Sunday, August 07, 2005

Stepping Outside the Walls

It's so much more comfortable in the 'familiar' isn't it? Familiar friends, familiar surroundings, familiar conversation topics....it seems to us 'normal'. We are used to 'familiar'. It's safe. We know what to expect. We know what doesn't upset the cart.

It's refreshing to me when a church steps outside the walls of its building and goes into the unfamiliar. I've been wanting, for a long time now, to find some way to connect with loved ones enduring AIDS or HIV. Not through some program or ministry or because of a godly agenda or anything. I just want to connect and get to know them. (That - to me - is ministry by the way). I found out through the grapevine that one particular church in the city (not considered a 'gay church' by any standard but very much sensitive to loving this and all communities), was partnering with the AIDS/HIV clinic in hosting the annual picnic for adult and kid patients. In speaking to the woman organizing it, there was a need for someone to help transport food from their church to the park where the picnic was to be held so I made myself available to serve.

A few days ago, she called me to keep today's picnic in prayer because at the time some of the parents in the church were somewhat concerned about having their kids around some of the homosexuals. We prayed together. Today was the picnic and it was all great. There didn't appear to be any outward conflict, however, i'm sure some (not all) of the people were a bit cautious. There was a pretty good turn out and there was a good mix of church people, homosexuals (noticeably so), kids, those with AIDS and HIV.

When we finished unloading all the food and it was a time of just hanging out, I noticed that I found myself standing around with the other church people. We all just looked around and observed the different kinds of people. People with strange (oops, I mean uniquely colored) hair. People who were a bit eccentric. People with (what i call) the 'gay accent'. People with kids. People of different ethnicities. You couldn't really tell who had AIDS/HIV and who didn't except for a few. As i stood with the other church people, just looking around, all huddled up in a group - I couldn't help but think how separated the group seemed.

I do think that this was an awesome thing that this church was doing. It was this church's attempt at stepping outside their walls. But some of the people, though physically at the park, still were instinctively inside the walls of their comfort zone. I decided to break out - away from the group. Mingle.

I met some really interesting and awesome people. I met people with passion. I met people with needs. One guy has had HIV for 20 years! The evolving medicine really has made a difference in extending the life span of those infected - albeit very expensive. I also met a great guy who had been infected who leads three groups for those on Crystal Meth. In talking with him for awhile, i had just assumed that he was gay until it finally dawned on me that he had been infected through needles and the groups he was referring to was actually a 12 step program. As i hugged and shook hands and talked with many many people, I began to see just how much the Church misses out on the real ministry of relationships when they stay within their walls - either the walls of their building or the walls of their comfort zone.

It was a refreshing day of meeting new friends. I'm looking forward to getting to know many of them more!

5 comments:

Karl said...

Thanks for this touching story. I wish I had 1% the compassion that you have.

Benji said...

What an amazing story of love and humility. I'm truly blessed to have read that. Youre ever in my prayers.

Mark said...

That's great, Eric. Glad you took the leap and mingled. In the end people are just that -- people. And they have the most fascinating stories to tell and journeys to relate.

Blessings,

sfsteve said...

Eric:

My heart breaks when I read your post because I remember being in your shoes 20 years ago. More than anything I want to tell you its ok, that if in fact you are gay (and frankly, I have a hard time thinking that you are not) that doesn't mean you are foreclosed from a life that is meaningful and filled with love. Hear that from someone once in your shoes, now about to celebrate his tenth anniversary.

I would like to be a bit more blunt, but I'm afraid you would take offense. What I think is most important is that you meet some gay friends as soon as possible, and don't limit your circle of friends to people who identify as "Christian."

Eric said...

Thanks sfsteve,

I appreciate your encouragement and feedback. I don't take offense at all.

I actually am making many many gay friends and it's very refreshing. As to this specific post, I did have friends there from that church. I just wanted to make more new friends. =)

I noticed the "church people" being a bit standoff-ish so I stepped out so as to not be that way.

Bless you!