El Jordan Baptist Church
Worship at El Jordan Baptist Church
Greeted with Kisses
El Jordan Baptist Church in Habana is a neighborhood church. Houses are tucked in on either side, and across the street. Half the congregation walks there while the other half navigates public transportation, sometimes traveling over an hour to come and worship. On Sunday morning, June 14, I am seated behind three elderly Cuban women. They have sleek, short hair cuts, beautiful olive skin, and one has multiple piercings in her ear. Their smiles are wide, and they grab me exuberantly, kissing each cheek with enthusiasm. There is no doubt that I am welcomed and wanted!
The Same but Different
The order of worship is familiar, yet different. The music upbeat and lively. Everyone stands up, claps, raises their hands in praise—led by the older members of the congregation. It is a contagious joy that hits my soul like a thunderbolt. God shouts into the reverberation, “Are you going to let loose and join in? Go ahead, I dare you!” I find my body wanting to move in ways that seem incongruent with my Baptist heritage. By the time I decide to sway, the song ends and everyone sits down. Have I missed my chance?
Apparently not. In El Jordan, there is no script of an invocation, 3 worship songs, and then move into prayer. Or, sing one hymn, pray, take an offering, sing the next hymn. There is an order, it isn’t chaos. But each element of worship stands boldly by itself and then flows into the next piece. I’m sure it strikes me this way because I am a stranger in a strange land, but that’s what mission trips are all about—encountering God in new and vibrant ways, experiencing the Kingdom of God with a fresh perspective.
My second chance comes with a Cuban Praise Song that rivals a rhythm from an album by the Buena Vista Social Club. Everyone is on their feet in an instant. I can tangibly feel the Holy Spirit’s heartbeat in the room. I am clapping and swaying and thoroughly caught up in praising God in a way that involves my whole body. I’m pretty sure my individual cells are bouncing up and down right beneath my skin!
A Woman Dancing
David nudges my shoulder. “Look at the women in the front row.” An elderly woman, 80 or 90 years old at least, with her hands raised, is dancing in slow, distinct steps to the beat of the music. Her eyes closed, a smile on her lips, she is elegance in motion. Her body is an offering of praise to her God. I immediately remember the crippled woman in Luke 13 who was healed on the Sabbath. Upon being healed by Jesus, she immediately straightened up and praised God. I think, "This is her, right in front of me, a Bible story come to life!"
It makes me ask myself: “Can I be that bold?”