Community is a powerful thing.
Our little family joined Friends Camp at the outdoor ministry camp we support (and I frequently write about). These “Friends” are big supporters – through their time, prayers, and financial giving. They come to camp to learn about the many ways God works through camp ministry. I remember watching this group visit camp each year back when I was on summer staff. My naive self wondered if they were simply interested in learning if their investment was yielding result. They seemed unreachable. So this week, I felt inadequate when we first arrived at camp:
“You must have made a mistake. There is no way that we are anywhere near as important as these life-long, big-time supporters! We can leave if you’d like…”
But we fit right in! We marveled at the grandparents and great-grandparents who spoke of meeting a Friend the year before and planning to come again to reconnect. This is the same conversation we’ve heard from rowdy 4th grade boys, or even from “too-cool-for-anything” 7th grade girls. My kids – who I thought might be a distraction – were adored by all! By the end of our short 24-hour visit, our two kids were more interested in spending time with our new Friends than being with my husband and I!
Through this experience I realized we all simply seek community. I am terrible at meeting new people – I anxiously search for the right words to say, hoping to appear intelligent and witty. Yet in this community of camp supporters, I interact with new people in different places, and quickly connect with people of all ages. There is an instant bond between those of us that hold deep passion for Christian faith, outdoor ministry and the ability to create a life-changing experience for children.
This is a large, expansive community reaching many different kinds of people – and striving to extend that reach. If work needs to be done, everyone jumps in. However able, people contribute and work together as community to accomplish a task or work towards a goal.
Community exists in many places – church, a volunteer team, your college friends, or even a group of colleagues. If you’ve never experienced true community – the kind where you feel truly loved as the person God made you to be, empowered to use your gifts for the benefit of the community – please keep looking! God made each of us beautifully unique and special, and we must recognize that in those around us.
If I was the person to make you feel unwelcome, I am deeply sorry. In my preference to draw towards the comfortable – in my avoidance of new situations, I fear I alienate those around me. Not with my words, but with my unwillingness to step forward and be welcoming to all.
During our little visit at camp with a new group of people, I saw how community can form with unexpected people. When we are willing to take a bold step forward to invite and when we are open to new situations and places, community will expand, grow strong, then become a powerful force of positive change in the world.