Written by Britt Yett (Charlotte, NC)
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
Church. When I say that word, I picture serenity, lovely stained glass colored light, soaring ceilings, organ and trumpet sounds, hand carved pews…….plastic chairs, dust, warm evening sunlight, guitar and ukulele, hot cement, roosters crowing. Yes. All of those things.
I was a late entry to church. I did not grow up attending church. I did not grow up knowing that there was a God who thought I was wonderful and that I was enough just as I was. I did not grow up knowing there was a place that called to the best in me and forgave me my worst. I wish I had. But I know that now. I have found community and belonging in the pews of Myers Park United Methodist Church. I found church.
So imagine my surprise finding it again. In Mexico. On a roof top. With roosters crowing.
I traveled with our youth to Reynosa, Mexico to be in mission with Faith Ministry for the first time in 2018. I have said many times that on paper the mission trip to Mexico to build houses is horrible – HOT, dusty, hard labor, HOT, scrapes, bruises, hard labor, HOT – but the reality is magic. Some mixture of dust, cement, and sweat is actually a recipe for fellowship, shared mission, camaraderie, awareness, empathy, and love. You bond with the youth, with other adults on the trip, and with the lovely locals you serve and work alongside. And you sit together in the evening, on plastic chairs, with a slightly cooler breeze blowing, roosters crowing, and talk about your day. We give thanks, we worship, and we pray. It is church.
This week has been particularly difficult. Our youth group was supposed to be on that patio in Reynosa this week. We were supposed to be in church. Faith Ministry is unable to have volunteers to help build the houses for families in dire need of safe shelter. And the sting is particularly painful because we have suffered losses to our Faith Ministry family due to COVID. It is another series of losses for our church family, for our youth, for our seniors.
We long for church. We grieve the loss of the places that bring us so close to God. But this pandemic has taught me that church isn’t a just a place. Church can look different but feel the same. Just as I found church first in our sanctuary and then again in Reynosa, I have found church on my couch with a steaming cup of coffee watching online. I have found church on zoom looking at the faces of our beloved youth and church members in small groups. God calls us to him. As Paul writes in Romans, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, in our seeking. He will bring us to church.
Our prayers this week “with sighs too deep for words” are for Lupe as he grieves the loss of three family members. Our prayers this week are for Angel as he enters God’s kingdom. Our prayers this week are for our those of us who long for our Reynosa church. Consider a donation to Faith Ministry this week to honor our commitment to this essential ministry partner, to honor our friends at Faith Ministry lost to the ravages of COVID, and to honor our youth who love church with roosters crowing.