We all sat barefoot in her bedroom. Her husband gone with the oldest on a camping trip and the rest of the kids asleep, we joined our ministry host in her room. There was popcorn and oreos and tea. I felt right at home there on the floor leaning up against her bed.
Taylor went first and the rest of us followed, going from girl to girl, sharing a word of encouragement. Throughout the week, we’d been putting together a small card full of things we saw in each of the girls around us and tonight was the night we shared them. One girl was reminded of her gift of prophecy and how beautiful it will be to watch her step into it. Another was reminded of her warrior-like obedience and trust in the Lord’s voice. Our host was reminded how much she blessed those around her by her tender heart. Each girl received encouragement from each of the other seven. There were tears and laughter. There were confirmations received and faiths renewed. I looked around and tried to take a picture in my mind. I wanted to remember this night when I thought of community in the months to come, because in two weeks, these girls would be gone. This community would remain no more tangible than a beautiful memory.
Before this moment, the only thing I knew about community was that it was a word used in a lot of the brochures sent out by the recreation center in the neighborhood I grew up in. Having lived in it for the last nine months, I learned that it’s much, much more than that. Community is the thing within the church that takes a group of multiple people and turns that group of people into a body of believers growing together, holding one another accountable and building each other up in the Word. The thing that turns sitting around a table and sharing a meal together into an act of worship. The thing that turns a tile bedroom floor in the middle of Zambia into holy ground. A healthy community is an earthly replication of Jesus’ love for the church shared between people.
Community doesn’t just happen, though. It takes a lot of trust and vulnerability to grow in intimacy with a group of people you have nothing in common with except for your love of Christ. It takes a lot of courage to say the hard things. It takes a lot of intentionality and grace for those within your community that are wrestling with the Lord in the season they’re in. It takes humility to look at the girl you have the most trouble understanding and getting along with and realizing that God made her in His image and by getting to know her, you’ll be able to see a new and beautiful part of Jesus. However, though it is hard, it is worth it. It is worth it to bind together a group of people in community. It is worth it to be surrounded by fellow believers whether you share a home with them every night or you share a space with them once a week. It is worth it to have people in your life who encourage you, who celebrate you and who love the Lord so much that they can’t help but love their people in the same way.
I encourage you to seek out your people. If you don’t already have a community, build one. Practice intentionality. Handwrite and deliver a letter the next time you think of a friend in need of encouragement. Meet people where they’re at. Learn to celebrate each other. It might be uncomfortable and it will take time, but it is worth it.
Go find community this week. I promise you’ll find Jesus there too.