Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Brothers & Sisters

My small group met last night, as we do fortnightly, to eat together, pray together, and be encouraged by the study of God's Word. I am particularly struck by the servant hearts and compassionate outlooks of everyone in my group. There's three older Scottish folk, all of whom have been here for years: one woman runs a shelter for the homeless, tending frostbite and doling out soup and somehow scraping together enough money for cheap shoes that the homeless people don't have to be barefooted in three inches of snow; another woman teaches primary school and is involved in a couple of projects with locals; and there's the fellow who gave up a fine career on his national education board to head up the tiny secondary school where I teach. So those are the Scots for you, a hardy good-natured bunch. Then there's a Dutch couple, who are moving to the unstable south of the country soon with their two young children, to start up a business and train local people. As with so many Europeans, they speak beautiful English (apologetically, as though somehow they're about to get it wrong) and have been taking an intensive course in Kyrgyz language. There's a German couple, experts in local language and culture; there's a young American fellow, working in a school for disabled children; and there's my Australian friend who teaches with me. A motley crew with myriad differences, and yet everybody loves and serves each other selflessly. For instance, the woman who runs the homeless shelter had quite a week: in the space of five days she broke her wrist on the ice, got quite sick, lost her purse, negotiated a tricky workplace issue; and yet she was laughing and praising God with genuine gladness, and members of the group have been helping her this week with groceries and money and practical things, as they helped me when I was sick. And I haven't even mentioned my colleagues or the friends I've been making through different avenues, all of whom are similarly faithful, gracious folk.

Such is the community in which I find myself, and how can I help but praise God for the beauty of character and steadfastness of spirit that he brings about in his people? How else could such a motley, diverse group of people find common ground and genuine fellowship? I'm reminded that it's God who works within us to will and to act according to his good purpose, who transforms and renews us daily; only then can we love each other properly.