I spent four hours yesterday with two of the loveliest ladies in the world.
Now, in God's providence, we all live within an hour of each other, and we took the afternoon yesterday to meet in a coffee shop and just yap, as only women can do. Mostly, we talked about our children. When we were in Iowa 12-15 years ago, Mary Anna's children were just getting into high school, my kids were in elementary, and Carolyn had no children yet. We also discussed marriage, our churches, ministry in general, our plans and trials, our extended families, and much more.
We also talked about the unique, strong bond that is formed when Christians work together in community. By this, I don't mean how most people function in their churches, where they come together to worship or work, but then go back to their own homes and their own lives. At the boarding school, we lived next to each other, taught school together, taught each other's kids, ate meals together in the dining hall, worked in the garden (and at dozens of other jobs together), worshiped together, studied together. We were everything to each other. Naturally, that kind of relationship carries its own pitfalls and challenges, but the long effect of it is this: very meaningful friendships that last much, much longer than normal friendships. I'd say they're almost as strong as family bonds. I can't imagine ever losing track of these people.
Carolyn found a wonderful online article about this very topic. You can read it here. It's rather long (in fact, it's a chapter to a book just coming out), so if you want to skip down to the line that says, "Which sounds like another mission we’re well acquainted with," you'll read the gist of it. The writer makes a distinction between fellowship, which is often shallow and brief, and mission, which is life-threatening and of immense importance. Those involved in mission together will have eternal bonds. Those who merely fellowship, as the modern church does fellowship, won't experience such miracles. Mission is grueling, and creates dependency; you can't do it alone. Dependency on each other fosters deep need and love. (The writer is Mark Buchanan, his novel Your Church Is Too Safe.
I hope you, dear reader, may have such tight friendships as a result of real community ministry. We just happened upon it. It's not easy, but the rewards of it are so rich, and last a lifetime. Actually, they last for eternity, and that it a very happy thought!