WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana — The Rev. Johan Daza’s “Here’s My Heart” story tugged at Triennium heartstrings Friday.
Daza, the coordinator for cross-culture immigrant ministries for the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and Friday’s preacher during Triennium worship, told the story of his nephew Mateo, who desperately needed a heart transplant. Last year Daza and his family returned to Daza’s native Colombia to celebrate Mateo’s sister’s quinceañera.
His nephew “knew someone had to die in order for him to live,” Daza said. “How do you pray to God for a new heart when you know someone has to die in order for you to have a better life?”
During the night following his sister’s celebration, Mateo was sleeping at Daza’s childhood home when the boy’s mother called. “Wake him up!” she said. “There’s a match.”
Mateo “was so happy the night of his transplant that his courage brought peace to the rest of the family,” Daza said. “Weeks later I learned that Mateo had asked God to have all his family with him on the day of his transplant. Because of the quinceañera, all his family was there.”
The donor had to be about Mateo’s size and had to have his same blood type.
“Only God’s heart can match the heart of all human beings,” he said. “Mateo knew there was a person who gave his or her own life, the best thing we can give to others. That person gave his or her own heart for him to have a new heart. It is a heart that up to today has not stopped beating.”
Soon after the transplant, Mateo began taking medications to weaken his immune system. “When an organ is transplanted, the natural reaction is to reject the foreign organ,” Daza said. “Mateo’s immune system could have killed the heart and killed Mateo. The natural reaction of human beings is to reject others who are different than us.”
Like Mateo, “when we weaken our own systems, we can love and forgive those who don’t deserve forgiveness, according to our standards,” he said.
Triennium’s drama team recreated the scene from Matthew 14:22-33, where the disciples spot Jesus walking on the water and Peter decides that he’ll try the same supernatural feat. When the wind picks up, Peter becomes frightened and begins to sink. Jesus reaches out his hand to save Peter, then asks him why he doubted. After Jesus gets in the boat, the wind ceases, and the disciples worship him.
“Many issues make us feel hopeless,” Daza said of the biblical story. “The struggle is real, but here we are in this beautiful boat with many other disciples.”
Following the powerful worship, participants clad in heart-shaped sunglasses and heart headbands made their way from the Elliott Hall of Music to Purdue Memorial Mall to partake in the week’s final recreation activity, the Festival of Hearts.
Against a backdrop of popular love songs, the 4,100 or so people in attendance spent their waning hours of Triennium under the hazy auburn lighting of the setting sun dancing, singing, partaking in heart-shaped games — including a very wholesome “tunnel of love.”
Surrounded by a sea of attendees who began the week as strangers just days before, the youth ended their final night at Triennium clad in matching PYT T-shirts. And they danced, learning the salsa, merengue and other Latin American dances from Co-Moderator Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri, who spent her Triennium week as a small group leader.
by Mike Ferguson and Mari Graham Evans, Presbyterian News Service