unpacking a night at a culto…

I originally wrote this as an email to a friend – just to share a bit about life here in Nicaragua.  As I re-read it this morning, it felt like maybe it was a good post for our blog too.
Tonight we went to a culto – I don’t really understand why Nicaraguans use this word for it, but it’s basically a church service.  Quite honestly, I wasn’t super excited to go to the service itself, but because I love deeply the family that invites us there was no way I would miss it.
This small group that meets for this particular culto is mostly family of some sort, but not all.  There are babies to grandma’s about 40 in all.  They meet in a back yard that normally is dusty dirt, but because tonight it rained it was a little muddy.  It smells of dog poo.  There is a dog that growls at everyone as they come in, and a parrot who says “hola” and then gives out random cat-call whistles – can you imagine the scene?
They start the service with a scripture reading and then they pray.  Some out loud, some silent, but mostly out loud and all at the same time.  It is loud, but it doesn’t feel that way.  After a while, singing starts.  One leader and a keyboard – neither are in tune, but they sing and play with much heart and everyone joins in.  In fact nearly everyone pulls out a tambourine or hand drum from their purse or bag to play.  Even the young ones.  (and once it begins, both the dog and parrot are settled)
I admit, I was distracted by how bad it sounded for just a minute, but as I sang, the Spirit was so clearly present in the space and I no longer noticed, I was just engaged.
After a while people were encouraged to share a verse, a song, or testimony.  About 5 or 6 folks did, and it was a mix.  A pastor shared with us – and spoke for at least an hour – probably a little longer.
With the language barrier, I only caught about 1/2 (if that) of the stories/sermon, but words in songs I can now mostly catch – at least the context, and Bible verses I just read out on my own in my English Bible.
It is very simple – the only technology is a small microphone and an electric keyboard.  There are no song sheets or screens with words.  You simply listen, catch on, and sing when you can, if you are led.
It was a little over 2 hours in length.
I expected some of my kids to complain about the length, or the smell, or the mud…but the response as we left tonight was a unanimous “that was great”.
I dug in a little, to see what it was exactly about this worship experience that they liked so much – we’ve been to many different ones by now – we are in “church” about 3 times a week – everything from Catholic Mass to Pentecostal …I guess, we don’t always process them as much as we should…but I agreed.  Tonight was amazing!
Anyway, things my family said about tonight that were the highlights were:  intimate, everyone participating, a time for everyone to prepare our hearts to worship and invite the Holy Spirit to come in, even if they didn’t have a special gift for singing or reading they were comfortable to share up front, people had a lot of joy, and everyone welcomed us and wanted to know us by name (and they practiced until they could).
I saw all of these things – I saw love, and grace, patience, joy, (I am wondering about each of the fruits of the Spirit – do I see them? Maybe) and serving of one another, I saw everyone put at least something in to the offering basket, they began the one time by saying “Renovemos nuestra mente” – “Let us renew our minds” before reading God’s Word.  That was really centering for me.
I wonder if there is something in here for us to learn that will transfer back with us to Fort Collins.
I have missed our “church” – and our Sunday morning “experience” – I guess I am learning in deeper ways too, what it really means to worship, and that this expression of the heart can look so many different ways – and that  it is in fact what comes from within.


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