The Blessing of a Healthy Community at Bethel
Recently my family and I attended a session at NMU on preventing suicide, drug abuse, and self-abuse among young people. The presenters started a campaign a few years ago selling T-shirts with the statement “To Write Love on Her Arms” on the shirts. The thought came from an encounter with a young woman who had written an abusive statement on her arm and Jamie, the head of the organization, wished he could right love on her arms to turn around her negative thinking. The T-shirts caught on thru a website and have sold like hotcakes. In addition, multitudes of young people have contacted Jamie and his assistants to tell their sad stories of destructive actions with drugs and self-abuse. Both of my children were wearing their T-shirts which they had purchased over the internet after the campaign caught on in Marquette.
Jamie and his assistant Denny, who had come to tell his story of beating drug-addiction, appeared to be Christians by some of the things they said. They have been invited all over the country to speak at universities and other venues about how young people can get help. The Great Lakes Rooms at NMU were packed with college students. During a Q & A session many young adults rose to tell stories of coping with addiction, fears of suicide and similar problems. They spoke to Jamie and Denny as though they were personal friends. These very compassionate men who do this ministry full-time clearly have struck a chord with many lonely, struggling young people.
The main gist of their advice was that we all need a healthy community to turn to for love, strength, and a sense of belonging. Denny’s life was turned around when his mother convinced him to go on a church mission’s trip. He was antagonistic to Christianity, but went anyway and discovered a man who followed up on him afterward out of concern. Realizing somewhat thought that much of him to pursue him afterward changed his life. That one man’s follow-up and the positive experience of the mission’s trip caused Denny to reject the drug-culture that had become his unhealthy community.
As my family talked about this later, I realized how blessed we are to have a healthy community here at Bethel. The Bible calls this koinonia – fellowship, Acts 2:41. The early believers were devoted tokoinonia because their former community had become hostile and destructive to them. In the church they found the love, strength and sense of belonging we all need to make it.
Recently we went thru some family stresses that caused us to feel very weak and helpless. Because of the love we feel here at Bethel we felt permission to be vulnerable and ask for help. We found deep empathy, the sharing of similar stories, listening ears, valuable advice, and friends willing to drop everything and come to our aid. We came out of the experience praising God for the wise, mature, loving believers God has brought to Bethel. As I listened to Jamie and Denny, I realized I had just experienced what a healthy community is.
We have a tremendous resource in the body of Christ here at Bethel. Let me urge you to spend time with Bethel people, get to know them, and learn to love them. Worship God with them, study the Bible with them, and serve in ministry alongside of them. When stresses arise don’t feel you have to go it alone. Be vulnerable. Seek wisdom and help. You will find an incredible community that wants to be there for you. And you will become a part of that community that is there for others.
Your friend, in koinonia, Pastor Brian (:-}).