Community: Justin Bieber, Quality Inn, Walmart, a country wedding, and Burger King.

Three years ago I stepped out into an unknown adventure. Three years ago I walked toward a journey that would completely change my life. Three years ago I met people that would become so incredibly important.  On June 7, 2009 I left the United States for Italy to work with a sports organization in their internship that, little to my knowledge, would absolutely change my life. My entire summer was spent with a group of 14 other interns and some staff. We had fun, we played sports, went running… we prayed together, worshipped together…we wanted to kill each other [at times], laugh with each other, and cry with each other. Those 14 people became people that have become part of my most intimate community. That is what this is about… community.  Community is about common unity… Jesus Christ being the central thing in each of our lives. We each have stories that we came from, but that summer brought 15 completely opposite and yet so similar people together in a crazy way. We became a family. We became a unit of people believers, though sometimes fractured, wounded, or guarded.

Now three years since our return from Italy and I am still amazed. With so much that has happened- drama, breakups, fights….pretty much normal dysfunction and yet so much fun, excitement, and ridiculous memories, this one weekend reminded me of what I have that is taken for granted. God has gifted me with this incredible group of people that few people can understand or relate to simply because of our experiences in Italy.

This weekend brought us all together. From arriving to Atlanta to driving down to Mariana, FL, us girls chatted about life, love, and…Justin Bieber. Yes that happened, on replay multiple times. When we arrived, we found out our beloved guys from the team paid for us a hotel room at Quality Inn where we all proceeded to hang out, share memories, laugh, and just be among friends that matter. We were joined by a few others from other the following years’ internship groups. They joined in the memories, the jokes, and the laughter. Only a group of close-knit friends could have relationships as we do, and yet so quickly add family members like we did from the other teams. With a trip to Walmart to grab, of course, basic necessities for us like a nose ring, sunglasses, hair mouse, and don’t forget a gift card for the happy couple…we still maintained our familial presence.

3 Generations of one amazing training that changed all our lives.

And yet only a group of 20-somethings from 3 different years of internships from all over the country [and some around the world] could come together at a Southern country wedding that had to have been Pinterest-designed. We danced, we laughed, but more than that we saw our two beloved friends- the ones who were the reason we all flew from literally all over the country- from California to New Jersey [yours truly] to Oklahoma- to see people that we so deeply cherish tie the knot under the beauty and sacredness of Godly marriage. Only in true community would you find a group of 10 people that come from all over the States to pray for a couple in blessing their marriage. In taking funny pictures for them and bringing the bride and groom to tears because of the beauty of our bond as friends and family. And then even today, as I rode back to Atlanta, not with my original group, but two of the newly inducted family members from the second year, I felt just as much communion with them. I found myself at the end of the journey with the final member from this group as we sat in an Atlanta Burger King. Instead of me waiting in the airport for 5 hours, he prolonged his long journey back home and continued the same community we all had during the weekend. We ended up chatting for 3 of those hours in this Burger King about God, our testimonies, and memories from various adventures. Only in true community can that happen.

I leave you with something, and believe me, its nothing profound. Find true community. It is not easy to come by nor is it easy to keep. But if you find a group of people that love the Lord deeply and desire to grow together in that bond- there is your common unity- your foundation. Hold onto that- don’t let go. It is too beautiful of thing to just quit. Live life together. Grow in God together…But be together.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. 

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