Have you ever gone on a God Hunt? A God Hunt begins when you teach yourself to look for God’s hand at work in the everyday occurrences of your life. Here’s one of my personal God Hunt Sightings:
Cirilo Leon, who lives in Oaxaca, Mexico, and comes up each March for the gardening season immigration and returns home each October, has become a friend. He lives with us rent-free during those months in return for a couple hours of help around our yard each week.
Cirilo maintains that Americans “don’t know how to hold a fiesta.” So when we finally were able to clear our schedule this January and travel to Oaxaca to meet his family, Cirilo met us at the airport and announced, “Oh, my cousin is having a fiesta. You can come!” We arrived in Oaxaca on January 5th. Tres Rejos Majos (or Dia de los Rejos—“Three Kings Day”) is January 6th. Cirilo explained that this is the end of the Christmas season and celebrations.
A walk the evening that we arrived in the zocalo (the nearby public square) on January 5 convinced us that this day, indeed, was a national event. Beautifully sheltered by huge overhanging trees, Christmas lights filled the climate night. Families joyfully celebrated being together. Children’s toys—balloons and balls and windup animals—were available from vendors. The band shell was in the middle, two street sides of the square were lined with diners in open-air restaurants, and strolling musicians and a marimbist added to the ambiance. Mothers pushed infants in strollers; fathers hoisted children onto their shoulders. Grandparents chatted and kept watchful eyes on their progeny (the teens as well as the toddlers). Pathways, broadly laid out with flat stones, were lined with rows of poinsettias. It was an exquisite time to visit Mexico.
The next morning, January 6, Cirilo picked us up to take us a half-hour out of Oaxaca city to his home in the small town of La Cienega. Here for the first time we met his wife, Lucia, who was making tortillas on the open fire in the courtyard of our friend’s compound. A master gardener, Cirilo had planted as many fruit trees as his half-acre plot would hold. We also met his three sons, the goats and sheep, the three pet dogs and the chickens.
Over lunch we kept hearing booming noises. “That’s my cousin,” Cirilo explained. “We go there later.” Cirilo’s cousin, I was to learn, was one of some 80 cousins, 30 of whom I think we met. “He has fiesta for friends and family today.”
Sure enough, later in the afternoon, we walked around the corner to the gated compound where Cirilo’s cousin lived. Dancers in traditional costumes were entertaining the gathering crowd. Eventually, the number of “friends and family” totaled some 600 folks (there are only about 1500 people in the town). Like clockwork, soft drinks were dispensed to the crowd. The first of several bands played (loudly), the dancers ended their performance, and tables were set up all over the dance floor and the bare earth. Appetizers were served—tortillas and salsa, bowls of soup. At that moment (by this time the tequila and mescal were also flowing), two huge barbecued bulls were hoisted and carried in by men in the family. We were seated in a place where we could see the women pulling the meat with their bare hands, stirring huge pots of rice, slicing avocados and green peppers and serving up endless trays, each bearing about eight very-full paper plates.
Talk about organization. I’ve fed crowds of people all my life, but I know I couldn’t pull off this kind of event—at least not without a family who knows how to throw a fiesta! “Who pays for all this?” I questioned one of the cousins, a young man with good-enough English to converse with me because he had worked in New York for several years. He explained that the host paid for the bands and the bulls; everyone else in the family (think at least 200 people) brought everything else. I watched as more crates of soft drinks were carried through the crowd and as more trays, now bearing desserts, were distributed.
By 5:30, David was beginning to experience something like tinnitus from the excessive noise of the band. We thought that if we left early, Cirilo could drive us into Oaxaca and return home for the rest of the fiesta (which we learned went onto about 2:00 a.m. the next morning—at least, that’s when Cirilo and Lucia got home.)
I have come to the conclusion that Cirilo is right—we Americans do not know how to have a fiesta. But I also look at this event with gratitude in my heart. As is the experience of most tourists who travel anywhere, Americans who visit Mexico don’t get the opportunity to plunge into the heart of the culture. David and I (and our oldest son, Randall, who turned 50 in January—as I turned 70 the same month, and joined us for a mutual birthday journey) were welcomed into the heart of the culture. Our participation in this Tres Rejos Majos fiesta, made possible by our friends Cirilo and Lucia, was an enchanting introduction into life behind the gates. We were brought into the embrace of Cirilo’s extended family, talked the best we could given our language deficiencies but somehow made our way just the same, had a driver who showed up at our door each morning and was eager to expose us to the sights and customs of his country, where we participated in the music and laughter and jokes and history and fell in love with Oaxaca.
I think I will always celebrate life’s fiestas a little differently from now on. Give thanks to God who loves all cultures and delights whenever his children get a glimpse of the riches in the diversity He has created.
W.H. Auden once wrote, “Bless what there is for being.” I bless the people of Oaxaca with their love of color and their exquisite handicraft, with their five kinds of mole and endless amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables. I bless them that they know how to be present at life’s parties. I bless what there is for being.
I spy God!
Award-winning author Karen Mains has long had an interest in spiritual formation and the obedient Christian walk. She has written about the God Hunt in her book by the same name, The God Hunt: The Delightful Chase and the Wonder of Being Found. A hardback copy can be ordered from Mainstay Ministries for $10.00 plus $4.95 shipping and handling. Contact Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will be happy to autograph a copy for you.
Karen continues to write content for her Christian blog, “Thoughts-by-Karen-Mains.” In so doing, she desires to touch the lives of Christian women and men and help them find ways to walk closer with the Lord Jesus Christ. In addition, through silent retreats, spiritual teaching, women’s retreats, Christian vacation opportunities, and other ministry activities, Karen helps each Christian woman and man receive vital spiritual food.
Through her Hungry Souls ministry, Karen serves as a spiritual coach to many Christian women and men, and teaches a mentor-writing class. And, through the Global Bag Project, she is working to develop a network of African women who sew exquisite cloth reusable shopping bags, Africa bags. This micro-finance women opportunity helps provide a much-needed sustainable income for struggling African families. For more information on this critically important project, please click here.
For decades, Karen and her husband, David, have served God through religious communications—radio, television, and print publication. They are the co-authors of the Kingdom Tales Trilogy: Tales of the Kingdom, Tales of the Resistance, and Tales of the Restoration. To find many valuable resources for pastors and congregations at the Mainstay Ministries main website, please click here.
Likewise, pastors will find special resources to help them prepare effective, life-transforming Sunday sermons by visiting David Mains’ website by clicking here.