by Jessica Polanco ’20
I thought I had it all figured out—until I figured it out. I was only about twelve years old when I met Aylin. Her demeanor was that of an older woman who’d just finished dying her white hair to black just so her wisdom wouldn’t show so much. Aylin was twelve, too. From what I can remember, this was the day I met my soul sister.
Aylin was tall. She always walked with her chin up and somehow always knew what to say. I liked having her as a friend because she introduced me to Dominican rituals, and something called Bible Study. I knew several Dominican rituals already, but I guess I didn’t know all of them until I met her. And I’d heard of Church, too, but I had never visited a church that was in a basement. She invited me over to her neighbor’s house one day and I went, but only because she mentioned there’d be food. When we arrived, we passed by the kitchen, where the scent of Dominican-style yellow rice and beans cooking wafted up, only to run away when we entered the basement.
I was greeted warmly by wearied eyes and welcoming hands, but all I could hear was “Welcome to the House of Christ.” House of Christ? I questioned in my head. Well this is kind of a shitty place to house a King. I’d been to churches before but never any with seven-foot ceilings, people dressed like they were homeless, and a division between the seating of women and men. Yeah, for some reason they believed men and women were a distraction to each other during Bible Study. I disagreed…until the pastor started preaching and all I could do was stare at a young, beautiful boy across the aisle. Reminding myself that I was only twelve, I shifted my focus back to the six-and-a-half-foot dark-skinned man sitting in front of us. I honestly don’t even know how my thoughts could go astray because when this man spoke, it felt like he was piercing my soul. This was definitely a different style of preaching I was experiencing for the first time. It sounded like he was just talking. I actually enjoyed it because it felt like he was talking to me directly. And the most intriguing part of it all was that he actually expected us to respond to him, almost like a conversation. This made me feel awkward, of course. I didn’t know anyone in the underground room except Aylin. However, I had appreciated being challenged out loud. I was nervous, no doubt, but everyone around me was patient and knew I was just meeting Christ for the first time.
After the service, I was happy to finally be able to taste the cooking I could only smell before. Along with the intake of delicious food, there was mingling throughout the room. I remember a man approached me, asking if I wanted to accept Jesus into my heart. I felt like it would have been impolite to say no, so I said yes. He asked me a series of questions and I replied…mostly truthfully. Sometimes I lied about my answers because they were still secrets for the universe. When he finished, he said to me, “You’re a Sinner, and the only one who can save you is Jesus. Do you accept Jesus into your heart as your Lord and Savior?” Of course, I said yes, I mean, who doesn’t want to be saved from their wrongdoings? He smiled at me and asked if he could hug me. We exchanged hugs, and when he walked away, I felt the pressure of everyone’s eyes and smiles directed at me. I just made a pretty serious commitment today, I thought to myself.
Growing up, I was always awakened by a peaceful knock on my soul—a beautiful voice singing Spanish gospel songs and reciting Bible verses. My grandma had been a believer of Christ for as long as I could remember. She would always remind me of the Ten Commandments and tell me what God could do for me in my life. Sometimes she dragged me to church with her and made me sing on stage. (Thank God there were better singers standing next to me who could actually sing because I would’ve broken all the glass in that building!)
I always thought God was Latino until I visited Bible Study in the basement with Aylin. God was definitely not Latino up in this basement, and he sure wasn’t demanding either. In that basement, God felt like a friend. God taught me how to read His word properly, how to worship like a Believer, and how to save people using the same technique that gentleman used with me my first day. Although I grew up with a Latino God, I liked Black God too.