On Sunday, May 7, 2017, Parish Long Beach had her first gathering at El Dorado Park. I do not have numbers or statistics to share with you, other than I’m pretty sure the children outnumbered the adults, but I do have stories about the event and how the people who gathered are already impacting my life.
First, let’s talk about the food. Let me tell you that our Mexican friends know how to do a cookout! Brothers Juan and Roger brought 16 pounds of carne asada, corn on the cob, and a giant container of horchata (a rice and cinnamon drink straight from heaven). Their mother, Esther, also prepared an extremely hot salsa that I couldn’t even bring myself to try since the smell alone made my eyes water, but the guys loved it, even with their tongues burning and sweat dripping from their brow.
I held my own with homemade guacamole, which got the Esther’s approval, so I’ve been feeling pretty good about myself ever since. And then there were all the remaining cookout necessities including hot dogs, chips, Cole slaw, cookies, and brownies.
If that wasn’t enough, at one point I noticed Roger had disappeared and returned with fresh Salmon to add to his grill creations. He stood at that grill for nearly 3 hours I think, and never stopped smiling while he prepared the food.
We didn’t have a formal service, worship, or even prayer. We simply gathered together, ate, and chased our children all over the play ground until the rain forced us to leave.
I always stress too much over these types of events. Is everyone having a good time? Does everyone have someone to talk to? Did they get enough to eat? Are any children missing? Is anyone expecting or wanting more than just food and conversation? Should we have prayed? And on and on my mind goes. Looking back, I think it was exactly what it needed to be. And probably the only person worrying about such things was me. While it’s most definitely a part of my personality, I’m also a product of my environments. In all my circles from my time on the east coast, we seemed to operate at a frantic pace. For example, there is a start and end time to every event. You hustle to get the event started and then hustle harder to get it done. Events are usually packed to the max with activities, music, and things to do so that you’re never just standing or sitting or forced to entertain yourself or others. Stagnant space and quiet seemed to be the enemy… because if people feel awkward, they will leave.
Yet, what I learned from Sunday’s gathering is that no one was in a hurry at all and no one seemed in a hurry to be “done.” There were plenty of times people weren’t sitting with another to interact with, but no one seemed upset about that or awkward. Nothing spectacular happened and we had no prizes or anything to offer other than ourselves. We just picked a time and place and said come. They came. We ate. And it somehow felt divine.
I think had it not rained, we would have lingered for several more hours, at least until our kids forced us home. It was just so good to be together. Teddy and I have been praying for this for years, and we’ve been waiting for this moment, to be on California soil and begin giving birth to what we’ve been carrying. Just like the moment we knew we were called to California, Sunday we heard the baby’s heartbeat again… and it was good.