By Candice Young
There was a man who was allergic to nuts in the congregation where my grandmother was church hostess. I don’t remember his name, but I do remember my granny being concerned that he wouldn’t have enough to eat at a Baptist potluck (as if that were possible). He seemed perfectly content with his full plate that was literally buckling from the weight of his Sunday feast. But to Audrey Fae Kent, keeper of the kitchen and fighter for the fellowship, she worried he might still feel a bit left out.
This church was the last vestige of a mill community inside of Columbus, Georgia — my hometown. My grandmother worked in the mill during World War II making military canteens. To support the mill workers, residential lots and commercial services like a corner store and post office sprang up. There was also an elementary school and one place of worship—a Baptist church. I don’t know the exact year that my granny assumed the role of hostess, but the job entailed overseeing any event in the church that involved fellowship. She was the chief community builder for her congregation, and she did this joyfully.
Recently, I was in Raleigh, North Carolina visiting CBF field personnel, Kim and Marc Wyatt to prepare for the upcoming Offering for Global Missions emphasis on creating beloved community. The Wyatts work with refugees and immigrants helping them to successfully resettle in the Research Triangle area of the state. I spent time in three homes belonging to Afghan, Burmese and Malaysian and Congolese refugees.
I became fast friends with the family of Nunu and Thomas, who left Malaysia to come to America after being persecuted for being Christian. We sat in their living room, just the family and me, watching cartoons, telling stories and eating fruit. Similar to the man with the nut allergy, I was perfectly content with my plum, but Nunu, knowing that I had not eaten lunch, continued to lay out a spread of oranges, pomegranates and rice. She was the chief community builder for her family, and like my grandmother, she did this joyfully.
During Nunu’s interview for the Offering video, she was asked how we can be more welcoming to refugees. In her answer, she extended an invitation for people to come to her home and admitted she wants to be invited to theirs, too. In this opportunity to ask for anything of the CBF congregations, her only request was for community — the very thing she’d spent her afternoon building with me. I left her home thinking about the impact that church, not just faith, could have on Nunu and her family. I remembered my granny, too. We have all been the man with the nut allergy and we all have opportunities to be my grandmother.
God calls us to “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ.”
Carry each other. To do this, we must be intentional about our shared role as community builders. As I look back at this election and forward to Advent, I take a lot of hope from this call. There are and will continue to be debates about complex legal and moral issues, but kindness isn’t complicated (albeit not always easy). We know it when we give it, when we receive it and when we’ve chosen to avoid it. But we must take seriously that building community fulfills the law of Christ.
I came home from Raleigh and offered the most hopeful prayer I’ve prayed in a while: God, help me to be more intentional in seeing the community of the small things, to recognize when I’ve been placed in someone’s path and when someone has been placed in mine, to let me see and be like Nunu and Audrey Fae who gave me hope that community is indeed possible even in the face of fear.
I’m grateful for the examples of everyday community modeled by the kindness of my grandmother and the man who drove out of his way each week to attend her church because she cared about his potluck plate, and by Nunu and the afternoon that a room full of strangers who, by offering bowls of fruit and Doc McStuffins, carried the burden of a woman who hadn’t eaten lunch.
God, I pray we continue to carry each other and in that act, find hope.
Candice Young serves as the Marketing Manager for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.