I remember the conflict dh* and I had back in our infamous “Jungle Camp” training, when the leaders disallowed Sunday services as a group. The intent was to train us to find our own ways of worshiping and self-feeding, considering most of us would be allocated to places without the option of an English church service.
There we sat with open Bible and a tiny baby in our arms, trying to “do church” by ourselves. Of course the luggage restriction (one suitcase and one apple box apiece) had been filled with cloth diapers and baby things, so we had failed to bring even a small hymnal. It was an awkward and unrewarding experience each Sunday of “camp.”
Sure enough, once we arrived in our Guatemalan village assignment, we were faced with the reality of no viable church options. Often we attempted “church” by ourselves at home. Sometimes we were blessed to receive sermon tapes from supporting churches. Then the post office went on strike and we received nothing for many weeks and months, forcing our return to
in on Sundays self-feeding again.
Other times we attempted to join local indigenous church services. Those were always educational for learning about the people and culture, but rather disappointing if we had hoped to actually worship. For me, it was the slow torture of sitting on a hard bench with no backrest, trying to keep a one-year-old quiet in the women’s section, while Jim sat across the room with the men, unable to help me out.
Being pregnant at the time, those long services always meant at least one trip to the outhouse with a toddler in tow, and then convincing him (and myself) to go back into the tightly packed pew reeking of the same cook-fire smoke and sweaty feet that sent me to the outhouse in the first place.
Then there was the Sunday we were in the Mam-speaking church, and my baby suddenly decided it would be fun to start showing off his “what-does-the-Indian-say?” trick, patting his little hand over his mouth while making LOUD woo-woo-woo-woo noises. One by one the other toddlers and babies started copying him.
Watching to see how the other mothers handled it, I saw them give their papoose (colorfully typical “Mobi” wrap) a tight yank, whereupon each child became quiet instantly. Not mine. I had to waddle out into the dirt yard, sit on a stone, and wait out the service with my incorrigible (though amusing) baby.
Those were the days…. Since then we have tried Union Church, home church, local church, Mexican church in the city, and everything in between. Currently we are back to another “union church” of sorts, using podcast sermons from the Internet, which we watch and discuss with other ex-pats in our community.
At one point we recognized the irony that we had come to this country so indigenous people could worship in their own language – yet we were requiring our own dc* to worship in their second language.
How about you? How do you feel about Sundays? Love ‘em? Dread ‘em? Or are they just one more painful reminder that “We’re not in Kansas any more”?
IRL: For me, “sleeping in on Sunday” is still a weekly temptation no matter where we live.