- it is REALLY boring
- it is at least 2 painful hours long
- the train-of-thought in the sermon usually cannot be followed, by us or the Peruvians
- if you can follow the sermon, the doctrine / theology is "off" and sometimes not even Biblical
- the music is less-than-pleasant and it seems that no one knows the words (there are no hymnals or bulletins in most churches)
- we are almost always asked to stand up and speak about ourselves since we are gringos
- we are almost always recruited to be the new pastors / teachers /volunteers etc. or are asked to support something financially because "gringos have money"
So, to make a long story short, we don't get really excited about attending the Peruvian churches. We LOVE to attend the church in Chilca (Casa de Oracion - Quechua) and help with their children's worship service at least once each month. And we have met some very nice "church people" here. And we have seen the absolute best VBS program we have ever seen in the USA or Peru in a church here in Huancayo. And we help in churches as far as teaching occasionally (Laurie is going to teach at a church women's group next week on nutrition and a Bible Study over what the Bible says about food / taking care of our bodies). But, alas, the general Sunday worship experience is less-than pleasant and there just isn't much going on... the worship seems less than worshipful... just obligatory. The people come because they have to, they don't enjoy it or participate in it, and there isn't really much for them to learn. And on top of all of that, you have the in-fighting and the legalism that really sends people for a loop.
So when Ivan asked us to go to church with him, we said yes, but we were skeptical. Boy, were we wrong!!! Hallelujah - I think we finally found a church!
First of all, they started 5 minutes EARLY!!! Unheard of in Peruvian culture!!! We sang 3 very upbeat praise songs, then broke up for Sunday School (children, youth, and adults). The Sunday School teacher was well prepared and everyone in the class participated. After Sunday School (which ended exactly on time), we all came back together for worship service. Service began with each class going to the front of the church and telling about what they studied in Sunday School. Sarah's class was taught by the pastor and they told the Bible verse for the day and acted it out with hand motions - very cute. The youth (about 15 of them) told their study verse and theme for the day, and the adults (us included) said our memory verse and theme for the day. Then the service turned to a prayer and several praise songs. By the way, we knew all of the praise band members... they are the "kids" from our Friday night praise band ministry and from our disciple groups. The music was AWESOME and all of the congregation (even the 80+ year olds) danced and clapped and sang LOUDLY. The pastor's sermon was excellent - well thought-out with a main question and an outline with supporting details... amazing for this culture! Then more singing, an offering, and communion. This is the first time we have taken communion in over a year!!! When it was all said and done, everyone hugged and kissed and said goodbye to each other, see you tomorrow. And they will, because there is something going on in this church every day of the week!
My favorite part was when the praise band made a boo-boo and the music got off and the singing was "messed up"... they started to laugh, and the congregation all laughed with them... not laughing AT them, but really laughing with them. It was very light and understanding and sweet. Ivan says it is normal... that this day was more formal and stiff than most, maybe because we showed up and everyone was nervous to have the gringo visitors - he says there is usually more laughing and more family atmosphere. I can't imagine - I thought it was perfect!
And when it was all over, no one asked us to preach or teach or lead anything (not that we aren't open to that, but we also need to just worship sometimes - not always lead). We look forward to returning and worshiping with this congregation again... and laughing with them much more in our future together. Because I'm positive that God is smiling and laughing, too.