International Ministries

We Like Being Together

April 15, 2014 Journal
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We like being together.” 

That´s what Mario Collinao told me when I asked him why Mapuche funerals were so long and why they ate so much. 

More than ten years ago I was at my first Mapuche velorio (the wake, or vigil, before the funeral). Mario and I were sitting at a table after being served a big portion of meat and potatoes, drinking coffee. 

As we lingered, another family came into the room starting to set the table. I stood up to leave, thinking I would create space for them. Mario pulled me down and said we could not leave, that it would be considered an insult. 

So we stayed and ate another full meal served with pride by another part of the extended family. Later I learned that they expect you to carry a bag to save for later what you could not finish. 

The important thing was to give and receive hospitality, to be together.

Francisco Catrin, pastor of the Llongahue church, died on March 18. He was one of the early converts in the isolated Mapuche community of Curihue over 45 years ago, and one of the founders of the mother church in Curihue. Some of you have stayed with his family when you visited Chile and will remember his generous smile and hospitality. 

He was also one of our best beekeepers, having an apiary that produced abundant honey. Every time I would pass by, or after working in his apiary, he would invite us in for a matecito, which usually meant a meal. He delighted in sharing a roasted goat.

One of the strongest, hardest-working men I have known, he made his living growing vegetables, selling honey, keeping animals. He and his wife, Carmela, raised four children, all grown now and leading productive lives, keeping the faith. 

Then cancer appeared out of nowhere, and in less than three months he was gone. But he told us all along that he was “tranquilo,” for “to live is Christ, to die is gain.”

His velorio lasted three nights, a testimony to his stature in the community. Extended family, church members, and non-Christians came and set up fires in the churchyard where they took turns cooking meat around the clock. 

People came from near and far, stayed a few hours or all night. If you were there, a family would approach you and ask you to come to their table and eat. Somehow they keep track of who has eaten and where.­­

Morning and evening they held devotionals, with testimonies and exhortations and singing. Then on the third day they buried him. I said a few words there about our friendship. 

I recalled a prayer that Dallas Willard and his wife prayed every day. 

Father, make us the kind of persons that would make other people glad that God made the world and he put us in it.”

Things become clearer at a time like this. We really like being together, giving thanks for our lives, and drawing strength from God and one another to practice the same virtues that we saw in a Christ-filled life.