Love, Acceptance & Grace
By Edwin Lopez & Gary McLain
The small chapel is exquisitely decorated with flowers, an archway, and a mural on the wall. Downstairs, a table for twelve is prepared with everything needed for a banquet. Every detail has been attended to. At the base of the stairs, Josue and Yina wait patiently while the last touches are being made upstairs. From time to time they look at each other and smile.
Their personal stories are radically different. He was born in Peru. She was born in the Dominican Republic. He was raised in an Adventist family. She was not. He came to the United States in 2006 after submitting his name for the annual visa lottery program sponsored by the US government. Though his chances of getting a visa were very thin with millions of people applying, Josue was one of the 50,000 who received a visa. She immigrated to the US with her family at the age of 14. At 18, she enlisted in the US Navy and began her four-year contract which took her around the world while serving on the USS Ronald Reagan, an aircraft carrier.
Their hands are clasped together, their faces adorned with the excitement of the moment. They are absolutely convinced of what they are doing, and want the ceremony to begin right away. Upstairs, Gicela and Juan Carlos Yanguez hurriedly make sure everything is in place so Josue and Yina’s entrance will have all the spiritual and emotional impact they want it to have. After all, this is their home, and the chapel isn’t really a chapel, but their bedroom transformed to accommodate this celebration of Josue and Yina’s love.
Gicela and Juan Carlos Yanguez met Josue back in 2008 when he arrived in Portland from Peru. This was a friendship that grew around church life. The Yanguez family had given their full support to Josue in his both his high moments and the low moments when his faith seemed to flicker.
The atmosphere is warm, loving, merry, and yet profoundly spiritual in the “chapel.” The rest of the wedding attendants are not foreign to Josue and Yina’s story. They are the ones who embraced Yina when she came to church for the first time, so today it isn’t Josue and Yina’s special moment alone. They are sharing this moment with those who have loved and supported them for the last several years.
Josue and Yina’s story together began two years ago when they crossed paths one evening at a social gathering in Portland. A common friend introduced them to each other. Though Yina’s story was rooted in the empty, always-looking-for-purpose-and-meaning secular culture, she became interested in Josue’s faith. Not long after they met, Yina suggested to Josue, “Invite me to your church.” That is how, one Sabbath, a shy, soft-spoken young lady, sat for the first time in a Christian Church – the Milwauikie Spanish Adventist Church. For the next two years the couple experienced the loving, unconditional acceptance of this group of believers and friends.
The wedding music plays while Josue and Yina enter the chapel. Edwin Lopez, the congregation’s pastor, officiates the ceremony. After Pastor Ramon Canals blesses them with a dedication prayer, Yina shares an ulterior motive for her wanting to be married that particular day – she wants to be baptized the next Sabbath! She has developed a sense of belonging and communion during her time with the Milwaukie Spanish congregation learning about the Adventist faith. After all, what attracts people to Jesus is His grace manifested through the lives of those who follow Him.