First, thank you to everyone who has (and will) welcome us home! Last Sunday was filled with open arms, ecstatic energy, and an incredible reception with all of our kids' favorite snacks. We are honored to have been called to join you and are truly excited to be here!
On the way from Illinois to Washington, we spent the night in Lincoln, Nebraska. As I was checking into our hotel for the evening, the desk worker asked for my home address. I stood there, speechless. For some reason, God thought it was a good time to give me a heart-numbing punch to the gut: We were homeless.
I couldn't give them our Illinois address... it wasn't our house, not anymore. We hadn't completed our paperwork for our Puyallup apartment, either - so we couldn't use that address.
I swallowed hard and replied, "uh... the blue Dodge Caravan out front."
"No. Really. Where is home?" she insisted.
I quickly inserted, "We're in the middle of moving from Illinois to Washington and we have no home right now. I guess we're homeless," as I was getting a bit temperamental from being hangry (a combination of hungry and angry - which is not a good thing in the Bayer family).
"Oh. I see," the desk worker said in stoic tone. "Do you have the address of your new place of employment or anything on the other side?" she continued.
Thank God for cell phones, yeah? I pulled up oslc.com and scrolled to the bottom. "Yes! 4519 112th Street East, Tacoma, Washington 98446."
"That's a church, isn't it?" she looked up with rays of light in her eyes.
"Yes, it is. How did you know?" I asked inquisitively.
"I used to live on Waller Road... and graduated from Franklin Pierce High School. I'm actually finishing up school here in Lincoln and then moving with my fiancé to Chicago... Logan Square. It's like we're living reverse lives!" she said with excitement, sensing a connection.
After exchanging some additional pleasantries, she handed me our breakfast coupons with our room keys and said, "enjoy your new home."
I replied, "Thanks! Have a great night!" and walked back toward our van.
She probably did not intend for her words to have much meaning. But, thinking about them today, they were in some ways prophetic (truth-telling, as opposed to future-telling).
OSLC is home for the homeless... for me... for us... for you... for the close to 200,000 people in our little corner of the region who are far from "home". That means, we get to be family and create space for our friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors to experience the home of the unchanging God... a kind of home full of belonging and acceptance... of truth and grace... of love and growth... a home and family they may have never experienced before.
Speaking of home, as our boys are getting ready for school and the boxes continue to get unpacked, I'm reminded that home is not a limited space contained within four walls. Rather, home is the place where deep relationships are formed and nurtured. It's a place where women, children, and men can gather together and are free to be themselves. Home is a place and space of radical welcome and hospitality. And, I believe people today are searching for a home like this.
If you're like me, you know what it feels like to be isolated, fearful, lonely, scared, alone. Could it be that before we need another church, we need a home? And, more specifically, we need a family there to welcome us home. A home like the Father's house that hosted the party for both the scandalous younger brother and the religious older brother in Luke 15. Check it out.
OSLC is home... for you... for me... for us... and I believe, for thousands to come... not only because it's one of the many spaces an unchanging God connects with a changing world - but also because it's the place the Father continues to welcome us, our friends, our family, and all those who are far from God. Indeed, when we are far off, Jesus brings us home (Ephesians 2:13).
I don't know about you, but I'm glad to be home - with you. I'm ready to help a changing world and its people connect back with the unchanging God.
Love you more than you know.