Hey, Paul here.
I’ve been reflecting lately on all the times that the church of the Nazarene never ceases to shock me on how connected it is.
I didn’t grow up in the Nazarene world, but have gotten increasingly connected lately since going to college. Going to school, events, and trainings coupled with two internships and now a Seminary program have begun to build our network. Elizabeth and I are starting to get to the point of knowing Nazarenes in lots of places, or meeting people for the first time who already know someone we know. So, I decided to make a list of my most surprising incidents of connection. There are more than I realized.
1. Meeting a friend of a seminary administrator who was the star of an anecdote shared back in January
While we were in Kansas City, one of our program administrators told a story about a friend of his who hates sour cream and how he sent that friend a video of his kid eating sour cream to gross him out. On site here, I worked with the district at a district committee event, and happened to meet the friend who starred in the story. He’s a pastor out here.
2. Meeting Steve again at a Nazarene convention
In 2014 I worked in Philadelphia for a summer with a missionary family. The church hosted some weeks of Work and Witness teams, who coincidentally all came from parts of Ohio. I made a few relationships with members of those teams, but never really expected to see them again. A year later, Elizabeth and I got sent by a professor of ours to a Work and Witness convention, in South Central Ohio. We found out we were going right before the event happened, and arrived somewhat late. When we walked in the door, a man was doing registration at a table down a long hallway. In disbelief, I found myself saying “Steve?!” And heard my name back in equally surprised terms. Elizabeth thought that I had called ahead or knew who to expect. I had not and did not. There was Steve, an electrician who was on one of the Work and Witness teams in Philly the year before. We had done some work together and had some conversations. I was blown away to see him again. There were also a few others from those teams that came to that convention. Nazarenes…
3. Knowing the district in Missouri where a church leader Elizabeth’s dad mentioned serves as District superintendent.
On a visit to Elizabeth’s parents’ house, we were eating breakfast in their dining room one morning. Elizabeth’s dad was talking about Nazarene political activity, and mentioned another Nazarene, an out of state District leader. When he did so, I happened to be walking into the kitchen from the dining room. On my way out, I heard him say something along the lines of “Yeah, he’s working out there on the, uh, which district is that…?” Before I knew it, I found myself yelling “Joplin!” from the kitchen. I then said something about how I was becoming a Nazarene even unwillingly…
I had attended a training the summer before, and that very district leader was a teacher in a couple of the training sessions.
4. Traveling to a small country church and having a woman recognize Elizabeth (by sight only even!) as her mother’s daughter.
Last fall, we traveled extensively in Ohio to fundraise and gain partners. We went to a small church for a missions service and dinner, and a woman from the church eating at the church dinner with us said “You’re Miriam’s daughter, aren’t you?” to Elizabeth. She recognized her as looking enough like her mom to place her as related. We hadn’t even given our last names, and Elizabeth was a Harding then. Again, I was surprised, but not overly surprised because…Nazarenes.
5. Being in that same small country church’s missions service and hearing them pray for an African missionary who we had just met and traveled with a few months before.
In July, we had traveled to Philadelphia to do a deputation service with a professor of ours. He was traveling with a missionary friend of his, who lives and works in West Africa. We had a great trip.
In that small church’s missions service, the church had a portion of the service dedicated to prayers for missions. One of the written prayer requests was “We pray for ______ _____ (first and last name!) and the work in ________ (his country!). We knew that beyond a faraway missionary that was important to pray for, the name meant nothing in-depth to the other attendees. But we were blown away that they were praying for a missionary we just happened to have met and traveled with a few months before!
These five incidents are only the most compelling of the coincidences, reconnections, and surprising lines of contact that have happened to us in the past two years or so.
This is one of the things that I love about the Church of the Nazarene. There is always a connection in every place you go. You can go into nearly any city where a Nazarene Church is, and find someone you know by some sort of distant connection. It truly is a global church.