Dear God, Save us all – Amen! (May 8th, 2011) by Shaista Hasham
Many people on the Island go to Church on Sunday. My host family shares in my views of believing in a God, but not attending a particular place of worship or identifying with any particular religion per se – which was very comforting. But for the sake of the experience, I thought it would be interesting to join my friend’s host parents to their Evangelical Church. I have been in a mosque, an Anglican church and a Sikh temple before, so I was not too worried about doing something that would offend people – I figured I would be able to go with the flow and things would be okay. Thinking back about it, the only prayer I really had during those 2.5 hours was “Dear God, Save us all – Amen!” For those who know me, that’s the phrase I use when I find myself in a little bit of a problem – but nothing too serious to really bother The Guy Upstairs, He’s usually really busy trying to fix the bigger messes we make.
We got to the church, which is probably a not even a two minute walk from my house. Everyone was standing and singing. We followed my friend’s host mother to the third row from the front! I thought to myself, “Really?! That close?!” I’m always one of those back benchers when it comes to going to the mosque! There was a lady on stage speaking in Spanish about something related to giving thanks (I understood the word “gracious”) and brotherhood (the word “armano”). There was also a song we started singing about brotherhood, where everyone went around shaking each other’s hands and hugging each other, singing something along the lines of “Jo Armano” – I guessed that we were telling each other that we are all brothers (and sisters?!). I was really touched when some of the little girls I met in the school came right up to me and hugged me – a small moment that meant sooooo much J Then the pastor came on to deliver a sermon on brotherhood. I really wish I understood what he was saying. Some people seemed really moved by the sermon, often contributing to the conversation. Others (especially the children) seemed a bit disconnected from the sermon. It was quite a mix and an interesting dynamic to watch.
All was okay and I was really enjoying myself, until … I don’t even have the words for it! Basically, all the kids went up to the front of the church (and my friend’s host mother asked us to join them too). We thought they were praying for our health (Amen to that!) but it turned out they were praying for our success in education (Amen to that too, I guess). We then left the adults in the church and went across the street to an area with a very basic shade like structure, and a few wood planks as benches. I met my three other friends and we quickly realized it was Sunday school – in Spanish! We thought it shouldn’t be so bad because we could just sit there and watch, but I have never before wished for time to go by any faster! And for those of you who have ever wished for time to go by quickly know that it somehow just seems to slow down even more, almost freeze!
We were split into three groups, and the only English speakers I knew were all in other groups! Each group was given a passage in the bible to act out, with a question at the end that needed to be answered. If anyone knows the main message in Romans 1, verses 26-30, where were you when I needed you the most?! I guess all those Christian Religious Education classes in Grades 5-7 did not help. I had the older students in my group – one of the guys was really nice about trying to communicate to me though, which I really appreciated! I tried to read the passage myself (in their Spanish bible), just to see if I can pick a few words and remember the bible story/understand the main message – but no luck! He was nice to tell me it was no problem, but I didn’t quite understand how it would not be a problem.
Our group didn’t have anything planned out to act, one girl kept on going on the side with her cellphone, and the teacher didn’t even care when I told him my friends and I don’t understand Spanish! But in Costa Rica, one of the sayings they have is “Pura Vida” – meaning “Pure Life”. I thought I’d just go with the flow, stand there with everyone else and look pretty (and I was well dressed for Church – for a change!) I thought to myself, the worse thing I could do is make a fool out of myself and laugh with everyone as they laugh at me. I also thought, if I was asked to contribute, I would respond with the phrase “What he/she said” in Spanish (which could also get a good laugh, but at least it shows I’m trying!)
The first group went, with one of my friends in that group. They did a beautiful job translating what she had to do, and she did a great job acting it out. Of course she didn’t quite understand the moral of the story, but it was a good laugh none the less. The second group went up, with two of my friends. The group just stood up there, talked, did their presentation and did a really good job. Neither of my friends spoke, which brought me some peace of mind in terms of what I was expected to contribute.
Next was my group. I walked up to “the stage” (the shade under a tree) with my group. They read the passage, read the question, said something in Spanish and I just smiled and nodded (works like a charm!) It was obvious their friends were trying to mess with them by asking questions from the audience. But very quickly, while the teacher was talking, we all sort of dispersed and sat on the bench, the girl was on her phone again, and my friends and I were reunited. Of course, when the teacher asked us if we understood, everyone would just nod (and yes, it worked like a charm!).
It was really interesting to see the really chill nature of Sunday school – it was more of a get together than actually learning anything. I’m sure the children understood a lot more than I did, but they also seemed really bored. I will admit, that teacher could be a bit more engaging and enthusiastic – and it kind of let me appreciate the “boring” profs on campus. With the large youth population here on the Island, and most of them being forced to go to Church without really learning anything, I question the direction the future generation will take the world in. Are the youth of today well equipped to lead their communities and their nation? Do they have the expertise but not the opportunity to expand on their skills? Am I totally missing something about the youth and their intelligence? I have met a bunch of very intelligent young people who keep on inspiring me every day!
I once had the opportunity of hearing the Mayor of Calgary, Naheed Nenshi, speak at the opening address of a youth conference. He said that he does not believe that youth are the leaders of tomorrow, but rather that they are the leaders of today. While I see some really inspiring youth in Costa Rica who play important roles in their communities, I would love to understand more about the role of youth on the Island, the opportunities they have for leadership and the respect they get from the rest of the community. Either way, life goes on and every moment must be enjoyed and lived to the max – Pura Vida as the Costa Ricans say. And as we move forward in this ever-rapidly changing world, the only prayer I really have for The Dude Upstairs is this: Dear God, Save us all – Amen!