Cultural Differences Eclipsed by Christmas

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Photo: Pastor Mejia, with Kathi Sellers translating.

By Carl Stagner

One church worships in Spanish. The other, English. The two churches are just a few miles apart in the same city, and both lift up the name of Jesus Christ. But these two Church of God congregations weren’t even acquainted with one another. Often the holidays are associated with family scuffles and awkward dinner conversations that lead to division. When Christ is at the center, however—when Jesus is the subject—Christmas has a way of bringing believers together. Just before Christmas, Iglesia de Dios La Hermosa and Main Street Church of God of Anderson, Indiana, united in a special worship service open to the community.

It’s not a simple task to bring two churches together from different cultures. Particularly when a language barrier exists, hurdles must be crossed in order to make sense of the singing and the preaching. A little bit of advance preparation, combined with a lot of blessing from the Holy Spirit, made “An International Christmas” turn out to be an experience neither congregation will soon forget.

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Photo: The Main Street Church choir at Iglesia de Dios La Hermosa.

In the Church of God, we love to talk about unity. We say that God’s perfect love unites us all in Jesus. We believe in our hearts that, as children of God, we are brother and sister no matter what we look like or where we come from. We even reach our hands in fellowship to every blood-washed one. But unfortunately, to the outside world, God’s one universal church looks rather fragmented and divided along cultural and ethnic lines. It’s no wonder that many have come to recognize that Sunday is the most divided day of the week.

“An International Christmas” featured five songs presented by the Main Street Church of God choir, each representing a different part of the world. Christmas arrangements inspired by cultural traditions in the Czech Republic, Germany, Kenya, South Korea, and Venezuela were preceded by narrated glimpses into the unique ways each celebrates Christmas. The worship team from Iglesia de Dios La Hermosa led in a time of exuberant praise en español, a new and enriching experience for many of the Main Street congregation. Pastor Don Billey of Main Street and Pastor Heriberto Mejia of Iglesia de Dios La Hermosa each offered brief messages from Scripture in their native tongues. Kathi Sellers, former Church of God missionary and Global Missions/Global Strategy staff member, provided live English-Spanish translation throughout. Abby Torgeson, missionary to Costa Rica, translated the entire narration into Spanish, in advance of the service, so it could be printed in the program booklet.

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Photo: Pastor Billey, with Kathi Sellers translating.

To top off the evening, a love offering was collected to support Church of God missions around the world through Global Strategy. The two churches not only worshiped together, they also partnered together in the Great Commission given to all believers.

At the conclusion of the event, the two churches, which had gathered in the Hispanic congregation’s sanctuary, voiced heartfelt longing not to wait for a special event to bring them together again.

Were you blessed by reading this story? Support the ongoing work of Church of God Ministries with your gift to the World Ministry Fund at http://www.jesusisthesubject.org/world-ministry-fund/.

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