I watched from the side of the museum gallery as the team found the painting needed to crack the code. They gathered around the clue, and I continue my observation. I found joy seeing their excited expressions as their efforts to free the secret message were fruitful. The message unraveled to reveal, “Find the Lost.”
The team’s eyes darted away from the parchment glancing quickly around the gallery and back to the clue. “What do you think it is? Another painting? A sculpture?” The guesses were plentiful. One team member said, “I think I may have seen something over here.” Like a school of fish, the team began to move. They remained schooled together in another spot in the gallery. Not seeing anything titled “Lost”, they stood together for a few more seconds. Eventually, some of the team members more confidently moved away from their group and began in earnest to look around.
No one had yet noticed the stranger walking amongst them. He seemed very odd. He began to talk out loud to himself, “My, this is a big gallery. I’m not sure I know my way around… hmmm… I’m feeling nervous that I may not find my way. I seem to be little…lost.”
Something very interesting happened. The team immediately clued in to the fact that it wasn’t “what” they needed to find, but “who”. They needed to help the guy who was Lost!
Now, you’re probably thinking, “Well, of course, isn’t that obvious?” Surprisingly, no!
In the eight years I’ve designed these adventures and used the secret agent who is Lost, most teams maneuver away from this stranger. As puzzling as it sounds, it’s as if teams can’t be bothered by the interruption and want to get this odd person out of their way as quickly as possible so that they can return to their mission… to look for the lost. How bemusing!
Some teams will actively ignore the stranger, never making eye contact or speaking to the Lost as they continue on – lost in their own thoughts about their own task. Some teams go so far as to point out museum staff who could help direct the Lost. Others have called the help line to report that there’s a strange person nearby “creeping” them out. They want to know if someone can make the Lost go away. Fascinating!
So I was overjoyed but not surprised at the way the GPPC teams I observed that day tried to be so helpful to the Lost Stranger.
Five years ago, my family and I experienced a great loss. My daughter died because someone made the irresponsible choice to drive while intoxicated. For the next four years I was lost in a world of deep grief, overwhelming despair, and fierce anger. My faith felt as if it had turned to dust. I doubted everything I had ever believed about God. I wandered through the ruins of what had been my life looking for answers, thinking that I could find them on my own, believing that if I did this thing or that thing, I could fix myself. I was definitely Lost.
Lost is where God found me. God then led me to GPPC. Every person I encountered that first visit helped me to feel welcomed. I didn’t know anyone in the congregation, yet people treated me not as a Stranger, but as a person who belonged. Initially, I had seen this awful thing that happened as God’s abandonment. Through worship at GPPC, I’ve been reminded that it is through God’s mercy and grace that I can trust that God has been and is always present with me, providing for and protecting me. As we say in prayer together during worship, “Lord we believe. Help our unbelief.”
That was nine months ago. I am now a member. GPPC offers many opportunities to return to God what belongs to God already: ourselves.
We show our gratitude for the undeserved gift of God’s grace when we worship God regularly. Through worship, we faithfully offer ourselves to God. We show our gratitude for the undeserved gift of God’s grace by breathing in every spiritual gift that God intends for us. The study of God’s Word and prayer helps us in this growth. We show our gratitude for the undeserved gift of God’s grace by breathing out every spiritual gift God intends for others. Sometimes we do this by offering our help to those who are made to feel Lost or Forgotten in our broken world.
Lisa Dove joined GPPC a few months ago. She works in marketing and media relations for a nonprofit organization associated with community health care. She writes this post in honor of her daughter, whose birthday is tomorrow, Palm Sunday. Mary-Kathryn would have turned twenty-six. She was a warm, compassionate and loving young lady. Mary-Kathryn never knew a stranger.