|A Gospel Day
You couldn’t have wedged a single other piece of furniture into our living room, and we didn’t have anything left to wedge in anyways. It was full. We had our dining room table, two housemates’ desks, a card table, and our coffee table all lined up the whole length of our house. Every chair we owned, including someone’s rolling desk chair and the bench we use to take our shoes off in the front hall, was squeezed in. We still weren’t sure if there would be enough places at the table.
It was Easter, and it was time to celebrate the resurrection.
Except we didn’t feel like celebrating. Our friend Ron had just passed away two days ago. We were shocked and sad and exhausted. Sitting in church that morning, I cried. It seemed like the resurrection was very far away. But we knew we had to proclaim Jesus’ power and grace and aliveness even in the face of death, so we reluctantly started cooking when we got back from church.
Six o’clock came. People poured into our house. We didn’t know half of them. My students had been inviting their nonbelieving friends over for dinners at our house for the past six weeks, and now, halfway through exams, they were apparently on top of their game even if Alix and I weren’t just then.
We ate, we laughed, we ate some more. We counted heads. Forty people. We did a little dance. We decided next time we would cook two turkeys.
Two first years came to say goodbye at the end.
“Thank you so much for having us. This felt like home.”
“Everyone here is so friendly.”
“You have a really good thing going here.”
To everyone we said, “We’re so glad you came. You’re always welcome at our house. Come any time.”
After we finished doing the dishes and put all our desks back we collapsed onto the couch, glad we did it after all. Glad that we had made a stand for resurrection, invited people into life with Jesus, where there is a place at the table for everyone, even if it is in a desk chair. Especially when it’s in a desk chair.
Grief and grace all swirled together – this is the experience of our ministry at Queen’s over the past semester. We’ve grown some, we’ve lost some. We’ve weathered some rough times. And yet, that Easter – that was a gospel day. That was a day when Jesus was here and now and present among us, very much alive. That was a time when the Kingdom of God came down into our living room, desk chairs and mismatched plates and all.
|“Jesus Is Pretty Cool”
MARKcentral, our conference on the gospel of Mark, was pretty much gospel days all the way through – it was that good. My favourite moment was lying outside and looking at the stars with my nonChristian housemate, who was in my class.
“What do you think of Jesus these days, Cara*?”
“You know, he’s pretty cool. I don’t think he’s perfect or anything, but I think he has really good things to say,” she replied.
“What were you thinking about today when we shared about applying Scripture?” Cara had been silent in our group sharing time. But now she opened up to me more than she ever had before.
“Well, I was thinking about the story of Jesus and the bleeding woman [Mark 5]. She had long-term hurt like me. When I was younger, I got bullied a lot, and I can still hear those voices sometimes telling me terrible things about myself. I need to be around people who will say good things to me, like how Jesus said good things to that woman. I need good friends like Jesus.”
Cara, a professed atheist, could see herself in Scripture and see that Jesus had a good thing to offer to her! Praise God for the change in her life over the course of this year.
To Have Fun
“So, Ahirim*, have you done any fun things since you came to Ottawa?” Raina* asked this question casually one afternoon, filling space between tasks.
“No,” he said. “It’s hard to have fun when you are by yourself.”
Raina’s eyes filled with tears as she told me this story. Ahirim is a Muslim refugee from Djibouti who was living at the shelter where some of us were volunteering during our urban missions project in May. Raina is one of our student leaders at Queen’s.
“I never really understood how lonely people can be before,” Raina said. “But Ahirim knows literally nobody in Canada except the five people he lives with – and now us. And we’re leaving in two weeks.”
So we resolved to have fun with Ahirim while we were still there. We listened to music together. He shared his favourite songs, we shared ours. We baked cookies. And we got to share about our faith in unexpected moments, while we cleaned and chilled dough and ate our lunches together.
Many of our students had similar experiences realizing the dearth of relationships in many people’s lives. At the refugee shelter, at the furniture bank, at the home for men with mental illness, they saw the result of relational poverty. Nobody to help carry a new couch into your apartment. Nobody to go to the tulip festival with. Nobody to give you a drive to your lawyer’s appointment.
I got a text from another student a month after the trip. She had decided to continue helping out at the refugee shelter, babysitting two young children for their mother who is alone in Canada, and visiting with Ahirim. Praise God that the long-term relationships we hoped for are being formed.
I mentioned in my last update that I had moved; my new address is 146 Clergy St E, Kingston, ON K7K 3S3. I now live in a big old manse owned by a very generous Presbyterian congregation. Praise God for this new partnership for Alix and I in Kingston.
Many blessings on you and yours during these summer months!
*Names changed to protect privacy
- For our student leaders’ retreat next weekend – that our planning for next year would go well.
- For my fundraising this summer. My goal is to raise $10,000 by August 31! If you would like to give to our ministry, you can do it here.
- For our future first years coming from across Canada and even the world.