Serving in a church where the majority of the population has used meth, lived on the streets and served time in prison has its challenges for a suburban girl. Everyone in our church loves to hug. I don’t know what it is about street people and drug addicts, but they like hugging. It’s very sweet but has its down side. Some people in our church have never learned how to bath properly. Soap and laundry detergent cost too much for those barely making it, and deodorant is a luxury item. Recently, I was wearing a brand new coat and one of our church members came up and hugged me. I got into my car after that hug and had a permanent stench on my coat of body odor that smelt like a dogs butt. Luckily, after days of airing out my coat, the smell went away.
A couple of years ago a little girl named Jessica started coming to our church. Living only a couple of block away, she would walk to church all by herself. Jessica was 9 years old and we figured that her mother was a drug addict. Each Sunday Jessica wore a dress that hadn’t been washed for several weeks and she smelt like she had bathed in urine. Every time she came to church she would run around hugging all who would wrap her up and give her attention. Each Sunday I would expect a hug from Jessica and her smell would stick to me for the next few hours until I went home and changed my clothes. Jessica faithfully attended church and we continued to love that little girl until Jessica was removed from her home and put in foster care. We have not seen her since.
My nose often reminds me of God’s ability to love us through the stench. Every Sunday morning as I smell the various odors of our church, from cigarettes, body odor and sometimes urine, I am reminded that God has embraced our deepest odors. He loves us despite the grime in our life that causes us to stink. Our job as the church is to embrace those the world rejects, those who are called the poor, the afflicted and outcasts.
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