Honoring God’s diversity in Malaysia
  • Seeking the peaceful path anew
  • Following directions from my GPS
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    Soul Rythem

    Seeing God in unfamiliar places

    I followed the signs until I reached the meditation center in the Amsterdam airport. I wanted a quiet place to spend some time during my four-hour layover Sunday. And I wanted to see what the room looked like and who would be there. Two Catholic nuns sat at a small table in the entry reading area, writing notes and looking at their Bibles and other books.

    I walked into a larger room and took a seat in the semicircle of chairs facing a window accented by an enticing blue stained-glass abstract painting. A sturdily built man with blond hair sat a couple of seats down from me on my right; shortly afterward, a middle-aged woman who appeared to be of European origins came in and sat to the left of me. On the floor in one corner lay two toddlers swaddled in blankets, only their eyes and foreheads visible. It took me a minute to realize that the bundles on the floor were alive. I closed my eyes and began to thank God for a safe journey thus far.

    I prayed for a while before becoming distracted by gentle rustling noises and low voices. I turned easily to see a couple of Middle Eastern women getting up from the floor where they had prayed. A couple of other young women, who had removed their shoes, were looking at the books on the shelves as a family that appeared to be from an African country stood nearby. The two youngsters in the group quickly unrolled their prayer rugs and got on their knees facing  the East, a Muslim prayer tradition.

    Others came and went, including the man who was to the right of me. He rose from his seat, knelt briefly and made the sign of the cross before easing out.  A  man who reminded me of a devoted church deacon from a black Southern church came in, placed two books on his lap and closed his eyes. My prayer time ended as I became fascinated by those who entered the room. As I was leaving, more people were floating in, seemingly pleased to find a sacred space to rest and to connect with their God – a place where respect for each other’s religion connects us to each other for a brief time. I left, taking with me the peace felt in the room and leaving behind any lingering wariness about traveling to yet another country where my religion is in the minority. Last year, it was China; this time it’s Malaysia, a multiethnic and multi-religious country of 28 million people.

    Amsterdam was my first stop on a trip where I hope to encounter God in unfamiliar places, to learn more about what God is doing throughout the world through His people and to strengthen my faith. It is where I changed planes after flying seven hours (and a time change) from Washington enroute to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I arrived safely and sleepily in Malaysia early Monday morning and will be attending this week the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), a global movement of Baptists who share a common confession of faith in Jesus Christ.

    I’m here representing the D.C. Baptist Convention, of which I am currently serving as president, and I will be joining with many other Baptists from all over the world in praying and worshiping God each morning before beginning the day’s roster of meetings. I am looking forward to learning what people are doing in Asia, Africa, North America, the Caribbean, Europe and Latin America to live out their Christian witness. Along with BWA business meetings, sessions will also be held on human rights advocacy, religious freedom, social and environmental justice, Baptist heritage and identity, Christian ethics, missions and other matters.

    As a first-time attendee, I am excited to see how this group is carrying out its purpose and to be a part of it. I am interested in seeing how we as Baptists work together to live out the Gospel that says we are of “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” and to see how that is done with love and respect for one another and for others.

    “BWA exists for the purpose of helping its member conventions, churches and institutions in their desire to faithfully participate in God’s purpose to reconcile all things to Gods’ self in Christ Jesus. It seeks to be an agent of God in networking the Baptist family to impact the world for Christ.”

    I hope to write while I’m here as I discover yet again how great our God is. Pray for me and for those gathered here that we remain open to hearing and seeing what it is God would have us join Him in doing in the world and that we will move in obedience to His call on our lives.  To God be the glory.

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