Evening was beginning to fall as the woman’s friend dropped me off at Taizé. Feeling terribly materialistic, I dragged my suitcases and backpack down the dusty road to the welcome center. There was a fair amount of confusion to my arrival. I was told I could leave my big suitcase in places where it turned out I couldn’t and rolled my stuff the length of the barracks to the welcome center three times. I was completely burnt out after my day in the hills and the little sleep I’d gotten the week before in Germany (more on that) and just could not walk back to the barracks yet again. Up the stairs to the second floor with my luggage? Out of the question. Luckily, one of the brothers discerned that I was on the brink of exhaustion and a bit overwhelmed and found someone to help me. This is how I met Andy of Madagascar, who became a friend for the week who would later be in my bible study group. It was a rough arrival, and I didn’t find the humor in it until I was in charge of welcoming new arrivals on Sunday and was instructed that new arrivals were probably tired and a bit disoriented. Hey, that sounds familiar…
As evening faded away into night, I collapsed on my cot in a ball of tired. I was welcomed with a bright new day and a week filled with amazing people, spiritual rejuvenation, and new insight.
The hills beckoned me after morning prayer each day. You can’t ask for a better backdrop for reflection. In the afternoons, there would be bible study and workshops, and sometimes my friends and I would would take a walk before or after these. My friends António and Jakob became my walking buddies, which is somewhat funny as this happened only after António and I had stood the other up one time each (sorry about that…). Singing in the church together in Massilly, stopping at the farm store on our way back on a walk, making friends with horses, and going into Taizé village to better see the double rainbow will remain some moments which colored this experience. These were the last two people I saw before taking the bus to leave Taizé as we all stayed past Sunday and the two closest friends I made at Taizé. I am so grateful for all the friends I made. Telling stories over coffee at Oyak, singing in the village church with the group from Princeton Seminary, conversations with the Swiss girls in my bunk, my walk with my friends from Vietnam, good times with the German girls, all the cultural encounters, life conversations while cleaning dishes with a fellow American… Only at Taizé.
Will I see my Taizé friends again? I very much hope that God wills it, but if not, I am so grateful that they entered into my life, however briefly they may have been put there.
I simply cannot say enough good things about Taizé. What is it that makes this place so special? Why, seemingly magically, do strangers feel comfortable striking up conversation with other strangers without fear of rejection or judgment? How is it that all love each other? Is it part of the Taizé culture, something that’s expected of you? Is it the amount of time you spend with others? Is there some power emanating from the valley with its religious legacy? Is it the effect of the weather which changes from sun to rain to hot to cold within a span of minutes and then does it over again? The sense of community and love is like no where else I have ever been- there was even a workshop on community in the bible led by one of the brothers. Isn’t this what every Christian community should be like? Welcoming, loving, and seeking communion.
Again I ask, what is it about Taizé? Perhaps it’s as simple as a friend bluntly put it “it’s what Christians are actually supposed to be like.”
The agape of Taizé sends its love.