Tonight at Sager Brown was the traditional Thursday night vesper service. It is an opportunity to reflect on the week's mission and ministry - and a chance to worship together with our new friends. I was honored to be the worship leader for the service led by various members of all the teams here. This afternoon I finally succumbed to a cluster headache that has been lurking for a couple of days - the medication made me groggy and a long nap made me feel like my brain and body were disconnected. As I sat waiting for the service to begin, I wondered if I would be able to make it through. I was swatting mosquitos (the state bird of Louisiana) and staring into space - then Geraldine began playing the piano and people around me were humming along.
A peace swept over me and I felt my spirit lift. Suddenly the headache and its lingering effects faded into the background. The service began and it fed my soul. As the congregation sang the hymns, I felt renewed. The worship team led in scripture, prayer and song - and then the congregation had an opportunity to share stories of experiences that blessed them this week.
We heard how individuals served by cleaning seniors' apartments and were blessed to hear about their lives. We heard how touched volunteers were by interactions with residents at the food distribution. One man told how people's faces lit up when they got to see the UMCOR Depot materials manager Freddie and hear his hearty greeting. Freddie is a big guy with a heart to match. Whether he is riding around on his forklift moving materials or stopping to give fellow staff member Rolanda a good natured ribbing - you can feel the love oozing out of every pore. Freddie is someone you just want to wrap up and ship home with you. But you'd need a big crate.
As the vesper service entered the sacred time of celebrating the Lord's Supper - the congregation sang a hymn that is fairly new (anything past 1970 is considered new in the Methodist church!) - One Bread, One Body. The lyrics to the refrain are "One Bread, One Body. One Lord of All. One Cup of Blessing which we bless. And we, though many, throughout the Earth. We are one body in this one Lord." That pretty much sums up the whole experience.
We join together - as different parts of the same body. Some of us are toes, some are hands, some are ears and others are feet. God takes all the parts and joins them together. We have come together and as this one body - we can accomplish great things.
After the service, a lot of hugging happened. And people exchanged phone numbers and emails and promises to find each other on Facebook. We don't want to lose the connections that we have formed. It will be hard to say goodbye (or just "see you later") but in our hearts we know that we will all still be a part of the same body.
United Methodists are part of a connectional ministry - each individual church contributes in some way to the whole. Some is through monetary apportionments (literally A Portion Meant - for others) and one way is through the connected ministry of UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief). This depot/warehouse contains kits created by United Methodist congregations all across the country. They merge together here in tiny little Baldwin, Louisiana for review and verification. Then they are scattered back out to the world.
We are much like those kits - we were sent from our congregations, supported by friends and family to come here to Baldwin where we have been tested and made ready to go back out into the world. Are we ready for deployment like the kits you see here? I sure hope so. I know I'm a little more ready than I was a week ago. When kits are deployed, the container is blessed by the volunteers working in the depot at that time...tonight's vesper service does much the same thing. And I pray that we will be a blessing to all those we encounter as we continue our work as the body of Christ.