I am watching snow furiously dance outside the frosted windows of an ancient guesthouse in the foothills of the Austrian alps. It's been snowing for six days now with drifts piled high as my chin. This week has been both grueling and exhilarating. Plainly realistic and yet strangely dreamlike.
Four times a year, we the VCC staff, travel up to our church's guesthouse to cook for, clean, and serve a 150 European pastors while they participate in week-long classes advancing them toward Bible degrees. This week was one of them.
Never-ending-dishes-three-times-a-day and blister-flaming-meat-chopping, paired nicely with seven girls on mattresses shoved in an old seminar room for a week should spell a recipe for nasty memories and cranky exhaustion. However, as the week dragged on I began to notice less and less my blisters and sleepy eyes and notice more and more how much beauty and possibility surrounded me on every side. It is interesting how when you remove your focus from yourself, if even for a moment, perspectives instantly change and widen. It's as if winter windows shut against the bitter cold are suddenly opened to feel brand new colors and cool, shadowy grass in the most unexpected of places.
Last night, after finishing responsibilities, I ventured next door and quietly stole a place in the back of the pastors' meeting hall. They happened to be right at the end of their evening service, finishing up with song. A balding, middle age pastor from Azerbaijan with smiling eyes who reminded me of my dad stood at the front with guitar in hand leading songs in English and Russian. At one point he dropped his pick, at another forgot some words, but oh how in those moments surrounded by people of different cultures, languages, and backgrounds my soul came alive!
It is nothing short of exhilarating to be a part of something intrinsically much bigger than myself. What comfort to know my faith is skillfully woven into the fabric of every culture of this Earth, seamlessly bringing us together against all odds as one. Jesus was in the room that night. As we sang a simple, wordless tune to finish off the evening, my heart beat fast and tears jumped into my eyes because for an instant I saw the Church, the Bride of Christ as God sees her. Imperfectly perfect, awe-inspiringly unified, delightful in every way. I saw a reflection of God’s glory on a snow covered mountain in an old guesthouse in Austria surrounded by people the world tells me I shouldn’t naturally connect with and love. This is a Christ love. In no one else to be found the world over.
Ukraine. Poland. Norway.
Sweden. Portugal. Azerbaijan.
Austria. Russia. Germany.
The night closed with old wooden sleds piled high with new found friends from around the world flying down hills of powdery snow under a blanket of singing stars and dancing snow flakes.
Hallelujah! Praise God from heaven,
praise him from the mountaintops…
Fire and hail, snow and ice,
hurricanes obeying his orders;
Mountains and all hills…
Earth's kings and all races,
leaders and important people,
Robust men and women in their prime,
and yes, graybeards and little children.
Let them praise the name of God--
it's the only Name worth praising.
His radiance exceeds anything in earth and sky;
he's built a monument—his very own people!
Praise from all who love God!
Israel's children, intimate friends of God.