Youth Convention – Part 2

Today I’ll start with a word picture of some sights and sounds! Unfortunately we didn’t capture this on “film.”

We rose early on Saturday morning for group devotions. The sun shone brightly on the water as we walked to the meeting. Neighbors greeted us as we walked beside their homes, along the footpath. Men wore dress shirts and slacks or traditional Garifuna shirts. Youth were dressed in everything from jeans and t-shirts to “church-clothes.”  Many girls wore dresses with their braided hair covered with beautifully pattern cloth. Others wore bright handkerchiefs in various styles in their hair. Several wore traditional, brightly colored Garifuna dresses. The diversity is beautiful!

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Here you can see some of the fun things the girls do with their hair. Pink and tan braids!

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Marcial, our language helper, traveled with us. When he led worship one morning, he invited Joel and Abigail (without warning) up front to sing one of the songs he had taught us. They did well! (Note the awesome shirt in the foreground! And more fun hair styles!)

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Each teaching was given in two languages – usually Garifuna and Spanish. Many youth are bilingual, speaking either English or Spanish along with Garifuna, however some speak only English or Spanish. Presenting teachings in two languages doubles the time for each teaching, and of course requires twice the number of speakers. It was a little tiring for us as our brains caught more Garifuna than ever as well as listened in Spanish.

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Because of the kids from the US and Belize, Wes got to speak in English and was translated into Spanish! He spoke about giving our whole selves to God NOW. There were two other speakers after him whose teachings complemented his, though they had not talked about that ahead of time. Isn’t it cool how God works?

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Joel’s drama group helped lead the parade at the close of the convention. Marches and parades seem to be a big part of Garifuna celebrations. This week we are commemorating the arrival of the Garifunas in Honduras with another parade through town.

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We went home tired but happy with what the Lord is doing in our kids and with their new friends. The kids stayed for the all-night service and came home on the bus, arriving Sunday morning around 8!

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This bus has the amazing ability to go from 60 to 0 in 3 seconds flat (It’s not backwards, you read that right)… right in the middle of the highway! Our trip home was more eventful because of following this guy for many kilometers!

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Since we had to go off our strictly natural diet to eat at the convention, we took advantage of the moment and got ice-cream at Baskin & Robbins before going home! Too bad the kids were still at the convention!

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We asked a friend how Easter is celebrated here, since in many parts of Central America Good Friday is the big celebration and almost not emphasis is placed on the resurrection. He responded that if we think Garifunas are joyful in worship, we’d find them even MORE so on Easter Sunday in celebration of the resurrection. Like many in the US, they dress very nicely – some with new outfits – and worship was a celebration of victory over darkness!

 

Youth Convention – Santa Fe

Semana Santa (Holy Week) was very different for our family this year, since we were not at camp! We experienced our first Garifuna Youth Convention, which is held every year during the week leading up to Easter. Here are a few “snapshots” of our week.

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The kids left bright and early Thursday morning to travel by bus from our town to Santa Fe, where Garifuna youth from various parts of the US, Belize and Honduras came together to focus on what God has for them in this time in their lives.

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Our kids stood out in the crowd physically, but we were told by more than one leader that they blended right in with the other youth! (Can you find Abigail in the picture?!)

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Youth chose a team to be on to minister: service, worship, dance, drama, or intercession. During, before and after each service people were praying off to the side and in the back.

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Wes and I went on Friday, since he was scheduled to speak on Saturday. We wanted to give our kids space to enjoy the convention without us hanging around, but we also wanted to get a feel for the event before Wes’s turn to speak.

The road was as much pot hole as macadam, making travel … exciting!

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We stayed with a local pastor, Julio, and his wife Maura, who was recovering from surgery. It was a blessing to visit with her, since she was not to leave the house to participate in the event. We enjoyed getting to know another pastoral couple in a Garifuna community.

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Much of the worship was in Garifuna, though we sang a few songs in Spanish. Worship was joyful and heartfelt! We hope to send a video by email, since we can’t post here!

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The view from our hosts’ home brought the sights, sounds and smells of the beach right to our bedroom window! Friday evening’s service was held on this basketball court on the beach behind our host house.

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Once again we had a wonderful time of worship and a mission team from El Salvador shared the message. Many people passing by stopped to listen for a while.

MORE TO COME!!

