Jerry and I traveled to the Mt. Province on Saturday to attend the anniversary of a Pentecostal Church that evening. We had preached at this church once before and the message wasn't greatly received. Anyhow this was going to be a large event as missionaries from the mother Church in Manila would be in attendance. Jerry's aunt died a few days prior so we would be attending the wake just two towns away from the Pentecostal church.
When we arrived in the province the pastor texted us and told us"next time". However certain church members were requesting us to come. It was obvious what was happening, the pastor either a) didn't agree with the message or b) the mother church was uncomfortable with our presence.
It is fairly common for missionaries to go into the Mt. Province and take advantage of people and walk out with they're money. If that was the reason for the mother churches apprehension we sure didn't want to fuel it. However the members kept texting us to come, so we went ahead and joined hoping for a chance to speak again.
When we walked in the church one of the missionaries was giving a presentation from a chalkboard with four points on it, I forget the first two, it was something like...
It was a business meeting. The missionary/salesman talked about the outlook for the future, how to expand and be a better presence in the community etc... I wont ramble on about all the other garbage like the improvised prep rally and the cheering and jumping up and down etc...
That night we talked to a man who attends the church, he is a big man, muscular, sort of quiet and real serious. He doesn't call himself a member but he attends the church. We shared with him about what it really means to believe in Christ. He told us that unless you live by the book you don't really believe. He also explained that he wasn't ready to commit himself.
We commended him for his honesty and told him to stay that way. We encouraged him by sharing James 1, "don't be hearers of God's word only deceiving yourselves". If we hear Gods word without doing it, it's like looking in the mirror and noticing a big pimple on you're face, then walking away and convincing yourself that really you're very attractive. We didn't tell him this because he didn't know it, but because he already knows it. However no one is saying it.
I suppose if you want a good understanding of any culture you need to experience how they handle death. On Sunday we went to the funeral, it was a blending of pagan and "christian" custom. When we arrived we walked up to a two story house. A freshly poured cement grave graced the front yard as is custom here. A large tarp draped over the entry way where people gathered some sleeping, some just sitting, many of the young men drank and gambled. Inside the house the elderly gathered around the corpse and sang hymns, country songs and love songs.
As we sat in the crowded little living room we watched as the daughter stared into the coffin while the husband nodded away in his chair. A baptist pastor was there as well, he shared from Luke about Lazerus and the rich man. He told everyone that if they believe Jesus died for them on the cross they could be saved, just believe.
We were invited to share as well. We asked the people if they were scared and pointed out to them that they must be because of how all the activity around the house. Some were drinking, others laughing, many sang and played the guitar. We told them not to run away from the reality. Death is a reminder from God that there is an eternity ahead. We warned them not to drown out the reality of this with alcohol, laughter or religion (baptist preachers preaching peace peace). We warned them of the danger of "killing yourself" by being convinced that everything is just alright because you said the prayer and go to church.
As the night progressed the elderly people took turns standing up talking to the corpse. Some shared stories, some sang improvised songs others sort of prayed to the corpse asking for blessings and help.
Maybe some might see the laughter and drinking as a way to cope, but I guess I see it as avoiding reality. I kept thinking "someone just died!" Hey there is a dead person in you're living room! She's not breathing, she's not blinking, the only place she is going after the singing is the front yard. What are you doing having a party?
Anyhow, this morning I met with one of our neighbors. He wants me to conduct bible studies with his teenage boys on a weekly basis. I had a bit of a hard time sharing and was a little nervous, so I played with my ball point pen till the top came off and fell under the couch. I had to get on the floor and fish it out. It's ok to laugh at me.