I once traveled with some friends to one of Hong Kong’s remote islands. One of our hostel’s requirements was to leave the premises for part of each day. At a local cafe, we met a chatty middle-aged guy who each day regaled us with a story of his long stay on the island. He pointed up into the hills to his small white structure and offered to lead us up for hiking and sun bathing on the secluded rocks. Each story included some expression of his joy at leaving the corporate world back in the metropolis he had escaped years before. Too was his word of choice. Too many people, too little time for himself, too many rules, and on and on.
Yet, here he was, talking our ears off (and others’ as well) and buying drinks and offering local hiking trips to total strangers.
Just a story of one man with many unknown variables. But I could relate. I like to talk and plan get-togethers. I also can spend days alone reading, writing, and watching mysteries. As our friend on the island discovered, it’s pretty hard to have it both ways. More importantly, as believers we’re not really called to either life. Christian community is much more than party people and introverts co-existing happily together.
Jesus gives a new commandment in the gospel of John. Love each other as He has loved us. This is how all men will know I am a follower of Jesus. By how I love others? Like he loved me? That’s the measuring stick? Wow.
Living in even the smallest group of ex-pat believers provides a stage for all men to watch and decide. The proximity and need in such communities practically write the script and we are the players. Translators and guides are needed. Introductions and connections to the neighborhood are required. Culture ambiguities are puzzled over together. Some frequently pass on collective moments while others want more. It is messy. Loving others like He loves does not make life easy. It is how all men will know we are his disciples. What do our communities show the world?
Let’s be positive! What one specific joy - big or small - you have found in community in a foreign country?