Thursday, November 16, 2006

Living World Religions Tour

So I went to Chicago this weekend with a few friends to meet a group from Harding coming there for a Living World Religions fieldtrip. I went with my roommate Amy to Madison, WI on Thursday to Julee Byram's house. I went to school with Julee. We stayed a quick night there, and left early Friday morning to go to Chicago. We first met the group of about 80 HU students and professors at the Baha'i House of Prayer in Chicago.

It was incredibly fun for me to see people. We weren't allowed to talk in the temple, and we barely got there in time, so I didn't get to talk to anyone before. It was so fun to see people see me and watch their eyes light up, but they couldn't talk! Most just gave me a big hug. Rebekah's reaction was my favorite. Rebekah was an intern in Honduras this last summer when I visited. I slid into a seat next to her while she was sitting alone contemplating the temple. She just gasped and hugged me for forever and continued to hold my hand long after that. She kept backing up and looking at me, then hugging me again in unbelief that I was there. I have hardly felt more loved than I did in that moment.

I started off writing a brief overview of each place I went, but just became frustrated with it. So I’m going to change the channel, and go a different direction. If you want to know more about each place we went, check out Amy’s website.

Here’s the list of all the places we went:
Baha’i House of Prayer
Islamic Center of Elston
Soka Gakkai (Buddist International Center)
Jewish Synagogue (Rodfel Zedek)
Hindu Temple (Shri Swaminarayan Mandir)
Willow Creek Community Church
Sikh Religious Society
Plus, we had a devo amongst ourselves.

What am I supposed to do with this weekend? I was on emotional overload. So overjoyed to be with great friends, so grateful for the conversations we had. I was humbled by the impact others’ religions have on their lives and impressed by their knowledge and commitment. I wondered if I could get up in front of 80+ people and field questions about Christianity in an effective way.

I was disturbed by the beliefs of some. I could see the appeal in most of them, especially in this post-modern generation. But I was left with questions, such as how can you find the meaning of life in chanting a certain phrase? How can you not believe in right and wrong? How can you pray towards a book, treating it like a holy person? How can you say you believe in what Jesus said and believe that other paths are ok? How can you pay someone to pray for you to a little carved image decorated with fake flowers and get fulfillment out of it? Maybe that’s what bothered me. I didn’t see fulfillment in the faces of the believers who practiced that last statement. I saw desperation, fear, and anxiety. I almost cried watching the Hindu worshippers.

I can’t imagine my life being on my shoulders and based on what I do. Maybe sometimes I live like that, but I don’t believe it. I just saw so many people this weekend running around like crazy, trying to please their god(s) in some desperate attempt for good fortune. It made me incredibly grateful for grace. Overwhelmed with grace. It made me want to serve God. Not the other way around.

I was so blessed to be able to talk with some outstanding professors from HU. Made me excited about….life. Maybe I’ll write more on that later. I’ll just say they believe in me, and that it huge.

It was a very eye-opening experience. I don’t know all the ways it will affect my life from now on. I wouldn’t trade some of the conversations of the weekend for anything. I’m very grateful I was able to have this experience.

On a totally unrelated topic, when we came back to Rochester, it had snowed! Apparently, it was about 10 inches, but a lot had melted by the time we got back. It was beautiful! I'm really warming up (haha) to this cold weather thing. Hats and scarfs are my new fun items.