Friends, for a group of people who use the word community like it’s the hottest slang, there’s so much we just don’t understand. Don’t get me wrong, there are aspects of community we at JBU do really well. But there is so much that we just miss.
Let me give you some context. Grab a Bible. Turn to Acts 2. Find verses 42-47. This passage is here to serve as our example of how to be the church and live in community with each other.
Over the summer I had the privilege of working as the intern at a mission in Trinidad, and let me tell you, the church there understands this idea of community in a way the American church simply doesn’t. They still mess up, we all do, but they go out of their way to be the living and breathing church that is described in Acts.
Just before I arrived, two of the women in the church passed away within 24 hours of each other. One had lost her battle to cancer and the other was murdered in her home shortly after returning from the initial vigil held for the woman who had passed the night before. The church was crippled. The women’s group was shattered. And there I was, a new face, in the midst of such great sorrow. If this would have happened in America, we would have cared for those left on earth for a little while, but let whoever we thought to be closer to those directly affected handle all the messy details. But this isn’t what happened in Trinidad. The church mourned together for months, taking the idea of lament to heart and letting God know that they were hurting, that they didn’t understand, but that they were going to trust him through that. The other women stepped in to fill the shoes of the wives and mothers that had passed on. They cooked. They cleaned. They did the laundry. And not just for a week or two, they are still doing it.
I was also there during Father’s Day. While it was hard to be away from my own father, the appreciation the Trini’s have for such influential men was an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. Father’s Day is a big deal down there, and from what I was told, so is Mother’s Day. Entire church services are dedicated to the fathers. They are recognized by their kids for what they have been doing in front of the community. Those who have been acting as a father figure, spiritually and otherwise, are also recognized. And the people give of themselves to make sure these fathers get credit where credit is due. They truly value what these men have been doing in their lives and they show that through their actions. They act as a community to honor those who help build their community.
Now go back to that passage in Acts. What would happen if the American church started looking at the biblical example and took some notes from communities in other cultures? We are so arrogant to think that we understand community best when so often our church communities are people we see on Sundays, maybe Wednesday nights, and might say hi to if we pass them in the grocery store. What would happen if we went out of our way to take care of and recognize the people we are surrounded by? Friends, please don’t take this as an attack on the American church, but rather see it as an opportunity to see an example of a church that is doing things right, a group of people who believe in the same God we do, and understand his vision for community in the church.
Erika Reiger – Contributor