It was a fine day for a festival — mild temperatures around 70°F, nice breezes, deep blue sky, and small lonely clouds trekking slowly from one horizon to another. Vendors were stationed across the property. The smell of authentic Hispanic cuisine drifted above the fray. People moved to and fro, buying keepsakes, drinks, and yummy food. Kids ran and laughed as they engaged in the fun! Music blared as the DJ navigated from one song to the next, and colorful dancers spun, twirled, and galloped to the traditional Spanish tunes. We saw stick-horse races, sack races, and even had a piñata (a story for another time). It was the Hispanic Heritage Festival – our first as a fully integrated, cross-cultural congregation.
To observe the community that God has placed them, to see so much joy on people’s faces, to hear the laughter and singing, to witness folks being filled with the Spirit – not to mention the food – truly, nothing warms a pastor’s heart more. Indeed, Heaven must be a lot like this!
BUT . . . The best was yet to come.
You see, when the festival was over, along with winding down came a sobering calm. The sky darkened, the wind strengthened, and dark, heavy clouds moved in. People quickly packed their things, loaded their cars, and headed home after a long day. One group however decided to take their sweet time, and instead of packing it in for the day, they wanted to have a snowball fight! There was only the issue that there was no snow. But as luck would have it, there was a chest full of melting ice.
Now, I’m not sure who started it — probably Pastor Marta. We were packing up, tearing down, and trying to speed things along so we could all get home. But the next thing I knew, all progress halted as chaos ensued. Suddenly, handfuls of ice flew through the air. More ice found its way down the backs of people’s t-shirts and dumped over their heads (my own included).
The best part? This was mostly adults. Grown men and women, laughing like children, caught up in this brief transcendence of language and culture. Who’dathunk it? Throwing ice at each other can apparently build community. God really does use the most peculiar means to remind people to love and to be loved.
I’ve reflected on these moments several times since Saturday. It seems to me that we’ve crossed a cultural barrier whether we realized it or not. Our Latino brothers and sisters have trusted us with big things: tutoring their children, investing in shared ministries, etc. But now, we seem to have deepened that trust in each other to the extent that we’ll join together in the simple things, like play. And friends, that’s a critical point.
I find we often guard our vulnerabilities. We fear what people will think if we allow them a peek behind the veil. When it comes to things like play though, there simply are no safeguards to hide behind. Rather, instead of retreating to the safety of cultural boundaries, we find new ways to express our most authentic selves and to love one another.
So I hear you ask me, ‘What’s the lesson then, Dan?’ It’s this: Don’t let language, culture, or any other barrier stop you from connecting with others. Because love and joy have no reason to hide. In that brief moment of fun, I saw a part of my LaMisión family I hadn’t seen before. Perhaps they saw a different side of me as well; I certainly hope so.