To My English Speaking Church Family,
Each time we move, which has been often, one of our first tasks is finding a church to call home. This should have been especially challenging when we moved overseas for the first time. We lived in a Spanish speaking country and neither of us spoke Spanish well. I barely understood the language at all. (I really did think French would come in more handy when I was studying it in high school.)
Except it wasn't really that hard to choose a church because there were very few English speaking options. And since we were not Catholic, nor Anglican, we were left with one option.
It was a small church.
Scary small for the two of us coming from an almost mega church in California. We would be known here, whether we wanted to be or not.
I remember one of the first Sundays we were there. Communion was served. The pastor explained that the cups on the inside held wine and the cups on the outside held grape juice. I loved that the church was big enough to welcome both those that believe wine is a necessary part of communion and those who hold that believers should abstain from wine.
When you live overseas, when you are the minority, church becomes different. It becomes less about the theology, the way sacraments are practiced, the denominations and more about the family, the relationships, the doing this life apart together. I learned so much about my own prejudices and ignorance while being in a Christian community that was tied by our language and not our fundamentals. A community that was taken down to the bare bones of faith, to Jesus. Being involved with a church while living in a foreign land, taught me how simple faith and community could be, if we agreed to let each other practice and live out their faith as they believed.
This is also where I joined my first women's Bible study. I had been in small groups before in college. And my husband and I had been involved in young married small groups at church but this was my first Women's Bible study. I cannot remember who actually ran the group, but I do know that the pastors/priests of the three English speaking churches all approved the study materials and we all agreed to leave our denominational biases at the door.
I loved it. I had two amazing small group leaders who encouraged me more than they may know. They cared about me and checked on me. They gave me perspective and challenged the certainty of my ideology. And with Facebook, I still get to learn from them. They are the reason, I got involved in women's Bible study when I returned to the US, which eventually lead to my leading and teaching. You know that book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie... these women gave me a love for studying the Bible with women that is core to my being today. They gave me Women's Bible study which leads to friendships which leads to wanting to grow together spiritually which leads to Bible study.
Thank you to the English speaking church community for opening my eyes so I could see my own faith culture blinders. I found God in a new way when I was no longer tied down by only my church experience.
Grace and blessings to you all,