Saturday, November 9, 2013

I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me

It has taken me awhile to write this entry.  About 3 weeks to be exact.  But to be able to express such a deep level of gratitude is challenging and I wanted to be able to find the right words. But eventually had to succumb to perfection and just do the best I could to messily write about grace in its deepest form.

I have been someone who has been blessed to always have a stable roof over my head.  My house has always had electricity, air conditioning, and heating.  I grew up with a dishwasher and internet and a fridge full of food.  But for the first time in my life, I found myself living in another country where the roof was literally caving in over my head.  And I didn’t know what to do. 

When I first told people I was placed in London, I was usually given a comment generally focused around a year of easy living.  To be fair, I probably would have thought the same thing, but I feel that part of my journey in accompaniment must include telling the story of London untold; the poverty and diversity that is segregated into communities far away from any line of focal view in a tourist’s camera. 

I was a part of that community, which included living in an old housing complex owned by council housing.  Because of this ownership, I was put on a long waiting list when the upstairs neighbor’s kitchen sink started leaking into my bedroom ceiling.  For eight weeks I lived without electricity and with buckets on my floor and towels on my bed, collecting the water falling from above.  When the ceiling started to crack, I was bumped up slightly on the repair list, but when water started to seep in from the walls and the leaking drips started to become a constant trickle, nervousness started to settle in my mind of health, safety, and the need of a stable home.

Shane Claiborne expresses in his book, The Irresistible Revolution, how “we have eliminated the need for miracles.  If we had enough faith to depend on God like the lilies and the sparrows do, we would see miracles.”  I think for much of my life I was so dependent and expectant of material structure that I had let these miracles go unnoticed.  But now this was stripped away and I was left with a raw and vulnerable need for my dependency on God. 

Meet Susan and Bill Tucker: a family who moved to London in 2001 from Atlanta, Georgia and have raised their three sons in British culture.  Susan’s mom works with my Aunt Patty at Our Savior Lutheran Church in North Carolina.  My aunt told Susan’s mom of my situation, she told Susan, and suddenly I found myself with an invitation to come live in their home.  It was that simple.

So once again I found myself packing my belongings, now only needing one suitcase to fill what mattered most, to follow a call of a true miracle.  For the first time in two months, I was being offered a dry place to sleep…and from people who didn’t even know me.  They only knew I was in need and that they had an extra bed.  It was that simple.     

I have reflected deeply on this journey of accompaniment, and cannot hide the feeling of guilty abandonment as I left my community in Peckham.  I recognize that I am privileged to have had the offer to move, while other families are stuck in the cycle of poverty and will continue to live in council housing.  But I am also reflecting on the lessons I have learned from the Tuckers about the real meaning of servanthood. I think often of Matthew 25: 34-40 and if I would have enough faith to offer my place of refuge to someone I did not know.  A dear friend and fellow YAGM wrote recently about the grace that accompanies us through kindness from strangers.  I can only end this blog by posting the same quote she shared from Paul Loeb’s book, The Impossible Will Take A Little While:    

"To feel the intimacy of brothers is a
marvelous thing in life. To feel the love of people whom we love
is a fire that feeds our life. But to feel the affection that comes
from those whom we do not know, from those unknown to us,
who are watching over our sleep and solitude, over our dangers
and our weaknesses -- that is something still greater and more
beautiful because it widens out the boundaries of our being and
unites all living things."
            //Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda

1 comment:

  1. Who would have thought what your challenges and blessings would look like in London?! I really liked reading Neruda's thoughts. He's one of my favourite poets.