The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Meeting Jesus

I'm sitting in a back pew at church, a bit sad, a bit lost. A man sits behind me, chatting away. I'm also a bit annoyed because the service is well under way. I turn around to see what his "deal" might be. Crazy? Homeless? Both would be quite possible in my church. We exchange brief smiles. Huh. He seems happy.

I am not. It has been a rough couple of months. I've just returned from a profound and life-changing trip to the Middle East where I interviewed Iraqi refugees and accidentally fell in love with one of them. The Iraqi and I have since — in broken English texts and instant messages — painfully and awkwardly ended it all. And the refugee crisis itself is far from ending — 4 million Iraqis are homeless. And I am angry, frustrated and broken.

During the greeting, I decide to turn to the man behind me. We shake hands. He smiles enormously.

So here I am: An almost-40-still-single woman struggling with enough guilt and remorse for a nation, as well as a broken heart.

While the rest of the congregation listens to the pastor deliver the sermon, the man behind me sings. Seriously, dude?

I try to focus, but it's hard. Since returning, I feel separate, lonely. Re-entry has been difficult. I'm having a hard time rejoining U.S. culture — with all the things we have, how much we have and its focus on all the things its citizens have (and assume we'll always have). I'm desperately worried for the Iraqis I met, who used to have all we have and now have nothing. All of this is distracting me during the sermon. Plus there's a man humming a little ditty behind me.

So I pray: "Please, God. Help me. Show yourself to me. Make yourself known. I need you now. I am lost. I need Jesus right now. I need to believe in Jesus right now. I need to believe in a savior ... in something. I can't do this alone. I can't do any of this alone. Please, Jesus. Come to me. Walk with me. Be with me."

The service ends. I breathe. Everything is the same. I still hear happy noises behind me. I decide I need to speak to this man: "Hello. Welcome. Are you new here?"

"Oh, thank you!" he answers with abundant joy, "I am so glad to be here. I love it here! I am so happy here. What a wonderful place! I'm so grateful!" His smile beams.

"I'm Kim," I offer.

"Yes, yes, yes, of course," he says. "I am Jesus."


"You are ... I'm sorry, what is your name? Hay-sus ... or yeh-sus?" I ask. I'm convinced he could not have just said "Jesus."

"No, no. I am Jesus. Jesus," he clearly and plainly states, unaware of my silent prayers.

Really, God? Really?

I look into his eyes, this man who sat behind me on this day of all days, and feel immediate, headshaking, laugh-out-loud gratitude.

"Hello, Jesus," I say, smiling at last. 


John Dornheim

John Dornheim

Posted at 4:45 pm (U.S. Eastern) 8/9/2011

Thank you, Kim.

Paul & Mary Knapp

Paul & Mary Knapp

Posted at 3:10 pm (U.S. Eastern) 8/11/2011

Especially powerful to me.  Grateful thanks.

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Embracing diversity