Georgia in the house. It all started with popcorn.
The Refugee Art Exhibit Opening was complete. The show was held in the back (big, carved double-door street entrance on Via Nazionale) of the sanctuary of St. Paul’s Anglican Episcopal church. The Joel Nafuma Refugee Center is housed in the basement of the church. It is a day center – no one sleeps there.
Our two new friends, mentioned in my last Field Notes column, arrived at the show. Helen and Adele, Michigan State University Ad/PR majors, enjoyed seeing the art, meeting some of the artists and learning more about the stories of the center. After meeting the rector’s wife, Jill, and summer intern, Kate, they planned to meet and prepare their summer study project on the “Peace Flags” artisan project which raises money for the JNRC. How wonderful! Our ‘chance’ meeting at a bus stop a few days earlier turned into sharing knowledge and compassion – as well as a finished video – for God’s Kingdom expansion. Once I get it, I will share it in future column.
I held six long bags of fresh popcorn in my hands as I returned from putting away dishes in the room off to the side of the altar. As I glanced across the pews, they were filling in with smiling faces. It appeared to be a group traveling together, mostly women. Assuming they were on a bus or two, I thought of the long days of travel and offered the popcorn left over from the show. Yes, there were takers. Here, over there, until reaching the back of the group. The bag left in my hand was double-sized and we laughed together when I mentioned she would “have to share” if I gave her this one! Her name was Lisa. I asked where she and the group were from. The US. Georgia. Decatur. Whaaat? Ray of Hope Christian Church was ready to share their talented choir with a full sanctuary. It didn’t take long for the others to hear about the lady from Georgia who, at that moment, decided to stay for the concert. It was their first performance of a multi-city tour.
The first four pieces on the program (out of 11) each had an asterisk. They were the selections which would be performed at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City the next day and at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice on July 1. After completion of these beautiful songs, the music folders were closed and passed down the rows until all hands were free. I smiled when the director shared that “these were our sacred hymns.” I knew what was coming next – we were “going gospel” and it was gonna be great! You really haven’t lived until you’ve been lifted up in song and celebration to the likes of “Caught Up”, “Souled Out”, and “Oh Happy Day”. Good ol’ Southern Gospel can take you to new heights. I especially enjoyed “God Wants A Yes”. I need to look up those lyrics again as I/we have been working mighty hard to give God that “yes” in our lives.
Next came shout-outs to cities near Dublin. Choir members were running up and hugging me. It was delightful to talk with one woman who’s daddy was a preacher in Dublin (I have to look for her name in my notes.) I shared our sending and home church of Dublin First United Methodist and sister church Howard Chapel UMC. Cynthia Walters and her mom, Miss Eulah, came up in the conversation. She had just been on the phone with Cynthia’s sister a few days earlier. What a beautiful, interconnected world we experience when we share the same family in Christ. One woman chased me out the door onto the sidewalk yelling “Vidalia”! I said, “Don’t tell me, you were a Sweet Onion Queen!?” Wonderful unexpected fellowship.
Excerpts from their printed program:
“There we found some brothers and sisters who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome.” Acts 28:14
Church Vision: To be a City of Hope where People will Impact and Transform our Present World into the Kingdom of God!
Empower – Elevate – Exalt – Equip – Evangelize
“Therefore go …. Matthew 28: 19-20” www.rayofhope.org