Fellowship, the true koinonia kind is not easy. We had quite a group of missionaries in Jamaica. Single, married, young, old, middle-aged, with children, childless, with grown children and everything in between! To look at us, you wouldn’t see much that we had in common…except that we were working there at the Bible College.
We were there a semester when a new principal came to the school. His personality was quite different from David Calhoun! He was what many Navigators call a Cruncher. If you are unfamiliar with the Navigators, you probably won’t understand what I’m talking about. Don’t worry. You can probably tell by the word.
By education, Bobby was an engineer and linguist. They had planned to go with Wycliffe to translate the Bible. Due to the ages of their kids, they came to feel that the living situation their children would have to adjust to for a translation lifestyle was not wise for that stage in their lives. Next thing you know, they were headed to Jamaica!
Trying to develop koinonia among the faculty
One thing he wanted to do was help us work together and become close to each other. I think that was a bit of a new concept…especially in some of the areas he was trying to push for it. Bobby was a friend of ours but he was not the kind of person who instantly made friends in this kind of situation! His wife Marilyn was the one who made friends. Bobby was very single-minded. He had goals and plans. He wasn’t as inclined to think about the feelings of the people involved. He was loaded with ideas. I loved it! I loved new things. Not everyone did. I was in my mid 20’s. That may explain some of my enthusiasm.One thing he wanted to do was help us work together and become close to each other. Click To Tweet
We had get-togethers where we shared things about ourselves. As you can imagine, there were introverts and extroverts and everything in between. Out of those times, in spite of our sharing that often brought tears, not always the healthy kind, developed a closeness and love for each other.
Looking back, I can’t even tell you exactly how it happened except that GOD did it. Some of our meetings that forced the closeness did open up wounds and they were painful and raw. But out of them came closeness with time.
I was very clueless, insensitive…and young
For some, it was very threatening to say the least! In one of the meetings, I asked some questions that in hindsight I realize felt much more like an attack than I meant them to be. I was really dumb back then when it came to relationships and how easy it was to hurt others. The side benefit was that the woman I hurt by my questions was defended and encouraged in ways she probably never had been.
No, it doesn’t justify my total stupidity, unawareness, and lack of sensitivity to her. But it showed me how much she was respected and honored. It broadened my view of others in the Body of Christ there. I realized how young and stupid I really was! It was a good thing.
And that’s how koinonia happens. It isn’t magic. It isn’t easy. It can often be raw and while you are in the middle of the process, you will often think it is hopeless and will never happen. But suddenly, you find a tenderness toward the very people you didn’t think you had much in common with. That isn’t natural. It comes from the Holy Spirit working in you…changing you in ways you never dreamed. GOD builds bonds between you that is not natural. It is one part of our Jamaica experience that was very helpful for the rest of my life! Thanks Bobby for your perseverance!That's how koinonia happens. It isn't magic. It isn't easy. It can often be raw... Click To Tweet
We all lost our work permits and were going to have to leave the island
The final straw came when we all lost our work permits partly through the school year of 1976-1977. We didn’t know if we were going to have to leave quickly or not. But GOD answered prayer and we were able to finish the school year.
It was a relief for me because Holly, our youngest, was due in April and I didn’t want to change doctors and move half way through the pregnancy. Fortunately, I didn’t have to. We moved to the U.S. when she was 6 weeks old, but at least she was born and we got through it all together.
For certain, I learned that there are no neat formulas for developing koinonia
As a result of our 7 years in Jamaica, I have no neat formulas for developing koinonia. One thing that has to happen is that we need to be able to be vulnerable and honest with one another. We need to realize that we will fail and need to apologize and repent before GOD. We will never NOT make mistakes in relationships. We need to be committed to one another, realizing that without Jesus we will never do relationships right. When we fail, we apologize and make things right with those we have hurt.
It sounds so easy. Why is it so hard?
Challenge: Have you experienced both the rawness and the joy of koinonia/fellowship? What does it entail on your part to have true fellowship with another person?
