Over spring break, I preached in Alamo.
No, not THE Alamo.
Alamo, New Mexico. It’s a non-contiguous part of the Navajo Nation southwest of Albuquerque.
It started when my brother-in-law invited me to accompany him on a stake high council speaking assignment while I was in town for the week. Turns out he wanted another speaker! I said sure. It sounded like fun, except for the actual writing the talk part.
Just getting there involved leaving the interstate at a ranch exit and looking for some kind of highway sign. We saw a few bullet-hole pocked signs, all with numbers which didn’t match the map, so we asked one local approaching the freeway for directions. She spat out an, “Oh my G–! You want to go there?!” and directed us down the road a piece. Her directions not being that great, we had to choose between a dirt road which looked like it hadn’t been driven on since the Vietnam War and a slightly larger dirt road. We took the road more traveled, and it made all the difference.
An hour later, after washboarding all over the red clay road, passing cattle, horses, and the occasional car, we pulled into Alamo in the middle of a dust storm and parked at the Chapter House. We were greeted by a man who handed me and my brother-in-law brooms and asked us to sweep the dirt out of the hallways in preparation for the meeting.
The members walked in and greeted us. Most were dressed casually, with jeans, boots, and windbreakers over T-shirts or white shirts and bolo ties. They all seemed intent on being there. We put up chairs and assembled the sacrament table together, and shortly before the meeting, I was asked by one of the branch members if I would administer the sacrament as well. The music was provided by one of the Church’s hymn CD’s played on a small boom box set on a metal folding chair next to the presiding officer.
My talk was OK, my brother-in-law’s was better, and the sacrament itself was a short, sweet experience, where each small child huddled in the back of the hall eagerly grabbed a morsel of bread and assisted their siblings and friends with carefully extracting the water cups from the trays. Gospel Doctrine, taught from the Gospel Essentials text by my brother-in-law, was another chance to sense the infuence of God as he shared a sensitive and painful experience from his own life which helped one brother in the congregation who had been victim to a similar tragedy.
Church ended, with a potluck lunch eaten by the rest of the branch, while we made our way to the pickup for the long drive back to Albuquerque. As we approached the door, a senior missionary assigned to the branch warned us, “You’ve got a flat tire.”
“At least we’ve got a spare,” I thought. We soon found that both rear tires had been punctured by the rough road we had traveled. The formerly quiet Navajo branch members swung into action, faces which had been more or less somber during the church service broke out into smiles, and excited chatter erupted as the opportunity to serve arose. Two different “rescue parties” headed out in pickup trucks to fetch tire repair kits and compressors from far-flung homes on the reservation. We soon had two repaired tires and a few new friends.
And I have my first bolo tie in commemoration of the experience, to my wife’s chagrin!
Have you ever had a “different” worship experience?