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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

International Festival of Cultures

Saturday night we had a great event at church: The International Festival of Cultures. As we have over 50 nations represented in our congregation and as we've figured out how to enjoy our diversity while being rooted in the unity of Christ, we decided to have an event where people could showcase their culture through their food and dress. We were also motivated in part by wanting to have a celebration this autumn as a way of giving thanks to God for the gift of our new facility. This was our first big event in the newly renovated space and it was a wonderful success!Children from Ethiopia, Indonesia and Uganda
Our Jubilee choir getting ready to sing!

People bring the most amazing food to our potlucks. No lime jello or tater tot hot dish on this table! The sights, the smells, the smak (taste in Swedish! I needed an 's' word!) truly represented the bounty of the earth and the amazing palette of flavor that God has given us to enjoy. Our folks know how to cook and over 250 hungry people couldn't wait to dig in to the delights.
It's always a joy to see people dressed in clothes that come from their homelands. Some wear native dress on Sundays, but most find that they have conformed to the western world in which they live and work. I can always see a special gleam in people's eyes when they are dressed in finery from their country. A sense of pride and joy emerges when they are invited to show off the beauty that comes uniquely from their homeland.Incredible India
Two youth took the request to wear clothes from their homeland to heart. The young woman is half Korean/half Danish. She's wearing a dress from Korea that belongs to her mother. Jack, the half Australian/half Swede, showed up in a wet suit! It was hilarious and quite the hit of the evening! The range of fabric and color from all of the corners of the world are a delight to behold.The Eritreans displaying their lovely clothing.
Two Americans!
We had planned to have a variety of music throughout the night but early on in the evening, our choir director hijacked the night! He asked the pastors to come forward and sit in three chairs that had been placed in front of the choir. From there, the chair of our church proceeded to invite a couple of people to come and honor us with a custom from their country. A man from India approached holding 3 beautiful shawls. He then shared how the practice of garlanding someone is used to honor people in India. He then asked each one of us to stand and proceeded to drape the fabric over our shoulders while utterly words of thanksgiving for our ministry. I have no photographs of this moment as I was living it! It was deeply moving and very humbling. Then a fellow American approached and also said incredibly kind words to all 3 of us as we sat there in front of our beloved congregation. He then offered beautiful baskets full of amazing goodies that had been assembled by his dear wife. Her thoughtful handprint was written all over the items. We were blown away by this expression of love and gratitude. We were utterly surprised, which was very fun to begin with, and then deeply touched by the deep sense of joy and gratitude our congregation showed us. We all felt so humbled. We feel so deeply that the gift is ours that we actually get to pastor this bunch. To think that they love us as much a we love them is indeed a sweet gift.
We did manage to get control of the program again! The singing, dancing and laughter that ensued warmed my soul. Our youth group singing a song they learned at a recent youth conference they attended in Berlin, Germany
A group of women leading us in a hilarious hands on song!

The International Festival of Cultures was actually a festival of God's love and grace being poured into our lives. May the blessing continue. Amen.