I spent this last weekend in Mexico at a Mexican Youth retreat for their youth from the Northeastern jurisdiction of the Mexican Methodist Church. I had met a Mexican DS a couple of months ago when I went to the Joint Commission meeting. I had gone simply to attend and was recruited into translating for much of the meeting. Well, from that, I was asked to preach this youth event. We had some trouble with the pre-event communication such that I didn't know the text or theme for the weekend until 2 days before. I was not exactly anxious about it (I do afterall regularly have to prepare sermons on Saturday for the following Sunday) but was frustrated that I wouldn't have more notice (let alone even directions for how to get there). Two days prior I got a call from the conference youth president and she was wonderful and had ideas and was open to mine and we clarified the text etc. So, Thursday afternoon I had a beautiful drive through the hills of San Diego and around Tecate Mexico on my way to the camp.
I have to admit, once I was there and the kids started arriving, my anxiety started to build. Not that I don't preach every week in Spanish, but it is my second language and "my people" (i.e., the people in my congregation) sort of expect botched phrases here and there, but I didn't know how gracious these kids would be and all of my self-consciousness about my linguistic abilities started to kick in. Add to that the fact that the DS had recommended I do "interactive" preaching--right...okay. Not something I do, ever really, so that made me even more nervous, and THEN, to put icing on my cake of nervous jitters and self doubt, the Bishop walks in. Great. Yeah, how about he preaches??!?! So, I took a time out, went to my car, sat in silence, sang, refocused my thoughts and then went in for the Thursday night preaching. It actually went really well. I had easter eggs full of candy that I gave out when they were the first to find a passage, could remember something I had said etc....and that seemed to keep them tuned in and interested.
Aside from my preaching, I had sort of an ambiguous role. I wasn't a counselor (i.e., a group leader) but I was a leader, so I was expected to participate, but almost 45 kids had arrived the second day (after a 24 hour bus ride) and had not heard me preach and so did not know who I was. As such they were not terribly keen on taking advice from me or heeding my instructions to join in and participate with certain activities. But it all worked out alright. I helped out in the kitchen during my "off" times, or participated in the leadership development activities, filled in for group leaders when they had other things to attend to, or cleaned up around camp. Overall it went really well. I had a number of youth tell me they appreciated my preaching and even a couple talk to me about call and how to know if God is calling you to ministry.
I also had a chance to get to know some of the Mexican pastors, some of the youth, and some of the other leadership (even more time with the Bishop). It's always amazing to me how easily I am accepted in my mestizo role. There is always grace afforded me for who I am and how God has called me to bridge the gap. Rarely from the latino side do I encounter resistance, a reality for which I continue to be EXTREMELY grateful.