Mennonite Mission Network staff
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
WACO, Texas (Mennonite Mission Network) — The Hope Fellowship worship that morning had its usual share of emotion. Heartfelt petitions for needed jobs, pain-filled stories of separations brought about by distances and political borders, and the standard pathos of life had moistened many eyes. The grace and hope of God had produced big, alligator tears of joy with affirmations of each other, testimonies about small acts of love or service that had been received, and reports of a new Habitat house and other redemptive events in the neighborhood.

After the break, as people re-gathered in the living room of our meeting house for the teaching time, we noticed that someone had been at work on the flipchart sitting in the middle of the room.  

 

Cries in

Brother or Sister

Spanish

English

 Cristina

x

 

 Phillip

 

x

 Nancy

x

x

And the list continued with most of the adults in the church. We all recognized the sense of humor; Dale’s sly and irreverent observations often act as a snapshot of the obvious that help us recognize the internal and eternal work that is God doing among us.

There are many good reasons not to attempt a bilingual, multicultural church. Most church growth theories are built upon the efficacy of homogeneous groupings. Disappointment and hypocrisy come easily and often when we fail and the dominant culture prevails. And it simply takes more time, actually twice as much, to share a story, opinion, or insight, to cry, or to say anything in two languages.

Yet, and this “yet” is huge, the cost is justifiable. We feel that we have found the pearl of great price. “Behold,” the psalmist wrote, “how pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in unity.” (Psalms 133.1)

This unity of those “who were once far off” is known, experienced, and enjoyed through the suffering and blood of Jesus Christ. “For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.” (Ephesians 2.13-14)

Through our 11 years as a church, God has continued to build the body. We currently are about 50 people, adults and children with origins in Waco, Houston, Michigan, Alaska, Nairobi, Oaxaca, Pueblo, Puerto Rico and Uruguay (among others). The dividing wall continues to come down, brick by brick.

Phillip now cries in Spanish, and Cristina in English. We recognize that we are all immigrants, yet none of us are strangers or aliens. We are all members of the household of God.

Joe Gatlin is volunteer co-pastor, with his wife, Nancy, at Hope Fellowship in Waco, Texas.

 

 

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