It was a Wednesday night at church. Services are held, the pastor told us, twice on Sunday morning, once on Sunday night, Tuesday night, Wednesday night, Thursday night and Friday night. His “congregation,” he thinks, numbers somewhere around 500. Most of his congregation comes from within the neighborhood, because they have to walk to church. There is no parking lot. The church “hopes” to build a new facility just up the street. The pastor wanted to show us the property after worship, and have us pray over the land with him.
The pastor’s current church facility is a one room building designed to hold about 75 people max. This Wednesday night must have been pack-a-pew night. However, it was unlike any pack-a-pew night I’d ever witnessed. It was definitely more like pack-a-pew night-on-steroids. For certain, it would have been a US fire marshal’s nightmare. People just kept coming, and coming, and squishing onto the hard benches they call pews, and standing alongside the walls. When I thought they couldn’t get any more people in, they filled the center aisle – and stood through the whole service (I know we ended with over 200 people...). We were the honored guests; we got the front row – right in front of the fan. Ah!!!! It had to have been in the high 80’s with about 90% humidity. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the smell, and I don’t mean the smell of perspiration, which in itself presented a problem. I mean the sewer smell. Wafting in through the open windows (keep in mind, there’s no glass on any of the windows) came the odor of raw human waste so strong it could gag a person.
But…I’ve never experienced worship quite like this night. There were no projectors. No power point presentations. No words to the songs on screens above. No YouTube videos to engage the audience. No skits, no stage sets, no greeters with programs, no child care classes. Ah, but there was a guitar player, a drummer, and a few vocalists with microphones. They led. Everyone followed…everyone sang…everyone clapped…everyone cheered…”amens” and “hallelujahs” were frequent. Even among the littlest. There were announcements. There were long passages of Scriptures shared. There were prayer requests and prayer. More singing. The pastor got up and shared (Was it a message before the message? Could have been. It was in Spanish, so I don’t know). More singing. Then Bay was introduced. He spoke, using a translator, which doubles the amount of speaking time. Still people remained squished. They smiled. They shouted. They clapped and cheered when he said something they liked. They engaged with their entire beings. Many found Jesus that night, and there was more celebration! Then, it dawned on me…church in Cuba is not something to do; it is not a place to go; it is an EVENT! It’s not about the individual getting something; it’s about the individual participating and giving something.
This thought was solidified after the service. I overheard one of our team members saying to one of the worshippers in attendance (through a translator), “I love your worship! There is so much energy in your church! Are you always so enthusiastic?” I locked eyes with the gentleman, and tears began to pour down his face. He thumped his chest, turned to our teammate, and sincerely replied, “It is all we have to give!”
It is all they have to give. Yet, honestly, it is more than I’ve ever seen given in a comfortable, sweetly smelling, American worship center. It is all they have to give. It is all Jesus wants us to give. I want to give so generously! I want to give from my all… I want worship to become not just a place to go, not even an event, but THE EVENT of my week - the highlight! I want to be asked about my personal worship, and with all my heart, be able to say, "I give out of my all..." That would be the kind of worship Jesus talked about with the Samaritan woman - worship that is in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24).
A sample of worship: https://vimeo.com/87470800