Previous installations of Desde el Monte...
There are several more memories of Uruguay that I would like to share with you. Today's recounting is about the peculiar way that the country came to be an mainly atheist nation. Please remember that I am not an expert on the history of Uruguay and I am depending completely on the dusty recollections that are rolling around in my mind.
What I remember being told is that European settlers - from Spain, Italy, and France - came to what is now Uruguay seeking freedom from religion. They killed and/or ran off all the natives of that area, which is why there is no early religion or mysticism remaining in that culture. Evidently the European settlers were atheists - philosophers - and did not want to be subjected to the dictates of Christianity or any other religion.
This background of atheistic philosophy as a guiding principle of the culture made our task of bringing the Good News of a Messiah quite challenging. When describing to us how Uruguayans think, our host missionaries explained that if a person were to accidentally knock a cup off of a table and destroy it, they would simply say, "the floor broke it". How on earth were we supposed to explain the need for a Savior to a people who did not see themselves as sinners or even beings in need of personal accountability? After pondering this for just a bit, I was very glad that my assignment was mainly just handing out flyers.
Something pointed out to us as we were out and about the city was the abundance of philosophy clubs in Montevideo. These clubs were often housed in posh, ornate buildings along the main streets. There were many of these clubs - as many as one would expect to see churches in the States. They were run somewhat like US country clubs (sans athletic facilities) and the buildings featured areas to have formal events as well as more cozy rooms where philosophical debates could be pursued while sitting in luxury.
As I recall, a man who was very prominent in Montevideo society, as well as being a member of one of the more exclusive philosophy clubs, somehow had become well acquainted with members of the El Chana church congregation that we were visiting. I wish I remembered his name, but I do not. He was a stately, older gentleman. He was very excited about our missionary group coming to Uruguay and invited us to an evening of entertainment and mingling at his club.
Here is a photo of him singing a lovely song to us in his rich baritone voice:
Here is another photo taken at the club. It is a picture of the singing group traveling with us (I will introduce them in more depth in a later post):
The photos are obviously not high-quality snaps (I don't think I had high res film with me at the time), but notice the amazing architecture and the sculpting on the walls. I spent most of my time looking at the surroundings and taking it all in (since I did not understand most of what was being said anyway).
I found it somewhat baffling that our host - who himself was not a Christian - was so proud to show us off to his friends and fellow club members. That is evidently just the way things went in Uruguay. Maybe he saw Christianity as just another philosophy to study and debate. Regardless of the reason, he was most gracious toward us all.
Since we had been told that our efforts to spread the Gospel would be mostly planting seeds that could take years to germinate, I prayed hard about all the people we would meet at this particular outing. I prayed that the Good News of Christ would be planted deep within them and take root in their souls. It had such a deep effect on me that I started praying those same prayers every time we passed a philosophy club on the streets.
I often wonder about that gentleman who invited us to the philosophy club. He was not young when I met him. I wonder if he is now in the last years of his life, or if he has left us already. I wonder if he had a personal meeting with the Savior. I wonder and I pray. I pray about him and a whole nation of philosophers who are seeking a deeper meaning that can truly only be found in Christ. Pray with me, please.
Tune in again next Sunday for another installment of Desde el Monte... (from the mountain).