More Pictures from the 2015 Convention

Garifuna Christians on Parade

One of the final events during the Convention is always a parade. Attendees dress in their traditional best and gather to march around town worshiping the Lord in Garifuna. We stopped to pray at several places along the route and townspeople not attending the Convention came to enjoy the parade.

God was honored and our town was blessed by this event.

25th Anniversary Convention

Two missionaries who helped connect Garifuna believers from different countries at the first Garifuna convention came to participate in this anniversary celebration.

Two missionaries who helped connect Garifuna believers from different countries at the first Garifuna convention came to participate in this anniversary celebration.

The Convention began with the recognition of those who initiated the first Garifuna Convention 25 years ago. Missionary Steve Shank (center of photo) was instrumental in bringing Garifuna Christians together in 1990 for mutual encouragement. There were 30 in attendance. This year hundreds gathered to celebrate what God has done among the Garifuna people! Where there were three or four believers in 1990, there are entire churches today.

Standing room only at the start of the 25th Annual Convention!

Standing room only at the start of the 25th Annual Convention!

We decided not to take seats from Garifunas who had traveled to this 4-day event, thinking we’d be able to stand at a window to enjoy the service. It seems others from our town thought of the same thing. We could hardly get close enough to see what was going on!

Pastor Nino (right) is the head of Amiga, the group that organizes this event each year. Marcial (left) translated between Spanish and Garifuna.

Pastor Nino (right) is the head of Amiga, the group that organizes this event each year. Marcial (left) translated between Spanish and Garifuna.

Almost everything took place in two languages: Spanish and Garifuna or English and Spanish. The one exception was Pastor Galileo’s announcements, which were only done in Garifuna. The whole congregation would laugh uproariously, and we just hoped for the future when we will understand what he’s saying!

It was truly an honor to be included in this occasion. It gave us much more understanding of the history of the Garifuna church internationally. Participants came from Garifuna churches in New York, Houston, New Orleans, and all along the coasts of Belize and Honduras, as well as a few other places. We rejoice in what God has done among the Garifuna people, and we rejoice in what He will do in the future!

 

2015 International Garifuna Convention

Maximo was born in NYC, but both of his parents were from Honduras. We had wonderful time hosting him!

Maximo was born in NYC, but both of his parents were from Honduras. We had wonderful time hosting him!

Maximo was our guest during the convention. He was planning to practice his Spanish and Garifuna during the convention, so we all pretended Spanish was our first language. We were thankful to “be there” for him, though, when he got sick and just couldn’t think in any language but English. We were glad to provide a buffer zone in our house then, where he could speak English or not speak at all! We weren’t sure anyone would want to stay with a non-Garifuna family, but we think Maximo enjoyed his stay!

A New Rhythm in Life

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When we first visited a Garifuna church back in April of 2014, we had never felt so “white” in all our lives! This was not simply because we were the only caucasians there, but also because we could not grasp the rhythm of the music. (Let’s face it – that stereotype came from somewhere, right?) It was clear that there WAS a rhythm to catch because everyone around us was moving in sync. THEY obviously got the rhythm! But it sure looked like their feet moved to one beat, their hips to another, and they clapped to yet another!

The worship team is mostly percussion - a keyboard player, two drummers, a turtle shell player (back left of percussion section) and a maraca player. There are usually two or three female vocalists as well.

The worship team is mostly percussion – a keyboard player, two drummers, a turtle shell player (back left of percussion section) and a maraca player. There are usually two or three female vocalists as well.

Now that we have moved to the north coast, we experience that rhythm 2-3 times a week. We began by watching the feet of someone in front of us and moving along. Some of us have progressed from there and others have not, but last night at church we all felt a difference in our comfort level and in our ability to worship God in a new environment. Feeling more comfortable at church is a big step in moving in!

We are learning a new rhythm in life, as well. There are physical challenges here (like weeks without water in the house and a lot of noise) that we did not have in Pinalejo. There are other challenges (power outages and isolation) that we do not face as often here as we did in Pinalejo. We are adjusting and finding our rhythm. Right now I’m wearing ear plugs to be able to focus on writing!

It is exciting to walk down the street and be known. People greet us by name, and we recognize their faces! It’s very hard to be new in town – and to stand out so much – when everyone else already knows each other. We have so many names to learn, and names are important here and are used more often in conversation than in the culture we came from in Pinalejo. Pray that our minds will be able to handle remembering them all and distinguishing faces!

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