Pilgrim Place is an amazing retirement community that includes many missionaries from around the world. I love going to their dining hall because I always see familiar faces from growing up in Japan. While I have visited many times before, this is the first visit where I have eaten at the dining hall three days in a row. Seating is randomly assigned each meal, so you never know who you’re going to meet.
Day 1: Had lunch with my 2nd grade teacher. How cool is that?
Day 2: Had lunch with a couple who are unusual here. The community is almost entirely comprised of people from mainline backgrounds, yet this couple have a son who is the new senior pastor at the local Vineyard church down the street. When I learned that the husband used to teach contextual missiology, I told them I was keenly interested in applying missiology here in the United States to reach a new culture that is hostile to the church. I was surprised when they asked, “Have you heard of postmodern churches?” I was blown away when I said I was interested in emerging churches and they said, “Oh, you’ve heard of emerging churches?”
Turns out they recently went to a conference with Brian McLaren and have some connection through their children with both McLaren’s church and Mars Hill Church. We talked a little about missiology (I wish I could pick their brains for days), but then the wife added, “Strategy and planning is good, but in the end, you need the Holy Spirit.”
Day 3: Had lunch today with a lady whose husband just went into hospice care. Shamelessly adapting Doug Pagitt‘s words, Death is a member of this community. One of the lunch announcements was about the passing last night of one of the community. In addition to extended family, Kay’s dad’s college roommate is visiting — because his wife died six months ago and his kids gave him a trip to the Rose Bowl to get him out of the house. And because so much family is visiting, Kay & I are staying not with her folks or in the guest house (which is completely booked) but in a house made available to us — available because the wife died six months ago and the husband needed to get away. Yet even in her death and his grief, they extended hospitality to us.
I noticed pamphlets in the lounge area on how to cope with grief. When the lady at lunch left early because she had “things to do,” another lady took her hand and said, “I know what you’re going through,” and I realized that this other lady had lost her husband. So in a community like this, you not only have medical care, but the support of others who have experienced their own grief. As the first lady left, I stood up and took her hands in my own, and said, “God bless you.” Not because I have any firsthand knowledge of grief. Just because. And as I did so, I realized that Death is a full member of this community, not ignored as it usually is in USAmerican society. In giving her a blessing, I was blessed.