“More than a blog or a website, the vision is an on-line watering hole—you know, a place to come when you need refreshment, a place where you’ve been out working in the fields and just need a moment to catch your breath, a place to let your guard down, a place to swap jokes or books or prayers, a place to known and be known.”
I have been a part of this community over the past year and though I am not currently living overseas, I feel like I have found “my people.” This is my first article to be published and I am so honored to be able to write for Velvet Ashes.
I wasn’t allowed to go to church for three years. I lived in a remote area of China with one female teammate that I met with on Sunday mornings. We would take turns planning our “service,” downloading sermons and singing along with Cyberhymnal online. And while I cherish the simplicity of those days, I also remember beginning to feel desperate for community. My soul thirsted for God in a dry and weary land where there was no water (Ps. 63:1).
I eventually took a risk. A precious Chinese mother-figure to me was very involved in the local house church, which was far from “underground.” A large red cross served as a sign for the unregistered meeting place of believers. I often ran along a dried up river that served as a dumping ground for a local dairy factory, right across from the church. So one morning I went on a run, with a stop along the way at the large red cross.
I didn’t understand much of the service, but I recognized the Spirit there. Sitting on tiny wooden benches with handmade quilt covers, the men on one side and the women on the other, I drank in the joyful singing, the passionate sermon and the intimate conversations. I was greeted with crinkly smiles and sparking eyes. My friend introduced me to her friends as if I was her daughter and I felt like I was finally among family in this place where I had felt so isolated and alone.
Out of respect for the rules of my organization and the safety of the Chinese believers, this was my only visit to this oasis in my city. It’s a strange world when going to church is breaking the rules or something to feel guilty about! Tears streamed down my face the first Sunday back in church in the states while I was home for a break, as the waterfall of worship poured over my soul. The wilderness taught me to cherish church like never before.
But for three years, I survived in a dry and weary land where there was no water, spiritually speaking.