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Saturday, January 28, 2012

This is why people pray


I went to church last night - not my usual Friday night activity by a long shot. But when in Honduras, why not do as the Hondurans do? Besides, it just didn’t seem right to turn down the invitation of Esmeralda, the bon vivant who owns the house where we’re staying.
Honduras is predominantly Catholic, but evangelical faiths are on the rise. Charismatic churches like the one we attended - the tin-roofed Renovacion Cristiana, filled on this night with a congregation so young as to be the envy of any traditional church in Canada - are catching on with a population that has clearly taken to the warmth of the evangelical movement.
My fragile grasp of Spanish was no match for the fire-and-brimstone style of the pastor. The overheads featuring biblical quotes in Spanish taxed my reading skills to the max. I was baptised in the United Church but never did see much church-going in my childhood and beyond, so no surprise that a high-speed Spanish sermon from the Book of Apocalypse (I don’t think I even knew there WAS a Book of Apocalypse) turned out to be virtually incomprehensible to me.
But I had no problem feeling the mood in the room. It was church Honduran-style - babies wriggling in their mothers’ arms, children wandering about, a rapturous woman up front dancing in that limby, freestyle way that I’ve come to associate with music festivals.
Young women knelt with their foreheads on the floor, eyes clenched shut in surrender to whatever private pain gripped them. Muscled young men raised their hands in the air in supplication. The songs were melodic and joyous, with none of that Gregorian chant feel of the standard hymn.  When the time came for the collection, people with nothing to give dug lempiras out of their pockets all the same.
Life and death is anything but theoretical in Honduras. Poverty, sorrow and loss are regular visitors at most Honduran homes, a reality that has shaped the culture into one that lives for the moment.
 It would be naive of me to romanticize this life, or say something trite about how Hondurans being poor but happy. Basics like public education, public health care and even consistently clean and available water are certainties only for Hondurans with money, of which there are precious few.
Civic infrastructure is hodge-podge and in many cases absent. Car-eating potholes are common on even the largest of freeways. Books for children are a rare treat, and routine dental care is still a dream. Distributing cocaine coming in from South America is a major economic driver, and the violence the industry brings with it has left Hondurans with few certainties around personal security. 
Yet there’s something vibrant here. This is a country where people grab life by both hands and hold on tight, because there’s just no saying how long any of it is going to last.
They praise the Lord because He’s all they’ve got, and it moves me.



1 comment:

Karen said...

so very well written, as usual. but being there and sharing first hand allows us who aren't there to get a snap shot best as possible, to see through your eyes all your doing and all the amazing spirits of the people you are crossing paths with. what an experience and a gift. your feelings and enormous care and compassion shines through. you too are an extremely beautiful spirit....