I can’t believe it’s been two weeks since I’ve sat down to write. Time lines. I mean, time flies? Right…
So, here’s what I’ve been up to: I was asked to be a part of this annual Salvation Army event called Central Bible Leadership Institute. This was my 5th year on staff, but my first year on staff for the Encounter Track (14-17 year olds). I was a councilor for twenty 13-15 year old boys- which means I was their mother for 10 days- I taught a breakout session (7 classes total, I think) on being a better worship leader, and got to play music with some good friends. I also ran around in a skirt for a day (pictures should be forthcoming).
It gets exhausting to give everything you’ve got, day after day, but it was well worth it. Most of our staff was sick for the majority of the event, but in our weakness, God shined through. Which was cool.
In my cabin, there were boys who reminded me of me when I was about 15. It was that time in my life where I began to encounter God for who He was, and not who my parents or pastor said He was. I saw that work beginning in a few of these guys, and I am excited to see what God does in their lives.
I had a load of fun with the band. Sometimes pick-up bands can suck. Like, really suck. But when you have a good leader and experienced musicians who just ‘get it,’ things work out a whole lot smoother- especially when the Holy Spirit is directly involved.
My class on being a better worship leader looked a lot like this blog; there was a lot of me talking, some youtube videos, and there were only 5 people there. But boy, did we have fun! At least, I did. I don’t know about those guys. Who cares, right? Right.
Our theme for the week was “Not A Fan.” which talked about not being just a fan of Jesus, but being a follower. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Which brings me to my next story: getting home. Yesterday was my day off. But I plan poorly, so I was back in the office facilitating our local area ministers’ fellowship. We prayed, shared, and I shared a little bit of my testimony, since I was hosting. I shared some of Hailey Anne’s story, and how God pours out His grace in greater measure as we go through the hard times- the valley of the shadow of death.
As I spoke, and as we prayed, my mind was lead to the two tragic incidents that took place in recent weeks in this country: the shooting at the Colorado theatre, and the shooting at the Sikh temple just this past Sunday.
I haven’t talked about it before, but my church building is next door to a Sikh temple. I’ve driven by it almost every day for a year, but I have never gone in. But as we were praying, God spoke to me and asked me, in no uncertain terms, whether I was going to practice what I had been preaching to these young people all week; whether I was just a fan, or a follower. So after the meeting finished, I got back in my car and I drove home. I passed the temple. I told myself I would go later. I heard there was a memorial service at 6, so I would show up for that. But when I walked in my door and hung up my keys, I couldn’t sit down anywhere in my house. I simply stood in my kitchen, shoes on, staring at the couch in our living room. I had a choice. And I almost blew it.
I turned around, grabbed my keys off the key hook, hopped back into my car and drove back to the Sikh temple. The whole drive, which wasn’t very long, I just prayed, “God, what do I say? I don’t know what to say.” So I pulled in to the parking lot, put on my name tag, and walked through the doors to the temple.
Now, I’m only slightly more familiar with Sikhism than the average person, so I knew what they believed, but not how they practiced. Do I leave my hat on or off? I took it off (wrong choice). Do I leave my shoes on or off? I took them off (right choice). Do I go in or stand by the door like an idiot? I stood by the door like an idiot.
The long and short of it is, their priest came over to me after several very long minutes of standing awkwardly by the door (luckily, I had been helpfully informed to cover my head at this point), and so, taking his hand in greeting, I started, “Hello! My name is Dave, and I’m the assistant pastor at the Salvation Army-“ the priest bowed his head knowingly and said, “Yes, I know who you are. Thank you for coming. We could use your help.” I followed him to their kitchen where a small band of their congregation was making food for the service that would take place later that night. I cut potatoes for the next hour and a half, alongside these children of God. We didn’t speak very much- their English was not great- but I couldn’t help but think the whole time, if Jesus were here, he would probably be cutting potatoes, too. After about an hour and a half, I took my leave and told the priest I would return for the service in about an hour. He thanked me, and I left. I believe I was the only person who came to help that afternoon.
At home, I watched as the clock ticked closer to 6:00, and once again, my self started speaking up, “You already went to help. You don’t need to go to the service. You’ve done your good deed.” and so on.
However, once again, the Still Small Voice whispered to me, “Do you love me?” So I went to the service.
I arrived a little early, which was lucky, because after I took my seat in the temple, it was so full of people they had to set up speakers outside, and people stood in the parking lot.
The service was almost three hours long, and I left a little early (so probably more like four hours). The mayors of Appleton and Menasha spoke, as did the police chief, (female) leader of the Muslim community in the Fox Cities, the Unitarian Universalist pastor, the United Church of Christ Pastor, and several of the Sikhs from the temple. It turns out that the priest from Oak Creek who was killed, along with members of his family and others, was from this temple here in Appleton. His family worships here. They were from here, before they left to start the temple in Oak Creek. I had no idea.
There were two things that were said that struck me. One, that we realize that this tragedy could have happened to any of our faith communities, because we are all fighting the same enemies: Ignorance, Fear, and Hate. Secondly, that we are all children of God. We are all made in His image, whether we know Him in His fullness, or are still searching, or refuse to acknowledge Him… We are all His children, and He cares for us all. This is what I believe, and that’s why I chose to be a part of the mourning with my new friends in the Sikh community. If I want to be like Jesus, I need to come alongside those who hurt, who are marginalized, who are the victims of Hate, Ignorance, and Fear, and show them that our God is Love by the way I live; that He is the ultimate source of comfort and healing, and that He loves His children.
I leave you with this song by Aradhna, a worship band from Ohio who play and sing in the same style as Sikhs. Namaste is a Punjabi (the Indian language that Sikhs use in worship) word that roughly means, “I see the Light inside of you.” I hope that can be said of me.