Sunday, March 09, 2008

All Nations

I've made mention a few times about our new church. Maybe this is boring blog material but it's on my heart to write about. I'll make it more interesting to you by sharing something embarrassing, okay? Happy?! ;-)

Eric and I were both brought up in church. We were the kids that were there every time the doors were opened, which was a lot since our parents usually had keys to the church! Our parents held various positions (paid and unpaid) in our churches throughout childhood. There's good things and bad things about that, but that's for another post. The point is, we have both been brought up as Christians and made a true commitment to Christ when we were young. I was brought up Southern Baptist (traditional, quite worship style) and Eric was brought up Assemblies of God (charismatic, free worship style).

After Eric and I got married and moved back to Tulsa (from Norman, our college town) one of the first things on the to do list was to find a church. We wanted to be "that" kind of family. We wanted our kids in church every Sunday and Wednesday just like we had been. We started out at my childhood church, which was comfortable and non-challenging, and didn't really grow us. But we were loved. After a while we dropped out. Then we went to the First Baptist Church in Tulsa--which was steeped in tradition but also had a contemporary worship service that "fed" us better. It sounds stupid, but we dropped out of there after a while too--in large part because Eric just couldn't see well enough to get around in the church with old dark corners and stairs everywhere (remember, he's legally blind).

After those two attempts we told ourselves we were "still looking." We "looked" for months that turned into years. When we moved to our current house we tried Evangelistic Temple. This is about as far away from S. Baptist worship style as you can get folks! How do you know if your charismatic? If you go to church in West Africa and it feels a little less charismatic than your own church! LOL! ET is a great church, but we were unable to make friendships. Not their fault--but ours. Eric and I need people to want us--to draw us in. We're too shy/introverted to just push ourselves into a group of people. So even though we called ET our church...we missed lots and lots of Sundays.

Church has been an ongoing challenge in our married life. How can two people who grew up SO in the church, and who live a daily Christian life (praying, studying, teaching our children) NOT be involved in a church? It is embarrassing for us. And we really do WANT to be in church in our hearts--we just let our earthly shortcomings (shyness, introvertedness, fatness, blindness) get in the way.

Shortly after Christmas our 6 year old son turns around to me with great seriousness in his eyes and said, "Mommy, why don't we go to church? You got to go to church every week when you were little. And grandma and grandpa go to church every week. It makes God sad when we don't go to church mommy." Be still my heart. What a moment of both great pride in my son and great disappointment in myself. Out of the mouths of babes...

I promised Samren that we would begin to make God happy again, and would start going to church every week. Problem was, we really didn't have any hot prospects. As a last resort on Saturday night I literally googled, "Church, Tulsa."

A listing for "All Nations Fellowship" was the third listing on the page. Of COURSE a name like that peeked my interest. After all, people joke about our mini "united nations" in our family. It was better than I had hoped for. This church actually emphasizes serving people from all different cultures! There is an emphasis on missions but also on reaching out to people of various cultures within our community. This wasn't just a "diverse church" (which in our area usually means almost all white people with a few hispanic and black people). This church is committed to diversity--to learning about different cultures and to reaching people that might seem unreachable (hindu, muslims, athiests, etc.). We even do a "country emphasis" every month where someone with a link to that country tells us what the Lord is doing there (Papau New Guinea, Ivory Coast, etc.)!

For the first time in 10 years of marriage Eric and I look forward to getting up on Sunday morning to go to church. The funny thing is that it's not the type of church we ever saw ourselves in. It's a "baby church"--just developing it's own culture. We still meet in a school orchestra room for heavens' sake! There are less than 100 folks there. The music ministry is just a baby of a thing that definitely struggles at times. But it's all good for our soul. Our children were instantly loved, as were Eric and I. There are other adoptive families, but more importantly there are people from many, many different backgrounds (African, Indian, Asian, Mid-East, Europe).

As I sat in church today I had a little chuckle with God. Eric and I, since we've been married, have always seen ourselves as one of the "young people" in the church. But not at this church. At least half of our congregation is still in college! As I looked around I realized that Eric and I (in this church) would be one of the "established" couples that need to give their tithe every week to help with the finances. We're one of those couples that these college kids might look to. Might they be inspired to build their family through adoption when they see us?

As if to bring the point home to me the Lord put us in a situation at the end of the service that literally made me laugh out loud after church. The pastor asked the congregation to get into groups of 4-5 people, to share about our "adversaries", and then to pray for each other. Knowing Eric, I'm sure he was thinking the same thing as me--find some old people so we can "follow!" Three college kids immediately turned to the "older" couple behind them (Eric and I!!!!) and all of the sudden here are the shy gal and the introverted guy with three college kids looking at US for leadership. You know...all of those decisions that need to be made about who is going to pray first, how are we going to pray, what are we going to do? But in that moment the Lord gave me the confidence I needed and we proceeded. And I found my words when I was praying out loud for these kids' needs (relationship with mom...upcoming tests...clarity in an unspoken situation). Imagine that--the Lord didn't leave me. =-) Not only did He not leave me...he LEAD me! I went away from that short prayer meeting knowing that the Lord could use us in this congregation. Who knows--maybe had had to put is in a congregation where we wouldn't have a ton of "old leadership" to fall back on in order to grow us to where He wants us to be.

We've been to All Nations Fellowship three times now. Only 3 times. But it feels like "our" church. It has since the first visit. I keep trying to think of people that I can invite to join us. It's a GREAT church for adoptive families!!!! So if you're in Tulsa area and happen to be reading this, please consider yourself invited to join us. We meet at the Union Intermediate High School at 76th and Garnett. Come and be loved and learn what God's people are doing in All Nations!



Christina 11:56 PM  

That sounds like a great church. I've been doing some internet "church shopping" in N. VA and I found a church like that... I'm hoping we have a chance to check it out because I love the idea of a truly multicultural congregation.

Fliss and Mike Adventures 3:05 PM  

It is great that you found what you seem to be looking for... take care