Churches in Nashville give thanks — in two languages
Handshakes and hugs at the Grandview Church of Christ. (PHOTO…
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The great — and sometimes terrifying — thing about this job is that I’m constantly running into people I’ve written about.
But there was only joy as I walked into the auditorium of the Iglesia de Cristo en Grandview and saw Carlos Baltodano setting up the PowerPoint. “Look who it is!” I whispered excitedly to my wife.
For the past 14 years, the Spanish-speaking Grandview church has hosted a bilingual holiday devotional with the English-speaking Brentwood Hills Church of Christ, where my sister serves as children’s minister.
The devo didn’t happen last year, of course, but this year it had probably its best attendance ever, said Brentwood Hills minister Walt Leaver.
Walt spoke about the “password that will get us into the presence of God” — acción de gracias (thanksgiving), taking his cue from Psalm 100: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.”
Carlos, minister for the Grandview church, translated the devo into Spanish. We met Carlos in 2004 on a medical mission trip to Guatemala with Health Talents International.
Jeanie, my wife, was in her fourth year of med school. When she wasn’t testing kids’ blood-sugar levels — or helping the docs suture a farmer who had accidentally macheteed his big toe — she was setting up interviews for her pediatric residency using the technology available at the rural mission clinic. Fun times.
Carlos, a native of Nicaragua, was serving as a coordinator for Health Talents. He was a behind-the-scenes guy who handled logistics for the clinics and medical mission teams.
I wrote a feature about him for The Christian Chronicle. He was so busy that we had to do the interview at 11 p.m. Clearly, neither of us had kids at the time.
Carlos stayed up late a lot when he was a student at Harding University in Arkansas, sometimes translating his textbooks word by word as he worked to improve his English. He attended Harding on a Walton International Scholarship, an initiative launched by the Walmart founder’s family. Carlos recently completed a Master of Divinity degree at Lipscomb.
He met his wife, Silvia, in Guatemala. Silvia, a dentist, worked with Jeanie during our 2004 trip. Rick Harper, U.S. missions director for Health Talents, told me that the diamond Carlos used in Silvia’s ring came from our dear friend Dave Ellis, a pharmacist with a real heart for Guatemala. I get a little choked up thinking about that. Dave went to our eternal home in 2016 after battling cancer. (Come to think of it, Dave also advised me on gifts to woo Jeanie with before we got married. That’s a story for another time.)
In that interview 17 years ago, Carlos talked about how he saw God at work in the opportunities he’d been given, how he didn’t want to disappoint those who put their faith in him.
Most of all, he was thankful.
I love that the Spanish translation of “thanksgiving” uses the word acción — action of thanks.
We demonstrate thanksgiving by living it, by using the blessings we’ve received to serve God’s people. Carlos and Silvia are doing that in Nashville. And I pray that all of us will live out our gratitude in 2022.
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