Our first morning in Piedras Negras we got up and went to church at Templo Aleluya. The church is not far from where we were staying in the Centro of Piedras Negras, but it felt like it was in the middle of nowhere because of the desert landscape and the unpaved roads we traveled to reach it. When we arrived we found a vibrant congregation already praising God through song.
The sermon was preached by a guest preacher, Pastor Eddie. He spoke clearly and paused often enough that I was able to translate what he was saying in a whisper to my team members around me. He stressed that though Christ’s sacrifice was for us all, and His free gift of salvation is open to every single person that it is only those who accept it who are called the children of God. It is difficult to explain how the Gospel message is both inclusive and exclusive at the same time but I think he did a marvelous job. Pastor Eddie also reminded us that we are not required to clean ourselves up before coming to Christ, that He accepts us just as we are, and then through His Holy Spirit the changes we need to make in our lives become possible. It was a great message to start our week with.
After the service was over we toured the grounds of Templo Aleluya. Adjoining the sanctuary is a kitchen and dining area where free hot meals are offered to the community. Over 60 children and mothers have lunch and devotions each week day. Previous groups (55including ones from Mountain Lake) have built what will soon be a school, and a carpentry workshop. The carpentry workshop is run by Assistant Pastor Flavio Hernadez, who also lives on the property with his wife and daughter. Flavio is a master craftsman, an artist really, who creates beautiful wooden crosses that are sold in San Antonio and on the internet to help raise the money needed for the feeding program and other outreach projects. As the ministry grows Flavio is training people in the community to help him with the process.
I had the honor of being able to spend some time talking with Flavio about the creation process. As fellow artists we seemed to make an almost instant connection. We talked about creating something we think is our own design as opposed to starting with prayer and meditation and asking for the Holy Spirit to inspire a piece and then work through our hands to bring it to fruition. The designs of Flavio’s crosses are full of symbolism and meaning and I truly believe they are inspired work. I would have loved to bring home one of each. I ended up choosing “Solace” because of it’s beauty, symbolism and the captivating way it balances itself. Anyone familiar with my artwork will not be surprised that I chose a cross with a bird on it.
My team members and I gave up a week of our summer to serve God and others. The interns we met while we were there gave up their entire summer. Flavio and his wife, Sister Mari, have devoted their entire lives to serving the Kingdom. They have left the world and gone to live at their church and devote all their time and energy to serving. It was a blessing to be able to meet them and see the work they are doing for the Kingdom.
To see more examples of Flavio’s crosses and order one for yourself or to give as a very meaningful gift you can visit aleluyaministries.blogspot.com. They also have a facebook page where there are lots of pictures of the the church, people and buildings that make up Templo Aleluya.