The bowl of rice & shrobji (vegetables) was banged down in front of me. It was one of those unbearably hot, pre-monsoonal days in Dhaka..temperatures spiking towards 40 degrees and humidity so high that you could almost wring out the air. I stank! ‘What’s up with Shul (the cook)?’ I asked, irritated.
‘Her house burnt down last night and she lost everything’, I was told.
You know that moment where you are suddenly and acutely aware of yourself..and you don’t like what you see. You get that glimpse into that parallel world of poverty..and I realised that even having travelled thousands of miles to be ‘incarnational’, I was still living yet another thousand from the slum dwelling where she lived, some 300 meters away. The fire had claimed the homes of two of the small team of Bangladeshis that we worked with. Both were Christian and both turned up for work that morning. We were discouraged from going down to visit. By the following day their houses were being rebuilt, clothes were found, money and possessions were re-distributed and life went on. Community.
Four women walk along the streets of Philadelphia, bags under their arms and chatting excitedly. They are mothers and wives; busy. They turn into a retirement home and ask if there are any ladies who never receive visitors. They are shown into a room full of old ladies, sat quietly looking at an old television set in the corner. They sit and open their bags and unpack their instruments; they are manicurists. They laugh, listen, cry, pray, hope, serve, leave. Love.
‘For we know, brothers loved by God, that He has chosen you, because our Gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia – your faith in God has become known everywhere, therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us.” 1 Thessalonians: 4-9 (NIV). Passion.