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Revelations: What's behind the door

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Nov. 11, 2010 at 5:11 a.m.


I absolutely love sweet surprises, don't you? Last Wednesday, 'round noon, I finished up an interview with a local mayor, gathered up my office "stuff" in my arms, and started walking towards my car. As I waddled to the parking lot - purse and camera bag banging against one leg, laptop bag banging against the other - I noticed a white door on the side of a building swing open.

I can't remember exactly, but a Spanish phrase painted in black on the door read something like, "Vida Cristiana."

"Christian life," I translated proudly to myself. "Does that door lead to a church?"

I stood next to my car, thought briefly about driving back to the office, then started waddling towards the door. I'm a curious lady, what can I say? If you're asking yourself why I didn't put my "stuff" in the car before Nancy-Drewing my way to the door, you'll be comforted to know, I'm simply not clever enough to think that many steps in advance.

So, with my reporter curiosity in overdrive, I approached the door, bags once again banging against my thighs.

I stepped across the threshold and momentarily glanced around the room. My suspicions were correct, it was a church. The sunlight streamed through the long corridor of windows, illuminating about five rows of haphazardly organized pews facing the front of the sanctuary. The small sanctuary and smaller lobby were divided by a single concrete wall, and areas of the mismatched flooring was in need of repair. Clearly, it wasn't a fancy church, but it offered an endearing quality. And it reminded me of this sweet little church I once wandered into while vacationing in Puerto Vallarta.

As my eyes scanned the lobby, a Hispanic man in a Nike, soccer-looking outfit appeared before me.

"Hi, I'm Jennifer. Sorry I wandered in, but I wanted to look inside," I said, hoping he wasn't bothered by the intrusion.

His face told me he thought I was about to sell him something. I quickly assured him I wasn't a salesman, just a nosy reporter from Victoria.

"Oh, OK," he said in a thick Columbian accent. "Ples comb een an luk arund."

I smiled. I liked him instantly, and secretly hoped he'd invite me in, brew some coffee, and decide to give me a Spanish lesson.

Those who know me well, know I have a secret crush on Hispanic culture, and pray nightly that one day God will realize he made a mistake with my red hair and freckles and finally decide to morph me into a lovely, salsa-dancing, Spanish-speaking Latina.

As I "luk"ed around, I asked the man where he was from. He told me he immigrated to the United States many years ago from Colombia, and followed the Lord's call to become a pastor.

We stood in the lobby and chatted about God, and mission trips to Columbia. Then he invited me to his office, so he could introduce me to his wife. I didn't realize she wasn't actually in the building.

"Comb to my offese, I wunt chu to mit Jinnyfer," Pastor said to his wife on the phone.

When Pastor's wife arrived, she threw her arms around me and asked me to sit down and chat.

Somehow Pastor started showing me pictures from a recent mission trip to Colombia, describing how he and his wife led a team of 10 people to the mountains to feed and care for several impoverished families. And then they told me something that sounded so odd. Apparently, each time they go to Colombia, they make sure to buy a calf, kill it, and feed the meat to the people.

"Thee huv unly a leetle ryce an few odder theengs, but not uny mit," Pastor said.

"So, you buy the calf and cook it for them," I asked, sort of grossed out, yet quasi intrigued by this very biblical act of charity.

I was blown away by his comment about killing the calf, and I'm still not sure why. I don't come from a hunting family, so it's odd for me to think about killing a calf, or any animal, for food. But that wasn't it. It was just so, so different from the way American Christians think about charity. Typically, feeding the hungry in a Western culture includes canned food drives, or sending pre-packaged, preservative-enriched, non-perishable items abroad. I certainly don't think about buying live animals and butchering them over a fire pit. But Pastor did.

And as I thought about it, I was impressed that Pastor's version of feeding the hungry included a deliberate attempt to meet the needs of the Colombian people in a way they understood and appreciated. Killing and eating the calf is what the people know; it makes sense to them. A can of H-E-B clam chowder, while delicious, probably wouldn't, I thought.

And in that moment, Pastor reminded me that God is as much an American middle-class Anglo, as he is a poor Colombian farmer. I found myself smiling, realizing how beautifully international God is. There is no right or wrong culture; they are all good and make sense to God even if they don't to people from different cultures.

Pastor didn't realize it, but he fed me a little of his calf that day. I left his "offese" feeling full of love, ever more curious about the world.

"How many more times will I randomly wander though a door, and find a whole new world on the other side waiting to teach me something cool about God's love and understanding," I thought.

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