Though Christian community is described in Scripture, we often define it by our experience. In North American culture, community is most often made up of many different groups of people who represent different spheres of our lives. There are colleagues, church congregations, homeschool co-ops, play groups, and classmates with very little overlap between the people in these spheres of life. In Kibuye, however, community is different. We work with and for the people with whom we worship, converse with in our neighborhood, play with outside with, and (especially for our kids) go to school with.
Sometimes, this reality is hard. Whether we admit it out loud to one another or not, everyone wishes for a bit of space from each other at times. That characteristic that grates on you in one person can become all you can see if you are not determined to overlook it. When conflict arises, it threatens all that we are as a team if it is not dealt with in a God-honoring way. There is no room for gossip or uncontrolled tongues. Living in community like ours can feel like a tall order.
Recently, however, an event brought to light all the wonderful things about community like ours. When the child of a visitor became seriously ill, big decisions had to be made on behalf of their family. The care required meant that our team helped to pack suitcases, load cars, drive in a country they’d never driven in before, care for children that weren’t biologically theirs, substitute teach. In essence, our team had to sacrifice for love - for the love of a visiting family, for the love of one another.
Difficult as this was, I was struck with how seamlessly it happened. In a matter of hours, each child had an adult to look to, classes were covered, medical care was given, a caravan drove to the city. No one complained - not even the kids. Everyone just did their part. Because that’s what community is: loving each other even when it is hard, even when it requires sleeping in a bed that isn’t yours or doing a task that is outside your wheelhouse or holding your tongue or overlooking an offense or comforting those in need - deep need.
Living in close community like ours where everything overlaps and your neighbors are your church friends are your colleagues (or schoolmates for the kids) is challenging and unlike the community I am used to in North America. I suspect it is a challenge we’d all trade in now and then for something easier and more familiar. But, the beauty of this difficult and complex community is often exposed as it was in the particularly challenging time when the depth of care for one another shines through and even spills over into the lives of others.
Isn’t this what Jesus has called us to? If we do, minister, heal, and educate without love, all our effort is for nothing. Please pray for our team as we live out this delicate thing we call Christian community.