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“not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)

There’s something powerful about community, especially the “church community.” In large sprawling communities as well as towns that don’t even have a blinking light, all have pockets of caring, faithful children of the Living God. It’s in those small units of care that real ministry takes place. I just watched and felt it this week.

I’m home now in my den writing this, but I felt just at home this last week in the company of my “second family” as we grieved the passing and celebrated the life of my “second mom.” Finding joy in the midst of sorrow is easier than you can imagine. Though we lost for now a loved one, we all gained hours of laughter, which you know is good for the soul, as we went through pages of pictures from the past. My wife told me that she hadn’t heard me laugh that hard in years. Maybe it was from the intense pain I was feeling deep within that needed to be released or from the overwhelming knowledge that my image and those of my children and friends from yesterday were worthy to be kept and remembered, where those belly-laughs were flowing. Regardless, there was joy to be found in riding the tsunami waves of grief…and we rode them together!

But, there were others who rode with us. Their church family lavished love with flowers and food that kept coming like the never-ending surge of the surf. Waves of encouragement and deeply felt expressions of sorrow were verbalized by the members of their church family which had joined together without an organizational plan or need for motivation to do so, around my second family. I felt it, too. My family was walking the lonely grounds of grief, but we were never truly alone. The Lord was there through the tender words and actions of His children on call. He was there in a double portion! They cried with us and laughed with us as we celebrated a life well lived, one that knew how to love with quiet strength. There’s just something overwhelmingly wonderful about the fellowship of Christ’s body, the church: expressed love.

As we said our goodbyes, I wept again as I hugged my “little brother” and kissed the forehead of the man who actually rescued me, in more ways than I can count, at 11 years old. I thought I was “wept-out” but I guess not. I have no fear for them as they find their new normal in the days ahead. They have such a fabulous church family that has and continues to surround them with the tangible hands of Jesus in action. I’m reminded today of what Jesus said, “Give and it shall be given unto you…”

What they have been receiving and continue to receive is the very thing they have been doing for decades themselves… giving. The love that they have given away to others is being returned in manifold proportions…just when they needed it most.  That’s the power of community. You don’t experience it unless you have one….and if you do, you know its power!

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