As we have already written, Colombia is slowly opening up after more than five months of quarantine restrictions. Bio-security restrictions are in place for all places where people gather or are usually in close proximity to one another. Those restrictions always include use of masks, many times includes the washing of hands upon entrance, the taking of one’s temperature and keeping social distance. Often times it includes registration of one’s presence inside of the room or place of gathering. As we have gone out, we certainly notice that one “norm” of movement includes graciously avoiding being too close, especially when walking on a sidewalk or in a public space. “Direct” routes are not always so straight now as one tries to best avoid another.
The last two Sundays, we have been able to participate in the first church services since March. We were a bit skittish about attending and participating – even though we were confident that the churches and leadership had complied with all of the protocol in order to gather. Still, as you well know there where you are reading this, church service gatherings have been, in some sectors, a hot topic of conversation and debate. The services where we have attended have been as complying as possible: people are respectful; they keep their distance; everyone uses a mask; and everyone is extremely joyous to be together.
That last point, of the joy of being together, really hit home this past Sunday. The neighborhood where we went (as shown in the photo) is located in a social strata where the pandemic has greatly impacted the quality of life. As we looked out upon the neighborhood, and even as we arrived by car, it was easily noticed that any possibility of pulling off a meaningful “virtual” experience in this area would have been extremely difficult. Lack of good internet connection, no computer, old cell phone technology and lack of technical skill to “connect-up” would make any “virtual” connection not possible. In talking with the pastors of these churches over that past months, they held onto hope, they held onto positive attitudes and they told us how hard they were working to connect with the people but it was quite frustrating. Seeing the smiles in the eyes of everyone around us as we worshipped and interacted as a community once again behind masks was extremely impacting. As was the deeper passion and compassion that we heard in the words of the leaders of the services. It didn’t feel like they were just “meeting to meet”. They were gathering because together, as a body in Christ, they were living and moving and celebrating their identity in Christ.
In the midst of the pandemic, in the midst of all of life that had been turned upside down, these dear brothers and sisters in Christ had found a way to safely be together.