In many countries like in the United States we celebrate All Saints’ Day. Many Mexicans celebrate All Saints Day and El Día de Los Muertos. For many it sounds scary, because some literal Christian churches think that we are celebrating death and not life. This misunderstanding is unfortunate, but over the years that belief has grown. In my opinion it is important that other cultures know more about our tradition, since we celebrate the lives of those who left before us.
Mexicans especially celebrate that day by painting their faces with skulls, dressing in black, and participating in many types of activities. For example, in Mexico City people prepare for a parade by creating floats with large altars full of orange flowers. That special flower is called Cempasúchil, which is Marigold in English. Altars are set up in town squares and in houses, where photos of deceased loved ones are placed, along with flowers, candles, and favorite foods of the deceased. Of course the deceased are not expected to come to eat it, so only a little of that food is placed on altars. Some families, like mine, eat that special dish that day and go to cemeteries to decorate the graves with flowers to honor their loved ones. This tradition is carried out across many borders.
There are many families in the United States who are undocumented or who do not have money to travel to their places of origin. Many of them do not make altars in their houses or apartments because there is no space, since they share living quarters with other families. This special day becomes very sad for them. So, understanding the sentiment and tradition of Latinos and Mexicans, on November 2nd in 2016 our church opened its doors to our neighbors to come in and build their altars. This provided a space to celebrate that day of mourning so important and cultural for us Latinos.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has taken away many things from us, and this year Latinos will not be able to celebrate in the traditional way. They can’t even send money to Mexico to buy flowers to decorate graves, since the cemeteries are closed for everyone’s safety. The restrictive conditions are very sad for me, too.
On Tuesday November 3rd of this year it will be different, since our celebration will be conducted virtually. I am inviting people who visit my FaceBook page to write the names of their relatives in the comments section. I will sound a bell after each name, and I will play praise hymns and traditional Mexican music to help us celebrate together. The usual attendees are from various countries such as Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico. Our Hispanic group has relatives in these countries, and our ministry has already extended to their place of origin. From their homes we all connect via FaceBook in love and unity in Jesus Christ .
Each time I complete the transmission of my service and message, I make the production available for people to watch later. These videos have been viewed 1200 or more times; however, in the last month that number has decreased by 60%. I think this is because some people have already returned to work or are looking for work. Also, many do not have access to the internet. These people remain in our prayers. The most beautiful thing about all this is that communities come together in these difficult times as brothers and sisters and children of God.
Now I want to share news from the communities of El Maguey and Atotonilco. The state of Jalisco is already on red alert again, since there are more people every day infected with coronavirus. In the cemeteries of Atotonilco, according to what I have been told, they take two to three bodies to be buried every day. One of the main problems is that there are no tests to detect the virus, and there are no hospitals in the area. Also, there is no medicine nor caregivers available, so the state government has closed all activities again.
In these difficult times let us pray for the people of El Maguey and Atotonilco and for our little sister church Cristo Vive. Thanks to your donations this week, Juan Carlos, the lay minister of the church of Cristo Vive, distributed bags with food to 65 families. Thanks to God and to you for your generosity. Cristo Vive is a small light in the middle of the mountains that supports the neediest families in the area.
I also want to share news of the local Hispanic ministry. At this time none of our members is infected with the virus. Some people are already working part-time and have full-time jobs. Since they cannot stop working, they are taking precautions not to contract this contagious disease; however, like all of us, they continue to run the risk. These two Latino congregations are merging as they are connected most nights and on Sundays during the service on FaceBook. We all pray for San Jose First and its multiple communities.
I am going to share with you a poem by an unknown author:
“I have not died. I only left earlier and I don’t want to be remembered with tears as one who has no hope. I have not died; although my body is gone, my presence will always be felt. I will be the silence of our home that we shared so much, I will be the breeze that kisses their faces, I will be a sweet memory that attends their memory, I will be a beautiful page of their history. Sorry everyone, I only took one of the previous trains and I forgot to tell you … I haven’t died, I just left earlier.”
Pastor Gerardo Vazquez-Padilla