The Process of Community

On a cold rainy day in El Alto I walked into the SutiSana workshop.  The space is filled with ladies hovered over sewing machines.  To make your way to the offices, you first have to walk through the middle of the production process.  As I try to unassumingly sneak past, one artisan lifts her head and says, “Hola Jefe, el viento debe estar soplando,” which means “Hey boss, the wind must be strong to have blown you in!”

I don’t go to the office everyday anymore.  Since moving into my new role as Regional Coordinator (I was Co-Director for Bolivia for several years), I now find myself working in quieter spaces from home and a little further from the daily decision making.  At the same time, I recognize my need for community.  I need to rub shoulders and be in communion with those that I have come to realize God has placed in my life for a reason.  In many ways these ladies have become my family.

You see, I typically wouldn’t find myself hanging out with women making hand bags, from a different culture and with a questionable past.  I tend to pursue relationships with like-minded people and bond through shared activity.  If you ride a bike or climb mountains we can almost instantly be friends.  But somehow in the Kingdom of God, these ladies have become my teachers.  Their outspoken and brazen way of speaking into my life calls me back in line and reminds me that they need me, and I need them.  Without a doubt God has placed us together for this season. 

A family living near WMF Bolivia shares a meal together.

Community is like a close relationship with a person or group of people.  Not the easy kind, but the kind that requires effort and intentionality.  It is the mirror that is kindly — or sometimes not so kindly — lifted to help reveal our true self.  Similar to how the apostle Paul said that in this life we see through a mirror dimly, but in the next life we will see clearly (1 Cor. 13:12), I’ve often felt like community helps clear the view in this life giving us hope and anticipation for the next.  Several eyes or perspectives help shed light on any given situation and often help give insight into my own life.  Scripture reminds us that there is “deliverance is in a multitude of counsellors (Proverbs. 11:14).

Opening ourselves up to the refining process of living and working in community necessitates a willingness to grow and move past our current state.  In a world driven by self expression and individualism, there is a hidden treasure found when we willingly engage and even submit to those around us.  Henry Nouwen describes it this way.  “I am learning that the best cure for hypocrisy is community.  Hypocrisy is not so much the result of not living what I preach but much more of not confessing my inability to fully live up to my own words.” 

Over the years I’ve learned that hiding or sneaking past people who are my community only leaves me isolated.  The same is true with our heavenly Father.  We are made to be in communion with Him and with those around us.  The greatest commandment reminds us of this truth.  So, slowly over time and whenever appropriate I have made it habit to greet with a kiss and embrace those who our loving Father has placed in my life.  I rest in the fact that He is our good Father and gives us exactly what we need. 

ABOUT ANDY

Andy loves family and a good adventure.  He’s also passionate about his contribution to world.  He believes that an honest faith journey will lead us to look beyond ourselves and consider the needs of others.  In 2001, Andy and his wife Andrea moved to Bolivia to serve vulnerable populations in the sprawling city of El Alto.  Together they founded Word Made Flesh Bolivia, a ministry presence in the red-light district of El Alto and SutiSana, a social enterprise that offers alternative employment to survivors of prostitution and human-trafficking.  Currently Andy serves as Regional Coordinator for South America, offering oversight and support to WMF fields and staff in the region.  He is father to 4 active boys and husband to one amazing wife.

CONNECT WITH ANDY

andy.baker@wordmadeflesh.org

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