Monday, May 18, 2009

Authentic Community

This is the view that captured my attention as I trudged home for supper from the neighbourhood basketball court -- the riveting sight of the sun breaking through the clouds to illuminate a portion of the Pacific Ocean below. After a couple of hours of three-on-three, half-court basketball with a bunch of guys half my age, I was ready for a hot shower and an evening on the couch.

But as I gazed at the beauty of sunlight on the Pacific, my mind kept going back to the basketball game I had just played with some of the other YWAM staff here in Tijuana. And then my mind jumped to another recent evening, when these same guys (plus a few more) spent the evening encouraging and praying for each other.

And then I thought of the other staff who just show up on our front porch, and their smiles as Wendy welcomes them in, while I start grinding beans for a fresh pot of café. Or the previous week, when we all piled into one of the nearby staff apartments to watch Corazón Valiente (Braveheart) together.

Recent history has been rough on Mexico in general, Tijuana more specifically, and on our YWAM base in particular. One of our senior staff referred to key elements coming together to form the "perfect storm" which is wreaking havoc here:
  1. the violence between the army and the various drug cartels (which has tapered off dramatically in the past eight months or so, although judging by the continued fear-mongering, it seems that the media hasn't noticed)

  2. the economic down-turn world-wide

  3. swine flu (again, with the media-driven Pandemic of Fear)
Thankfully, our base has no debt; all the property and buildings at our new facility were paid upfront. Debt will not be dictating what we do in ministry. But at the same time, as the Pandemic of Fear continues, we are getting more and more youth groups, churches, and business groups canceling. Which means that our Homes of Hope staff have to meet with the families that are desperate for a house, to break the news to them that YWAM can't provide them with one after all. It is heart-breaking to see the despair in the eyes of people who were clinging to hope for so long. 

Yet the community of YWAM'ers here haven't withdrawn into their own private worlds to ponder the complexities of life. If anything, our sense of inter-connectedness and community has increased. From basketball to prayer to playing pool to cleaning the kitchen, there is a very real sense of authentic community. 

I know that some people think that any community based around common work or ministry isn't "real" community; it's viewed as "merely" work-related temporary alliances. My experience tells me otherwise. Our community here does have a coming-and-going dynamic because, well, YWAM missionaries are pretty nomadic and prone to living like John 3:8

But as I look around the community, I see a wide variety of ages, denominations, socio-economic backgrounds, languages and nationalities. People I would normally not even meet, let alone choose to spend time with. People who, after long days of hard work, choose to hang out in their free time together.

Yet, we are not all of a kind -- we are a wildly divergent lot. And that's what makes the community so special: we may have been drawn together by a common ministry and love for Tijuana, but now that we're here, we have all chosen to be intentional about being in honest community and camaraderie with each other.

My only complaint is that tomorrow, all the young guns from the basketball court will be ready to get at it again, and I'll be stiff and sore. :)