This past week we took our third trip to Argentina to teach church systems and leadership in a partnership with Hacienda Iglesia. We are working with pastors in the cities of Salta and JuJuy. We go there to share knowledge and experience with the pastors and their leaders. Inevitably, we walk away having learned some things as well.
I have found this to be a universal theme when I travel to different places: there is always something for me to learn. One of the dangers of staying so close to home is that we believe everyone and every place are completely different. What I usually find is that we are more alike than different. Though the people we work with in Argentina speak a different language and live on a different continent, their lives and their homes look much like mine. Here are just a few of the things I observed on this trip.
We Have The Same Struggles
The first place this came to my attention on this trip was at dinner one evening. Their dinner ritual is a little different from ours where timing is concerned. They normally eat between 10-11 PM on weeknights and around midnight on the weekends. It was around midnight every night when we ate. The pastor and his family took us to dinner on Thursday evening. He has two children ages 11 and 8. The 8-year-old boy wanted to look at his father’s smartphone and he would not let him so he was upset. Perhaps due to preference but more likely in protest, he did not want to eat the food at the restaurant. His mother went down the street to get him a hotdog. This made me chuckle because I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a very similar situation play out with our grandchildren or other families in our area.
On the last night we were there we were having another late dinner. While we sat there and talked, the pastor’s wife shared a place where she was struggling and how broken she felt. It was a situation that all of us have dealt with before and had all experienced the brokenness of the same situation. We were able to comfort and encourage her right at that moment. Even with the language barrier, the pain was obvious. No one in any part of the world is exempt from life’s challenges and struggles.
There Is Beauty Everywhere
South America is filled with old churches. Wherever I travel I love to visit old churches and sit for a while. I like to think about the people who have come through those churches and sermons that have been preached. We visited a couple of churches on this trip, but this time we had a full free day. The pastor took us on a drive into the mountains to a little town with wineries called Cafayette. The town was a beautiful little place, but the scenery on the drive was breathtaking. It looked so much like Arizona and Utah in the US. Beautiful mountains and canyons with incredible colors. There is beauty to behold in every part of the world. Anywhere we go we can experience the beauty of God’s creation. We just need to open our eyes and see it.
The Same Spirit
On Thursday and Sunday night I was able to share with a local congregation. One was a leadership event and the other was a regular Sunday service. Both times they opened with worship music. Some of the songs I knew and could sing along in English. Others I did not know. The one thing that was clear is that the same Holy Spirit I experience when signing in English in my home church was the same Holy Spirit I experienced thousands of miles away in a language I do not speak. The beauty of taking communion with the people of God who have also been redeemed by Jesus Christ was the same. That closeness you feel when you are assembled together to worship is just as true in Argentina as it is in the US. You can experience the presence of God anywhere at anytime.
I am thankful that I get to have these experiences. It allows me to grow as a leader and appreciate the Body of Christ worldwide. If we open our eyes when we are traveling, we can learn to appreciate how much we have in common instead of believing that there are so many things that divide us. We live in a big world but we serve a bigger God.