While in Hawaii, we wanted to make sure we took the opportunity to visit the Oahu branch of the People of Praise - our brothers and sisters in the Lord. The Oahu branch is located primarily on the windward side of the island in Kailua. One member of the branch in Oahu, Whit AU, was featured in our Vine and Branches magazine in 2008. How cool is this job?!
Ben and I were blessed to be able to spend an "open" Lord's Day with the branch members on a Saturday evening. Most people we would see would be strangers. We went only knowing three people and we weren't sure they would be at this dinner. Nonetheless, we drove up to the house, walked into the back yard and were immediately greeted with warm smiles, hugs, and questions about who we were, did we know so and so in the Servant branch and how lucky we were to escape the cold for a couple weeks. It was hospitality at its best. Where else can you drop in on a back yard potluck and feel like you are at a family reunion? We don't have the personal history or relationships with most of the branch, but we share a common history in the Lord and understand each others customs, rituals, prayer, and ways of relating because we share our life in People of Praise. Each of the 21 branches of the People of Praise certainly has its own "flavor" and uniqueness, but we also have a unique bond and way of life that transcends our local geographic locations and customs.
Sharing the opening of the Lord's day is a good example of part of our culture that you can expect to see in any branch. We thank God for his blessings from the past week, pray for our personal needs, break bread and pass a cup of wine around to share together. We then share a meal and conversation together. This evening Lord's day opened with some prayer and reading (by a father and son), a lighting of a candle (the Lord's day light, by the mother) and passing around bread, cheese and wine. It was fun to see all the kids who could participate in this part of the Lord's day. They walked around to share the food and wine. Some needed some coaxing to come down from the tree they had perched themselves in to get a good view of everything, but they willingly served us anyway. We also heard stories from a few people of how they had been blessed, healed, strengthened in faith and seen the Lord work in the past week.
I was able to catch up with one lady, Joan, who grew up in Minnesota and whom I have known for a long time, but haven't seen or talked with her in decades. You wouldn't know it by how easily we fell into conversation and by the end of the evening, she had me convinced to come back to the islands with our kids and she even opened her home as a place to stay.
We also met a couple from the Saskatoon branch who are staying on Oahu for three months and have plugged into the life of the branch there to stay connected to community and form friendships. We know a few people in common so it was fun to find all the connections of relationships that we share across the country.
Our evening also included all of us taking a walk around the neighborhood in an attempt to make ourselves more visible in the neighborhood. Indeed, the neighbors witnessed something unique. Old folks, young kids, teenagers, young adults, married couples, older singles taking a walk together. And yes, while some of the folks are related to each other by blood, most are not.
Another element to our common life is prayer for and over one another. A family of four who had been part of the community in Oahu for about a year was soon to move to Washington state, a big transition for any family. One way we chose to send them off was to gather around them and pray for the blessings and power of the Holy Spirit to guide their journey and all the details of settling into a new life. I think this is a powerful tool that unites and strengthens a people, when we can pray together and support each other in life's changes.
Anytime you are on Oahu and looking for Christian fellowship, I would not hesitate to contact the branch and meet these wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ! They will open their hearts and homes to you.