I grew up going to “my church.” My parents rarely allowed me to go with a friend to their church, much less one of another denomination. I’m OK with that, but it did mean that by the time I went to West Africa after college, my concept of Universal Church or the Body of Christ was very limited.
That all exploded in Africa.
That’s where I was the minority of one in a ninety-nine percent Ivorian church. Don’t let the word Ivorian fool you. They were as dark and beautifully black as could be. I was the true Ivorian, if you compared it to skin color. That was the beginning of God’s efforts to expand my view of the Church. I learned pretty quick in Ivory Coast that it wasn’t all white folk, and I was OK with that too.
Later, after I really expanded my horizons by marrying a handsome Egyptian man, attending an Arabic church in America and then heading to the Middle East, the Body of Christ would never look the same.
As Raouf and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary in Ankara, Turkey, we decided to pick up some dessert and share it with Hans and RoseMarie Bachmann, a Swiss couple who were in the international church there. As we were trying to decide which building they lived in, we spotted them heading for home. They had just been to the tower mall looking for us, complete with a card and pink roses. RoseMarie had even made little labels for us to wear that said “Raouf and Carol” with our wedding date and two wedding bands.
What would lead a couple from Switzerland to do something so thoughtful for a couple from America in the heart of Turkey?
The only reason I cannot get rid of my Facebook page is because I can still see into the lives of brothers and sisters in Christ from every corner of the world. They are my family, and I’m part of theirs. This familial love is what led me to drive ten hours straight all the way to Florida just to spend a few hours with a Tunisian brother I hadn’t seen in years. It’s what brings Egyptians, Tunisians and even Mississippians to my home for visits.
This widened view of the Church is one of the greatest blessings of a life on mission. This is the reason that people return from short-term mission trips with a glow on their face and fervor in their prayers. They’ve caught a glimpse of The Church, and it’s not like the one on Main Street, USA.
It’s colorful, messy, loud, exotic, simple, poor, rich, struggling, growing — beautiful. It is a glimpse of what is to come — wondrous.
For all the bad press the Church receives and sometimes deserves, there is so much that is not reported, and much of which we will never know until the other side of heaven. Until then, I encourage you to open wide your arms to your brothers and sisters here and around the world who need your prayers and encouragement, just as much as you need theirs.
I’m thankful for my extended family in Christ. I hope you are too.
Grace and Peace