This week, we got the opportunity to participate in some Bible studies and house churches in the villages. Most of these meetings were very different to what we would call "church" in the US.
In most cases, there were no big buildings. No acoustic sound systems. No group leader or pastor (which means "shepherd" in Spanish, which is pretty interesting given the Biblical metaphor).
The people merely gather in houses, worship the Lord, and study the Bible as a community. We may not be used to this impromptu system in the US, but the Bible is used to it.
All throughout the book of Acts, this is what a church was -- merely a group of people who believed in God, his love for us and our need for him, and gathered together to learn more about this God, who created the heavens and the earth.
I was also surprised at how happy and gracious the people were to have us there -- we were asked continually what we thought about the passages and if we had anything to add to the conversation.
Whereas in the US we may greet newcomers with a half-hearted "Hey," these people greeted us with open arms and were genuinely thankful and glad to have us there. When they said, "Gracias para ti, gracias a Dios" they meant it.
When asked to share something at one of the house church, we were able to share a short message from the previous Bible study about John 9 when Jesus heals the blind man. In another instance, we were able to share a special project we are working on to translate Bible stories in the local, indigenous language.
The best part about these experiences was gathering together afterwards as a group and sharing the church experiences. They all varied to some degree in organization, but we all left with the same feeling of encouragement. After weeks of working in the villages, it was nice to meet in peace with some of the believers to worship the Lord together.
It allowed us to see the truth behind Ephesians 4:4-6 "There is one body and one Spirit ... one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." We may be from different languages and cultures, but we worship the same God, who created heaven and earth and lives in each one of us.
Pray that God would continue to provide opportunities to share encourage the local Christians, and that they would continue to encourage us with their kind, open hearts, where Christ dwells.