Thursday, June 05, 2008

Why We Are Called

Monday we visited the Basilica with Robin and Margaret. Unless you have been there it is very hard to put into words why the experience disturbed and moved us so much. As Christians we know that Jesus is our intercessor before the throne of God--there is no middle man between us and Him. The Mexicans very much believe that they need an intercessor and for them, most of the time it is Mary. While there are other saints they pray to, most often it is the Virgin (in Mexico, she is called the Lady of Guadalupe). When we first walked onto the grounds (there are several buildings built at the foot of and atop a hill with beautiful gardens, pools and paths surrounding the traditional Basilica site) there was an alcove filled with candles people had lit and placed. Many people were standing around them praying. A few feet farther was a booth where, for a fee, you could have a priest bless you with holy water.

Inside the buildings were various shrines and statues of saints and the Virgin. Many of these statues had been rubbed until they were shiny (the people will rub the statues for a blessing) and everywhere we looked we could see people praying. We saw a bit of the Mexican history in paintings--there's quite a lot of pagan beliefs and gods mixed into Latin Catholicism (Aztec in particular). The traditional Basilica is being renovated (the ground around it is sinking; if you stand with the building in profile, you will see that it is leaning forward) and so worshipers were directed to another building on the grounds.

At the back of the new Basilica was a long line of supplicants waiting their turn in the confessionals. We watched as one family literally crawled on hands and knees from the cobblestone courtyard into the building in penitence, awaiting their blessing. At the front and one side of the sanctuary was a large shroud with the image of the Lady of Guadeloupe on it. For a better view of it, we went down a corridor and, at the base of the shroud were moving sidewalks where you could stand and pray as you were slowly carried to the other side. The sight that moved me the most was a woman just to one side of the moving sidewalk, her head bowed in fervent prayer, her hands clasped in front of her. She was unnerved by the motion around her--every fiber of her being was focused on that shroud as she prayed to the image imprinted on it. As I continue to watch her, my heart broke and the tears fell.

The kids asked Margaret if perhaps Mary is sad when the people worship her instead of Jesus. We all knew deep in our hearts the answer to that question. It is why we have been called to minister in Mexico. Why we have a burden so profound that it literally brings us to tears. We have hope in Jesus and it is through His grace we are sustained and set free--not because Mary or Juan Diego or anyone else interceded on our behalf. That is what we have been called to tell the hopeless people of Mexico. That is why we are hungry to return.

Sunday Worship...Mexican Style

Sunday we had the privilege of attending a worship service with some fellow missionaries (the Mackinnon crew, Margaret and Robin). Before the service we sat down on the church grounds for a Mexican breakfast (not steak and eggs by any means but YUMMY; I think it will take me a long time to get used to eating refried beans for breakfast) and our kids had an opportunity to meet and play with the older Mackinnon kids. They all played and talked like they'd known each other for years, something that this mother's heart was thankful for. Of course, since I don't speak a lick of Spanish, as has already been stated, I mostly listened to the sounds of praise being lifted up in Spanish. Even though I didn't understand what was being said or sung my heart was content and felt at home. Half-way through the sermon I discovered that tears were streaming down my face (again) and I honestly couldn't explain why other than to say that I feel so at home among the Mexican people in the City that my heart was just crying out to be able to stay.

Another privilege for us was watching a Mexican missionary to India give his missionary presentation during the service. As something that we are currently doing ourselves, it was really neat to witness a Mexican going through the same process. Just like we are working to get to Mexico with the gospel, this Mexican is working to get to India with the gospel! Just as we will have to learn Spanish to effectively minister in Mexico, this man will have to learn the various dialects he will need to effectively minister in India.