Both parishes I served prior to embarking on this new role of theological educator were relatively small. Visitors were relatively rare, whether congregants or members of the larger city stopping by at random. By and large I enjoyed unexpected drop-ins, depending on what I was working on at the moment. Certainly there were times when I was under pressure to finish something and the interruptions were stressful. But by and large I figure it’s part of my job to deal with people in any situation the Holy Spirit presents. But I can imagine how unexpected visitors might be more problematic to pastors of much larger parishes.
But this week, faced with two unexpected extra days in Omaha, I decided to take a risk. I chose a few LCMS congregations around town, more or less randomly, and just drove there, hoping there was someone in the office I could introduce myself to and leave some of our prayer cards with. I knew some might be irritated by an unexpected visit. After all, protocol – although unofficial – encourages visiting only after an invitation is extended. But getting an invitation can be a time-consuming process of multiple e-mails and phone calls. I had a small window of time and decided to set protocol aside for the time being.
I stopped by about half a dozen different congregations. As expected, some of them were closed. But, nothing really lost except a bit of time and gas – both of which were not in short supply! Thankfully I was able to make connections at several of the congregations. Getting just a few minutes to speak with a pastor or office administrator proved fruitful in terms of promising to send further information that might help their congregations – supporters of missionaries in the past – to the right people to help them get reconnected.
I definitely had a few odd looks as well, but that’s to be expected. Unexpected, unannounced, unknown visitors are perhaps more often than not a source of complications and conundrums instead of celebration. Fortunately those looks softened after I handed them our prayer cards and explained who I am and what I’m doing. I can easily imagine my wariness and surprise were the roles reversed, and I’m grateful for the willingness of my brothers and sisters in Christ to interrupt whatever they were doing to listen and talk.
So if you see I’m traveling in your area, better warn your pastor he might get an unexpected visit!