by Kathy Neufeld Dunn, WDC Associate Conference Minister (Kansas-Based)
On a recent flight, I was reading Sara Mile’s autobiography, Take This Bread: A Spiritual Memoir of a Twenty-First-Century Christian. Toward the end of the flight, my seat mate asked me what I was reading. I showed her the book and gave her the briefest of summaries. “It’s about a journalist who walks into an Episcopal Church out of sheer journalistic curiosity. She’d grown up atheist. She found new life and hope and Jesus at the communion table. Now she’s a deacon feeding hundreds of people through their food pantry.”
“Huh,” she responded, sounding skeptical. “Sounds like something my mother’s book club would like.”
“Um, maybe,” I ventured. Then I let her read a paragraph about the author’s troubled early life as a war zone correspondent.
“Oh, no! That’s not for my mom.”
Then my seat mate asked me why I was reading it. I told her that I appreciated the way that Miles’ new-found faith connected with her life in very practical, and frankly, very complex ways as she recognized the connections between physical hunger, and feeding others, and the way God feeds and nurtures us.
This woman’s experience seems real to me,” I said. “It’s not an easy, fluffy faith.”
“Huh.” My seat mate looked more thoughtful and fell silent.
I thought the conversation was over, because our flight was coming to an end, then she asked me where I was headed to, and I asked her the same. As we talked about our homes and families, all of a sudden she told me about her recent experience in Easter worship with her mother, which had not been a positive one. I asked what might have been more meaningful to her at Easter worship?
“Maybe talking about hope on Easter!” Then she got teary as she talked about her dad’s recent death. Suddenly, we were deep into the spiritual concerns of life, death, and new life. I was grateful for the chance to listen and minister to my seat mate. But she wasn’t finished with her faith questions. As the plane touched down, she asked,
“Do you really think there are churches that are real?”
“Yes, I do. I’ve been part of several.”
“Who did you say you’re with again?”
“Mennonite Church USA.”
“Huh,” and she smiled.
A book opened a door to a missional conversation. We never know when the Holy Spirit might nudge open a door to a person’s heart and mind. You never know when you might be given the opportunity to “give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3.15). When we have the courage to tell our brothers and sisters what God has done for us, how the Holy Spirit has strengthened us and brought us peace, and how Jesus has given us new paths to walk in his way in the real lives we lead, more doors might appear.
Don’t be afraid. Be real. Talk about your faith and the hope that you have in Christ when you’re given the opportunity.