Friday, February 22, 2019

Village People

"For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” -Matthew 18:20 “It takes a village to raise a child” is a concept recognized world wide. But it’s just not valid for parenting- it’s valid for everything! Villages help raise families, marriages, friendships…life! For over 35 years, Jeanie and I have been a part of a “village” called a “small group” and it has made all the difference in our lives. Years ago, Hillary Clinton shared the quote about “villages” and she also wrote a book with that title. It is an Igbo and Yorbu proverb that exists in many different African languages. It reflects the emphasis African cultures place on family and community. This proverb is so widely used in Africa that there are equivalent statements in most African languages including, “One knee does not bring up a child” in Sukuma, and “One hand does not nurse a child” in Swahili. It’s used all over the world. Everyone agrees with the concept, but few truly live in community. A few nights ago, on Valentines day, our “village” went to dinner and dancing at The Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks. We had such a wonderful time. This group has been meeting and fellowshipping together for over thirty years. Though our group has changed and evolved over the years, our common denominator-Jesus- has never changed. Currently, the Staples’, Sankey’s, Morgan’s, Peterson’s, Chancey’s, Wiebe’s, Ford’s and Brian Beadle gather every other week for fellowship, food, Bible study and prayer. Over the years, our group has included the Cooper’s, Dodd’s, Freeman’s, Nuenke’s, Haddad’s, and Cunningham’s. I’ve probably forgotten a couple or two. Life has moved us all over the globe, but the friendships remain. We are a group that has weathered many seasons. We have cried together over disappointments; we have laughed together over silly jokes, we have grieved together over loses, and we have prayed together for our precious families. In short, we have walked through many seasons of life together. Could we have walked it on our own? Sure. Truthfully, staying in “villages” can be challenging. Expectations, comparison, pride, scheduling- all can be hindrances to village life. It’s just easier to handle it all under our own roof. But we have found that the pay off in sharing our load far exceeds the cost of keeping it to ourselves. Perhaps 2019 is meant to be a year of connection for your family. There are all kinds of advantages that come from living in a village. Sure, we need to shield our young kids from bad influences, but we need to steer them towards good influences. A fellow villager just might instruct your child in a way more effective than you. Back in the season when our kids were in the home (nearly all of our kids are adults now), we all helped raise each other’s kids. We had the freedom to correct them and to encourage them. Become a village person by leaning into the families with whom you already fellowship. Turn up the volume a bit-set up intentional times to hang together, share your prayer requests with each other, ask for help, be safe but be vulnerable with each other. Bear each other’s loads… …and let the community flourish! By Eric Joseph Staples ©

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