I wanted to buy flowers for my front porch but we couldn’t afford it because our ministry job barely covered our necessities of life and student loans. Stephen and I had only been married three months when we took this position at The Firs Bible and Missionary Conference Center. We were given free housing, like all the other staff, and a small salary that covered the very basics. Nine months out of the year we lived in a little house deemed “the gnome home” which fit its name well with its sprawling 500 square feet. During the summer months we moved to the youth camp where we lived in a tent cabin with bats and mice. Despite the lack of funds, the small house, the bats and mice and the lack of flower pots, Stephen and I enjoyed an amazing community.
Three, four and sometimes five or six nights of the week we had people in our home playing cards, board games, eating dinners, hanging out or going out to recreate on Lake Whatcom. Sometimes we would have to put a note on our door that asked for privacy from all our friends that constantly visited. All the staff lived on or near the camp, so if ever there was a need, someone was there to help. Community was abundant and life was good.
Finally, we were in a place in our lives that we needed to move to Eugene to be near our parents. After leaving the Firs, my heart was broken. I missed the constant barrage of people coming to our door, I missed game nights with friends, I missed babysitting all the kids of the other staff, I missed my small bible study group, and I missed the little home we fondly had our honeymoon days in. When we moved away I went into a deep depression. I remember struggling to get out of my bed because I was so lonely for my old life and desperate for community. I remember visiting church after church wishing for a sense of belonging.
Just the other night we had a chance to have dinner with our friend Suzie. Suzie recently moved into a condo and is one of these people that have the ability to make everyone feel comfortable. In fact, she works on my husband’s team with Compassion International and she is very good at her job. Suzie is a light in her community, and though she has only been in her place for a couple of months, all her neighbors seem to flock to her because of her ability to make them feel good. Before we arrived for dinner, Susie had driven one of her neighbors to the hospital. While we were there, four other neighbors had stopped by. I teased her that night because she was so popular. What I realized is that Suzie provides community to a group of people that want to feel connected and need to feel connected. Just like me, they all need someone to know their name.
Remember the show Cheers? This community of people gathered together in a bar after a hard day at work. Each person had their good days a bad days and this bar became their place to share life with others. Sam owned the bar and everyone loved him. The theme song said it all, “Where everybody knows your name”. I believe everyone desires a place where people know their name. They need others to scoop them up during a crisis and carry them when they can’t carry themselves.
Isn’t this what the church is supposed to be?
Our culture makes community difficult. I live in the suburbs and in 12 years of living in the same house, our neighborhood has constantly changed. When I first moved in I got to know several families, but since then, many of these families have moved. Luckily, our next door neighbors have stayed the same and we are now very close friends. We have an agreement that neither of our families can ever move.
I can’t help but think there are so many lonely disconnected people around us. Sure, there are those that want their privacy and don’t like to socialize, but truly didn’t God make us to be in communion with others? Possibly could this be why so many people are unhappy and on anti-depressants? What if the world had more Suzie’s willing to open their homes to connect neighbors together? What if the church was the place where everyone knew your name? Wouldn’t that be cool?
My daughter recently changed youth groups because she wanted the youth pastor to know her name. That’s all. Her old youth group was large, had great music, a great sermon, and small groups, but she never felt like anyone cared if she showed up or not. Now she is attending a small youth group and loving it. What makes her excited is that everyone knows her name. When they see her at school, they will know her. When she doesn’t show up, they will miss her. She likes the community.
I fear that our culture has moved away from community. Privacy is very important and more than often, neighbors are disconnected. I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that I want to be in a community where I feel connected to others, loved by others, and cared for by others. I like it when people know my name. I believe the church has a great opportunity to step up and make this difference. Actually, it’s not going to be the great entertaining sermon with flashy video or the perfected 20 piece band that does it. It’s going to be the people in the church that invite others over for dinner and invite people to game night. It’s willing people who learn the names of their neighbors and go above and beyond to connect to the hearts of people. It’s Sam the bartender and Suzie the Compassion gal. In the end, people will be drawn into community when they feel cared for, where everybody knows their name.
Life, Family, Faith and Travel...the life of a Jones
Dominican Republic Missions trip
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