activities for all. It is ready for weddings, funerals, births, sickness, and emergencies. It practices mission to neighboring communities and welcomes missionaries from the U.S. as well. For a couple with two young kids, it’s a pleasure to attend and participate. We have been made to feel like family even though we’ve been the “new” congregants for only four months.
Recently, we were invited to celebrate the college graduation of one of the church’s young men at a large, comfortable two-story hall.
Our beautiful daughter Adriana has been asked to be part of the wedding party for a young couple getting married in two weeks. What a special honor! Not only for Adriana but for us as well.
Yesterday, Sunday, had a very special service. It was about 3 1/2 hours long and one of the most joyous mornings since we’ve been at Betania. The main event, if you will, was the wedding of Adonay and Marisol. It had two parts, the civil ceremony performed by an authorized woman representing the government and the consecration performed by our pastor. But it was not all that simple.
The processional was formal to Mendelsohn’s “Wedding March”. Introduced were the couple’s godparents, those chosen for the ring ceremony, the pillow bearers, and the lasso bearers, the parents of the groom, the groom, the flower girl, two other little kids, and finally the bride escorted by her dad.
Adriana sat next to me on the aisle in the third row. I told her to watch how the processional went because she’d be doing it in two weeks. But that’s not really where my mind or my heart were while the flower girl spread rose petals along the aisle.
As a nervously uncomfortable father in a suit coat a little too big for him slowly walked toward us with his smiling, veiled daughter in her white gown with its train, I started tearing up and began to pray. “Dear Father God, please let me live long enough and be strong enough to escort my precious princess down an aisle where awaiting her will be a Christian gentleman to care for her for the rest of her life.”
She didn’t see me cry and I don’t know if I could have explained it to an eight-year old. But after we got home, I told her mother and Adriana overheard. Adri and I had a great evening playing at bull fighting using a yellow towel instead of a red cape. When the bull was finally killed and an ear was “cut off”, she spent the rest of the time squirming in my lap while we watched TV until the signal disappeared as usual due to a little rain.
The service continued with a very accomplished youth band and our praise and worship team. The outstanding feature for me was the balance of instruments and voices. The drums were there but not dominating. The leader played bass notes on his guitar which blended with the two other guitars. The voices were well-practiced and we heard some counter-point as well as harmony. The arrangements were contemporary and listenable.
Next came a nine-piece band so reminiscent of the mariachi I love that I felt I was back in Mexico. There were four guitars, a bass, a young boy on bongos, a güiro (Google it.), a cowbell, and a woman on tambourine. The leader played an electrified classical guitar and shared lead singing with one of the other guitarists. Their harmonies were exquisite. It was like watching a Pedro Infante movie. The music moved me immensely.
After the ceremony, we went into the meeting hall for a delicious lunch of chicken, rice, salad and a tortilla. It was served with a cup of soda, a rare treat for me these days. When we didn’t see a wedding cake (often there is none or it is just for the immediate family), I bought Adri and me a cup of sherbet for dessert. We sat and chatted with the pastor’s wife and passers by. Margarita inquired of the next pair of marriage candidates regarding rehearsal and learned it would be next Saturday. Finally, the little kids were called to get their cake and serving ladies came out with plates for the adults. Margarita went inside to fetch us our plates. By the time we had eaten ours, Adri and her little girl friend were coming out with their second helpings.
Another thing I noticed was how anyone who asked could have second helpings until the food, drinks, and cake ran out. In fiestas at our former church, we had been used to watching certain people put aside what would be extra food for themselves. The wedding food was paid for by the families. Fiesta food at the old church was bought with donations from those congregants who chipped in what they could afford. So it was really a form of theft for a few families to glom the leftovers for those who may have contributed little or nothing.
Perhaps I’m experiencing life among people of a higher class. Folks who don’t feel they’re entitled to all they can get whether or not they’ve done anything to earn any of it. The Lord does provide but you’ve got to work for it.