So I knew that trying to find a church family while we are here was not going to be easy. The first Sunday we were here we attended a service on campus with others in the Christian Student Association. Over 100 students, faculty, and staff members assembled in an auditorium for about an hour. An African team led the praise and worship and a lady introduced the speaker who was from Venezuela. It's a very non-denominational service.
The next week, however, we were able to attend a local church. Ryan went to school with a guy who grew up here in Grenada. His father pastors a church just 15 minutes from campus. We contacted the pastor and he graciously volunteered to give us a ride on Sunday morning. We met him at one of the bus stops, and climbed into his car . . . along with his wife, daughter, son Philip, his wife Marva, and their four young children. In Grenada, apparently there are no laws about how many people can ride in a car at one time. Also in Grenada, start times for events are just suggestions. The service is scheduled to start at 11. We didn't get to church until 11:05, and the service started around 11:15. Every person we met at the church was warm and friendly, though. I think we shook hands with the whole church on our way to find a seat. They have about 60 people at their Sunday service.
The service began with singing a few choruses and some familiar hymns. Psalm 100 best describes the enthusiasm and sincerity of these dear people.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into His presence with singing!
Each person sang with joy and from a heart overflowing with gratitude. The song service lasted for about an hour. It included the offering, Scripture reading, and a time for public prayer focusing on the character of God ("Let's take time out to give praise.") We all stood with our heads bowed as various people thanked the Lord for Who He is and what He has done. Each phrase is ended by a chorus of Amen's from the congregation. Then they welcomed visitors, and Ryan had to stand and introduce us. The preacher of the morning was visiting from Trinidad, I think. As Pastor Neptune introduced him, he told him to "Take lots of time. We're not in a hurry." How convicting! After sitting in church for an hour, these people were more than happy to sit for another hour and a half and listen to God's Word preached.
I think what I love most about the church is the openness of the people. The service closed with Pastor saying that anyone who needs prayer can come to the front. So about 7-8 people walked to the front of the room and stood in a circle as Pastor prayed out loud for them (in general, not by name). But the rest of us just stood there silently while this was taking place. There is no pretense among these people, which is very refreshing.
After church, the Neptunes showed us the rest of the building. The roof of their building was torn off by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. They are still in the process of rebuilding it. So right now they are meeting in the basement of the building. It is a small, concrete room with wooden pews. There is no nursery, so all the children are in the service as well. They have a keyboard that someone brings each Sunday and a small podium. The doors are left open, and the windows do not have panes, so there is a nice breeze throughout the building. Here is a picture of the inside of the auditorium upstairs under construction and the outside of the church.
On our way home, they were eager to take us to their favorite bakery for a drink and pastry and then show us the new home Philip is building. By the time they dropped us off at campus, it was after 3pm. There's no evening service at the church, so we spent the rest of the day at home and were able to call my parents before they left for church.
The service today was very similar; the music was worshipful and energetic. The message focused on Christ as our Prophet, Priest, and King. During the announcement and welcome to visitors time, they insisted on hearing from "Ryan's wife". The women in the church are all very vocal in giving testimonies, so this was not unusual for them. I gave in and just said how we counted it a privilege to worship with them and told them a little more about us. At the end of the service, we were supposed to have Communion, but the person responsible for bringing it, apparently forgot and left early. So we'll have it next week.
We are truly looking forward to being a part of this church for the next couple years and getting to know the people here. And I love the fact that we can move thousands of miles away and live in a different country, yet have an instant bond with these people through Christ. However, Cornerstone is, and always will be . . . home.