Do you find it difficult to apologize? To be honest? To be open and vulnerable?
Are you willing to hang in through the messy process…raw, scary, joyful, loving, caring & supportive?
Oh do I have difficulty apologizing! To my family not so much…to friends yes. I quickly see others’ faults and not my own. Thank you for this post. I saw it appear on my Facebook feed…the 31 days Pinterest links, and then I found the total list and hit on this one first. I like that “K” word. Not even going to try to spell it! 🙂 I will share this series with my missionary friends in Mexico also. I think she will enjoy reading about your time in Jamaica. <3 jenn
p.s. I may apologize to a friend tomorrow! 😉 God willing.
i saw this at the time jennifer, but i guess it didn’t get answered. my internet wasn’t always working where i traveled:( i had to laugh at the PS. as far as the apology, i’m sure GOD willed for it to happen:) blessings girl!
True fellowship can raw … indeed be vulnerable. It is a scary thing to trust that people will not hurt you. But the truth is, we are human beings and we do hurt one another but MOST of the time it is not on purpose. I have suffered from “foot in mouth” disease my entire life! It takes so much effort to actually THINK before I speak and so I am embarrassed to say how many phone I have had to make with “I am so sorry if what I said or how I said something hurt you, please forgive me”. Humbling indeed!
I know I struggle with allowing koinonia into my life….I allow the fear of past hurts to dictate too much how I respond to positive healthy relationships within the body of Christ.
“…suddenly, you find a tenderness toward the very people you didn’t think you had much in common with”.
THIS is so true!!! Back in the day, when the hubby and I were first taking our walk with God seriously in our marriage, it was like” BAM! Here are some others who you have so much in common with. You will all be an encouragement to one another…through the good, the bad, and the ugly :)!
But truthfully, this took years to accomplish!!! SO many wonderful friends that stood by our family through ups and downs…prayed for us when we were “losing” our way. We have blessed with long term known that, like you aid, was sparked and nourished by the Holy Spirit!!
Great words here my friend!!
Glad you could identify with doucj here Donna. Since I have talked to you in person, I’m not surprised to hear your lobservations. The encouraging news? GOD is at work in our lives! When we are in the middle of it we don’t always see it, but He is there just the same.
Your openness is once again a comfort to me. I am often bombarded with memories of some of the stupid things I’ve said and done and feel like I carry a giant sign that says “FOOL.” Then I read your confession of “stupidity, unawareness, and lack of sensitivity,” and I am so encouraged that I am not alone, that it is part of the human condition.
I love how you describe how koinonia happens. I think we can take for granted what a tremendous gift that is.
Fun to hear about Bobby’s enthusiasm and gifts and what he brought to JBC. Your posts illumine the challenges and difficulties of serving beside and getting along with fellow believers in such a situation.
From my present perspective, my enthusiasm must have driven people like your parents wild after all the changes they had lived through there! I cringe to think about it:( they were very gracious Kay:)
I would think your enthusiasm was a breath of fresh air.
Like everyone else, they needed grace too.
for some it was kay. for others…i’m not so sure:) i know bobby enjoyed my enthusiasm. he was always producing tests that i loved to try out…spiritual gifts tests, leadership tests, you name it, i loved to take those things. for someone who had rarely been compliments b/f i met and married ron, it was a great way to have something objective tell me i was good at something. i loved it! ron hated things like that. he didn’t like being pigeon-holed. at any rate, bobby tried out his tests on me. i don’t know what they told him, but they helped me a lot:)
God has given sweet fellowship in Bible studies and in several 12-step meetings. Honesty has always been key – but so too discretion, and compassion — understanding that we can never fully comprehend another’s burdens until we are willing to come alongside, and bear their burden — and introduce them to the One who will never leave them or forsake them.
Sober & Grateful
Very wise sober & grateful. Very wise. It took me a long time and hard times to learn that!