Merry Christmas Eve, y'all! Christmas Eve is a big deal in Honduras, so Wyatt and I decided to go to church. Neither of us is particularly personally religious, but religion is something that is important to something like 99.99% of Honduras, so we thought it was important to participate. Dr. Flores at the clinic suggested we go to his church, which also happens to be the same church that Lourdes' boss goes to. Lourdes talked to her boss, Rosa, and Rosa offered to give us a ride.
Rosa is hilarious and super nice. We chatted in the car and got coffee with her, which was good because little did we know, but we would need the energy for later. While talking, we realized that the church we were going to go to was Evangelical. Since most of Honduras is Catholic, we kind of assumed that we'd be going to some big Catholic church, but then again... there haven't really been many things so far that have gone as we've expected.
This turned out to be one of those large, modern Evangelical churches that I'd only heard about but never been to.
Wyatt and I sat down while Rosa went around and talked to people she knew (which was everyone). Shortly after, a man came over and introduced himself to us (Marvin), and then asked what we were doing after the service. We had planned to make pasta at the hotel and then watch Arrested Development, but Marvin said that we could come to his house and have dinner with him because we shouldn't be alone on Navidad. I was raised Episcopalian, so we don't really do that stuff... like talk to strangers... ever... but Rosa returned and told us that she's known Marvin all her life and he is un hombre bonito who takes care of his mother and does work with the church, and she talked to him and so Wyatt and I decided to go with it. Why not?
The majority of the service was Christmas carols translated into Spanish. Since I am more or less an expert on Christmas music, it was interesting to compare the lyrics. Spanish translations made most of the songs generally a lot more religious. Between songs were skits about the meaning of Christmas, and in the middle of the service all the pastors and their families went on stage, and each pastor made a short speech/sermon. The rock-and-roll-carol-Christmas-energy-bonanza was really interesting. One thing that Wyatt and I both thought was kind of odd was like... the concept of winter. The background of the stage was painted with snowflakes, and one of the carols they sang was "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas." It definitely doesn't snow here, it's like 70 degrees. Most of the people in the skits were wearing winter-marked clothing, like flannel and hats and coats and at one point a prop-fireplace was rolled out on stage. Also the fog machines. There was a lot of that.
Me: Look at all the steam.Wyatt: It looks like they're all farting.
After the service was over, the pastor that Wyatt had spoken to on the phone at Dr. Flores' prompting talked to us, and since we had plans for that night and the next day, said that we should spend some time together sometime this week. I got his number, but I'm not quite sure why. Actually, he may be trying to convert us. In a friendly, friendly way, but I have seen Saved! I know how it goes.
So after the service we went off with Marvin, his mother, and some of his friends from the church, who I guess they all do volunteer work together. Marvin lives in the south of the city in a really nice house in a really nice neighborhood. At one point I got everyone's names... but I have since forgotten them. Although Unite For Sight is not affiliated with a religious institution, Wyatt and I talked about how it kind of makes sense to go to church and meet people there. Good way to practice Spanish... and also everyone is actually a Saint in training. When Marvin was saying grace he did take a second to talk about the real meaning of Christmas, and straight-up asked Wyatt and me where we were going when we died.
"... Uh... cielos?" I said. Wyatt quickly agreed. This satisfied Marvin and he went on explaining that it's important to accept Jesus as your personal savior and finished the grace. It is too complicated and controversial to explain agnosticism or non-religion, so while here, I'm identifying as Christian, Episcopalian/Anglican if asked. My personal philosophy on secular morals is probably too boring for a blog post and I am too distracted by the Christmas fireworks that I can hear but not see to get into that, but essentially, Marvin and our new Evangelical family and I have basically the same interests regarding charity and helping people, so where that motivation comes from I don't think necessarily matters.
So then we shared some awesome food, and got to have some really great and intense conversations about everything from public health to immigration to corruption in politics to racism. So much Spanish, dear lord. I'm exhausted. However, we totally rocked that conversation. They also asked what we had done so far in the city, which we admitted had been more or less a string of bizarre failures. Apparently that area we went to yesterday was really dangerous. "WHAT!? We don't even go there!" they said. "Clearly God was watching over you!" Ha ha ha... ? Awesome. Definitely sending Lonely Planet an e-mail.
This is on the balcony outside Marvin's house, looking back at the city.
Nuestro familia de Navidad
After dinner and chatting, we all piled into Marvin's truck again and he drove everyone home, giving us a tour of the best parts of the city along the way. I guess one of the things they all do together is volunteer with handicapped kids, so if we have free time Monday afternoon after working in the clinic or aren't on a brigada, we have an invitation to hang out with Marvin and the gang again and play with handicapped children (or just one? I'm not quite sure) so that might happen. Tonight was great. Absolutely unexpected in every way, but actually all good. I'm looking forward to chatting more with Rosa tomorrow morning and seeing what Christmas day is like.