A different aspect of community came to light during my time in Cebu, the Philippines. Pastor Allan and Pastora Naomi Prochina have led the Light & Life Christian Fellowship for several years, and just in the past six months have also been leading services at an outreach church in a different part of Cebu. The story of that church is the story of community.
A member of the Cebu church had been praying for and witnessing to a couple she knew for about three years when finally in the fall of 2011 the couple both renounced their worship of idols and began to follow Jesus. The result? A big party where the couple smashed their idols (Acts 19, anyone?) and fully entered into the life of the community.
The next result? The couple donated a large empty area on a piece of their property where, five months later, a fully-functioning church building stands — and was fairly well packed when we were there last month.
The next result? Finding out that some members of the congregation needed additional income opportunity, the couple began to share their knowledge of beauty care product preparation. Eight women are now working to provide for their families through the making, packaging and distribution of rubbing alcohol, baby oil, and massage oil.
This taught me some important things about community:
- There is a point at which people enter into community. Just because someone lives somewhere, or belongs to a group, that does not mean they have entered into community. There is a choice made at some point to be open to sharing yourself, and receiving the sharing of others, that places you as a member of the community.
- Community requires activity. This is one of the challenges for the US related to things like social networking. Simply having 100 or 500 friends on Facebook does not make me part of that community. I must do something in the context of that community to show my solidarity, my identification.
- Community costs me something. For the couple above, it cost their idols (representing their comfort with their old life) and the use of part of their land. It also cost time, energy, and money to help start the beauty products business. For me, it may cost my independent, self-sufficient image, or some of my outside relationships that disapprove of my new community.
By the way, it is very unlikely that SEED will import the beauty products from Light & Life Christian Fellowship, and we like that. How much better is it when a group can sustain itself locally or regionally as opposed to relying on a market thousands of miles away? This group will distribute in local pharmacies, be sensitive to local demand, and have complete local ownership of the work. Now that’s sustainable livelihood.