By Pastor Deb Stehlin
For several months (yes, months!) Pastor Jorge Espinoza has been abiding at a mobile home park in Chaska. With others, he organized a summer soccer league, put on a day camp, and tutors children. After months of gentle, loving presence, a man attending an event Pastor Jorge organized with residents asked him, “Tell me about your church. Who are Lutherans?”
Pastor Jorge trusted the slow work of God, and the power of showing up. And, finally, after a while, people became curious.
For three years (yep, years!) Pastor Marissa Sotos has been abiding in the North Loop neighborhood of downtown Minneapolis. She inhabits coffee shops, rents a co-working space, hosts “Tuesday Topics” at a local bar/restaurant, and holds dinner church at an event space every month. Oh the joy, when people say yes to an invitation, because participants know it is a safe space for millennial and queer people who aren’t quite sure about church. Oh, the slow work of God, and the power of showing up!
For decades (uh huh, decades!) Pastor Jane Buckley-Farlee has been abiding in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. She’s the pastor of Trinity Lutheran Congregation, the last Christian church in that area. She’s a trusted colleague of the imams, chats with neighborhood moms while their kids enjoy homework help with Augsburg students, and is a gentle, loving presence at community meetings and events. After decades, the mosque and Christian congregation are wondering about ways to serve the neighborhood together. I marvel at the slow work of God and the power of showing up.
THESE FAITHFUL LEADERS are teaching me the value of patience, deep trust in God, and the power of love. This is not easy work in a culture that has been shaped by corporate executives who are pressured to produce a return on investment each quarter, and movies that solve big problems in 90 minutes.
In the story of Paul, Timothy, and Silas in Acts 16, it takes only four verses to tell a story of a journey in which they try to bring a message of God’s love to new places, but are prevented in three different regions. Because the story is so compact, I always assumed that it all happened very quickly. But what if it took a very long time? What if they abided, and abided, and abided in each place?
Eventually, Paul was given a dream which led them to a river where they met a group of women including Lydia, who asked, “Will you come and abide at my home?”
Oh, the slow work of God and the power of showing up!