by Jeni Martin Johnson, Associate Pastor of Missions,
First Baptist Church of Asheboro, NC fbcasheboro.com
There’s something to be said about our connectedness or lack thereof with other human beings. As technology advances at skyrocketing paces what’s happening to us when it comes to having a true sense of deep community in our lives?
As a foster parent, I have seen what changes the community we live in does to us as humans. Change our community and it changes us.
Bottom line: we need each other.
Bottom line: we aren’t meant to be alone, isolated or to survive on our own.
There are movies that have sought to communicate this truth like Tom Hank’s role in Castaway. He’s lost on an island at sea and he is so alone he creates a friend out of a volleyball and names it Wilson. Our human need for companionship is great and runs deep in our souls.
What happens to us when we don’t have the kind of community we need?
I got a call one day about a homeless woman who was living in her van. While I didn’t have an immediate answer to her predicament while assessing the situation I learned quickly in our chat that she had no positive, successful people in her life. She lacked a good community. So, we brought her into our community and today she has a part-time job and housing. She volunteers with us in ministry and has become a part of us. She did this on her own with the support of our community. We didn’t try to “fix” her with a paternalistic spirit or tell her what to do. We merely loved her, met with her, encouraged her and helped HER meet HER goals. Community healed.
This woman didn’t need me to throw money at her, she needed a healthy community. She needed to feel a part of something larger than herself, a sense of belonging.
A paranoid schizophrenic who has lived a life of instability came to us. Through community she is much more stabilized and has remained in her same apartment for a few years now. Previously she moved about every 6 months. She feels a part of us and is connected here. We love her and encourage her regularly.
As people come to us our people naturally reach out to lend a loving helping hand. Our pastor recently said something like, “Having different or needy people in a church means that church is compassionate, accepting and loving.”
I have seen healing in the lives of my foster children as church members have reached out to them and loved on them. They form relationships with healthy adults and they feel special. They get invited to special outings with these adults and they come home beaming that someone chose them to go to the movies or a ball game etc…
Many who live on the fringe of society merely lack a healthy community. We all need to feel accepted, loved and important. There is something amazing to celebrate in every person.
Has our culture pushed individuals further and further towards isolation? I don’t think we have done this intentionally, but it’s just something that’s happened to us. There are so many things we do alone: TV, movies, video games etc… Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, in their book, When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself, say we as a culture have a monochronic view of time. This means that we believe “time is money.” Tasks are so important to us! We stand together with the UK in this concept. All other countries, however (except Japan, they’re kind of in the middle), have a polychronic view of time. This means they believe time is limitless! There will always be more time! The task isn’t as important as the relationship in a polychronic culture. People who live in cultures that have the polychronic view of time are much more community and relationship oriented. They have a deeper sense of personal connection to others. They feel like they belong.
Our culture views the world through the glasses of individualism. As a result, many of us are depressed and isolated. Could a healthier solution to some forms of depression be a healthy community?
Who can you help step on the path to healing through community this week? How can we take steps to be intentional in bringing people together? I have seen people who have healthy community in their lives choose this over a job promotion, a bigger house, or other opportunities. Once we find meaningful relationships we will trade it for nothing. Who better than a healthy church to foster these relationships?