Just over four years ago, I studied abroad in Northern Ireland. It was there that I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I still remember those months as being some of the hardest, most joyful, most eye-opening days of my life. God used that time to not only give me abundant life, but also to give me amazing gifts. I have had the opportunity to return to Northern Ireland twice since leaving in 2009 and each time I return, I learn something more about myself, my friends abroad, and the Lord. Most recently, I was in Northern Ireland visiting friends, two of whom were getting married. I was asked to be apart of their ceremony as their Scripture reader, and I couldn’t decline such a beautiful invitation.
There is always this haunting calmness that comes over me when I go back to Ireland. I’m a rather anxious person, so when don’t feel stressed, I know that it is something special. One of my friends, Ruth, picked me up from the airport in Belfast, Ireland. I saw her and skipped over to give her the biggest hug someone could give after not seeing such a close friend in over three years. We didn’t have too much time to gush over the fact that I was back in her presence because we had to surprise my friend Leanna (the bride). You see, I told Leanna I was coming in on June 6th. That’s what she believed the whole time, the best kept transcontinental secret ever. When Leanna saw me standing next to the car when picking her up, she was speechless. It was really one of those “fist pumping” moments to hear her say over and over again, “I can’t believe you’re here.”
After a weekend in Dublin with loads of banter, a week in Belfast doing life and a wedding to boot, I was overwhelmed by the amount of love and selflessness that my friends showed me. It was over three years since I had seen them, but the moment I stepped off the plane, it’s like the piece of my heart that had been missing since 2009 was returned.
The Importance of Community
My friends in Northern Ireland made me realize the importance of intentionality with my community, both near and far. Without the time and effort they invested into an overseas relationship with me, everything we had come to create in our friendship would have fallen by the wayside. If we hadn’t been texting, skyping, facebooking and emailing, I would have been so concentrated on getting to know everyone all over again, that I wouldn’t have been able to cherish “doing life” with them.
I hope to take this lesson and apply them to my community in Minneapolis. I want to be more intentional about investing in my small group, my friends from college and my colleagues at work. I want to be able to cherish every moment with them as people who I care deeply about, rather than letting relationships die off. My community is too important to me to let that happen and by God’s grace alone, I won’t let that happen.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 10: 24-25
We are called to be intentional with one another. We are called to live with one another through our joys and our sorrows. We are called to hold one another accountability. I feel honored and blessed to have people that I’m able to be intentional with, and by God’s grace, I won’t take that for granted.