I was conflicted about going to church. I wanted to learn about this part of Hadie and Earl’s life, but I had no idea how to dress or behave. I was afraid I’d reflect poorly on them. Mustering my courage, I decided to give it a try.
Somehow Hadie washed and pressed my expedition pants and shirt overnight. I looked ready for a hike, backpack, safari, or, I suppose, Mennonite Sunday service. From the anecdotes and information that had been flying at me during every conscious moment since I arrived, I’d gathered that Hadie and Earl were very active in the Spanish-speaking community ever since returning from their 15 years of missionary work in Puerto Rico.
The moment I entered the church I was surrounded by expectant looks that somehow just became more expectant when I attempted to explain who I was and how I came to be there. I signed the guestbook and wrote my name on a card, which a smiling lady took from me.
I met Tania, Fred’s daughter, who was assigned to take care of me. We began in the downstairs service with Earl and Hadie. It’s entirely in Spanish. I attempt to sing the hymns from the book, no idea what I’m singing. The Columbian lady at the pulpit speaks suddenly, looking at me. I grin. I nod now and then, and receive smiles and nods in return.
People begin to share their prayers. Earl whispers some translations to me. We are praying for some sick relatives, for someone who’s had a car stolen, and someone who needs a job with better hours. We jam to one more hymn with guitar and tamborine accompaniment. A lady in front holds one hand up and sways. Then Tania takes me upstairs. This room is undecorated and conspicuously full of white people.
I have a harder time singing the hymns in my own language. They all seem simple and repetitive, void of emotion compared with the singing going on downstairs.
The sermon is Matthew 7, I think, “Judge not, and be not judged…” It interested me, but as I think back it seems almost idiotic. The preacher, more than once, tried to demonstrate with a block of wood how difficult it would be to remove a speck from your brother’s eye with a beam in your own eye. It was like remedial school. I learned something about the passage, and it stuck, but it now seems shallow.
Afterwards I’m introduced to a few people, including the minister, who try to muster a warm welcome-to-the-lord’s-home manner and don’t quite succeed. I’m interested in talking to Tania, who fairly gracefully manages my barrage of questions about the service, her take on Mennonites, the church, and the music. She’s a sweet girl, 23, pretty, and smart. She has a low mouth and full cheeks. She appears to have no doubts about Jesus. Where are the great raging forces that tore me up inside at that age, I wonder? They seem to be absent from her, along with the fuel for life and discovery they provide.
Tania takes me home, where Dianne, her mom, has whipped up a grand lunch. Hadie and Earl arrive, and we talk family for hours. Tania hovers around, not too interested, then leaves to meet her boyfriend Nate. We keep talking. Among many interesting things, Hadie mentions that Amy told her that their father kept a trunk packed and ready to move to South America, where some other Mennonites were going. I think this was during or after their time in Texas. I mention David Sudermann a few times. Hadie doesn’t talk about him. I pick up from her manner that she doesn’t like him.
Fred and Diane take me for a car tour of the area. We seek out old stone houses and watch kayakers on a big lake (Maniknox?). I see some of Earl’s early dwellings.
Back to Hadie and Earl’s for dinner, I get in even more family talk. Probing, I ask about the time Gustav Enss had to leave Bethel College due to his conflicts with other faculty. She didn’t know about that, she said, but she told the story of how he left Goshen College. “They tried to put the straight coat on my dad,” she says with almost reverent emphasis. It’s interesting to note that in other stories she refers to him as “Daddy”. She also calls Earl “Daddy”, even when addressing him.
My Mom’s book Naming Nature is by my bed. I read about evergreens before falling into a deep sleep.