“God is in this place,” Skye, a vicar from Oxford, said to me after spending a couple of weeks being involved in Little Darda Church.
Sometimes, amidst the hard stories and daily struggle for survival characteristic of our church members, it is nice to be reminded of that from someone visiting from the outside.
“I have received blessing in my time here.”
Blessing—so often that word is used to describe a relationship FROM someone who has more power, resources, or possibilities TO someone who is poor, marginalized, and needy.
With a jolt, I am reminded that Little Darda Church is called to be a blessing to the larger Roma community, to the Croatian community, and to any other nations that happen to visit our small church on a given Sunday.
And, as mentioned in an earlier blog post, one never knows who will show up. Đeno, whose vision has always been to have a ‘church for all people,’ rather than a strictly ‘Roma church’ mentioned that fact last Sunday.
“We are an international church,” he said in his introduction to the service. “Right now we have people in our service from America, England, Croatia, and The Netherlands. This church is not just for us Roma.”
I think back to the first ‘Great Commission’ in God’s promise to Abraham. “…I will bless you…and so you shall be a blessing…and in you all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”
God’s work and presence in the midst of the Little Darda Church is our blessing. Sitting with the people over coffee in their homes and listening to their stories, my spirit has experienced his presence in ways that are new to me. I try to be a blessing to the people by listening to their burdens, struggles, and heartaches.
But I realize I forgot the third part of the blessing. No matter that sometimes we feel that we are taking one step forward and three steps back. No matter our struggles as individuals and a church, the challenges we face in discipleship, our hopes for community transformation.
Although we are a community of new believers, we are called to be a blessing to others. This must be our shared call.
Skye blessed us in many ways—using art as a means to facilitate connection and life-sharing among the women, preaching, and leading youth activities. But her comment to me reminded me that my perspective has, somewhere along the way, slightly shifted away from my deeply held convictions regarding mission.
Blessing is a primary theme in mission—but it is not about the stronger blessing the weaker. It is about experiencing the presence of God and offering that as a blessing to others with one hand even as your other hand is outstretched to receive blessing from someone else.
“God is in this place,” she reminded me.
Yes, yes, he is—and so all, from every nation, are welcome to Little Darda Church. I cannot promise the material comfort you might experience in an American megachurch, but I can promise you will be warmly accepted by this small community.