Although our church in Ecuador is quite different than the ones we have attended in the states (for example, our Lojano church has a dog wandering in and out of service), there are several things that are the same.
One of those similar things is that we enter, greet, listen, and leave, sometimes never connecting with a single person.
Today, our pastor asked us to break into small groups. It was still service time, and we stayed in our sanctuary but we were divided into groups of about 10 each. We each shared our names, most of us realizing that we did not even know the names of some of the people we greeted each Sunday morning.
My group began to try to make connections.
"My name is Maria. I am Giovani's niece"
"Oh, Giovani's niece? Gloria's sister?"
And so it went until we reached a woman named Estrella. She told us her name and then...
"This is my first time in church. I am just curious. I am Catholic, but I need answers. My relative attends here sometimes, but I am here alone."
Sara then asked Estrella if there was anything we could pray with her about. This woman, her first time in an evangelical church, alone, and I am sure so very confused by the foreign format and service began to cry. "I am without work. I have been without work for months now. My daughter is sick and we are waiting the results of some lab work. I am scared."
We began to pray for this stranger, who probably never expected to even be seen, much less heard and it struck me. What if it had been a normal Sunday? What if we had entered, greeted, listened, and left, all without even noticing the new comer who had arrived bearing a burden? What if we had never asked her name? What if we hadn't tried to connect? What if she had never been seen much less heard?
In the past couple of months God has taught me to ask to very powerful questions:
1. How are you suffering? (because everyone is suffering in some form)
2. How can I pray for you? (because this question is much more revealing than "How are you?")
So, I challenge you this week to ask someone a harder question. It will seem awkward at first, but you will be amazed at what people are willing to reveal to you when simply asked. Because, a burden shared is not as heavy as the ones we have to bear by ourselves.