Thursday, October 15, 2015

Community is a Beautiful Thing.

When I visited the Philippines last month, I ran head first into a way of life that I knew I would have to talk about with others. The heartbeat of this country?  
Here’s what I learned about community and why you should really consider questioning its importance in your own life:
  1. Engaging in community will help you see that there is a whole world out there beyond you and your family.
Yes, we know this fact in our heads. Schools teach on it. Churches preach about it. But have we as a society really grasped this concept deep down in our hearts? Community, if done right, means living with an open door and open hands policy.
Want an example? Ok, instead of planning to meet up with your small group once a week on your assigned day and letting that be your only source of fellowship with others, why not have your neighbors over for a meal once a week? Both are great ways of fellowshipping and neither should be regarded as unimportant. However, we tend to stick with our preplanned arrangements and never step outside of our comfort zone to invite the new family down the street over for a backyard barbecue.
The key point here is this:
Every opportunity to engage with someone is a chance to sow love and hope into their lives. It’s not about taking what we can get from our times with someone else. It’s really always been about giving as much as we can give in our moments with others.
The Filipino people were so amazing at this selfless way of living- “Invite all your friends and family over cause we are cooking dinner. Walk down the street and extend the invitation to them too. Come one, come all.”
2.  Engaging in community is not convenient but the reward is greater than the sacrifice.
When we were overseas, I had a huge shock to my system on the whole idea of “personal space”. I can hear your thoughts screaming, “But alone time is important so you can recharge!” Yes, it is. I am not countering that biblical truth. What I’m saying is that we have taken this good idea of ‘me time’ and turned it into an excuse to not interact with others on a consistent basis.
I was engulfed by a communal way of life that I had never experienced before. I learned that I am not a very smiley person when I have to be with people literally 75 - 80% of the time. But I noticed something remarkable.
Community looks like conversations at midnight and meals around huge tables of people and spontaneous visits to neighbors down the street who heard you were in town and just had to see you. Community is not something that we just do when we feel like it. God intended it to be the very core of who we are. And it’s tiring and not necessarily supposed to be written into our calendars, but that’s when the good stuff inevitably happens. You can’t outplan God.
3. Engaging in community brings you to a place of wide-eyed awareness as you get to know other people and the needs they have. 
Sure, we can still get to know people’s needs by talking to them once a week at church. It happens all the time. My question is this: Just how long does it take to really get to know someone?
I wonder, did Jesus avoid the taxpayer on the street so He could get to church (the building, obviously) and fellowship? Nope. He went to Zaccheus’ house and ate a meal with him.
Did He ignore the masses of people longing to be near Him so He could make it to the 10:00am service and preach? Again, no. Jesus set up church on the side of a mountain and everyone was invited. Oh, and they ate together too (again)!
This is why it’s so important to have real conversations with people in the middle of daily life right smack in their own environment. We have to leave our comfort zone and go to them. The more you hang out with people, the more you see them the way God does.
I had the chance to be totally submerged in a new culture for 2 ½ weeks and there were days when the needs I saw were too great to bear on my own. What if I had never said Yes to God’s call to go on this trip in the first place? I wouldn’t have really known what the needs are because I had never seen them with my own eyes.
Community is an investment. It’s not a play it safe, comfortable way of doing life. It’s letting down your guard and opening up your heart to all people, all the time. 
I will never forget what I learned on my trip to the Philippines and I hope you caught a glimpse of the effect it had on me.
Together is my new favorite word.
There is so much life to live and it’s SO much better when we are purposefully living it with others.

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