Most of today was spent at the Antwerp International Protestant Church; they welcomed us in for their morning worship and an after-church lunch. For many of the Moslem participants, this was their first time in a Christian church. The pastor was careful to explain the meaning behind each part of the service: how and why we were praying, the music, the reading of the scripture, and the purpose of the sermon.
We are watching for “critical incidents” this week; these are conversations or events that make obvious a cultural difference or potential misunderstanding. I overheard several rather intense discussions between out participants and some of the church members (who are nearly all expats). One Chinese churchgoer jumped right in to questions about mixed marriages between Moslems and Christians (he was a very jovial fellow which, I think, took the edge off the abruptness of his questions). He suggests all the Christian men need to marry Moslem women and the Moslem men should marry Christian women. This would apparently solve many of the world’s problems. Somehow I think that might add an additional level of complexity but, perhaps there is also some merit to that type of thinking (I’d imagine the food at family reunions would be amazing).
After several hours at the church and a session on how to be a good guest (they went to their Dutch host families tonight), we went on to the Netherlands and stopped at a dike for a group photo. This proved to be a bigger event than expected; I think some of the kids had never seen a field of grass. They were relishing in it. They rolled down the hill laughing and shouting. It was like people who had never seen snow before; it took quite a lot of coaxing to get everyone back on the bus. I’m going to ask tomorrow if “safe” open places are an issue; it may be that they don’t readily have outdoor places to go.