Her name is Eva
We are back from the cruise. Ninety of us worshipped together, prayed and laughed with each other. It was good. And then I met Eva. Eva was one of the two young women who were our guides on Jamaica. As the day wore on I saw her rubbing her temples and muttering about having a terrible headache. I offered her some aspirin which she accepted gratefully. After she took them she looked at us all on the bus and said, "Who are you people?"
Before I go on, a cultural note. Jamaica has more churches and more bars per person than any other nation. It seems you can get the spirit -- any kind of spirit -- of your choice on that island. Unfortunately, at least in the area we explored, the island is dark with crushed hopes, poverty, dirt, terrible shanties where children play in the dirt and beg under bridges, and a general anger that is seen and felt and tasted everywhere. I grieved as our bus tore past some knots of angry, bleary-eyed, lost men for it seemed that the happy Christians were all in the bus.
And that took me back to the last post. We are supposed to be in the world but not of it. I fear that we are of the world -- just like it when it comes to lifestyles, possessions, dreams and desires -- but not in it. We just don't make a dent in the lives of those who need Jesus most. We are very good at running churches and programs, but less effective in taking Jesus to the streets that lie outside our holy bunkers.
I told Eva that I was a minister and all the people in her bus were from a church. She asked what church and I told her that all of us came from different areas, but we were members of the church of Christ. "Ahh," she said, "you are the ones who don't use instruments, right?" I was stunned. This young girl who made $50 a month plus tips as a bus tour guide in a very broken country knew one thing about us: we were acapella. I encouraged her to give us a chance to tell her more about ourselves but she went on. [note: this is the gist of what she said. I cannot produce her quote word for word] "I went to the church of Christ. I am pentecostal, but I like to visit churches, you know? I loved hearing the voices. Sometimes in our churches you only hear the band, but I liked hearing the voices in your church. But during the chorus I got excited and clapped." Here, she mimed clapping loud once and then a second time while looking around in a confused manner. "I was embarassed!" she said. "I just wanted to praise God, but they told me they don't clap there."
We had one chance with Eva. She even came into our chapel. We didn't have to search for her; she visited us! And we blew it. No matter what your position on music or clapping, this has to hurt your heart. We at Rochester may use instrumental tracks to back up a video, etc. but we an an acapella congregation and plan to remain that way. Some of us clap, others don't. But our tradition shut out this beautiful, searching person when she found our tribe on Jamaica and visited the local church.
I prayed for another chance with Eva and kept the conversation going. At one point she said she had a Bible, but it was too big to carry. She wished she had one she could carry in her purse at work. I grabbed paper and pen and got her address. We are going to send her a Bible. The other young lady had a penpal in Detroit so we used our Michigan connection to give her hope when she told us that she wanted to go to college, but she had no money. (in Jamaica, all levels of schooling is paid for by the parents. If you don't have the money for kindergarten, for example, your children don't go to school) We are sending her information on Rochester College plus some learning materials. We will do whatever we can to save these two young women.
We pray our tradition has not killed our chances to bring them to Jesus. It was a horrifying reminder that when we call others to "the more excellent way" we might have to do some traveling ourselves.