The door to the place of worship was open, and I walked through.
I heard voices. No, it wasn’t a choir. It wasn’t a religious leader. The voices, to me, were foreign. I could hardly make out the words.
The door to the place of worship was open, the voices were foreign.
The people came from around the globe to practice English. There was no judgment, no qualifying permission based on agreement of beliefs.
There was simple acceptance — without knowing their faith or whether they had one, and of people who knew the Divine differently named.
The people sought safety to learn and connect and just “be” in this strange place we locals call home.
And so it was. The door to the place of worship was open, the people were welcomed and they were safe.
I was welcomed into the group to talk of safety for women. I told of safety that’s whole and comfortable with someone you love.
Then I shared about times when the loved one is hurtful. No one wants this conversation, of course. No one wants thoughts of danger from people they trust.
Yet everyone in the room wanted to learn about help for a friend.
And so it was. The door to the place of worship was open, the people were welcomed, they were safe and they wanted to help.
We talked about signs of danger. Is she called derogatory names? Is she afraid for her children? Is she threatened with deportation if she has not done as she was told?
Have her legal documents been hidden from her? Have her precious things from home been destroyed? Is she allowed to meet freely with others?
We learned. We understood. And so it was. The door to the place of worship was open, the people were welcomed, they were safe, they wanted to help and they understood the struggle.
We were ready to offer ideas. How could we help her be safe? How should we access translated materials from the Centre County Women’s Resource Center’s website? How would we shine light on the path to help with visa problems?
Might we better understand her faith perspective on relationships by reading and listening at FaithTrustInstitute.org?
And so it was. The door to the place of worship was open, the people were welcomed, they were safe, they wanted to help, they understood and they knew what to do. They were ready.
Are you ready?
Traveling across the world to settle into a new community can’t be easy. The sojourner has patience with language, customs, prejudices and even hatred in a world unlike home.
This calls for unmeasured willingness to persevere. It demands untold tolerance of fear and vulnerability. Surely we want these courageous neighbors to have love, connectedness and protections we want for ourselves. Of course we do. And we offer it. Through the open doors, with welcome. And so it is.
Open the doors. Know the signs. Offer the help. Be ready.
Debra Greenleaf is a member of Faith United Church of Christ and Interfaith Initiative Centre County. She is an International Outreach Consultant serving to promote resources at the Centre County Women’s Resource Center and other partners of the Centre County STOP Violence Against Women Project.