An Early Easter Celebration
Sunday Morning, March 28, 2010
5:15am – Our alarm went off. Not that we particularly wanted to get up that early, but it was the day of the joint Easter March and Service among all of the evangelical churches in Cochabamba.
Yes, we realize that Easter is actually this coming Sunday, but the Bolivian government decided to change the date of elections to Easter Sunday, which means no meetings of more than 10 people the entire weekend. So the Easter celebration had to be moved up a week to Palm Sunday (which, ironically only the Catholic churches celebrate).
5:50am – Left home in a taxi, meeting in a plaza in the middle of town.
6:00am – Like typical Americans, we arrived right on time to see just a few dozen people scattered around the plaza. We walked around and didn’t see anyone we recognized, so we just waited. Within a few minutes a couple people from our church showed up, so we stayed and chatted with them.
6:15am – We moved over to the starting point for the march, the end of one of the more major roads in town. We scouted out the growing crowd and found someone else from our church, who tried to convince us to walk in the front of the group with a bunch of pastors. We declined, and found a spot right behind a group from the Salvation Army (Ejército de Salvación).
Pastors receive a lot of respect in Bolivia, often being brought up front on special occasions. At our church’s anniversary, several visiting pastors were seated on the stage facing the congregation during the entire service. Personally, we feel more comfortable with everyone else than in a place of honor, so we moved back a little in the procession.
6:25am – The march began. There were actually two starting locations, one towards the north of the city and the other in the south. We walked straight south, and in the process blocked one of the major intersections downtown for a few minutes.
Marches are common in Bolivia, often used as a means of protest or making your perspective or ideas known (in this case, letting people know about Jesus’ resurrection). For example, a few weeks ago when the bus drivers were upset about a new law, en mass they walked down the streets, gathering in the main plaza for a demonstration. (Well, they didn’t just march, they also parked their buses in the middle of major intersections for two days to let everyone know they weren’t happy…) But marches are a normal way of life here – if you get caught by one while driving you go around or wait till it passes. Nothing out of the ordinary…
7:05am – We arrived at the Colosseum, the largest indoor event center in Cochabamba. As the concrete bleachers filled, several groups of dancers with tambourines and streamers performed choreographed routines to worship music coming through the speakers. And then a drum corp came in and drowned out everything with their cadence. 🙂
7:15am – The service started with nearly an hour of worship, announcements, and prayer, including a couple of hymns translated from English (Because He Lives and The Old Rugged Cross) and a song in Quechua.
8:20am – The speaker, Félix Ferreira, came out and introduced himself. He’s a prisoner, at year 15 of a 30 year sentence for murder; he told us that just that morning he changed out of his striped uniform into a suit that was given him for this occasion.
Because of the work of two pastors ministering in the jails, he became a Christian, and he’s now a pastor working and living in jail. Cool testimony, but we were getting tired, and by the end of his 50 minute sermon it was quite hard to focus on Spanish…
9:15am – Service finished with music from a mariachi band (actually, the same one that played at our church anniversary). We met up with some people we recognized and chatted as the Colosseum emptied out.
9:30am – Stopped at a table set up on the street a few blocks away to have api and pasteles with friends, a typical breakfast of a hot corn drink and a cheese-filled, fried pastry.
10:15am – Arrived at home, exhausted but very glad that we went, having just celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ with thousands of Bolivians.