OCSP Update 2: Community.

Hello, all!!

Hope you’re all doing really well. In my last update, I asked you to pray for our community to grow closer as we entered “All For One” Week here in Ocean City—well, I can definitely say that God has answered that prayer. The week’s activities focused on us growing in community with one another, becoming vulnerable, depending on each other, and building each other up as members of the body of Christ. So, in this update, I am going to describe to you a bunch of the activities I’ve done in the company of my amazing new friends over the past week or so.

For the past two Sundays, my “adopted sisters” and I have gone out to a very long lunch with our adopted “parents” from Ocean City Baptist Church. The ability to hang out with them for the past couple Sundays has been awesome—Jackie, who is from a Catholic background, is very talkative and works for the Sheriff’s Dept. here, so she has some pretty entertaining stories. Mike is her boyfriend—he works for his dad’s roofing business and has a great sense of humor. Kiersten, Grace, Jess and I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to share the Gospel with them and pour into their lives over the course of the summer.

Last Tuesday, everyone did something called “Group Date Night With Jesus,” so instead of doing an individual study, we all got into groups and basically invented our own study, talking through it together. That night we also had a dating panel—the girls separated from the guys, and all of us got to send in anonymous questions to one panel of four guys and one panel of four girls on project about dating, singleness, marriage and the like. My girlfriends and I had come up with a list of questions beforehand, and a lot of them got answered, which was really cool and encouraging.

Wednesday night I had Action Group (small group Bible study) with my roommates, Laura, Sydney, and Mandi, and my discipler Megan. I admire these girls so much—they are such strong women of God and I’ve loved living with them. Laura is a 5th-year studying English at Sacramento State in CA, Mandi is a junior studying counseling psychology at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, and Sydney is a 5th-year studying geology and political science at UC-Pomona. It’s also great because Laura is my co-worker at Clancy’s By the Sea, the restaurant on the Boardwalk where I now hostess 30 hours a week (ironically, it was only after I gave up a career in theatre that I ended up working in food service. God’s funny that way). The job has been going great and I’ve already been able to have some cool spiritual conversations with my co-workers, Kelsey, Zach, and Giuseppe. I really enjoy working there. Thursday night the men and women split up again and we had Women’s Time—I can’t tell you much about it except that we did some obstacle course stuff and team building exercises. Afterwards we all had a color fight on the beach—we threw colored chalk at each other and had a lot of fun.

Throughout the entire week, we were also receiving a bunch of clues from the staff about the big culminating event we had at the end of the week. We were not allowed to communicate these clues by any social media, and we only had Internet access from 4-6pm (and sometimes not even then)—this was to make us focus on interpersonal communication and coming together as one. We eventually figured out it was a staff v. students softball game where (gulp) everyone had to bat at least once. I’m not the most athletic person, so this was a bit stressful to me. But we students eventually came together, made up a pretty dang awesome cheer for ourselves, and, after Drew recited a rousing version of Aragorn’s speech from Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, we played the game. I was the 7th up at bat, and I struck out twice and fouled once. We lost 10-18 (which is actually pretty good compared to past student teams), but even though we lost, the game was just a really encouraging experience—people definitely showed grace to each other when we made mistakes. Everyone was cheering for everyone and lifting up the name of the Lord as they did so.

This week was a lot of fun for me because I love being around people—I got to have a lot of spontaneous hangouts, which was when I really got to know people and build relationships with them. Jesus did not mean for us to live life alone, whether you’re a Christian or not—people were made for relationships with other people. Especially for believers, though, being in consistent, vital community with other Christians is absolutely essential to the Christian life. We need the body (a.k.a. the church, or other Christians) to encourage us and build us up in our faith, as well as call us out and hold us accountable for our actions that don’t reflect Christ. Jesus talks about the importance of the body in 1 Corinthians 12:24-27.

“But God has so composed the body…that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”

That’s why it’s so important (and so wonderful!) to be a member of a church—to go consistently with others and be exposed to the Word together, to talk about God, to live life together! It’s truly one of the joys of my life. And not only do we need to be around other Christians, but we need to be vulnerable with them, too. One of the things I love most about my Christian community is that I can be vulnerable—“vulnerable” is actually an old military term used to describe a part of yourself that is open and exposed to the enemy’s weapons, to injury. To be vulnerable means I expose or open myself up to being hurt emotionally by being real with people. Being vulnerable is always risky. Fortunately, my experience is that I can confess to my community about my deepest fears, my doubts, my sin, and I don’t have to fear being judged or injured in any way. The Bible says that vulnerability is necessary for real and strong relationships, as well as growing in faith and healing from hurt:

 “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

The people here reflect Christ by demonstrating God’s unconditional love for me at both my best and my worst. I am definitely not perfect, and I am so grateful that I can be vulnerable with my friends here and trust them to love me anyway. What a testament to the power and deep love of Christ.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

Anyway, as we go into World Vision Week, there are a few ways you can be praying for me.

–Pray that God would increase my heart for the nations and specify the place to which I have been called to go and make disciples

–That I would continue to build strong, vital, vulnerable community with the students on Project

–Pray that my adopted sisters and I would be bold and intentional in sharing the Gospel with Jackie and Mike

–Continued conversations with my co-workers, Zach, Kelsey, and Giuseppe, and that the Clancy’s crew would get to share the Gospel with them

–That I would be willing to give up everything and live radically for Christ, doing whatever He asks of me by the power of the Spirit

Anyway, World Vision Week so far has been INCREDIBLE. So expect another update, probably sooner than normal. I’ve been processing a lot lately, so there will be a lot to write.

Love, Erin

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