This Sunday morning, we led worship at the Church in Casorio. It was a truly sweet time. I led worship with the three new songs that I taught them, with Rick Dupea sitting in on bass and Kirk Allen on percussion, along with their worship team (7 vocalists, guitar, keys, and drums). They also shared some of their worship songs, and Rick Ensloe, who arrived the night before with his wife Marvalee, gave a fully-connecting sermon on trusting God. (By the way, Rick, who is Bob’s best friend, is a total cross between Jim Belushi and Tom Arnold.)
We presented our gifts to the congregation and worship team (the electric and acoustic guitars, guitar amp, and Kurzweil keyboard), and they were blown away by our generosity. As a final send-off, amidst the singing, Rick, myself, and senior pastor Doug Valenzuela handed out roses to each of the mothers in the congregation.
This congregation sings a lot, and they love to sing. Their programming was thoughtful yet uncomplicated, their platform people competent and not prideful. After the service, we were sent off with about a hundred people giving us the Italian cheek-to-cheek kiss again. (If you have personal space issues, this is definitely not the place to travel!) There were a few tears as well. It was an honor and a thrill to be with them.
On the train, I had a little time to reflect on the experience. Here are normal people, living in an economically depressed area, many of them formerly living on the street, on drugs or in the bars, or unemployed, or just very far away from God. And Christ has literally been their Savior, not just spiritually (although this is where it begins), but in the way they have turned their lives around. They have turned their work ethic around, turned their behaviors around, turned away from the sins and addictions which trap them—and joined together to be this local church to one another. They live with meager means, driving tiny little cars that are parked amongst heaps of garbage. They live in small apartments with bars on the windows and high cement walls around their patios, trying to raise families with sweet, beautiful children.
When they sang in worship, their corporate voice had meaning in ways that I believe our upscale California church experience misses out on. We sing, “I’m desperate for you,” just having driven to church in our late model SUV with a latte in our hand. When I taught them this song, and they sang, “E sempre di più, desidero te,” they really meant it.
Later, I asked Douglas how much it cost to buy the roses. He shrugged, “One euro each. But some of these women have never had a flower given to them in their lives.”
Happy Mother’s Day.