Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Messy Kind of Community

"We all want community, but the best community happens when we pick a cause or pick some people to help. Christian community happens only in a community with people who actively follow Jesus. And if you get some friends to pursue a common struggle, you will find a level of community that you could never find by just looking for friends. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, 'He who loves community, destroys community; he who loves the brethren, builds community.' His point is that when people focus on finding Christian friends to huddle together with, they generally destroy the utopia they’ve built up in their minds, but those who simply love people always create genuine, deep community." (Flesh: Bringing the Incarnation Down to Earth, by Hugh Halter)

In January of 2013 a small band of Jesus followers huddled together in our living room to discuss a kind of triage. A single mom from our church was being evicted from her apartment. Knowing what was about to happen to her and her three children, we could not do nothing, and from that impromptu meeting was born a community.

A few days later we helped our new friend move from her apartment into a homeless shelter. And when I say helped I mean we showed up en masse at her apartment and started packing. And it was chaos. We couldn’t communicate with our friend because at that time, her English was nearly nonexistent, and our only translator was a nine-year-old boy. Packing and moving is not fun, but packing for someone else is just weird. “Do you want to keep this receipt? This broken toy? This half used box of tissue?” Oh that’s right I can’t ask you because I’m American and I speak only one language. I remember saying that evening, “Ministry is messy.” And it is. You want a ministry that isn’t messy, then volunteer to shelve books at the public library or model for a local charity fashion show. . . but personal ministry is always, always messy because we’re all human and we bring our brokenness into everything.

So it was out of that messy evening a community of ministry was born. Three of us took the lead. We are three working moms - a doctor, a social worker and a business owner/former paralegal. And let me just say, that with our determination and professional backgrounds, we can get it done! We don’t always know what we're doing but we know how to find answers. We have fumbled and overreached, but we have learned to be humble and to recognize when to lean in and when to pull back. Eventually we termed ourselves the Surprise Squad, because in spite if our best efforts at planning and organization we were continually surprised at what came our way.

We have done a lot of good together and probably some harm. We’ve walked together through sadness and fear and joy and success and frustration, always believing God is good and he put us on this path. And we have been so very blessed. Blessed because we get to be part of restoring hope and a future to our refugee friends. And blessed because of closer friendship with each other. This community born out of need, has made us into a community that is more than ourselves. More than our own enjoyment. The bond is stronger, more purposeful, holier. And I am grateful.

"You need a fight so that people will see God as He truly is. The best witness isn’t telling people concepts about God. The best witness of the gospel happens when people see an entire community sticking up for people who are nameless, voiceless, or powerless. Every Jesus follower should be an activist an abolitionist, or at least an advocate.” (Flesh: Bringing the Incarnation Down to Earth, by Hugh Halter)