This weekend I got to visit one of my best friends from college. She is currently living in a refugee community in Charlotte where she and her husband minister to the families there. I have been trying to visit her since January and it just hasn't worked out until this last weekend. We've seen each other but I haven't been able to make it to her neighborhood. Even this weekend it didn't completely work out because they were house sitting and watching some friend's children who had just had a baby and were still at the hospital. But we at least got to stop by for awhile to pick up some kids to bring to church.
I LOVE this community. I remember the first time we visited them there, we pulled up and were immediately surrounded by children from all over the world. They immediately welcomed Aiden in their games, held our hands, and laughed as though we had known each other for years. I remember thinking, I could live here. Which is kind of a big deal considering I hate Charlotte (hate is a strong word, I know). Maybe it was because in that neighborhood it's hard to remember you are even in Charlotte.
We pulled into Birtchcroft, parked in front of their apartment, and made a loop around the neighborhood, stopping at people's doors to see if they would come to church. It was a Sunday morning, but already most people were out in front of their apartments, hanging out, talking, eating. Some of the kids could not come because they were going to a shoe drive that morning. Other's parents didn't approve. Four joined us (which was good because that was all we had room for that day). A little girl from Ethiopia named Sophia joined us in our car. Everywhere they walked she and Aiden held hands. She would touch his hair and face, smiling her big wonderful smile. Aiden loved the big sister attention. Even Gabriel loved having a friend in the back seat to smile at and talk to him. He sang his adorable baby songs and giggled the whole way. As we walked into church, Aaron by my side carrying Gabriel, Sophia and Aiden holding hands in front of us, I couldn't help but think, This feels right.
The church was big. A lot bigger than what we are used to. It was also Baptist. We go to a Presbyterian church. I'm not much on denominations (I could really care less), but it was definitely a different experience. The first thing I noticed was the diversity; how many people were there from different countries, cultures, and different walks of life. The lobby was filled with TV screens displaying the service in the auditorium. When we went to sign the kids up for Sunday school we were met by a lady with an ipad who told us where they needed to go. I'll admit it, I was a little judgmental to begin with.
Aaron and I were both thirsty and tired so we went to the Church cafe to get some water and coffee. Once again I was skeptical at first, but it turned out they sell everything for a dollar and all the money goes toward building wells in Uganda. We were then told we could not enter the auditorium with drinks, so we sat in the cafe and watched the worship on the TV screens in there. "This is so weird." We kept saying to each other. A couple who appeared to be from Ethiopia sat near us. The woman was very pregnant and we had a conversation about babies while we finished our drinks. I'm learning that parenthood is very nearly a universal language.
The service itself was good. Not what we were used to (a lot of clapping, shouting, and amens), but I appreciated the enthusiasm. Despite the size of the church, most people seemed to know each other and there was a lot of fellowshipping after the sermon. Even the Pastor seemed to know most people. It seemed a very tight knit community for being so large. I was impressed and could see why my friends went there.
We were all sad to leave when it was time to drop Sophia off and say our good byes. The kids gathered by our car, touching Aiden and Gabriel, staring at us and smiling shyly. I reluctantly hugged my dear friend Heather good bye, wishing we lived closer. As we were about to drive away Sophia came to my window and said, "You come again and stay longer?"
I love the mountains. I like living in a small town. The community here is one we will probably never find anywhere else. But there is a big part of me that knows I would give it all up if God were to call us to a neighborhood like that. In fact, I can't help but hope he does.