New Wonders in Maravillas
Is there another place in the world where one can worship in El Porvenir – “the future” – one Sunday and the next Sunday praise God in Maravillas – “the wonders”? Doug began his sermon with that question a week ago in the Maravillas Disciples Chuch, the congregation closest to the seminary grounds where we live. It was, he noted, a challenge to preach in a community that called itself “the wonders”.
The church in Maravillas is justifiably proud of the social hall, education wing and sanctuary buildings they have built in the last 25 years. Pastor Rosendo Arvizu and his spouse Olivia lead a congregation whose schedule every Sunday begins with Sunday school and morning worship followed by a meal before concluding with another worship service. Kate and Doug brought an appetite along with our admiration for such a congregation.
And the admiration was increased by the spirited worship we experienced. In spite of the disheartening setback in their latest building project the congregation was full of life and energy. Their beautiful sanctuary had needed a new roof. The congregation worked hard to raise the funds and finally they were in the last phases of the building! Eight men were on the roof when it collapsed. Pastor Rosendo, on the ground, held his breath as the dust settled and they began to hear the voices of all of the men calling out to one another. No one was hurt! It took a little while to free all of the men from
the wreckage, but each had been protected in one way or another. A member of the congregation provided the funds to help clear the rubble and demolish what remained of three of the walls. In spite of the realization that all of the money raised for the project had been spent, there was confidence they would rebuild an even lovelier, larger sanctuary.
The congregation’s fast recovery from the shocking loss was due in part to the assurances of forthcoming aid from the CICE group of Disciples congregations led by Pastor Josue Martinez. An offering for the rebuilding of the sanctuary is being collected among the CICE churches. On the day we preached in the two services, representatives of another CICE church were present in the afternoon service to pledge their support and prayers.
Rev. Felix Ortiz, Disciples/UCC Executive for Latin America also has responded quickly to the Maravillas congregation’s loss. In his response message to Josue, Felix thanked God that none of the 8 workers on the roof was injured. He then shared the information that a specialist in construction projects in the U.S. was ready to assist in the design and planning of the new sanctuary building.
In the sermon Kate preached following lunch, she reminded everyone of the promise found in Romans 8:28 that all things work together for good for those who trust in the Lord. Even in the worst circumstances, God can help us to find growth and become stronger. God is with us always, accompanying us in the hard times and the good. Alvaro, Kate’s interpreter and youngest son of Pastor Rosendo and Olivia, commented after worship that the congregation felt God was providing an opportunity for them to become a more spiritual and inspired church.
We expect to follow the progress of the Maravillas project and will keep you informed of new “wonders” in that community. In the meantime we know the congregation continues to raise the roof of their social hall and kitchen by their praise singing in worship. And we know they will continue to enjoy their Sunday meal shared “picnic style” outdoors on the church grounds. And that construction volunteer, “Santiago” Jim Piper, who arrives tonight from Caldwell, Idaho, will enjoy sharing the meal with them.