I am a whole-hearted believer in the power of community.
I don’t mean community in terms of geographic location, like your neighborhood or town. Not to say that sort of community can’t be powerful, because it can be depending on how you interact with those living around you. However, the type of community I’m referring to is one defined by people. A community defined by people isn’t glued together by mere proximity, but is cemented instead by something a little more meaningful – shared experiences or beliefs.
At the beginning of November I had the delight of joining a new community. For the first two weeks of the month I attended SIM missionary training here in Charlotte, further preparing me for my transition onto the Sports Friends staff. Accompanying me at training were sixteen other people from around the country, each one also in the process of transitioning into full-time ministry, most planning to live and serve overseas.
The Cliff Notes version of our two weeks together goes like this:
We learned a lot about our organization, cross-cultural service, and support raising. We drank a lot of coffee. And there may or may not have been an epic volleyball match we
won played against the SIM staff on the last day.
All of that was important, but here is what I really took away from the time at training: being with people who are traveling the same road I am is not only refreshing, it’s critical.
For most of my life, I’ve found myself surrounded by people similar to me. When I was a swimmer, I was surrounded by other swimmers. When I was a teacher, I was surrounded by other teachers. The commonality present in those previous relationships always encouraged me – I’ve found that shared experiences, especially challenging or emotional ones, have a natural tendency to bond people.
These past six months I haven’t had the luxury of being around many other missionaries, and I’ve sorely missed being in constant community with people who deeply understand my position. While this season has certainly drawn me closer to God, at times it’s also been JUST. PLAIN. HARD. For me, this training could not have come at a better time.
For two glorious weeks the seventeen of us shared laughter and tears. We told each other stories of triumph and disappointment, stories of encouragement and confusion, stories of times when God showed up in ways we never expected. Every day we ate lunch and dinner together, swapping seats for meals like a game of musical chairs. We prayed for each other, for the people we’ve yet to serve, and for the people who have yet to impact us.
During our time together I was reminded that God never intended for us to go through life alone. Community was His original design for humanity, and I believe He’s still in the business of using human relationships as a primary way to display who He is to people.
Psalm 27:27 – As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
My beloved new community has disbanded as of last Friday, each of us returning to our respective homes in different parts of the USA. Within a year or so our physical locations will further separate, the miles stretching longer as members of our gang leave to make new homes in countries like Malawi, Zambia, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Kenya, Japan, and more.
I’m so thankful that ours is a community founded not on proximity, but on shared experiences and beliefs that can stand the test of any distance.
Thank you for Bryan, Michelle, Keesha, Meg, Christina, Dana, Sarah, Shelby, Monte, Andrea, Peter, Ashley, Chris, Holley, Rachel, and Brian. Thank you for two soul-filling weeks of being poured into by our new SIM family. Thank you that you give us one another to reflect your love. Thank you for speaking truth and encouragement into our lives through each other. Thank you for the gift of community.
For each of my new friends I pray peace on the journey, joy in the serving, comfort in the hardship, and love, brilliant love, every step of the way.