Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Ammanda Selethia Moore

The rain and clouds couldn’t dampen our spirits as we gathered to take the short truck ride up to the barrio above Matagalpa. I stood between an elderly white lady with gray hair combed and pinned into the most exquisite beehive hairdo, every inch of it hairsprayed into place. Because she was my roommate, I knew she wrapped her hair in a silk cloth at night and planned to keep the same hairdo for all nine days of the mission trip. Her hairdo, likely the only beehive in Nicaragua, stood out against the green hills and cluttered streets. My own hair was pulled back into a braid, which concealed the fact that I regularly cut it, which was forbidden.

We loaded up into the back of a small Toyota pickup truck. I felt the gentle press of my mom at my side and a pair of sisters behind me. My mom, wide-eyed and smiling, nudged me as we passed a truck full of Nicaragüenses with twice as many people sandwiched into the truck bed, many of whom rode with one leg over the side. On the ride we laughed and conversed. It felt so good to be among these people, slipping in and out of Spanish, gently teasing each other, and sharing our awe at the scenery.

When we reached the barrio, we greeted the members of the small Pentecostal church with rounds of hugging. We gathered in the schoolyard and prepared it for the evening’s service by setting up chairs, the gift bags filled with toothbrushes and toothpaste, and musical instruments and microphones for the singers. We’d been practicing the choir songs for five days. Anyone who had a voice was welcome to sing, and since I was eager to practice my Spanish, I decided it would be alright to sing with the choir here.

At home, I didn’t sing with the choir. It didn’t feel right for me to be on the platform with my cut hair, my ambivalent feelings about God, and my blooming bisexuality.

But here, it felt different, like we were traveling performers, not representative of just one church. Besides, it gave me a way to feel useful. My Spanish was only good enough for basic conversations, and with the gentle lilt of the Nicaragüense Spanish, I could barely understand the children. With my reluctance for proselytizing, I was no use in witnessing to people in Spanish either.

The choir sang and the crowd swelled and swayed with emotion. This wave of emotion bubbling from within. And it was clear that we all felt it, a building, climbing pressure, a bit like a tension in the air but with no tenseness. Within me it rose like a wave, up and up, everything within me floating up to the top before the wave crested, and I began crying, the syllables bursting out of me in a steady stream.

And just like that I was once again speaking in tongues. I hadn’t for months now. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt this intensity and need for it to spill forth from my lips. I hadn’t felt right about speaking in tongues, like God would judge me somehow, for everything I did and wanted to do, for not fully believing in Him, for wanting to get out of the church.

Instead of any judgment, I felt the intensity of the wave rolling over my lips. Tears streamed down my face, and I felt the deepest sense of peace.

The sky rained down on the crowds of people. When the rain hit, the people spoke in tongues as well. Their gibberish loud along with their wailing. I saw my roommate with her ridiculous beehive trying to shelter her hair while praying with the crowd. Then, all care cast aside, she was moving in between the women, praying with vigor to match them.

When we counted those who had spoken in tongues for the first time that night, my mom and the other church members cheered that they had received the Holy Spirit.

I chewed my nails, pondering the night. Who was I to question God when it felt so real? I didn’t believe in speaking in tongues anymore and yet it happened. And not just with me but with people who had never done it before and spoke a totally different language and lived in a totally different country. I’d watched it spread across the crowd like a leaping wildfire. I’d felt that very fire within me.

And yet, I doubted.


Ammanda Selethia Moore is a non-binary poet and writer who also teaches English at Norco College. Their poetry has been published in DASH Literary Journal.

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