By Patricia Hernandez
I’ve recently returned from a trip to the Republic of Georgia with sisters in ministry as part of a project “Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges.” Our project is intended to build bridges between Georgians and Americans, Christians and Muslims, clergy and laywomen. While there we had the opportunity to pray and worship with Muslims from several communities.
Meeting with the Spiritual Leader (Kemal Tsetskhladze) of one community, we visited a number of mosques in his home town.
In one mosque, we were struck by the beads that hung from beams in the great hall of prayer.
Beads of silver,
Beads of gold,
Beads of shiny metal and shimmering glass.
Long laced beads.
As we looked at the various beaded beams,
Kemal reached for one, extended it to us, and invited us to choose a strand for ourselves.
We roamed and reflected, prayed and pondered,
each eventually choosing a beaded band that beckoned to us.
Later on, we visited Kemal’s village, a treacherous terrain in which the only connection to one end of the village was by way of a cable car. We were intrigued and wanted to give it a try. However, the village had been experiencing days of continuous rain and thunder, making such travel unsafe and shutting down the cable car.
But that day—by the grace of God— the morning rain subsided, the clouds parted, and the sun even momentarily broke through. So Kemal motioned, “Come on, come on. Let’s go!” And “go” we did, piling into the cable car—all of us, Georgian and American Christians and Muslims, clergy and laywomen.
Under one sun.
As we wound and wended our way across the steep cavern on a wire,
teetering and tottering over the valley below,
I held tight onto that bangle of beads
till we got to the other side.
With great trepidation,
I tentatively stuck out a foot, not sure whether the ground below was really within reach.
Thankfully, my foot hit solid rock.
I breathed, relieved. We were grounded.
More importantly, bonded.
As my foot steadied on stable ground, my fingers released the hold on the beads,
and words wafted through the wind of the conversation from dinner the night before:
“What prayer do you use with it?” I had asked.
Kemal had paused, then responded, “No prayer in particular. Just a reminder to pray.”
Remember to pray. Remember each other. Remember God
Now back in the States, thousands of miles from that blessed bonding,
as I hold these beads, I am reminded to pray.
I remember the friends we made.
I remember my brother.
And I am drawn deep into our God.
My brother’s beads bless and bind me,
connecting me to the community of faith,
one God in and around and over us all.
Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone—or we might even say, bead by bead—with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home. (Ephesians 2: 19-22, The Message)
Breaking barriers, building bridges—bead by prayed-over-bead—becoming the body of Christ;
that’s what we are doing.
Join us on the journey….
Rev. Dr. Patricia Hernandez serves as national director of American Baptist Women in Ministry and Transition Ministries. Her passion for the life of the Spirit is evidenced by having studied at Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation (www.shalem.org) as well as having spent time at the community of Taize with Brother Roger in France and L’Abri with Frances Schaefer in Switzerland.