|Pastors Greg Ott, Marvin Zaldivar and translator|
What transpired at the conclusion of the vespers no one could have imagined. As our group began preparing themselves mentally for departure from the picturesque Front Royal, Virginia mountain setting, we asked them to leave the conference room and process outside onto the hillside just behind the beautiful Northern Virginia 4-H Educational Center. There we would partake in the sharing of bread and cup; a closing communion to send us on our way.
Also gathered that weekend at the 4-H center were members of Iglesia Los Hechos Mission from Manassas, Virginia (Church of Acts Mission Manassas) http://www.iglesialoshechos.com .
They described themselves as an evangelical Christian group. The group was made up of men and women of all ages from Mexico and other areas of Central America, but primarily they young people; many young children with their parents. The group was relatively the same size as ours numbering approximately 80. The group like ours had come to retreat and fellowship together in the beauty of the Front Royal area.
We encountered them each time we dined together in the cafeteria of the retreat center. That's where I struck up a conversation with their Pastor, Marvin Zaldivar who told me a little bit about himself and the church he helped start within the confines of his home basement. Now, four years later, the church was meeting in a space they rented from a Baptist church in Northern Virginia. I took the opportunity to introduce Pastor Marvin to several of the clergy within our group.
Earlier, I'd asked my friend, Pastor, Greg Ott if he would conduct the communion service. Greg and only a handful of other men from our group knew that the two groups would be sharing communion together. Pastor Marvin joined Greg in the center of the circle as well as a young man who agreed to act as translator for the fellowship time. The words of institution and prayers for bread and cup were all done alternately in Spanish and in English. But the acts were in a universal language.
There on that hillside a group of Jesus Followers came together to partake in an act that transcends language, culture and ethnicity. By intinction they all came forward singing praises of emotion and thanksgiving. At communion's conclusion, hugs, hugs and more hugs were shared. Conversations lingered as our time of retreat concluded. Many tears were shed as the two groups dispersed.
One man said to me that this was the first step. In light of our conversation and discussions during our fellowship time over the weekend I had to agree that the men gathered recognized that this loving act of hospitality and spirituality that we had just shared was the first step of many for men of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and other mainline denominational men. We must be open to receiving the movement of the Holy Spirit and be cognizant of the compassion and love of following in those first footsteps of example given to us by a man over 2000 years ago. Jesus was present on the hillside with us smiling with joy. So, did I see God during the weekend? You bet I did.
Being together with those people that morning was one of the most humbling and spiritually moving experiences I've ever been a part of. As I think about my first Father's Day this weekend I think about the day when I can proudly and excitedly share this story, the first of many, with my son.
Happy Father's Day!