“We don’t learn to love each other well in the easy moments. Any one is good company at a cocktail party. But love is born when we misunderstand one another and make it right. When we cry in the kitchen, when we show up uninvited with magazines and granola bars in an effort to say, I love you” –Shauna Niequist
And that’s the way it should be.
I love the way Shauna describes community throughout her writing. People around a table, eating, loving on each other, learning about God.
I got to experience this kind of community this past weekend. My Mission Mentors, Wendy and Stan, let me tag along on their trip down to Rio Grande do Sul (the state just south) to visit a small house church group. This house church meets in a small house that they just starting renting specifically for the church. Each week they gather together, about 20 of them, and have church. But it is not your typical church service or your typical congregation. They live life together. They are involved in each other’s everyday lives.
They help each other grow and learn. And it’s beautiful.
While we were there for the weekend we had a “service” or teaching on Saturday night. We all sat around the living room in a circle (around the cutest old wood-burning stove). We sang together, prayed, and had a teaching. All the while passing around the famous Chimmarrã drink.
This drink is really popular in southern Brazil and is a perfect example of the idea of community present not only in this church but also in Brazil.
They have this special type of cup, the mixture that makes up the drink, and a metal straw. They fill the cup with hot water to brew the drink and pass it to someone in the group to drink it. Once they are finished (and I learned you’re not done until it slurps!) it gets filled up with hot water again and passed to someone else.
The drink just keeps going around, all drinking from the same straw, and most everyone drinks out of it. It is fascinating to me and I think it’s such an accurate display of the community that they live in: together, all sharing life, no matter what comes along.
I only got a glimpse into their lives. But they are some of the most hospitable, generous, welcoming people I think I have ever met. They let us stay in the “church house” for the weekend. They cooked us meals and made sure that we had everything we needed. And despite the language barrier, I was able to see Jesus shine through these people just by their love for each other and us.
These people have a love and passion for God and the Word of God unlike anything I have seen. I could tell they crave time in the Bible, they crave time with God, and they crave time with each other.
I really learned this weekend and got a good picture of what it looks like to live in true community. To gather in a house and learn about God. It’s not just about showing up to church once a week, but eating with each other, doing everyday life, and learning to love through the easy and the hard moments.
Some of the best conversations happen around the table, when people are eating and feeling comfortable. That’s why Shauna writes about food and community, that is why the Rio Grande do Sul church meets in a house instead of a church building, and that’s why they always have food after the service.
Life happens in these little moments and we miss so much if we don’t pursue a community like this.
This thought and realization really hit me hard these past few days. “Community” is such a buzz word right now in the States. We are all about community, and it’s great that we aspire to be that way. And I think that I would have said before coming to Brazil that I have a good church community.
But my concept of community and what it means to live as a church has really been challenged since I have been here in Brazil and especially this past weekend. I know my life back in the States is missing this type of church community. The type where you gather weekly in each other’s houses, making people feel welcomed, loved, and accepted for who they are. Eating together, doing the nitty-gritty parts of life with each other.
God has really been pressing on my heart since we returned from the weekend to better understand what community within the church should look like. That way it will be something that I can take back to the States. Living in this type of community is beautiful. But it is also scary. It’s scary knowing that a group of people know and love you fully. That in order to be loved fully you have to be vulnerable, share your deepest pits and failures with others.
But to be known fully and loved is the best kind of love and community.
Charlotte Gray is a California girl with a heart for the Pacific Northwest now living in Brazil. She’s a junior Organizational Communication major with a minor in Global Business at George Fox University in Oregon. With dreams and aspirations to do big things, she is studying abroad and doing mission work in Florianopolis, Brazil with Veritas Christian Study Abroad. She plans to travel all around, meet amazing people, and try things totally out of her comfort zone—and hopefully pick up some Portuguese along the way too. She loves adventures, coffee, and all things gray.
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