On Sunday during the peace, a lady at the back of the church asked while I was shaking her hand, if we do a freewill offering for those in need. She was trying to make it back home to New Mexico. Of course we were going to take our own regular offering - now what do I do? Do I trust? Is this a scam? Do I allow myself to open, not only myself, but my congregation, to this? Is this a true need or do I have sucker written all over my face? Let's also face that looks and smells do add a lot to this questioning in me.
Then I think about what I have been through in Lui South Sudan these past 2 1/2 weeks. The radical hospitality opened for us, the caring of people in community, the taking care of one another, and I know what I am called to do. I tell her we have to talk after the service.
I celebrate Eucharist and at announcements I ask for money from the congregation for the discretionary fund because a need has been revealed to me. People give as they go out from church - generously. I tell the lady and her family to wait for me in the parish hall.
After I get off my robes and count the money I check online to see if there is a gas station that has branches all the way to New Mexico and find none. So I meet her in the back and tell her we'll go to a station and fill her car and I'll give her the difference of what she tells me she'll need for gas to get home. Then I say follow me to McDonald's and we'll get a food card.
When we are all done and I hand her the money for her gas at McDonald's she cries. She tells me I will be richly blessed. She tells me how hesitant she was to come to this church, and especially this tradition which she has never experienced before (Episcopal), and how God was leading her that morning. God sure was in it. Did I and the church get taken? Yes, by God's rich abundant love and if that's bad well I hope we have more encounters with it.