Monday, November 7, 2011

So a Catholic Missionary Goes Into a Pentecostal Church...

This is something that happened to me this past Sunday. I want to share this experience just to showcase how unexpected this ministry can be.

One of the youth we've been working with for the past year called me one night at almost 11pm. At times I call him and he is not in the mood to talk. He can be borderline rude, cutting me short and hanging up on me a few seconds into the call.

And then he can call me, and when he feels in the mood to talk, we can talk for hours. Unfortunately for me, that night when he called me, he felt in the mood to talk.

At 12 am, struggling not to fall asleep, I tell him that maybe we should meet for Church next Sunday, maybe the one he goes to. "Oh yes!". He seemed very excited. The night before I called to confirm our meeting at his church, and to ask for directions. He gave me the directions and said that he would be there.

So I come to this small church on Mission Street at 3pm when the service is supposed to start. As soon as I get in I see many ushers welcoming in. Oh no, I think to myself it is a Latino Pentecostal church. Not exactly my cup of tea.

First, I notice the loud music. Too loud actually. The worship band is playing the same song for almost 15 minutes. I didn't know the song when I came in, but after a while I almost memorized it.

I start looking for my friend, and he is nowhere to be found. Call him, he doesn't answer. Text him, he doesn't answer either.

The church is located on the second floor of an apartment building. There seems to be more ushers than churchgoers. Almost all the women are wearing veils over their heads. I'm surprised to see that a couple of women are actually wearing pants.

I always wondered why Latino Pentecostals manage to have a different accent than the rest of Latin Americans. They pronounce their "t's" softly, for example, as if an adult North American is trying to speak Spanish for the first time. The melody of the accent is also different. It seems as if they are perpetually preaching when they are speaking.

I suppose this is due in part because of the Pentecostals missionaries from North America that came to Latin America and started planting churches. Maybe, but I could be wrong.

Then they start this endless medley of upbeat worship songs. People start to stand up, some of them going to the front of the church. They start dancing. I see a woman with a flag waving it frantically, but she couldn't possibly be less gracious in her radically and undiscriminating movements. Two people with colossal horns start making even more noise. 

I see another woman going around in little circles rapidly, and just when I think that she is going to fall out of sheer dizziness, she stops and starts dancing on the same spot.

At almost 3:40 I see the pastor coming out from a door. Where was he this whole time?!. I'm still waiting for my friend and he is nowhere to be found. The loud music is giving me a headache. I'm deciding whether to get up and start dancing or keep sitting down and be awkward. I decide for the latter.

After an hour and 15 minutes of worship music, most of them repeated almost ad infinitum, I decide to get out of the church.

This ministry can be unexpected, and the flakyness of these young people can put you in situations that you wouldn't be otherwise.

Photo Credit: wharman.


  1. Although I'm not connected with the Pentecostal church, I find your description of their service something which is not happening in most North American Pentecostal churches today. Most today have become much more middle of the road in terms of their worship style. Yes, they may have a musical group at the front leading the singing, and the pieces being sung are Praise Songs, but there is none of the dancing and speaking in tongues which was characteristic of Pentecostal united church church in the past. Is this change not happening in your area?

  2. Hey Karl:

    Latinos Pentecostals, at least the ones I know, are still doing this.

    I have heard from some North Americans about what you're telling me, so I am aware of the changes.

    I actually attended for almost a couple of years, on and off, pentecostal churches, and I enjoyed it for the most part. But to be honest, there are some things in some latino pentecostal churches that seem to me a bit fundamentalist.

    Thanks for your comment!