Before we go on with the blog post, some reflections from Sunday:
On to the post.
So, last night, as we were setting up for our senior banquet (to celebrate c/o ’10), a lady walked in and asked if someone could open the sanctuary so that she could pray.
Instead, I offered her our prayer room and led her there.
She began to share her story. Her cat was attacked by a coyote earlier in the week, and she got bit by that coyote as well, in trying to help her cat. They took the cat to the vet, and the cat did not survive.
She went to ER to get shots and make sure that there will be no other ill effects due to the coyote bite. As she left the hospital, she saw our church that is right across the street from the hospital. She crossed the street and walked on to our church campus in hopes that she can enter and pray. It was around 5 in the morning, and she checked all the doors and found that all the doors were locked. She was about to give up, when she tried a door to the sanctuary, and it was unlocked.
She walked in, said a prayer, got a drink of water from the water fountain, and started to head out. On her way out, she saw the prayer cards that we have for those who may have prayer request. She filled one out and left it in the basket. On Sunday, she was still very distraught about losing her cat and just needed a place to sit and pray.
I told her to give me a minute and I went to our prayer closet to get her a prayer shawl.
I handed her a prayer shawl and told her that our prayer shawl team makes these with prayerful thoughts and the love of God. The idea is that as you place this over you, you are surrounded by prayers. She immediately started crying and held on tight to the prayer shawl asking, “Are you sure about this? I can have this? Isn’t there someone else who needs it more?”
And I responded, “I’m absolutely sure that this prayer shawl belongs to you. Our prayer shawl people make them for this purpose: for people who wants to be surrounded by prayer. Please take it and I hope that you find comfort and strength in knowing that God hears you.” She thanked me and I left so that she can be with God.
Now. There was a moment in our conversation where my mind was racing and scrambling and not really listening to what she was telling me.
These are the thoughts that were racing through my head:
Then, I realized that I was lost in my thoughts and returned to hear what this lady was saying.
I have to admit, I feel terrible that that’s where my mind went as soon as she told me that she was in our sanctuary at five in the morning.
I’m thankful that we were able to provide a need for her, a sacred place for her. And truth be told, I’m thankful that she really needed the room for prayer and nothing else. But I couldn’t help but continue to think, ‘why was the sanctuary unlocked?’
Perhaps it was divine intervention, and God unlocked the door for her, because she felt that the church was necessary for her to truly engage God. I believe that can happen.
I’m saddened that this is the times that we live in. Churches have to protect themselves from vandalism and from theft, so they have to keep their campus locked.
I’ve had experiences where one of our rooms were opened 24/7, but we had to discontinue that because one day we found used needles and beer bottles left in the room.
I’m saddened when I see churches completely gated off with iron gates and fences. How does that look welcoming to anyone? But, that’s the reality and the world we live in.
It’s this tension that’s been tugging at my heart since my conversation with the lady. At what point does protecting the church get in the way of the mission of the church? My last church in Hawaii was targeted for theft many, many times. The youth lost thousands of dollars worth of equipment due to people breaking in and stealing. We didn’t have funds to keep replacing stolen items, so our security got heavier.
And that’s a funny sentence for me to type, that a church’s security got heavier.
For me, it’s a lose-lose situation. We can’t help some people in the community that are in need because sometimes we have to protect our own flock. But there so many holy and ministry moments that we miss out on.
Because one of our doors were left unlocked, we were able to provide a sacred space for a stranger in the community in need. She was able to engage in God, and I was able to engage in her in conversation and offer her a prayer shawl.
But, in the back of my mind, I still can’t help but think, “Why was the sanctuary unlocked?”
Is that wrong for me to think?