Carolyn and I are almost at the end of our vacation which we both needed after the journey through Lent and the joys of Easter Sunday. The long flight, (22 hours) brought us first to Singapore for a few days then a further two and half hours in the air, and we arrived in Bangkok. Amidst the wonders of seeing a new culture and beautiful scenery, there has been some real learning, a reminder of just what it feels like to be in the minority and a stranger in a foreign land.
I realize of course the privilege I have of being able to make the journey in the first place, for many, this is merely a dream or something that could never be afforded or desired. With that said, I have been reminded of the many fears and concerns that come with being in a new place for the first time and feeling lost and alone. Where do I go, what do I do, who can I ask? What if I cannot get through immigration, what if…. That is until through the crowd of people at the airport you see a familiar face and a wave to guide you to a meeting. Mark and his partner Robin, have been our guides this week and without them, we would not have been introduced to the amazing sights, smells and tastes of Thailand. Not that they are experts by any means and do not have the necessary license you need to have to be an official travel guide. But there local knowledge and more importantly the warmth of their welcome and the extent of their hospitality has meant we have felt safe and comfortable in what might be an overwhelming situation.
The same feelings and anxieties may be present in many who come to Roberts Park for the first time on a Sunday morning. Not sure of what to expect, where to go, who to speak with or if they will be let in because of who they are? What they need is a welcoming gesture, a door being opened for them and a handshake that says we are glad you are here. The assurance that they are among friends who seek to offer the very best hospitality and try in all circumstances to make them feel comfortable. It remains my prayer that as we continue to put on the new mission statement we as individuals and as a church seek to live into the true meaning and spirit it conveys. We all have the responsibility to make the stranger welcome in our midst.
Shalom to you my friend,