Gimme That Old Time Religion


Singing awoke me Saturday morning. It came from the small patio outside my window.

I checked the wall clock.


I’d stayed up late last night watching a classic movie on television—The Wizard of Oz. I bet I’ve seen this movie a dozen times over the years. Listening to the dialogue dubbed in Spanish, though, adds some flavor to it.

Back to the singing.

It was clearly the voice of an older woman.

She was singing a hymn.  I couldn’t remember the name of it. Though the voice cracked now and then, it was obvious that she must have had a beautiful singing voice when she was young. In between singing, she carried on a conversation with Iveli. Curious, I got up and stepped over to the window. Parting the curtain just enough to peek outside.

The source of the singing came from a stoop-shouldered woman with silver gray hair that fell to her shoulders. She wore a dirty gray dress that hung loosely over her thin shoulders. A radiant smile creased her face. After I’d showered and shaved, the old woman was till outside chatting with Iveli.

 I stepped outside.

“Buenas dias, Senor,” the old woman greeted me in a cheerful voice.

Buenas dias, Senora, I replied.

She and I chatted for a while. I loved listening to her voice. People in the jungle part of Peru speak differently than people in other parts of Peru. Sort of like comparing people of the rural south to the mid-west of the United States. Here in the jungle they speak in a sing song voice. Like people in the rural parts of Georgia and Alabama, they tend to add an extra syllable to each word. I learned that her name was Maria Renaldo.

As I was about to head back inside, she said to me, “Chou, jovnecito (Bye, young man)

I haven’t been called a young man for some time. Smiling, I said, “Chou jovencita.” (Bye, young woman)

She giggled. “Is it okay if I come back Saturday?”

“Senora Renaldo has invited me to go to her church with her Saturday, Senor Leo,” Iveli said.

“Saturday?” I said. “She wants you to go to church with her Saturday?”

“My church is a Seventh Day Adventist church,” the woman said. “I hope that’s not a problem with you, Senor.”

“Of course not,” I replied. We chatted for a few more minutes. Then I excused myself and went back inside.

 I turned on the television to listen to the local news. Nothing but bad news. As usual, nothing good. An unemployed young father killed in a bar fight at midnight last night. A local politician indicted for misuse of public funds. The mayor accused of demanding kickbacks from three businessmen.

As the announce paused to comment on the weather, I could hear the old woman singing again. I’d thought she had left. But she was sitting on the curb, singing at the top of her lungs. Switching off the television, I leaned back in my chair and enjoyed the singing of one of my deceased mother’s favorite hymns—“That Old Time Religion.”It brought a smile to my lips.

Starting the day off with a smile is always nice.

Starting off the day with a smile is always nice.




About Leon Jones

I am a retired American living in the remote jungle town of Iquitos, Peru. I came down 15 years ago to help Indian children. Presently I operate a house for abandoned children, a teenage volleyball team to help combat teen pregnancy and annual Christmas party for 200 Indian children in the town's poorest community. Periodically, I will post about the children.

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