What can I possibly say about these past few days? A lot, but words are not quite what I want them to be. They don't express how awesome this reality that I have been living in is. I'm pretty sure I can't fully express these past three days, but I will try. Honestly, it will probably sound like rambling.
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I have volunteered at the World Communion of Reformed Churches. My job has simply been to be hospitable and kind to the many visitors who are here from around the world. Although my work has been limited (a total of 12 hours), my life has been changed.
For me there is such joy in watching people of faith from around the world live as one body. That's what a lot of this was for me: observing interactions, allowing freedom to interact. On Saturday I watched a world cup match (Ghana v. Australia) with people from those countries. One group reserved, the other not so reserved. It was joy for me. I have built three small relationships (small to them, perhaps, life changing to me) with a woman from Hungary who is a pastor's wife to a Hungarian congregation in Allen Park, Michigan, a pastor from Guyana (that's at the northern border of South America)--Winnie is wonderful! , and a pastor, Tial, from Myanmar. To learn about their countries and lives through conversation and questions is an honor for me (and something that I have always found easy to do). I have learned I have a place to stay if I ever visit Guyana and where to visit if I have the privilege of traveling to Myanmar. I have met and had brief encounters with men and women from Switzerland, Kenya, Kiribati, Canada, United States, Korea, and France.
I have seen (if only in brief form) the work and struggles of the world church--and I am humbled by them. Within minutes of conversations with different peoples, major issues are brought up: the environment, food and hunger, woman's equality, and economic justice. I can no longer live here without thinking of "there" Pastor Winnie asked me what happens to the extra food at the opening reception. I answered truthfully (but sheepishly) that it was thrown away. And she mentioned that she had people in her church who needed that food. Yet, here I live in the midst of such excess.
The delegates at the conference are doing very hard, emotional, tedious work. There has been much discussion about the equality of women as represented by the churches who are part of this world body. Initially I thought "what's the big deal?" But I have since learned, that there are churches and countries where women are not important, celebrated or respected. They have neither rights nor representation. And although this is not on my radar, as a member of Christ's body, unified by his blood, it should be. For even if I cannot act upon the things that I know, at least I can live with a grateful awareness.
And then there was worship.
Oh the worship! How can I possibly describe it? A taste of heaven, perhaps, but those words seem so inadequate.
There is something beautiful and holy about 3000 gathered together to worship our God, to honor Christ with communion, to welcome the Holy Spirit. I am emotional just thinking about it. 3,000 people singing "Hallelujah" or "Praise to the Lord" in their mother tongue. People diverse and distinct unified together by our Salvation, being challenged to go forward and be unified, to do justice, to show God's light to this world. Hearing God's word and knowing it is true for all of us. Seeing the children of delegates and knowing that we build these bonds of unity for our own children--that they might know that God works in many wonderful and mysterious ways in many parts of the world, in the old and the young. I can hear the trumpets and drums and choral voices--as hints of the glory to come. I see dancing and raised hands and singing and clapping. God was present, and I believe God was honored.
There is still more to come. God has been using many things in my life to hone my thinking on what it means to live as a member of his world church. I am eager for tomorrow when I take my kids to the Pow-wow downtown (and hopefully take pictures and be part of the dance circle). I am hopeful they meet some of my new friends.
On Sunday, about 20 delegates from the conference attended church with us at Oakdale. I was able to bring a special greeting to certain delegates from the island nation of Kiribati (which was an honor for them to receive). I shook every person's hand and truly welcomed them. But what impressed me the most is when I sat down, J whispered in my ear, "Mommy, I shook one of their hands and said hello."
There is a part of me that thinks that that is what all this is for. To teach my kids that they are part of a larger body, that they are part of the world church, that God loves them and they can give that to others. And if in all my volunteering that is what they learn, God will receive honor and I will be a proud mommy.