CHURCH FOR THE FIRST TIME.
Since I became a zombie, my mom had kept me away from the Baptist congregation she attended in Boyle Heights, El Buen Pastor, so many of the people there had also attended my funeral. If I suddenly showed up, they’d be sure to start asking questions.
But when we moved from Boyle Heights to Lincoln Heights ‘ama had to find a new church to attend. She soon located El Templo del Señor, only four blocks away on Broadway, right near Workman. Since no one knew me there was now no reason anymore to keep me from going to church with her on Sunday morning.
A week after we settled into the house on Sichel Street, ‘ama got me up bright and early on a Sunday morning and announced that today I was going to visit the house of the Lord. I had become accustomed to spending Sunday mornings by myself until ‘ama returned from church so I was delighted that for the first time I’d be able to go to church. I quickly scarfed down my breakfast of cesos and tripas, put on my one set of formal clothes, a pair of gray slacks, a white shirt and a tie, and we headed out for church.
By now I had heard quite a lot about church and God and Jesus and heaven and hell from my friends at school. I was excited that I was now to see it all for myself!
We arrived at the El Templo Del Señor, a modest church that barely accommodated the hundred or so church goers who attended each week. The minister, Hermano Valdez, greeted us at the front door. Mom explained we were new to the neighborhood and that she hoped we could attend his church regularly. To play it safe, she told the minister that I was adopted.
Hermano Valdez welcomed us into the church. I got sent off to a side room to attend something they called Sunday School, along with a half dozen kids my age. The nice lady there, told us how Jesus had died on the cross for our sins and, as she related this, she filled a beaker with muddy water. She explained how the muddy water represented our sins. Then she poured some red liquid into the beaker. She said this represented the blood of the lamb, that is, Jesus’s blood for when he died on the cross. And then, wow! The muddy water in the beaker started to change color, soon the red liquid had turned the muddy water clear. She was now holding a beaker with clear liquid in it!
“And that,” she said, “is how the blood of the lamb cleanses your sins!” I was blown away! Religion was magic!
After an hour of Sunday School, we were all ushered into the main chapel where I rejoined ‘ama sitting next to her in a pew. She handed me a hymnal. Hermando Valdez read from the bible and every now and then he asked to turn this page or that page in the hymnal and we would all sing together in Spanish. “La belleza de Cristo que mora en mi…” “Santo, santo, santo, oh Dios omnipotente!” It was all really cool and I thoroughly enjoyed myself singing at the top of my lungs.
It was when Hermano Valdez started his sermon that things started to get scary for me. He read passage from the Bible. He said it was the book of Mark, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Then he went on to explain in great detail what being damned meant. It was not pretty. It meant going to hell.
“And what is hell?” He asked the congregation. No one said a word.
“Hell is a fiery furnace, a place where your soul will burn for eternity. How long is eternity?
Is it a day? NO! Is it a month? NO! Is it a year? NO! Eternity is forever! FOREVER!”
He had me at fiery furnace. The idea of hell was really scary. What a way to go, burning forever!
It gave me the creeps–and I’m a zombie!
“But there is a way out, “ Hermano Valdez continued. “You can save your soul! The good Lord has given us choice. We can choose to follow the Lord and join him in his heavenly kingdom. In heaven there will be love and harmony. Love and harmony FOREVER!”
“Hermanos y hermanas,” he said, “The choice is clear.” He seemed to be looking straight at me. “Either you accept the Lord as your savior, and enter the Kingdom of God, or you will surely perish in the fires of Hell forever! Save your soul!”
On our walk home, Hermano Valdez’s words kept ringing in my head. He said that after we die, we could either go to heaven or go to hell. But I had already died. I’m a zombie. So, do I go to hell or to heaven? Which was it? And since I’m already dead, how do I get there? Do I have to die again? And how do I die if I’m already dead? And he said I had to save my soul. And that one really got to me. What about my soul? Do zombies have souls?
I was really confused.
That night I told my ‘ama what was troubling me. “Mom, Do I have a soul?
“Of course you do, mijo,” she said putting aside the salsa she was making and turning her attention to me. “All of God’s creatures have souls.
“Especially zombies. Mijo, you’re a sensitive child. It’s not easy living in a world where people will judge you for your outward appearance. It’s the soul that’s inside you that matters.” She ran her hand through my hair and looked deep into my eyes. “Mijo, it’s your soul that will get you through life”
“And eventually will I go to heaven?” I asked.
“Mijo, you don’t have to worry about whether or not you’ll go to heaven.” She went over to the top of the refrigerator where she kept her Bible. “Look here, ” she said.
She handed me her worn Bible, full of underlined and highlighted passages. “Read this here, John 3, 3.”
I opened the Bible to where she had underlined a passage. It read, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee. Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
“There, you see, Mijo!” ‘ama said. “You’re a zombie. You’ve come back to life. You’ve been born again. So of course you will go to heaven!”
After that I didn’t worry anymore about whether I had a soul.
Copyright 2012 Lazaro De La Tierra and Barrio Dog Productions Inc.