If you’ve read our newsletters, you probably know how much we enjoy hosting mission teams. We love introducing volunteers to our friends and coworkers here. We put our teams to work, and they accomplish a lot! But we intentionally plan work for them that’s relational – they work alongside local believers, they sit and interact with the children. The work they do is certainly important, but what matters most is the relationships that are built and the time they spend with people.
Because presence matters.
A couple of weeks ago a group of six volunteers from Franklin Baptist Church (Virginia) arrived to help us with a Thanksgiving activity in the schools. We knew they’d have great experiences with the children, but we also wanted to connect them with our dear brothers and sisters at Devleskero Kher Church here in Kosice.
Spending time with this church family is usually a highlight of our teams’ experiences. The DK church family is rich in faith and worship, they’re open and hospitable. We considered some kind of activity or discussion with the Franklin team, or maybe a work project. But it’s a very busy time for the church family, so we wanted to find an activity that would be fun and relaxing… not to do, but to be together. Inspired by a fellowship activity we’d recently been part of, we decided to invite everyone to go bowling. We contacted a local bowling center and rented all the lanes after worship on Sunday.
When we showed up with the Franklin team a few minutes early, we were the first ones there. We were a bit nervous… this was an unusual activity for the church family. Would they even come? But they did – slowly at first, then more and more showed up. At starting time, 40 of us were chatting in different languages and forming groups on the lanes. Some bowled, others just sat and told stories over tea. By the time we left, everyone was smiling, and new friendships had been built.
In more than seven years serving here, we’ve been consistently reminded that our presence is as important as the actual work we do. There were little reminders of this all throughout Franklin’s visit. The school children may not remember all the details of the Bible story or the English vocabulary words… but they’ll remember the American who took time to sit beside them and color with them. The teachers in the village school may not remember exactly what we ate at our luncheon… but they’ll remember that we took time to eat together.
And the church members may not remember their bowling scores… but they’ll certainly remember the smiles, hugs and cheers we all experienced as we spent time together.
“Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them,” Jesus said. We hear it often, but just because it’s familiar doesn’t make it any less true. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter so much what we do as the fact that we come together to do it. Because when we’re present for one another, Jesus is there. And his presence is what makes all the difference.