Guest blog by Grace Eun-Sun Lee
Grace identifies herself as a Korflican, a Korean born in the Philippines raised in an American-influenced environment. A third culture kid who is also a missionary kid, Grace’s interests lie in worship, the arts, cross-cultural engagement and missions, healing, and Global Christianity. She is currently pursuing the Master of Divinity with a focus on World Missions in Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in S. Hamilton, MA.
“What does a pineapple have to do with where I study or work?” I asked the Lord back in March of 2021. I had entered my sixth semester in seminary, and, by this time, it became clear that I would be here for another year. I asked Him, “God, what is Your vision for this community, in the upcoming year? And what is my role in all of this?” I was expecting words, phrases, something with a WOW factor, that would stir someone to think, “Yes! I want to be part of that!”
God answered my prayer, but not with what I expected. An image of a pineapple came to mind. I thought to myself, “Why a pineapple?” Frankly, while I am a fruit lover, pineapples do not rank high on my list. Growing up in the tropics, I loved mangoes, watermelons, coconuts, apples… but not pineapples. I personally find them a little too sour for my taste. So, I was a bit perplexed why God would call to mind a fruit that I was not particularly fond of.
I recalled humorous memories from the mission field associated with pineapples. For example, one time my mom asked for ten pineapples. Instead, she got ten fine apples (f’s are pronounced like p’s in this country). While I initially chuckled over these memories, the more I prayed into the pineapple imagery, the sadder I became. I realized that this one fruit was connected to deeper memories, memories with people who once were so dear to me but were no longer part of my life. These memories were sour, and in my pineapple episodes I experienced a range of emotions, from anger to sorrow and everything in between as I personally processed and grieved over the loss.
As I cried over these pineapple memories, I remembered what a friend shared with me. One response to the pandemic is a support group called Grief Share that provides help and healing for those who lost a loved one. It is a safe place to share stories and to grieve together. My friend told me that he learned in Grief Share that pineapples are a symbol of welcome. Remembering his words, I felt the Lord clarifying his word to me, “Grace, that’s it. That’s the vision for next year. Welcome.”
The Year of Welcome. This is how I experienced God’s heart through a tropical fruit amid the prolonged winter back in March here in New England. I was honestly shocked to realize how many memories could be connected to one fruit. I was also surprised to discover that part of the discerning process for the next year involved having to travel back in time with the Lord, digging up and processing these painful memories and feeling intense emotions I have not felt for a while.
I asked the Lord what His vision for the community was and He gently reminded me, “Grace, your individual healing is also part of my Grand Vision for this community.
Grace, I welcome you in my Great Story of Redemption.
Grace, I invite you to welcome others too as I have welcomed you.”
The words of Romans 15:7 resounded like a trumpet’s fanfare. The short introductory paragraph of Romans 15 presents the exhortation to follow the example of Christ for the building of the church, the community of God’s people. Paul states, Christ Himself received all the reproaches of humanity (v.3). He is no stranger to disapproval nor estrangement. Yet, in His humanity He served as the perfect mediator to reconcile us to God and restore harmony between people. For those in accord with Christ can be in accord with one another. Consequently, such harmony results in a unified voice that glorifies Christ.
Being a worship leader in a praise team, I find any form of congregational singing gets me excited. One of the grievous moments for me during the pandemic was not being able to sing corporately with others. But, through the pandemic, I came to learn and experience that one voice can be expressed through different ways, whether it is through humming, dancing, or even silence.
Regardless of the form, I am reminded that presenting a unified voice that glorifies Christ is possible when we first accept the divine call to welcome in His example of welcome. Christ’s welcome is rooted in humility, which is beautifully described in the Christ hymn in Philippians 2. The humility that led to Christ’s death is the humility Christ invites us to imitate, an invitation to consider others more significant than oneself (Phil 2:3). The greatest act of hospitality of all history was exemplified on the cruelest form of death. This death was a death to Himself so that we humans may live. This death will one day lead to the highest form of exaltation, where all tongues might confess the Lordship of Christ (v.11).
Considering all that has happened in the recent years with the pandemic and is happening right now locally and globally, I am convinced that God is inviting all of us into His redemptive story with a posture of welcome towards one another. All of us have been impacted by the pandemic where eating together and inviting people into our homes has become difficult for a season. Navigating differing opinions concerning politics and the vaccine has impacted the space between people, physical and emotional. Racial tensions and trauma have perpetuated a toxic environment, stifling conversations and silencing voices. Whatever ethnicity or citizenship we are, all are stumbling over cultural and relational dynamics. While friendships have blossomed during the pandemic, many connections have been severed as well. Many are going through much pain and turmoil. Consequently, we hide. We hide because we do not feel safe. For many reasons, we do not feel safe to be truly ourselves nor to connect with one another. Yet, even in our brokenness, the Lord welcomes us. He invites us to His story of healing and restoration, one page at a time. He invites us to “welcome one another…just as also Christ has welcomed” us “for the glory of God” (Rom. 15:7).
I believe God is also extending His invitation to us, inviting us to His culture of welcome, assuring us that we can welcome Him even in our weakness and we can welcome one another in our brokenness. How? We welcome the presence of God and others in the place of worship. In worship, all of us are sinners before the holy God. In worship, all of us are saints before the gracious and forgiving God. In worship, we come together unified before the throne and the Lamb, celebrating together in our diversity. In our welcome, we honor. In our welcome, we worship. One step closer to a taste of heaven.
Now back to the pineapple story. I learned that, in America, pineapples have become a symbol of hospitality and friendship. You can easily find them as centerpieces at a dining table or hanging on someone’s front door. While they are often bought and enjoyed for their sweetness, pineapples take three years to mature. Each pineapple you eat takes three years to ripen from green, to sour, and finally to sweet.
The sweetest fruits take the longest time.
Relationships take time.
Creating a culture of hospitality takes time.
Healing will take time.
But it is happening.
So here is my invitation to you. However ripe you are, whether you are a seed or ready to fruit, let us be pineapples together. Let us become the symbol of hospitality and welcome, as God’s chosen pineapples, here in America. As we are invited to partake and partner in God’s Redemptive Story, we too are empowered to invite and to welcome one another to make history together.
It is our
desire for our praise be Your welcome
for our songs to signify that we are here for You
We welcome You with our praise
We welcome You Almighty God of love
Be welcomed in this place.
 The pineapple is Jane Song’s photograph of Amanda Mittleman’s Pineapple Painting, edited by Grace Eun-Sun Lee, April 2020, from Grace Eun-Sun Lee’s personal collection. This blog is an adaptation of an earlier blog published for Manna Newsletter, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, winter edition, Dec. 7, 2021.
 Garrett McCord, The Unique History and Symbol of the Pineapple: A Fruit Representing Friendship, Luxury, and War, The Spruce Eats, Dotdash, Updated on August 15, 2021, https://www.thespruceeats.com/pineapple-symbol-of-friendship-and-luxury-4047011.
 Jesse Reeves, Matt Maher, Matt Redman, Tim Wanstall. Here for You. CCLI Song #5925649. 2011 Chrysalis Music Ltd. Sixsteps Music. Thankyou Music. Valley Of Songs Music. worshiptogether.com songs. https://songselect.ccli.com/Songs/5925649/here-for-you.