Ruby’s dad finally succumbed to cancer a few Saturdays ago. Her visa for our country was due for renewal just a few days later. So first thing Monday morning, fellow students took her to the visa office, explained the situation about her having to get back to her home country, and encouraged them to quickly renew the visa. In the meantime we also took her to the travel agent who, by 2pm, had booked her on a midnight flight. By 3pm the visa office had come through with an updated visa in record time. By 4pm other students were packing her bags. By 5pm she was on the bus with a fellow student for the 3 hour trip to the airport. On top of all this, they had also raised a serious amount of money to pay for her ticket home and to help with funeral expenses. That’s my definition of a loving, caring community.
My turn came a few days later when I pulled a tendon in my foot. For two weeks now students have been giving me daily massages to speed up the healing. They’ve been washing dishes, going to the market, buying meds, doing household chores, cooking food, doing regular visits. They even helped me get to an important meeting.
Two days before Christmas last year we received a photo from a graduate. He was dressed in a Santa suit (minus the beard), a half decorated Christmas tree standing beside him. He’d started a fellowship like the one he experienced with us, simply because he missed the community here. He told us he was planning to have the fellowship and related friends to his home for Christmas dinner – we were more than a little surprised to hear he was welcoming about 100 people from his newly formed community to the feast! Transformational community is something that grows and spreads.
A worthwhile cost?
Community costs, especially when it comes to time. It’s a cost everyone interested in community needs to take seriously – you simply can’t have transformational community without taking time to invest in that community! And it takes place in the ordinary ‘stuff of life.’ Community gets messy and we need to be ready to help with the seemingly less important things. One example would be teaching some guys simple hygiene – what do you do when you get a number people complaining of itching in various parts of their body and find out their bed sheets haven’t been washed for six months?! Many students also tell us about their ailments first and we have to direct them to the right medical attention. In two cases recently this meant being with the students in the operating theatre while they underwent minor surgery and also taking care of them afterwards.
When people ask us what our model for community is, we simply say the love of God. (What’s the formal model of community demonstrated in Acts 2: 40-47 or John 17:20-23?) When students graduate even the excess clothing they can’t take with them is left for the incoming students. Nothing is hidden; indeed all things are shared in common, especially the Father’s love. The end result is that many lives are transformed for eternity because they have not only discovered the healing power of God but the healing power of godly family. My prayer is that the wave of transformational community that has begun here will ultimately go out and transform the whole world.
Have you ever been part of a deep community like this? If so, what was it like and what do you most remember? If not, what would such a community mean to you?
What would a step toward deeper community look like for you?
Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.