Welcome back to my Europe photo series!
On Sunday morning, Joanna and I boarded the southbound train toward Geneve. She was on her way to her conference at Webster University and I planned to explore the old city.
I loved Geneve public transportation. It was clean and bright and mostly easy to navigate.
This fine morning, a friendly couple sat across from us, he with an English Bible on his lap.
I greeted them, and in our warm conversation, Ralston told me that he works for the Lutheran World Federation in the human rights division. He and Miriam have lived in the Geneve area for several years this time around.
I asked where they are from. "Columbia, Maryland," they replied.
Aha! "Did you go to New Hope Lutheran?" I asked.
Small world. Here I am, randomly in Switzerland, talking to a couple who knew my father and mother from a church thousands of miles away.
I am feeling loved by a God who sees and knows.
Miriam and Ralston invited me to the English speaking service of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. I happily agreed. I had passed it a few times already and knew where it was.
I exited the train at the main station in Geneve and found a bakery to start my culinary expedition of the day.
Then, my first task, before the church service, was to find the police station where my wallet had been turned in the day before. They weren't answering their phones. I'd have to go in person.
And... they are closed. Until tomorrow. Oy.
By now, it was raining heavily. I had opted to leave my jacket at home since I knew it would warm up that day. I had a light poncho tucked in my purse but it did not cover my arms at all.
I finally arrived at the church and slipped in the side door. This is the front of the church. I know it doesn't look like a church. There's a reason for that, which I'll explain a little later.
It definitely looks like a church on the inside. It is bright and warm at the same time, and very inviting. I take off my poncho, pull my large scarf from my purse, and wrap it around my shoulders. It's going to be a good morning.
Ralston and Miriam explained to me that in the early 1700's when the church was established, German Lutherans asked the Calvinists permission to open their own church. This was granted, with two conditions: their building must not look like a church, and they must welcome refugees. Those refugees included the French Huguenots. (My Huguenot ancestors had already fled to Great Britain and later the American colonies by then.) And all these years later, the church is still serving refugees. During the announcements, I heard plans for a refugee employment workshop.
The words of the hymn "All Are Welcome" rang true, right to the heart. I did feel welcome. I felt so blessed to be among people who have a heart for those around the world, not just their own nation or their own culture.
The church prays for a few countries each week, and then includes parts of their Christian liturgy in the service. That morning: an Urdu chant from Pakistan, a hymn from Bangladesh, an alleluia and a hymn from India, a reading from Sri Lanka. I felt connected.
After the service, they invited me to the coffee hour in the basement. The church is divided into geographic small groups which take turns hosting.
Refreshed and nourished by Jesus-honoring worship, the tea and the tart and the gracious fellowship, I am glad I spent this slice of my day in the house of the Lord.
And now I'm ready to go forth and explore Geneve once again.
My Europe posts so far:
#1: Off to Europe!
#2: Our First Afternoon in Geneve
#3: On the Shores of Lake Geneva
#4: All Around Geneve, All by Myself
#5: Sweet Sunday Morning in Geneve
#6: Saint-Pierre Cathedral
#7: Musée d'Art et d'Histoire
#8: On Our Way to the Swiss Alps
#9: O Little Town of Lauterbrunnen
#10: Mürren and Gimmelwald by Cable Car
#11: Staubbachfall in Lauterbrunnen
#12: Foggy Days in Lauterbrunnen
#13: Trümmelbachfalle, Ten Waterfalls in a Big Swiss Cave
#14: St. Beatus Caves at Lake Thun in Switzerland
#15: An Evening in Bern