The apartment across the hall had about 50 pairs of shoes outside the door. I asked a gentleman who was standing nearby how many people lived there. He shook his head and said,"No, only one family. These (pointing at the shoes) are here for devotion."
He opened the door and I looked inside to see an apartment full of Bhutanese refugees praying. He invited me in and I sat down in an open chair by the door. After the prayer, the man beside me began playing the guitar and everyone started singing in Nepalese and clapping and smiling.
More and more people came into the apartment and miraculously an opening on the floor, or on the sofa, or on the table or even under the table would appear and the newcomer would sit down and begin to sing and clap. Not one person walked past me without extending their hand and smiling warmly. The second song they sang (I recognized the melody) was "Seek Ye First." I sang along in English because no one could hear me anyway,
Seek ye first the kingdom of God
And His righteousness
And all these things shall be added unto you
Ask and it shall be given unto you
Seek and ye shall find
Knock and the door shall be opened unto you
They really sang out on the Alleluias. I was overcome with emotion and started to cry. I was so embarrassed but they just kept smiling and nodding their heads in agreement, or sympathy, or solidarity with me. I felt like they understood my tears. Then suddenly, this hits me, it was almost like I heard a voice, my own voice, say, "Oh, this is what church is."
Caren is a student at Vanderbilt University Divinity School currently interning with World Relief Nashville for the 2011-2012 academic year.