Friday, March 25, 2016

Where Easter and Colombia Collide

Today is Good Friday and this weekend we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord!
  In my church growing up, we would say "The Lord is Risen!" and it would be responded to with "The Lord is Risen Indeed!"

  Easter is the reason we have hope. Jesus was put on a cross and suffered for my sins and died. He did that out of pure love for me. For you. For everyone. But He did not stay dead; He rose on the third day! That is reason to have hope every single day.

 But, I think we don't often embrace the full meaning of all of that. It can become very routine to live our daily lives day in and day out and what Jesus did becomes a thing in the back of our minds we know, but we don't let shape our lives. We do not let that event, that love, that incredible forgiveness shape our every day actions.

 I am guilty of this. While I may do my best to love others or to be strong in my faith, I have not always let that shape my behavior. I have not always let that shape my belief of God viewing me the same way I am trying to tell others He views them. But I want to share a story with you that became a moment in time that shifted my heart, and I hope and pray to hold on to that for a lifetime.

 This story is about how Easter and Colombia collide in my life. I wrote for nearly 20 days in a row about my trip to Colombia. I am still processing events from that time, and I will continue to write about them. This one is probably one of the stories I would hold closest to my heart because it was that personal. However, as I read this morning in Matthew, and then flipped to Mark and even read in the book of John about the last supper and about Jesus breaking bread with his disciples before that day He would change history forever on the cross, I felt it would be important to share this part of my journey to Colombia as well.

  About 10 days before leaving, we held our last team meeting. Now, remember that I had to drive an hour and a half to go to the meetings. I was hesitant to go because I knew it would likely be a time consuming meeting, meaning most of my Sunday would be spent away from the family, and so close to my trip. However, I sensed the importance of this meeting, so I chose to drive down.
  Little did I know how life-changing that day would be for me.

 We had our regular meeting and you could feel the excitement and anticipation in the room. But as the meeting piece wrapped up, we were asked to gather in a more intimate circle, rather than around the tables. There were many significant markers in that meeting. But, I am going to just share the most powerful one for me.
 As we gathered in a circle, Pastor Ed read scripture to us and talked about Jesus and the disciples. My tears began to quietly fall. I was trying to hold them in, trying not to look at the others. Not because I was embarassed, but more because the moment was one no one else in the room was going to understand.For the first time in a very long time, the story of Easter was connecting with my heart. Easter was colliding with Colombia.
   I have had communion countless times in my life, but our church does it a little less regularly, and so the experience has come to mean so much more to me. And in that moment, in that room with my team, I was about to experience the most intimate communion I have ever taken.
 We were gathered in our circle, and as my quiet tears were falling, Pastor Ed turned to Paula Lou, broke bread and handed her the cup of juice and said "His body broken for you. His blood was shed for you."  Then Paula Lou turned to the next person and passed the bread and the cup. And so on. I was so immersed in the moment of what God was speaking to me that I can't even tell you who passed the bread and juice to me. But when they said to me He died for you. His body broken for you. His blood shed for you, I broke that bread and dipped it in the cup and cried. The moment was so intimate and powerful for me, that the words are difficult to share. In that moment, God connected some missing dots for me.
 I could no longer say I was forgiven and not embrace it. In that moment, it became real. In that moment, the tears that fell were healing tears. Because what Christ did for me was always real, but in that moment, the months of preparation, the different layers God had been peeling away, gave way to an opening of truth and reality I had been unable to process.
 I am forgiven.
   I am loved.
    I am worthy.
     I am chosen.
      I am His.
I tried to hold it together as best as I could as I passed the bread and the juice to Gil. Once I shared that with him, I silently let the tears continue. In that moment, while I felt so unworthy, God told me I was indeed worthy. He died for me. The sins that have gripped me or the lies that Satan holds over my head are no longer my chains. I am free. He wanted to use me. He called me. He redeemed me. And He wanted me to take that, embrace it, and share it with those in Colombia.
 In that little room in Cherry Grove Church, that reality sank in to my heart.
  That night and that intimate communion experience will forever be a marker in time for me. As the disciples sat with Jesus in the last supper, they had no idea what was about to unfold.
 As I sat in that room, I had no idea what was about to unfold in my life in Colombia. I had no idea how that trip, those beautiful people in the forgotten village of Brisas del Mar, my team mates, and the days upcoming would change my perspective forever.

 Easter and Colombia collided.

 As we got to Colombia, we were one day ahead of the Lent season. Which, although that is not something significant celebrated in my church, it was a piece of the trip because of Ash Wednesday. I had never really learned much about that, so it was (and is) a learning and growth experience for me.  That first night in Cartegena, Pastor Luis came to our hotel and presented communion once again.
 That was another beautiful experience. Not only were we under the warm open sky and palm trees of Cartegena, but our team had begun to form a strong bond through our travel that day. And as he said the Lord's prayer in Spanish and we said it in English, it was a beautiful moment as we passed the bread and the cup. God was in our presence, and you could feel Him surrounding us in that moment.
2 languages, worshiping the same God in the same moment. Powerful.
 12 of us on a rooftop, taking in communion. Much like 12 disciples having communion with Jesus.
Easter and Colombia collide.

  I am forgiven and free. Forever. Not by any reason except for the fact that He loved me enough to do that for me. I accepted that years ago as a child, I learned it as I grew up, but I have truly found news ways to embrace that through the experiences the Lord has given me through the last few months that have brought a new healing to life.

The Rooftop in Cartegena where we had communion

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