A rather pleasant problem has been cropping up in there church here in Normandía. For the past several weeks, it has been standing room only in the deaf church. As more than forty people crowd into what used to be the living room of the old house that forms the front of the church building, the hearing church, where the sanctuary comfortably holds one hundred and twenty five, still had room to spare.
But all through this year, both churches have been showing a steady growth. As a result, this past Sunday, we faced a rather pleasant problem; there were no seats available for those who arrived late. We had about fifteen or twenty persons standing in the wide hallway that forms the entrance to the sanctuary area. This was the case even though no child was occupying a seat. The children were all sitting on the floor or on someone’s lap to make room for as many adults as possible.
In Colombia people are used to crowding. Busses built to hold forty regularly carry double that amount as the aisle is packed tightly with standing passengers. Banks and other public places are often jammed with people as space is at a premium and buying land and building is very expensive here. So to have a church building packed and children sitting on the floor is not really all that distasteful to people as such crowding is a way of life down here. So it was a bit of a problem, but a pleasant on that the church faces.
We have been discussing our options as obviously we have reached a saturation point. You can only pack so many people in then it simply becomes impossible for any more people to attend. Two services is not an easy option here as our services tend to be much longer than services in the States. Some churches have tried that route but it seldom pays off. People do not want to come for a measly one hour service. So our services tend to be two or three hours long. So a second service would have to be held in the afternoon or evening. It could be done, but is not very appealing to the church here.
Purchasing land and building is not that realistic either. Building lots here are very expensive; much more so than in the States. We recently looked at a vacant store building which was pretty good sized. The building measured about 100 feet by sixty feet with a mezzanine. It would have made a great church building. But the price was over a million dollars. A lot which is 36 feet by 72 feet here in Bogotá sells for over $100,000 US dollars. And obviously on a lot that small a church would have to build several stories. That leaves a church where people typically earn less than five hundred dollars a month unable to expand.
Our solution in the past, and the most likely solution in this current overcrowding, is to keep the churches fairly small and then split off a nucleus of members to form a church in a different section of the town. We did this last year when the church was becoming too large and that became the new congregation in the southwestern area of the city named Soacha. So we may soon be looking at areas where a reasonably large group of individuals lives with the idea of starting a new church there. Whatever our solution, having standing room only for Sunday morning service is a rather pleasant problem to be confronting. Praise God in celebration this “problem” with us!