As I was telling Pilar last night, being a child of God means gaining a whole family not just a Father and an older Brother.
As cultures move more and more away from families being close knit, central to a person’s identity and having the confidence that comes from belonging and acceptance, it has been hard for the church not to reflect that loss instead of the vibrant comunal life God desires for His family. YouTube, self- help books and blogs makes it easier to be independent, even in my Christian walk. (Which rises the question: Can I be close to God without being close to His community?) That independence sided with the fact that no one has time because we’ve chosen lifestyles that require an insane amount of time, has converted many churches into a type of social club who’s members show up “in their best” for an allotted time and stay distant from one another fearing others will see their messy, needy lives. We no longer need to carry one another’s burdens because we no longer bring our burdens to church, and a church that no longer helps one another out loses its community, it’s heart and the familial unit God designed.
How does a church restricted by quarantine continue to strive to be a familial community? The same way it does outside of quarantine- carrying one another’s burdens and encouraging one another. It might be more complicated now but the truth and need doesn’t change. It’s been encouraging to see how people have decided to help carry those burdens and to encourage one another. The Redentor Church has set up ways for people to donate money through an Argentina money app for those who are struggling financially during this time. Those in the church that work as carriers and food deliverers on bikes have gone around picking up food that people want to donate. Someone knew of a little girl who needed a coat and put that need out to the church and Vanessa had one that her daughter had outgrown. I ran out of cash and Chema (a bicycle carrier) came all the way over to where I live, went to another part of the city to exchange dollars for me and then brought it back over. He and others who are also bicycle carriers have provided a lot of services for the church as they have permission to travel in the city and have done it for free and with joy. I was able to help a lady in Spain (she has family here) by being a weird kind of Whatsapp doula during part of her labor. (It really was a weird experience but I loved that I was able to help her and be a part of that moment.) People have organized Zoom birthday parties and are calling to check up on one another. They remember to ask how an exam went or how another’s grandma is doing in Venezuela. They worry and do what they can for one who was in a motorcycle accident and has been in a hospital for over a week. They have set up a kids Bible class on Zoom with crafts, singing and everything because they saw the needs of the kids to have interaction and fellowship too. The church here has not waited for needs to fall into their laps before they act. They know that people have needs and seek out to talk to people and as they listen, they find the need and the find a way to encourage that person.
I’m personally very grateful to all the help I’ve received. Not only has Chema helped me out by exchanging money for me, but so many have provided a needed encouragement. One of the missionaries, Jonathan, got with Pilar to listen to her read a book and then read her a book on skype. The other missionaries from Redentor, Jairo and Johana, weekly ask how we’re doing. People from the States have made sure we’re good financially. Ashley Leenerts from the States has gotten with Pilar every Friday on messenger to give her a painting class and talk. Vanessa has been able to come by a couple of times to visit. Lanae Franques is going through a Bible study with me because I needed it.
Although we are isolated, we are not acing like we are alone. Through people showing genuine interest and care, through people acting and giving, we still are confident of our belonging and identity in the family of Christ. We’re trying to learn to be vulnerable and honest and bring our burdens to the church where the burdens are eased by others who help us carry them and who encourage us. That’s family. It helps bring hope and peace and the reality of Christ into our lives, and that’s God’s plan for the church. It’s not perfect because we’re not perfect, but we strive to be a community that shows love by forming true connections.