Read Paul Born's latest book:
Read Paul Born's latest book:
This past Sunday we had a beautiful conversation at Grace Lao Mennonite church. What made this conversation particularly unique was that it was the first conversation from this campaign to be held almost completely in a language other then English. Thanks to the translations of Pastor Yoel, we engaged in a dialogue in the first language of the group: Laotian.
Grace Lao Mennonite Church is a small Mennonite church in Kitchener centered around the local Lao community.
When asked about memorable experiences of community, there was a buzz in the room. One particular memory was voiced by several people was the local Mennonite relief sale that occurs every spring. It has become a church tradition to have a booth that sells egg roles to raise money for the Mennonite Central Committee for its many aid projects. This is a large undertaking as the event draws thousands of people from across Southern Ontario. For it to be successful it requires the community to have all hands on deck. Working together for this common cause is a very positive experience for all involved.
When asked about why the Grace Lao Mennonite Church is important people talked about having a community of people to encourage each other spiritually, particularly in a society that is so secular. Several people talked about the value of worshipping together to build these bonds. It is a powerful communal experience to all sing as one. They also talked about the piece of mind it gave them knowing they had a group who cared about them.
Community also has a shadow side to it. In our conversation at Grace Lao we also explored this aspect of community. People talked about how sometimes friction would occur between people in the community, sometimes we would have negative thoughts of others. Or be unhappy with tasks that are required of us or frustration with helping others. Ultimately though there was a common sentiment that even though we sometimes have these negative thoughts, in the end we have to get along and do what is expected of us by the community.
Interestingly, when we turned to the topic of a healthy community, a couple people talked about the importance of a good leader in helping guide and set the tone for the community. I was surprised by this as it is not a topic that has often come up. I think though that the Grace Lao community is right, leadership is really important for creating a healthy community, not only do they set the tone and culture during the good times but they also help a community navigate the challenges.
Another common theme that popped up a couple times through out the discussion was the idea of prayer. This came up both in the communal sense of a congregation praying together and also in the context of praying for each other. People talked about how it led to good relationships spiritually, emotionally and mentally. It also created an atmosphere where people felt supported and cared for by the larger community.
At the heart of this conversation was the sentiment that by coming together around God's word, this group had succeeded in building a strong community where people felt supported and loved and where they were happy to raise their kids knowing that they would grow up having a deep value of community.
Congegrants preparing spring rolls at the MCC annual relief sale