March 2011 - Vol. 48.

Elizabeth (left) with the Marcojos family in Manila, Philippines

Blessings of Inter-Community Hospitality

by Elizabeth Grace Saunders

This past January, I visited my eighth community in the Sword of the Spirit, Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon. At this stage of my life and career, I am blessed to have many opportunities to travel and visit communities not only nearby, but on the other side of the world as well. I’ve found that with each trip my love for community – not just my home community, Word of Life, but the whole network of the Sword of the Spirit – grows and grows and grows. These travels provide incredible encouragement to me that there are people all over the world living the same way of life. It’s also an excellent way to learn different approaches to community building and for me, as a Protestant, to live out practical ecumenism with all-Catholic communities.

Some of you have experienced the joys of meeting brothers and sisters in community from around the globe. But others may be thinking, “That sounds great for you. But that’s really not possible for me.” 

I understand that not everyone can do quite as much travel to other communities, but almost everyone can capture more of a global community vision.

Here are some practical tips that I have learned, both in receiving hospitality from people from other communities, and in showing hospitality to those who visit my community.

Be Hospitable

  • If you see someone new at your community meeting or hear someone introduced as a visitor, go over and say, Hello. Generally they’re very happy to have people to talk to when they’re outside of their normal environment. If you connect well, you may have a longer conversation, but even a few minutes of asking someone where they’re from and why they’re visiting can be a quality encounter. 
  • If you get on well with someone or know that someone is visiting from far away, consider inviting them to dinner or taking them to local sites of interest. If they don’t have a lot of scheduled activities, this practical hospitality is much appreciated. 
  • If you have the ability to make a room or even a comfortable coach available, let your community visitor coordinator know that you’re open to hosting guests.  People coming from out of town will greatly appreciate having a place to stay and this gives you a wonderful opportunity to get to know them better. 

Tess and Elizabeth (rightt)  in Manila, Philippines

Attend Conferences

  • Sword of the Spirit conferences often happen nearby your community and are an easy way to get to know those outside of your local circle. During the socializing times or when you’re choosing a place to sit, look for people that you don’t know. If it’s intimidating for you to do this on your own, ask one or two friends to join you in talking with people outside your local circle.
  • Regional conferences offer an amazing chance for you to spend time with people from other parts of the country or continent or even the world. These events require more commitment in terms of time and cost but pay off in providing expanded opportunities to make connections. Some of the best ways to meet new people during these times are to room with someone from another community, sit with people you don’t know at sessions and meals, ask the people you do know to introduce you to new people, and to participate in activities during the breaks that are open to people from all communities.
  • Serving at conferences is another way to get to know people from all corners of the world by working alongside them. Every service, small or great, is appreciated at these events: giving people rides, hosting participants, cooking, leading worship, or coordinating small discussion groups. 
Travel Intentionally
  • All of the Sword of the Spirit communities are listed at this Web address: Some communities are the only ones in their country but others have quite a number of communities close by. If a community is just a short day trip away, consider attending a prayer meeting there. Many of them have their prayer meetings and contact information listed on an online calendar, or you can ask your local community leaders if they have any connections or contact details.
  • If you notice that you’ll be traveling to a place near a community, consider stopping in for a day or two. For instance, I met someone from the Triumph of the Cross community at the North American Regional Conference last June. In November, I drove to her family’s home after I completed a business conference in the DC area. This gave me the chance to spend two nights with them, including seeing part of the Appalachian Trail and attending a dinner with community families.
  • Consider taking a vacation to another part of the country or the world where you can experience a new community. For instance in January, I had the opportunity to visit the Ligaya community in Manila. This adventure showed me once again how our community life is the same all over the world – including Lord’s Days, prayer meetings, women’s groups, and even honorings at birthdays. But this trip also allowed me to pick up new ideas for building community life among young professionals. I brought back lots of ideas to the leadership team in my home community in Ann Arbor. 

Elizabeth and the Estrella's children  in Manila, Philippines

Serve Elsewhere

  • Gap years and years of service allow you to serve in other parts of the country or the world. Consider whether God is calling you to take time away from your own community to be a blessing to others and then ask your coordinators how you can apply. 
  • If God is calling you to consider living single for the Lord, your time of discernment could be an opportunity to travel and stay for a while in one of the Servants of the Word households located in five countries, or with one of the women from the Bethany Association who live in a number of Sword of the Spirit communities worldwide.
  • Staff workers for Kairos, an international federation of outreaches to high school, university and post university aged people, will often have the opportunity to interact with people from other communities. If you feel God calling you to serve in one of the Kairos outreaches in your own community or elsewhere, he could use this time to broaden your international horizons.
  • Community building in new places and community development in areas where groups want to become an affiliated community also requires visitors from established communities.  You could let your community leaders know you’re willing to be of service in this way.
Most importantly, pray that God would direct your steps. Ask him to tell you where he would like to lead you. The best place to be – at home or abroad – is in his will. 

[Elizabeth Grace Saunders is a member of the Word of Life Community in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She owns a time coaching & training company that empowers people who are overwhelmed and frustrated to feel peaceful and accomplished through Schedule Makeovers.]

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