The first time I worshiped in Honduras, the Spirit moved in my soul in a profound and powerful way that moved me to tears. I didn't understand a word that was being said, but God spoke nonetheless. Later, an experienced missionary would tell me that it was because when we worship in another culture, we get a tiny little taste of what it will be like to worship in Heaven when every tongue will confess His glory. I don't know if that's true, but I like the thought.
Obviously, church in Honduras is different than in the U.S. And sometimes it's moving, passionate and exciting like that first experience. Other times it's frustrating and boring.
This is the first thing people notice about church services in Honduras. There's no time limit. No football games or lunch preparations are taken into consideration. We just keep going until we're done―sometimes lasting three or four hours. And in my experience, that can either be enduring and refreshing or annoying depending on your frame of mind. But when you take into consideration that some Hondurans can walk up to an hour to spend time with God, a longer church service can be expected and even admired.
OK, that one's pretty obvious. And the first few times, you are so enamored with everything new and exciting that it really doesn't matter that you don't understand a thing. You spend time praying or reading passages from your Bible. But inevitably boredom sneaks in and your mind is left wandering or fighting to stay awake. And because you're a missionary, you're being watched so you have to actually look interested at all times. No yawning. No fiddling with your phone.
Even after you've learned the language, it takes a lot of prayer to stay focused. Long hours of intense concentration is exhausting. But, then comes that Sunday when you realize you've stayed engaged through the entire service and that you understood almost everything. And your heart just leaps with joy!
The music in a Honduran church is a real worship experience! Familiar but foreign at the same time, every song is an expression of adoration. The louder, the better. Some missionaries have even been known to bring ear plugs to church. It's not uncommon for ladies to bring their own tamborines to join to cacophony of sound. And by the end of a service, your hands are red and throbbing from the constant clapping along.
It's rare to hear a normal three-point sermon in Honduras. Our way of telling the story is to make a statement then back it up with a personal anecdote or experience or maybe some reasoning. Then we move on to the next point and do the same. But a Honduran will tell the same story by starting with the reasoning. Then he makes his point. He'll follow that up with a story and circle back to the same point. Finally, he'll repeat the point in different words and give his opinion on the point. To our North-American way of thinking, this is repetitive and even a little boring. But the more you converse with Hondurans, you realize that they communicate in this same less direct and succinct manner all the time. And you find yourself doing the same every once in a while. Suddenly, the three-point sermon feels cold and abrupt.
Steve and I always talk about the way a Honduran sees God can be very different than the way we see God. And I think we get that impression most by listening to Hondurans as they pray. They are extremely reverent and respectful of the all-powerful and mighty Father. They spend more time in prayer blessing His name and recounting His marvelous attributes than they do bringing their petitions. Over and over, a Honduran will reflect on the holiness and goodness of God. And I am often convicted by their humility and adoration.