Community. What does it mean? How do you do it? Where does it fit into our post-modern lives; snipped, as it were, from the simple, comforting logic of geography? These are questions we’ve been exploring together with a group of dear hearts here while we’ve been living in Korea.
We live in a very mobile society of foreign expats here. People come and go on work visas that only allow them to stay for six months.. a year… two years at most. So we’re constantly welcoming people to our little gathering — and constantly saying difficult goodbyes. How do you cultivate community in a relational tumult like this? …And what does that spark of community mean in the midst of such relentless change?
So what follows is a letter that encapsulates one young woman’s experience in community with us here — and her thoughts as she adjusts back to “normal” life in the States. This letter is so heartfelt and insightful; even more, though, I think it really captures what God is doing right now all over the world. Just open your heart, then open your doors. It’s not always easy, but it’s so blessed.
My dear, sweet, beautiful friends.
What I learned-
I’ve come to realize that I will never (well maybe not never but it will take quite a long time to) fully understand what God was doing those long months in Korea. Months where I couldn’t believe what I was a part of. Months where I would’ve given any thing to be out of it. Months where I felt both at the same time. Months where I knew, with every single atom of my being, that whatever this uncomfortable, awakening, and glorious thing was, it was from God.
And it was God’s.
There wasn’t anything that any one of us had done to orchestrate it, though God did use specific actions and words, and the openheartedness of certain people to be very instrumental in its growth.
Each of you, in your own ways, showed me more of God. I know He wants me to be like Him, and over those long months, He taught me that, by the design of His hand and in the complexity of His image, He’s used each of you to show me exactly what that looks like. Kelly, you are the voice of God. Charissa, you are the intensity of God. Kim, you are the loving arms of God. Whitney, you are the hands and feet of God. Kelsey, you are the creativity of God. Katie, you are the vibrant laugh of God. Tayla, you are the wisdom of God. Anna, you are the light of God. Dionne, you are the spirit of God. Sarah Jane, you are the compassion of God. Chelsea, you are the freedom of God. Ashley, you are the beauty of God.
And this. This is what God has shown me about life. Not just mine. No. What He desires for all life.
These friendships – these intentional, uncomfortable (yes, I will continue to use this word), and life-giving relationships – are what life is about.
AND THE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE DON’T KNOW THEY EXIST.
I’ve come to learn, upon leaving this cocoon/kiln/garden/whetstone of a place, (now, almost one year later) that no one (at least not many) really knows what I’m talking about when I describe our community.
Community. This word will never mean the same. And yet, it can’t hardly mean what I want it to, because I have all the old connotations with it… kind of like the word church, or scooter. These words are ruined.
As Cha has told me, quite often in fact, Korea ruined us. We will never settle for anything less. And life for me somehow seems a little dull without these types of friendships.
But now. What I’m learning.
We have, quite literally, been scattered over the entire globe. No joke. We’re separated by continents, countries, Canadian postal strikes, dictators, oceans, stamps, states, penguins, crappy internet signals…. WHY IS THAT? Why, was this necessary?
We KNOW what life should be like. We KNOW what relationship can be like.
Okay, now look around. That woman who doesn’t really talk a whole lot to anyone at work. That new girl at church who just moved to town. The lady who you met on the street who just moved to Korea and wants to hang out sometime. The really talkative worker who is great to talk small talk with whenever you see her at the coffee shop, but you’ve never really made a point to meet up with her intentionally. If you haven’t seen or met anyone who fits these descriptions, well – fine, they are pretty detailed descriptions. But something similar. There have been two or three of you that I’ve talked to who have told me similar (or one of these) stories, and I know there’s a reason for it. It’s not a coincidence, and if you haven’t met people around you who seem to be looking for something more, then maybe you haven’t been looking… cause they’re EVERYWHERE.
And even just the slightest bit of intentionality is shocking to people in our day.
I’m going to be in women’s ministry this next year here at Ecola Bible School, and I know that, as Girl’s Night was so influential in instigating these friendships, I am planning on starting up something similar in my home. Once a week, making dinner or dessert, and inviting girls from the school, the community, whoever I meet, whenever I meet them, to come over and hang out.
It was so natural to say to girls we met on the street in Korea, “hey, there’s this girl’s night we do every wednesday, it’d be so awesome if you came!”… why does that seem weird for us outside of Korea, or post-Korea-as-we-experienced-this??
Dionne, when we had that women’s retreat at your house in February of 2010, you had a vision of a circle of women holding hands… We were that circle….
We are that circle now… and God has positioned us. Why are you where you are? What part of that vision are you going to fulfill where you are right now? Open your heart, and then open your doors… even if it’s only one night a week. Please please pray about this. I am praying for all of you in this.
Don’t feel like you have to respond to this email… but I would LOVE LOVE if you wanted to share about what God has been doing, where He’s been moving, your life in general, and everything else. Sorry. This email has been long overdue… but it’s only been in the last couple of weeks that He’s really been clarifying His vision in this.
Thanks for listening. I dearly love all of you and miss you and know that, whether in this life or in heaven, I can’t wait to see and hold each of you (I hope in this life again).
Love you. Yes, you.
This is so beautifully written Mindy. And I agree — what’s more, I think God agrees. He wants a circle of people, hand in hand, from around the world to become a circle of communities — hand in hand — around the world! That’s what the church is meant to be.