(www.wdp_usa.org) I particularly like that theme as I make it my theme, whether it is teaching water aerobics or yoga or lifeguard at the pool. My goal is to make an atmosphere in which everyone entering my class will feel at home, comfortable, wanted and part of the community. One of my growing edges is remembering names. I don't do it well. But, I do remember faces and conversations and expressed needs.
I was a pastor for 8 years. My first church was small and in a city. I so enjoyed welcoming people. One warm Sunday morning, the front doors to the church and sanctuary were open. As I stood u front, I saw a man standing outside the door. I welcomed him to join us. Bobby did come in. He was a quiet, unassuming man. From looking at his exterior and speech you might wonder what Bobby was capable of. We discovered he could read, slowly, so Bobby would read the Bible some Sunday's. Bobby gained in confidence. Bobby's favorite activity was running the overhead projector. (Although he did nod off occasionally between slides!) Bobby joined our Bible study. He did not say much, but we soon realized he new the Bible inside and out. You see, Bobby listened to the Bible on tape each night before bed. One night at Bible Study, Bobby told us in all his years going to church, no one had ever invited him to attend a Bible Study! Bobby had been given the gift of compassion, acceptance and belonging. We had been given the gift of his presence. Soon, Bobby's sister who attended a church across the city began to attend our Bible study.
I have to admit there ar people that challenge my "welcoming." If I am patient, pray and persist, I will find a way. This is another growing edge for me - seeing through my initial impression and being able to extend out my hand in welcoming, even when my initial impression challenges me to do so.
I would love to see this them of welcoming a stranger become a daily them for the world. I believe, especially in the electronic world of western cultures, we are moving ever farther apart from each other, becoming isolated and less welcoming.
May prayers this Friday will be for God's guidance to seek out those who need welcoming and that the world becomes more welcoming.
Have you welcomed a stranger lately? How did it feel? Pease share.