Growing Community Together
Throughout the month of December we journeyed through Advent together and talked about our community as a place of hope, love, and joy. Now, as we enter the New Year, we ask you to join us in planting the seeds of peace, making our community a place where hope, love, and joy abound all year.
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COMMUNITY OF HOPE
As FamilyPoint wraps up its ninth year serving in the Nottingham Park community we enter into this Christmas season excited about this last year and looking forward to plans for 2015. We are able to rejoice with the children, families, and neighbors we have come to know over the years, celebrating our growth together in discerning and meeting needs. Yet, we are also sorrowful in the reality that there are still many families living in poverty, suffering in real and often hidden ways. This tension, ‘as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things’ (1 Cor 6:10) is a large part of what shapes community. The desire in our hearts to be together brings us to moments where we find hope and strength to look into the reality of our lives with patience. Henri Nouwen says, “patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.” The question for us as a community, and an organization is how do we embrace the journey of walking and waiting with hope and patience, constantly looking for the hidden treasures.
A community of hope is one which telescopes its sorrows and pain into the promise of God’s kingdom in order to live joyfully into the present moment. It is a people walking together towards something far better than we could have ever imagined alone. Jean Vanier celebrates that, “community is a wonderful place, it is life-giving; but it is also a place of pain because it is a place of truth and of growth- the revelation of our pride, our fear, and our brokenness.” As we walk closely with others our fears will often cause us to keep a safe distance in order to hide our imperfections and to control outcomes. Through our sports and education programs we are able to walk with kids who are trying new things. We are there when they miss a goal and when they cannot understand a word problem. Together we embrace the journey and when we arrive at the end of the season and the end of the year we look back at everything we accomplished. We can see our growth, feel that we belong, and walk with hope towards new opportunities. It is in this space that we realize who we are and can begin to believe that we are loved and accepted. Our prayer in this season is for our community to continue learning how to love and embrace each other well. And, that we take time to celebrate with hope the gifts of beauty surrounding us each day as well as the gifts of patience for those things which are not yet as they should be in this world. In all that we do, FamilyPoint seeks to follow God as we understand how he calls us to become a welcoming and diverse community; how to become a place to grow, to give and receive love, and to resurrect hope.
COMMUNITY OF LOVE
Hope begins as we are encompassed by love; a love that accepts you just as you are. When we are loved we receive the message that we are beautiful, important, valuable, and trustworthy. The transformative element in being gifted with unconditional love is that we begin to believe all those things that love tells us might actually be true about ourselves. Jean Vanier, in From Brokenness to Community, says that, “the greatest pain is rejection, the feeling that nobody really wants you “like that.” The feeling that you are seen as ugly, dirty, a burden, of no value.” These negative labels shape who we believe we are, what we think we can become, and how we respond to others. At FamilyPoint, through relationships we get to tell children and adults that they are beautifully and wonderfully made. And, we get to say it as many times as they need to hear it, so often once is not enough.
The Nottingham Park area, where we serve, is a community closely knit together around children and families. It is a beautiful neighborhood abundant with great schools and opportunities for kids to grow. However, we often share this space with kids who are close in proximity, yet without actual access to these resources, for a variety of reasons. As neighbors we are encompassed by a diverse number of people, each beautifully and wonderfully made with something unique to share. So, each moment of every day becomes an opportunity to love when each person we encounter is seen as a gift to us and also, as a recipient of our unique gift. In community we have the to chance to love people into existence. And, Vanier says “to love someone is to reveal to them their capacities for life, the light that is shining in them.” This Christmas season may we all give and receive love well, so that the apartments, condos, and houses glow from within, illumined by the common grace of neighbors loving one another.
COMMUNITY OF JOY
This season the parking lots are full of cars, aisles are buzzing with shoppers, and shelves are brimming with gifts. In many ways it is a time of abundance when we gather together to celebrate friends, families, and Christmas traditions. Often, the joy of the season hinges on the act of giving gifts to others. Our hearts overflow with generosity as we look for the perfect gift or buy for them something they’ve always gone without. We cut the ribbons, tear through the delicate paper, and devour the contents of boxes with insurmountable excitement. And, through this debris we can glimpse the greatest gift— the people around us.
Exchanging gifts is a delicate confession of the poverty in our hearts. It is a proclamation of gratitude for who you are and for the gift of your very presence, just as you are, in my life. At FamilyPoint, every day is a kind of Christmas. As a community we are able to give ourselves as gifts every time we sit down with a child to read a book, every time we practice for a game, and every time we laugh with a parent. This time together frees us from our isolation, from our poverty, as we listen and exchange the gift of dignity to one another. The joy in our community is our ability to trust one another on this journey with God. It is admitting that we don’t know where we are going, but together our diversity will gather the resources we need so that we may abound in hope. Our joy hinges on the love we receive, the love we give, and the hope of a new heaven and a new earth.
COMMUNITY OF PEACE
Over the past year the Nottingham Park Community Library has transformed from a place full of resources into a table where the community gathers. It is a space that fills with children, students, and parents each day after school. Registration for sports, arts, and educational extra curricular programs are completed here. Pencils are sharpened, paper airplanes glide, and neighbors from all sides of the community come together in a joyful celebration, in an exchange of love.
This space God has created is a common table where we gather around the hope in new opportunities. And, as we gather around sports teams and dance classes we share stories, listen to needs, and learn ways to support each other. These exchanges begin to tell us that we belong, that we are beautiful, important, and trustworthy. It is at this table that together we embrace the journey of walking and waiting with hope and patience towards something we never could have imagined. Our peace comes from the stability of the table- knowing that it will be here today, tomorrow, and in the future to create a harmony of dialogue where we can work towards meeting needs. At FamilyPoint, we are wrapping up the hope, joy, and love from this year to enter the new year, 2015, with enormous peace- knowing that everything we do is a part of a community uniting around learning how to love, listen, and grow.