Image Credit: Jonathan Baumgartner

Dwelling in Community

My heart's desire is to be a community builder and dweller. Here's how it began.

Community has been a cornerstone of my life's narrative, shaping my experiences and relationships in profound ways.

My first job was in healthcare marketing at a former Adventist Health facility in Southern California. I had a lot to navigate in my new adult life.

With family and friends primarily on the East Coast, I struggled to find spaces where I could build authentic and healthy friendships. I wasn’t into coffee, didn’t ever plan to visit a bar, didn’t think about joining a gym and never did find the local library.

My initial attempts to find a church family failed miserably. Before long, my room rental situation turned difficult with a closet alcoholic landlady and her new beau. I desperately needed a community network.

That summer, I filled in for a patient resource coordinator named Kate, who was on medical leave.

Kate and her husband, Tom, heard about my housing situation and invited me into their home, their lives and even a family gathering — providing my first welcoming community that summer. Their generosity and friendship provided a safe place for me to live, be and grow.

Nearly 20 years later, Kate and Tom once again extended hospitality when I brought my family to meet them at their home in Hawaii. They continue to practice generosity and kindness in their home and around their table.

As I advanced into adulthood in western Washington, I found increasingly more community connections where I formed meaningful relationships with fifth-graders, young adults my own age, a few newly married couples, families with children and grandparent-like figures.

It still took a while, and it required a lot of give-and-take grace. Eventually, church did become a welcoming space and gave me opportunities to become my own community builder.

One of my favorite community builders in the Bible is the Shunamite woman in 2 Kings 4. Whenever Elisha traveled nearby, she invited him in for food and a place to stay.

When he wanted to do something nice to bless her for her kindness, she affirmed that she desired to dwell, to be together, with her community as she cared for her neighbors. She ultimately did receive extra blessings.

Community building takes intentional, but not impossible, effort, and may look like a smile or a wave, a remembered name, an interested conversation, a shared meal or a bonding experience through a service project, Bible study, prayer time or social interaction.

Together, may we embrace God’s invitation to be community builders and dwellers. It will enrich our lives and the lives of those around us with blessing after blessing.

Table Talk Prompt

Think about a time when you felt a deep sense of belonging and connection. What made that experience special? How can you intentionally create similar moments of community in your life?

Featured in: July/August 2024



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