And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Sunday's sermon at the church we've been attending here in North Little Rock was on the importance of community - for accountability, for encouragement, and for general Christian growth. I like the idea - I'm less good at applying it, though. All my life, community is something that has eluded me (save a few too-brief exceptions), but I'm trying to be more proactive about it.
At present, my proactivity comes in the form of organizing. When things are out of order (and I'm not talking about a chair being pulled out or a pair of shoes left by the door - I'm referring to the labyrinthine layout of our extra bedroom, where all of the things we haven't had time to unpack yet have congregated, except the way our whole apartment looked like that for awhile) it makes me less willing to invite anyone into our space (or want to spend time in it, myself, for that matter. I'm a bit of an escapist).
My latest organizing tactic is felt bowls. I have a stash of my own heavily-modified version of Leigh Radford's pattern (if you're a knitter, her book One Skein is a worthy investment!) and now they're scattered throughout our apartment. One on the bookshelf by the door for keys... two on the bathroom counter, one for each of us, for organizing small things like nail files and little tubs of hand cream... one on the headboard of our bed (which is a bookshelf) for lip balm (which I always forget to put on after I brush my teeth) and for when I forget to take off my earrings until I lay down and get poked... they're very versatile, and I have them strategically located to capture the tiny beginnings of clutter (before it morphs into the sort of monster that makes me reluctant to open the front bedroom's door).
Just another step toward making our apartment feel more like a home and less like a storage unit. I'm working toward a point where if someone knocked on the door, I would feel comfortable (a. opening it, and (b. inviting them in (not that that's something that's happened, but, y'know - just in case). It's a very Western idea, I'll admit... I realize that community and hospitality don't require anything other than themselves - that all of the Extras we pile on top of it probably do more to keep us from engaging in community than they do to help it.
For example, several hundred people meet in this tent every Sunday, under the South African sun. They worship, serve meals, have training sessions, and do community. It's hot. It's dusty. And it hasn't stopped them, for three years.
But now they have permission to build a permanent structure community center that will provide a base of operations for the team of 30-40 volunteers, with safe storage and a clean kitchen (among other things). A tremendous upgrade, especially from the perspective of a culture that can barely be convinced to serve until what we consider "appropriate facilities" are procured.
Last month, I told you about a garden. Phase one of a five phase project, it was fully funded that day - God is good, and out of grateful ground springs generosity. The produce from that garden is destined for the kitchen that is a part of this community center, phase two of the project. They still lack a little over $20,000 in funding (as of this writing).
[bangles for scale - they're about 3" deep and 5ish" across]
So let's generously share our time, our space, our gifts, and our money (when we can) in order to promote hospitality and cultivate community - even when it's a community that's an ocean away.