Community

I’ve been thinking about this word a lot this weekend.   I had two really neat opportunities to experience community this weekend.   Let me tell you about them briefly and then share a few thoughts…..

Friday, approximately 100 people gathered at Potter’s House High School to help them move.   They had to get everything out of the high school building to make way for significant renovations and improvements.

100 people.   Not 100 professional movers.  100 moms and dads and students and teachers.   All working side by side.   Cleaning out lockers, packing books, taking apart desks, moving sports equipment.

Now it’s a totally unscientific number but if I had to estimate, I’d say that of the 100 people who were there, probably 20 or so were adults.   That means that roughly 80 of them were high school kids.

In a school of less than 200 students – so 40% of the students came back the day after their last exam to spend more time at school.   They came back to work hard, to push hard, to haul boxes, to move tables, to move chairs.  

They could have been sleeping in – but no, they were there.   Why?   Because it’s a community and communities work together.  And they were working hard.

That’s a community that works together.  It was a fun thing to be a small part of.

Jump forward to Sunday night.   Madison Square Church had the opportunity to ordain Paula Seales as a minister of the Word.   I’m not going to tell her story here because it’s her story but let me paint a broad stroke picture:

  • She’s from Trinidad, so she’s not your typical West Michigan Dutch girl.
  • She has been through more than many of us ever will.  
  • God led her from Trinidad to Grand Rapids and once in Grand Rapids to Madison Square Church and to Calvin Seminary.

After many years of struggles, many years of challenges, she has reached the beginning.   The beginning of a new chapter, the beginning of her role as an ordained leader of the church.

And what made it really beautiful and moving last night was that it was obvious that she made it to where she is because of community.   Because of the people who surrounded her.   Because of her seminary professors – many of whom were there.   Because of m,embers of Madison who cheered her on, encouraged her, supported her. 

Community – it involves cheering people on, it involves being a shoulder to lean on, it involves getting dirty and sweaty next to the people that need help.

That’s the way God wants it – and that’s what I saw this weekend and it was a beautiful thing.

Tom

Tell The Right Story–Tell Your Story

I recently read an article written by a long term missionary – you can read the article here.    She talked about how it is best to share your stories when you come back from “somewhere else.”

I’m a firm believer in the power of stories.

The power of stories to encourage people.

The power of stories to enrage people.

The power of stories to get things changed.

The power of stories to impact the needy.

The power of stories to heal people.

There are so many things that can be done by telling the stories of the rich and the poor and the sick and the wounded and the cultures and the people and the rules and the restrictions and the blessings and the activities that happen all over the world.

We need to be able to tell the stories.   We need to be able to learn from the stories.   We need to be able to, be challenged to do something because of the stories.

A number of years back, after returning from a short term mission trip, I was preparing to give the obligatory “church report” on our trip.   Since I had been essentially the team leader (actually it was my wife but……) I was going to be doing most of the talking.   A friend of mine, a high school teacher and a veteran of many mission trips (when you are fluent in Spanish, they like you to come along on trips to Central America) said to me,  “Tom, I’m looking forward to hearing more about your trip, but I don’t want to hear what you did.   I want to hear what God did, I want to hear where you saw God.”

So instead of talking about what we built, I told the congregation about the worship service we went to – where for an hour and a half, the only word we could understand was “Amen” but it was “the most moving worship service I’ve ever been to.”  (Quote from a team member.)

Instead of talking about what we did, I told them about the impact that their gifts made and how God used them to support us so we could support the long term people.

Stories.   I love to tell stories.   I look around the room at school, at church, in the grocery store and think, wow, there are so many stories that God is working on.  

Tell the right story, tell your story.  

Tell God’s story.

TJV