Back in the 1970s, Paul and his family were faithful members of a Pentecostal church in Connecticut. Eloisa was the church’s missionary, and her job was to go off somewhere, wherever God sent her, to start a mission church to save souls that the Bridgeport church would never reach. For evangelicals, this is a crucial duty. Eloisa felt that God was telling her to head to Mérida, Mexico.
A missionary from another local church, the Assemblies of God, had already began La Comunidad Cristiana Príncipe de Paz, which today remains on Avenida Itzaes. No one from the church was from Yucatán, and Paul can’t think of any other connection to the region, which was far away, mysterious, and hard to get to. Think about the era. Back then, travel to Mérida was much more grueling than it is today, and of course, the technology that makes communication so simple now didn’t exist back then, so when you left your hometown, you really left your hometown.
Paul remembers that Eloisa found success and a following. In Mérida, late in life, she married a Meridano who owned a small cab company.
In the last few years, at some point during every trip to Mérida, Paul would bring up the topic of that mission church and wonder if it was still around. Paul hasn’t been part of the Pentecostal church for years. Then last week, when Paul was cleaning his mother’s room after a short stay at a convalescent center, he found an index card with the name of a pastor with a 999 phone number. He knew he had found a clue. A little Googling revealed an address, and via Street View we found a modest green building with La Peña de Horeb (The Rock of Horeb) written over the front door. It’s still there, in Col. Yucatán, and Paul was there to see the missionary travel to Mérida to make it happen.
At this point, I should note that it was through Paul’s mother’s evangelism that Eloisa come to church to begin with. They had met at work, and Paul’s mother persuaded her to join her at worship. So there is a direct line between Paul’s mother and this mission church in Mérida. This whole story makes my head spin.
Paul, then a college student who I’m sure the church saw as filled with promise, picked up on overtures that he might join the mission work in Mérida. Imagine if he had gone along. I like to think my life path would have still involved Mérida, and that we’d still meet.
But Paul stayed in Connecticut, and I moved to that state in 1989. Turns out we met in (much more liberal) church three and-a-half years after that. The Metropolitan Community Church, in fact, in New Haven. Paul’s intense church involvement as a youth made him an engaging Bible study member at the time I met him. His impressions Ephesians were riveting; or was there something else making my heart pound? Today, neither of us are church goers, although we tried to revive a neighborhood Lutheran church years ago, where we were astonished that the group of 90-year-old women, all pillars of the church who populated the “widow’s pew” every week, supported our drive to welcome GLBQ people with a written statement hung in the narthex and as many rainbow flags as we could fly outside. They even elected me council president. But it was too late to save a church that for years pulled from its endowment fund rather than find ways to grow organically.
Today, Paul and I are happy to stay home Sunday mornings, although the beauty of Mérida’s churches may draw me back in one day. I’m hearing great things about the English-language Celebration of the Eucharist, Sundays at 5 p.m., at Las Monjas Church on Calle 63 between Calle 64 and 66. One day we were walking by Las Monjas during a service. We poked our heads in and two women invited us to join this ecumenical service. So even today, Mérida is opening up more and more to a broader family of Christians, which can only be a good thing.