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Monday, May 13, 2013

The Church At Its Best

I was very much looking forward to being back with our congregation yesterday after a month long absence.  I truly love our church and yesterday they proved themselves to be the essence of Christian Community once again.  I knew that hugs and encouragements and warmth awaited me upon my return.  I knew that so many people from our church community had been praying for me and were entering into the sorrow I felt over losing my mother in profound and meaningful ways.  But I was not prepared for the amount of love and care that was showered upon me.
At the beginning of the first service, Doug put some lilies on the altar in memory of my mom Rose Ann.  It was moving and beautiful.  Between services I spoke with a number of people, some who gave me cards and flowers, others who offered a word of amazing support and love.  At the end of the second service, the entire board of our church came forward and asked me to join them.  They presented me with this amazing bouquet of flowers and shared a word of hope with me.  They expressed their deep care for me on the loss of my mother and assured me that I was not walking through this time alone, but that instead they would be by my side to journey with me.  It was such an outpouring of love and care.  I was overwhelmed, to say the least.
I lingered after the service, talking with people and sharing hugs.  So many people expressed their sorrow and but also their hope...that mom is indeed in a better place, whole once again.  So many in our church know deep and devastating loss and even so...the hope of heaven is so real to them.  What a blessing.
I wandered home, heavy laden with flowers and cards, warmly filled from a wonderful morning of worship and fellowship.  I was tired but content and eventually my mind wandered to what we would have for lunch and I was wishing that food would just magically appear on my table!  And then I opened the door to my apartment and my dreams were granted!  There stood the entire Executive Board of our church plus their families.  The delicious smell of food from around the world filled my senses and I could not believe that they had put this gathering together without my knowledge!  The first thing that the chair of our board said to me was this, "We want you to know that you have a family here in Stockholm who loves you and will walk with you through this time."  Many explained that in their culture, food would be brought for days...in India, a grieving family is not to cook for 11 days!  So they felt it only right that they come and provide a welcome home lunch for me and Doug.  
The food was fantastic....dishes from India and Pakistan which we love, spring salads, and Vida's legendary chicken from Ghana, fruit and desserts and breads.  Wow.  What a feast.  And we just enjoyed a plate of leftovers that was every bit as good!  It was the joyful feast of the people of God. What joy to have these dear people, our wonderful leadership at Immanuel, gathering in our home, to comfort me and Doug and bring love in tangible ways to our doorstep.  We enjoyed such a great afternoon together.  It was truly a beautiful welcome home.