Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Holy Hugs

About a month ago, I was blessed with the opportunity to begin serving for GRIP Outreach for Youth as a coach for a program called SLAM. SLAM is held weekly on Monday nights for at-risk youth to come and spend an evening in prayer, fellowship, learning about the gospel, and sports. It’s a huge honor to be a coach, and even in this short amount of time, I can already see transformation in the lives of these kids…and in me.

Last weekend, one of my SLAM girls was baptized. To celebrate and show support, another coach and I piled in a car with 4 other girls and drove to the way south side of Chicago.

As we rounded the corner of 45th and Princeton, we came upon a church called Fellowship Baptist Missionary Church, otherwise known as “The Ship” to its members. I felt like a fish out of water for a few reasons, but mostly the look and feel of this church was nothing like what I’m used to. Well, the look wasn’t that different. It was a brown brick building with some stained glass windows and a big door that lead into the sanctuary. The inside had rows of pews that formed a semi circle around the altar and there were pews behind for the choir. The feeling, though, was different and it struck a chord with me.

This church had ENERGY. The people were EXCITED. The pastor spoke with outbursts of PASSION. The choir sang from deep within their SOULS.

I was amazed and delighted by this difference. The feeling in this church was contagious. I found myself standing up, clapping and dancing along with the opening song with a chorus that was so simple, yet so powerful….


Listen to a version of this same song here.  It's called Awesome by William Murphy.

This first song was followed by a few others, and then the pastor was introduced. Pastor Jenkins made his way up the aisle with roaring applause from the congregation.

My first thought was, “Why don’t I cheer on and encourage our pastor’s as they take their place at the podium? Why don’t we exalt the church leaders for sharing God’s word at my church?”

Shortly after this thought, Pastor Jenkins said, “Thank you all for coming to join us at The Ship today. We’d like to welcome all of our newcomers. Would all of you first timers stand up so we can welcome you.”

Cori, the other SLAM coach, and I look at each other with wide eyes and slowly stand up. As if we didn’t stick out enough already, now we had to stand up?!? We were both a little nervous. Pastor Jenkins says, “We thank the Lord for bringing you here today. We hope to see you come back again. Everybody, before they sit down, make sure that they get a HOLY HUG!”

Immediately after I look around and see countless pairs of arms wide open ready to give me a hug and welcome me to this church. I was touched. I was no longer an outsider. I had no reason to be nervous. I was welcomed into this church family.

Even though I’m lucky to already have a home at Park Community Church, I plan on going back to The Ship every so often. I don’t want to lose the ENERGY, EXCITEMENT, and PASSION, and I want to feel those things in the depths of my SOUL.

I also want to give lots of HOLY HUGS.

Live Sweetly :)


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