That’s the noise I heard coming from an abandoned garage located on a narrow dirt street a dozen blocks from downtown Iquitos. I’d been visiting an old friend and was heading home. The strange noise stopped me dead in my tracks. I was about to continue my walk home when I heard it again.
About ten feet behind me the garage door stood partially open.
I stepped back and peeped inside. About a dozen or so people were clapping their hands as they sang some good old fashioned Baptist hymns in Spanish. One of the worshipers—a thirtyish looking man with a deformed left leg—was rolling around on the cement floor. Yelling something unintelligible. About twenty or so other worshipers had formed a circle around him. Clapping their hands to the beat of a barefoot teenage boy pounnding on a hand-held drum.
The scene reminded me of when my father operated the Pryor Street Mission in a cotton mill neighborhood on the south side of Atlanta when I was a boy. In a grassless open space behind the mission stood a large tent patched in at least a dozen places. My two brothers and I used to watch the goings on in the tent from the second floor bedroom we shared. Usually, the service would start off slowly. After about an hour of singing hymns such as “Bringing In The Sheaves” (back then I thought the name of the hymn was “Bringing In The Sheep), “That Old Rugged Cross”, and many others, people in the tent started rolling around the sawdust covered ground— speaking in what was then called the “Unknown Tongue.”
Observing the celebration inside the garage brought a smile to my lips. Not a derisive smile. But a smile of respect for the Holy Rollers. Worshiping God can take many forms. Who knows, I thought as I headed for my house, maybe I’ll take the girls in my house to one of the meetings at this makeshift church one day. After giving the matter some thought, that it wouldn’t be such a good idea.
Still, I have a lot of respect for people like the Holy Rollers.