Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Gift of Presence

Fermin’s dad, Jesus, the patriarch of a large extended family that included 33 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren, was 92 years old when he died recently. I attended his funeral to honor Fermin, and Fermin’s wife, Maria, who have worked at our church for many years, quietly cleaning, moving furniture, and doing what has been asked of them without complaint. Church sextons are underappreciated saints.

In addition to their regular work at our church, a number of years ago, Fermin and Maria graciously helped me lead a Spanish Bible study, so our small adult mission team could prepare for our church’s first adult mission trip, a visit to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. They patiently listened and gently corrected our attempts to speak Spanish as we laughed and learned together. Their assistance helped us better connect with our hosts at the church in Nuevo Laredo and provided a boost to my ongoing efforts to learn to speak Spanish.

I followed Jesus’s family into the sanctuary at one of the local Catholic Churches, not far from my own Presbyterian one, and walked into a different world than the one I inhabit on Sunday mornings at my own church. But also a familiar one because of time spent in worship in Mexico and Cuba and Nicaragua on mission trips. The Catholic worship service was unfamiliar, but the sadness that hung over the gathering was all too familiar from my attendance at similar services in other places. It is hard to say goodbye to a loved one, no matter how long they have lived.

Humbled by their gratitude for my presence at the funeral, all I could do was express my condolences. And remember again how important human presence is, especially when we are hurting. Much as I enjoy being connected with family and friends via the Internet, it’s not the same as being with others in person. God created us for community, for that place where we can share joys and sorrows and laughter and tears and hugs.

Grace and Peace,


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