Yearning for Healing

From a single child to millions of refugees, the church yearns to welcome.

by Scott Morris

Years ago a mother brought her daughter to Church Health’s wellness center. The little girl was blind and in a wheelchair because of a deforming disease. “Do you think you have anything for her?” the girl’s mother asked. “She gets bored throughout the day.” Kimberly, who runs our children’s program at Wellness, took the girl around and explained the various options.

“I want to dance,” the girl said.

Kimberly was unfazed and began to work with this child who wanted to feel her body move. Several months later, I walked by the dance studio and there she was, all by herself, dancing in her own way.

That was a welcome that brought healing by seeing as whole a young girl whom many saw as broken.

Healing is inseparable from welcome.

I was not much older than that little girl when I first visited Paris with a school choir. Having been duly warned that Parisians disliked Americans, I expected the worst. My experience, though, was that the people of Paris went out of their way to be kind and helpful and warm and compassionate.

That was a welcome that healed misconceptions I had been prepared to accept as truth. When Paris experienced ISIS violence a few weeks ago, I thought of the people who generously treated me as though I were one of them. I pray the city will know the healing it has offered so many.

The Statue of Liberty in New York was a gift from the French people to commemorate freedom and democracy in the wake of the American Civil War. At the time, though, France had its own struggles between strident factions, with large-scale violence and loss bound up in the outcome.

Yet the words on the plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty say, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.”

Yearning to be free. Free from brutality. Free from fear. Free from the toxic exhaustion of poverty. Free from having no place to belong.

Yearning for a healing welcome.

Over its history the United States has welcomed millions. Even now, most people you know would be able to tell you at least snippets of family history and how they came to be in this country.
In the face of the world’s staggering refugee crisis, right now in the moment that I write this and the moment that you read it, violence and suffering are still knotted into the question of welcome.

Healing is inseparable from welcome, whether on the scale of a little girl looking for a place to live wholeheartedly with disabilities, families trying to stay alive long enough to find a new home, or mindsets that prevent us from listening to each other and seeing the image of God even in those we don’t know on the other side of the world.

Welcoming is one of the values we have articulated at Church Health and strive to live into with each new day when we open our doors. We choose this value with intention because we believe the church should choose this value.

People living with disabilities. Refugees grieving lives they leave behind. The poor within our own borders. Even the people with whom we fundamentally disagree.

Can the church be authentically welcoming, without setting up “us” and “them” categories?

Clearly the New Testament teaches that the followers of Jesus are expected to offer hospitality to strangers. How do we respond to those who come knocking on our doors, whether metaphorically or literally?

When the judgment day comes, may we all confidently know that we did all we could to say, “Welcome.”

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