The other day I watched a program called The toughest place to be a... It’s all about taking people out of their comfort zones in their current profession and placing them in the same job but in another country. The twist as the title implies is that the country in which they are placed, makes it very challenging to practice that particular job. So in the episode that I watched, a nurse from Manchester England was sent to a hospital to practice nursing in Ciudad Juarez Mexico a city which is classified as ‘the most violent zone in the world outside of declared war zones’.
It is a city where violence, gangs and curiously but in a macabre sense, female homicides are all the norm. This nurse has her eyes opened to witnessing the results of daily murders, rapes, cuttings and stabbings as people in large numbers are taken into the hospital where she is working. She meets the nurses and medical staff working in the hospital and witnesses their loyalty, hard work, service, compassion and gradually her perspective on life changes. Not only does her perspective on life change but her view of nursing changes. She says in the end of the episode with a new found sense of pride, that she has gained a new admiration for her profession and it gives her a bit of a spring in her step to think that she is in a job where she can really make a difference.
I liked watching how the process that she went through gave her a fresh sense of wonder and pride regarding what she does for a living.
I was thinking about this because something a little like that happened to me recently. One morning at our usual church gathering, a woman from another country who is living in Australia simply walked in as a result of looking at our website. She said that our website seemed to portray that we are a very welcoming church and she wanted to see if it was true (I took note, websites matter but they need to reflect reality!) So she had never been in a church before and it all seemed quite strange to her. It was like she was in another land altogether.
Let me share with you the things that made her stand in wonder.
* That we met in a school hall not a ‘church like’ building. Her question: can God be in a place like this?
* That our songs were so full of love and joy. Her question: How is there so much peace here?
* That we met every week and set up the school hall every week to meet together
* That we would welcome her even though we didn’t know her and that she was from another religion
* That there were books you could buy from a big Christian bookshop any time you wanted (I did cringe a little when I took her into that store and noticed afresh all the evidence of Christian marketing in the place!)
* That so many difference versions of the Bible were available and easily accessible
* That the message spoken every Sunday seemed to speak directly to her! Her question: How did you know I was thinking that?
The point I could make is that she was experiencing a new thing and so her perspective was changed….just like that nurse in Mexico.
However actually through her eyes, I and a few others at my church were given a new perspective.
Even though she was not yet a follower of Jesus, even though she had little idea about the Christian faith and religion she was actually the one giving us fresh eyes to look at the faith that we had become accustomed to. Through her eyes we were inspired and became grateful for what we usually took for granted. Actually I’d even say she has functioned like a prophet but not to critique our context, rather she has pulled off the blanket of ‘ordinariness’ that sometimes covers our faith and has shown us the beauty, awe and wonder of following this God. Prophets point to problems in our systems but they also point to the wonders resident among us especially if we have been suffering from a case of amnesia. She truly was a prophet at our little suburban church pointing to the wonders we had taken for granted.
When she asked ‘How can God be in place place like this?’ I thought ‘Yes, how’? ‘Why would he dwell here in this ordinary place’? I marveled ‘How humble is God’?
When she said ‘There is so much peace and joy here’. I thought ‘well yes that’s true I had kind of forgotten about that’
When she puzzled ‘How could that message be speaking directly to me?’ I wondered about a God who would come so close to us that he whispers in our ear.
When she marveled at the access we have to so many books and Bibles. I was slightly embarrassed about our wealth in this nation.
When she said with wonder what an important thing it is that the church exists today and what a significant thing it is that we are doing I bowed my head and thought ‘Yes I had kind of stopped noticing that’.
God works in mysterious ways it is said and recently he has worked mysteriously to encourage a few people in that what they are doing is no ordinary thing, it is a work of wonder. I wait for more visits from ‘prophets’ like this…. I also hope that you remember whatever you are doing that there is wonder in the middle of the ordinariness. There is awe in the midst of the mundane. And I hope this inspires you to keep doing what you are doing with all the energy that is given to you.