On Providenciales in Turks and Caicos, I sit inside a tiny storefront that serves as a church.
Four small disco lights on a 1980’s speaker light up to amplify a preacher who stands in front of purple curtains, and raises his hand, “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.”
David and I sit on metal folding chairs amid 60 folks dressed in orange, blue, yellow and white.
Outside a tropical downpour splashes close enough to wet the floor.
We drove 30 minutes from Grace Bay to Blue Hills on this Caribbean island on a chance invitation to the Provo Church of Christ. Wherever I travel, the expressway to welcome is worshiping with locals.
This is what I love. All over the world, whether a basilica’s walls are gem-encrusted or a tiny church is sparely furnished, worship sites hold a collective infusion of prayer, peace and goodwill. I love that energy.
Most congregations are wired for welcome. Strangers to each other, we’re here to whisper the same two things: “Hey, God, thank you so much!” Or more often, “God, can you help me?”
Down in front, curved strands of fake flowers hold the minister in a parenthesis. When I peek around me, people smile, pleased to see us. Heads nod at the preacher’s words.
“Be ready to give an answer for your faith.” All around, the clear-eyed surety of many. Rain drums against the metal roof.
“We walk by faith, not by sight.”
Murmurs of amen. Their Sunday best conveys an old-fashioned formality, suits and ties, dresses with eyelet trims.
Seated nearby is Molly (the woman who invited us), her husband, and their daughter who has Downs Syndrome. When we arrived, the little girl threw her arms around David’s knees and smiled up at him.
Two days earlier, at a mall, David explored a handicrafts shop where Molly was the clerk, willowy and warm, a 747 landing light smile beamed against her dark skin. She mentioned being Haitian and David said, “Oh, there are many Haitians in my wife’s church back home.”
Enthusiasm on her part.
Then I showed up, carrying a shopping bag of island jams and place mats. David is not religious, yet he presented a chance to attend her church like a Christmas gift. (He knows I love it.)
Now we sat listening to the preacher talk about trying times and holding on. “Faith takes time to build. It’s shaken and tested. Be steadfast and immovable.”
Many times I am far from steadfast. There are questions with answers that do not feel resolute within me. Sometimes I rely on the faith of others to strengthen mine. Like today when strangers look at me like a sister, ready with kindness. Whenever such people say, “It’s going to be alright,” it’s a declaration layered with the infinite power of God.
After church, many ask our names and chit-chat. We are centered within a friendly cocoon of island colors and white cotton suits. It’s a real sense of belonging, if only for an hour or two.
— Email Suzette Martinez Standring at email@example.com or visit readsuzette.com.