A New Guest in the International Fellowship, Bringing New Insight

a writing by Elizabeth Padillo Olesen

As I was about to close my office, I saw a young man sitting on a chair very close to the door where I work. I saw him during the Danish worship service in the morning and now he was sitting comfortably on the chair while scanning through some magazines while most of those who attended the first worship service were already slowly disappearing. I stopped and asked him few questions. And he answered in stammering voice like a young child for his age. I could smell alcohol from his mouth and clothes. And yet he was dressed neatly, different from the usual drunkards on the street. He could smile and answer my questions: his name, which country he comes from and where does he live in town. As I continued to engage in a friendly talk with him, I could see tears in his eyes.

I asked him if he could speak English to which he responded yes. I invited him to join in the International Worship service in about one hour for there he could meet others from different countries. He himself comes from Greenland. He said that he would. And there he was, entering the church for the second time in that morning, looking into the provided liturgical order of worship. He stood up when it was meant to stand up while singing hymns and listening to the reading of the scriptures. He sat down when it was time to listen to the pastor’s sermon or to prepare for the eucharist (the Holy Communion). There was also time for offering, giving everyone the chance to give the symbol of one’s response to what God has done, an offering of money that is to be used for the ministry of the church for the needy.

After the worship service, when the pastor was already at the front door, saying farewell to church-goers, this new stranger came to me and asked where he could put his money for the offering. I directed him to just to go to the altar and put his money on the offering plate. I asked him to join in the fellowship with tea and coffee. It was amazing that there were others who sat beside him and talking with him. And it was time that those who came for the first time be introduced. There were a new family from Poland, a guy from Germany and a girl from Yugoslavia and a young man from Romania. This guy from Greenland raised his hand, almost impatient to wait for his turn to speak or be introduced. Not hiding his natural shyness, he introduced his name and saying so, he smiled a lot. I could not forget the joy on his face for having been given the chance to say something before the gathered and listening crowd. In him I see the human’s innate need to be listened to and recognized.

When the fellowship hour was over, he said goodbye and thanked for the time. He said that he would surely come again. After he left, I deeply thought that there is something that the church of Christ has missed, that is, serving those in the periphery, the marginalized in society. So often our Christian churches are peopled by those who are so respectable or who have occupied positions and name in society and somehow we have forgotten that the church of Jesus Christ is also for those who have less in life- the alcoholics, the prostitutes, the lepers, the drug-addicts and so on and so forth. The biblical Jesus was often surrounded by those who were wounded in body and spirit. And he ministered to all of them with love and compassion.

May the church of today search and take into her fold and ministry people outside the margins in society.

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