August 2, 2009

From Claustrophobia to Community

I've much to share about our trip to the DR. Today I'm writing for Exemplify Online. You can read this entire story there.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household. . .” (Ephesians 2:19)

I lead a fairly solitary life. Once I get my kids out the door for school, my house is quiet until they return. Much of my day is spent working at my computer writing, completing paying projects and doing volunteer work. I like what I do, but it hardly engenders togetherness. But, since I get my energy from within, not having people around is generally OK with me. Honestly, sometimes being around a crowd can be more tiring than energizing.

My family and I just returned from a ten-day mission trip to the Dominican Republic. When preparing for the trip, one of my biggest concerns wasn’t the work or our safety or the unknown, it was being in close contact with so many others—and having little, if any, “alone” time. Just picturing the constant presence of a large group made me feel claustrophobic.

Now that we’re home, I praise God that my fears were completely misplaced. In fact, while on the trip instead of craving time alone, I thrived on our experiences together. Our group of 30 Americans representing three churches joined our in-country Dominican team including our trip organizers, a security guard, bus driver and various children whose mothers cooked for us in the house in which we stayed.

Our group did everything together in "the DR." We ate meals together. We worked together. We dug holes, carried away debris, passed buckets, wielded machetes and filled wheelbarrows together. We rode the bus together—tired and sweaty after each hard day’s work. We laughed and cried together. We ministered to the sick together. We slept on the roof under the stars together. On our one free afternoon at the beach, we played in the waves together. We prayed, sang and worshiped together.

In Haina where we’re building a church, the church members joined our group as did the children living near the work site. They joined us as we labored, mano a mano (hand in hand). Their children and ours played together in the streets. We played baseball in the park. Their loving hands prepared our lunch. On the final night of our trip, the Haina church held a worship service in the street, right in front of their future home. Together we praised God for the glorious structure starting to rise from the ground. The Spirit of God—His joy, peace and love—transcended any language barriers. Never have I so fully experienced the glory, breadth, depth and beauty of God’s Church. One body united by the blood of Jesus.

When it came time to say our final goodbyes many tears were shed. Most of us wanted to stay. It didn’t matter that we had few of the luxuries or comforts of home. We had experienced the truth of Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:19-22, and that was more than enough.

On this trip I expected one “C”— claustrophobia, and received quite another—community.
I saw what God’s community looks like. I saw fellow believers—people who for the most part started as strangers—drawn together by the Spirit to become a family—members of God’s household.

The book of Acts describes such a community: “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (2:44-47)

In America we pride ourselves on being self-sufficient, pull-ourselves-up-by-our-bootstraps kind of people. But, I don't think this is as God intends. I think He wants us to rely on one another. To enter into each others' pain and suffering. To carry another's burdens. To share our joy. To praise Him. To reach out without fear. To love with abandon. To admit weakness. To set aside our busyness. To focus on the Kingdom of God and not the kingdoms of our own making. And, to do all of these things--as the preceding verse mentions three times—together.

Our society, and sometimes even our churches, don’t do much to support or encourage this type of living. As a result, we often attend Sunday services, then scurry straight home where we close the garage door immediately behind us and withdraw from our neighbors..then split yet again to our individual computers, iPods, chores and hobbies. I'm not saying that individual pursuits and interests are bad. They're not. But, I do believe that maintaining our "community of believers" is one of the greatest challenges for us a Christians in the United States.

In the DR, our group saw that this type of living isn't only possible for Americans (including fundamental introverts such as myself)—it's desirable. It fills our souls as they were intended to be filled.
Now that I’m home, the challenge is to spend more time venturing out and plugging in. Will you join me?


Vonda Skelton said...

Wow, Kelli! What a journey! Praising God for His protection and your faithfulness.

Sue J. said...

What a wonderful wrap-up, Kelli! Inspiring!! You all look great, and I know you have gobs to say....

I just got out of a planning meeting tonight in which we talked about the very idea of community within the church. Our worship team has operated as separate entities for some time, and we're hoping this rally in the planning will bring these teams together to become more unified in our purpose and to then collaborate. The idea, then to share this greater ministry with others.

Two are better than one....our buddy Solomon. It's not just about the marriage relationship. It's about all our relationships!

Good to have you back, girl!

Runner Mom said...

Kelli!! Wow!! I can't imagine sleeping on a rooftop under the stars!! How amazing!

This time that you've had has been a beautiful blessing to y'all, the families you served, and to us in bloggyland! Thank you for the privilege of praying for you while you were gone! I can't wait to hear more!!

We missed you at She Speaks! No one had a cute little convertible this year!!


Julie Gillies said...

Love your title, and I LOVE when God surprises us like this, Kelly. He changes our hearts and blesses us when we step out in faith, doesn't He?

It sounds like a wonderful, productive, life-changing time! By the way...were the mosquitos involved in the roof-top sleeping situation?

I feel soooo out of the blogging loop with all our summer trips/activities. Hope you are rested up from the trip and all is well, my friend!

Irritable Mother said...

Doing life together. What a way to go!
But I am with you on the alone time thing. Not that I'm a true introvert, but I NEED time alone regularly.
I start to get a little crazy if I've had too much together time - particularly with my kiddos.

Your Frugal Friend, Niki said...

Sounds like a wonderful journey! I really want to go on a mission trip someday...


Stop by and visit me over at Free2BeFrugal.