Friday, September 30, 2011

Surprised by Community


Last night, Nate and I drove an hour south to Kenyon, MN, to share about our ministry with a small group of New Life Church-goers. We first got connected to New Life Church through former missionaries to Austria and the church invited us to share during their missions Sunday in late July. It was a wonderful experience; we were immediately welcomed into the community from the moment we stepped in the church that Sunday. While there, we met a couple who had lived in Vienna for 3 years, working at the International Christian School of Vienna. We immediately connected with them, and after a few months of effort, they were able to pull a small group together last night to learn more about our ministry.

When we entered the farm house of our hosts, we were welcomed by smiling faces, sweet treats and the scent of brewing coffee. After enjoying cake and introductory conversation, we sat down and shared about our ministry and the darkness in Austria. Seven adults gathered to hear, and we enjoyed an evening of dialogue, thoughtful questioning, scripture reading, encouragement and prayer.

Coming from a small rural church, it was evident from the moment we arrived that these people knew each other well and cared for one another in a way that was refreshing. Their sense of community with each other was contagious and their laughter inviting. We had only met them once before and several months ago at that, but I felt like I belonged even after a few minutes. And God used them to provide great encouragement for us in our journey to the mission field through their prayers and the words of scripture they shared. Although they didn't know us well, their words were exactly what we needed to hear.

I walked into the evening thinking that Nate and I were there to talk about Austria. But as I reflect, I think the more important reason we were there was to be encouraged and to experience community with other believers. This group set the example for me in how to welcome someone new into fellowship and how to be united with new friends by our common faith. When we are in Austria, our Christian community will be small and close-knit, and I pray that we can welcome others in just like this small group did for us last night. Isn't this what it is to live out John 13:35, "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."?

What was a time when you experienced sweet fellowship and community with other believers?

Photo credit: fieryn from morguefile.com