By Pastor Paula Burchill
The Sunday before last, we worshiped at Saron Lutheran Church in Hoquiam, WA. We were there on an all SLC mission trip, and when Pastor Michelle invited us to communion, she said “Come as you are.” It was a nod to Aberdeen/Hoquiam’s arguably most famous son, the late Kurt Cobain, the words being the title and opening lyrics of one of his band Nirvana’s most famous songs. I loved the invitation and the reference to Nirvana, and as I thought more about it, I found it was a theme for our whole weekend.
Before we left, I must confess, no one really wanted to go, at least in my family. We were going to repair and build community gardens, and to stock shelves at a family shelter called Family of Promise, but time is precious when you’re a teenager, it’s precious anytime, really. I have heard that the best way to teach your kids about helping others, is to work alongside them and help others, so we came as we were—cranky, not expecting much, and more than a bit reluctant.
But lo and behold, we had a great weekend. The ages of our group ranged from 7 to into their 70’s, and we all came as we were and worked hard together. We walked into an overgrown garden and within hours, it looked totally different. My 13 year old daughter was part of the group that went to Family of Promise. After she got back, she told me that she used to think all homeless people were on drugs or mentally ill, but after meeting a mom and her baby daughter she learned that isn’t true.
Even though the sleeping cot wasn’t comfortable, and many of us couldn’t help thinking of our own neglected gardens as we were working, as we joined our hands in prayer, and in work, the Holy Spirit started to work on us. We had come as we were, but we left a little changed.
For one thing, we found that getting away and seeing another community and really listening to and responding to their struggles is so important. Of course there are also many needs right here at home, but I think there was something about getting away that made a difference. And it helped us see home in a new way.
When we went to Hoquiam, we brought our doubts, our excitement, our resentment, our ignorance, our joy, our laughter, our aching backs, our time and our possessions to be used as they would. It was God’s work, and God used our hands. And the people we met changed us, too. They helped us see that we all come as we are and we all have something to offer each other.
Honestly, I can’t wait to go back. So stay tuned–maybe you can join us the next time.