"Let it rise about the four winds, Caught up in the heavenly sound,
Let praises echo from the towers of cathedrals, To the faithful gathered underground..."
"Hola, Teacher Coh-nee!" I turn the corner at church this morning onto what I call "International Hall," a hallway of Sunday school classrooms which, at 10:30am every Sunday, is lined on both sides with people from 20+ different countries. Pastor Meng Pu of Burma shakes my hand with his million-dollar face-wrinkling smile, Margarita of Ecuador kisses both of my cheeks in greeting, Marta envelops me in a warm and colorful hug in her traditional Congolese robe, and Jose of Mexico gives me a thumbs-up and says, "You ready to teach? I am ready to learn!"
This is one of my favorite moments of my week. It makes me convinced that I must always be involved in a multicultural church... I want to always see people together who look and act and talk differently but who have the same love for Jesus. I think it's the way we're meant to be as Christians. And when I'm in the thick of it I just have to smile.
I remember sitting in wonder and awe at the 2003 InterVarsity Urbana Mission Conference, where I was surrounded by 20,000 other Christian students from all corners of the world. I loved playing "Where in the world?" every time I was on an elevator, in a bus, or at a lunch table. I loved watching the different ways people worshipped - hands raised, heads bowed, feet dancing, eyes closed. I loved listening to the sound of 20,000 voices singing worship songs in different languages. I loved hearing the stories about how God was at work in so many different villages and cities and countries. I loved realizing that my life is only one small colorful tile in the brilliant mosaic of God's global Church.
Stories about the Church fill me up - stories of martyrs and persecution break my heart, while stories of growth and miracles give me joy... and often these stories are intertwined. I'm humbled when I hear that pastors in prison do not ask us to pray for their release, but that the gospel will be made known where they are. I'm inspired when I read how trials and danger strengthen the Church and compel it to become even more bold in its faith. God's people are shaking salt, shining light, and sowing seeds everywhere.
It's exciting to be made more aware of this truth when I roll down International Hall, when I see the Hispanic church gathering at 9:00, when I hear the Chin Zo church sing, when I smell the weekly lunches the Chinese church eat together... it's exciting to know that when I sing worship songs to my Jesus I am one voice in the choir of international saints singing together with our lives: "Glory! Hallelujah! He reigns!"