Jan grew up in the former Czechoslovakia. Because Czechoslovakia was a communist country, Jan’s family kept their faith and membership at a Christian Church kind of quiet. Even so, as a child Jan was part of a Christian choir which led him to travel with a choir to Serbia as an adult. Jan was so moved by seeing the plight of Serbian refugees he met there that stayed and helped them for ten years.
At vacation Bible School this week, Jan told us this story as an example of how God often acts in hidden ways. For him, singing beautiful music to spread God’s love led to his caring for people in another land.
Victor, one of our brothers who is visiting Grace this week from the Episcopal Church in Panama, was reminded by Jan’s story of a time when he was struggling to collect enough money to go to college. As he was despairing one day because he didn’t have enough and his life was hard, man came up to him and asked for three cents to buy a cup of coffee. They wound up talking and Victor discovered that this man had no home. “But he told me that he always got what he needed,” Victor shared, “and he said he was blessed.” For Victor this was another story about God acting in surprising way.
On Tuesday night Chi shared pictures of an Anglican (i.e Episcopal) Bishop in Nigeria processing with the whole neighborhood to Chi’s family home to bury his father on their ancestral land. Chi explained that there are no cemeteries in Nigeria. “People are buried right where their families live,” he explained, “and they are still part of their families everyday lives.” Chi’s story opened a conversation about how at the Eucharist, people of faith from all times and all places are present with us at the table. Even before we understand what communion is, what the songs we sing celebrate, or what the prayers we say mean, the sharing, singing and praying shape us into one people, one family.
On Wednesday night, Emily told us about her time in East Germany as a college student and showed us pictures of some of the most enormous and beautiful cathedrals many of us had ever seen. But she also told us no one worships in them. Instead of finding “church” in these gorgeous buildings Emily found it among a few friends she made during her stay. By sharing their faith with each other, they became each other’s church.
Vacation Bible School at Grace Church has been powerful. Over forty adults and children alike have been ministered to by church family from at least three continents. In deeply personal ways, we have been assured that wherever we go in this strange and beautiful world, we will find Jesus present. We won’t necessarily find him in the Cathedrals, but he will be in the common cup and bread when communion is the only shared language we have. He will be there in small groups of people, in music and in the stranger who asks that you share when you think you don’t have enough. He will smile on us, and suddenly, though perhaps nothing in your circumstances change, you will have everything you need.
Jesus has surely been present this week at Grace. Thank you to everyone who has worked with our kids, prepared dinner, cleaned up afterwards and shared their stories. What a gift!