Sundays just seem to always be beautiful, and despite the concrete jungle that I'm surrounded by, today was no different. The weather was perfect, and we departed the hotel at 7:30 am to trek up to White Plains, NY to itinerate (fancy word for sharing our call stories with churches). Metro 2 to Times Square, shuttle to Grand Central Station, and Metro North to White Plains removed us form the busy city atmosphere and we found ourselves surrounded by big buildings, relatively less but still a lot of people, and a little more grass and open space.
Memorial United Methodist Church opened up their home graciously to us, and as we walked out, we sighed saying "Today, we have been truly blessed." I know that God's true beauty is in diversity and this church was evidence of that splendid beauty. With love abounding, they allowed us to share our stories, and in return shared some of theirs as well. The preacher for the day, Mark, shared with me about his childhood in Oklahoma that I easily identified with, another woman shared her similar love of children and work with children with special needs, and another informed me that she enjoyed learning about small town Midwestern me since she was from a rural town in Iowa.
Itineration and sharing at churches, youth groups, and college ministries is one of the parts of missionary work that I'm looking the most forward to. But, this morning it took on a new meaning. I realized that in my five minutes of sharing, I had nearly connected to everyone in the congregation in some way. Whether they compared me to a child or grandchild, shared a passion, or a part of my background, we found a common ground. Of course, I love this little game of finding shared interests, so on the way back to the city, I decided to do something a little out of my comfort zone. Obviously, it takes a lot to get out, but I know once I pop that bubble, wonderful things ensue.
Instead of taking the train back to Grand Central, our friend Darlene advised us to get off the train in Harlem and take a bus, avoiding the city and the subway exchanges. The bus was packed, so as it started to empty, I walked towards the back where some seats were open. Keep in mind, my bubble popping was not pre-meditated, but I sat down next to a gentleman who looked probably late 40's, early 50's. Instead of being that good bus rider that stays quiet, I have this urge to strike up conversation. I understand this is not common, especially in New York, but as we pass a stage with a dance team performing, I whisper, "Man, I should get off here." Of course, he is forced to respond, and I proceed to ask him how he's doing (therapist-in-the-making). He tells me that he's just finished a double shift and is facing the possibility of being called back in soon. I empathize but realize that it's inappropriate to mention my fatigue from staying up too late on the computer and then going to church early this morning (not to mention my delicious lunch that has put me in a food coma). After a brief silence, he mentions that his weariness also stems from fasting for Ramadan. Now, as an educated person, I should know that it's Ramadan, but my knowledge of Muslim and Jewish holidays is nearly nonexistent. I proceed to mention that I'm not from New York (my mother is now shaking her head, but I did have comrades on the bus) and that I'm a missionary. I proceed to tell about my love of children and where I'm working in the future, which is pretty much what I shared at church.
Before getting off the bus, I tell him how much I admire his discipline of fasting and he responds by complimenting the work that I will be doing. He reached out his hand, introduced himself, and said "Thanks for sharing." I didn't know why I spoke to him initially, but from somewhere, these words came: "When I'm in a new city, I feel like you can't get to know it without getting to know the people, and you can't get to know the people without talking to them." I'm starting to understand John Wesley's heart strangely warmed, because I got this warm and fuzzy feeling from the smile of the man on the bus. At our evening session, I shared my story, reminding everyone that we are missionaries outside of church, and our stories can be shared anywhere. Today's experience was real, even if I was just passing through.
God, it's Your world, and I'm just passing through. Thanks for keeping it real!