In Search of Real Community, Part 1: My Past

A few years ago, I lived in an apartment at 3116 Waynoka Ave. When I moved in with my friend Pete, I had no idea how that address would change my life. If I’d been looking for extensive privacy, I don’t think I would have lasted long. Pete and our neighbor Rachelle were both heavily involved with the African refugees in Memphis and that often made our home a hangout for Sudanese boys. Sudanese boys who became friends as they raided our fridge, hung out, helped with the garden, or played basketball in the driveway.

I remember Gary, who often dropped by very, very late. There were times he’d had a little too much to drink, and times he just wanted to talk. I still laugh when I think about some of those conversations, and how, inevitably at some point, he’d say something like, “Kirk… man, you a f___ing scientist!”

Rachelle moved out and Carson moved in. Jamin and William added their names to the roster of the quad along with others like Becky and Kathryn and Kristen. Elizabeth moved in one building over, and Jorge and Ginny to the building on the other side. Each brought something unique and special to the neighborhood. We were a mixed group: artists, musicians, farmers, researchers, teachers, students, missionaries, but the key component we shared that bound us deeply was our faith in Christ and the mission we shared because of that faith.

And while I could tell you many stories, I choose one today because it is the community I long for crystallized into a few short days. It begins on a Friday with the heaviest snow I’ve seen in the ten years I’ve been here in Memphis. Having grown up in the mountains of Northern New Mexico, I don’t consider most of what falls here to qualify as snow. This was real snow. The kind of snow I’d be really excited to find fresh fallen on the ski slopes. I got off early that day, and unable to make a Dr.’s appointment, I took my time going home. I enjoyed every moment of that ride home in the quiet, abandoned streets. While I enjoyed it, much of Memphis was probably in a panic. The rumor of snow is enough to clear grocery store shelves here, and with this kind of snow Memphis was closed for the duration.

But we were a little different. I arrived home just in time to join the move to Red Oaks. It was quite the snowball showdown between neighbors and friends.A bit cold, but smiling we made our way home and settled in for the night with plans for the morning. A few hours later, our apartment was filled with the aroma of cooking breakfast and the murmur of conversation. Everyone was there, including some Rhodes students who’d been invited by one of the neighbors. We enjoyed great food and great conversation, and by the end of that breakfast we’d decided to do it again the next day. Our Sunday service would be right there in the same place since all the church doors were closed city wide. We broke into smaller groups throughout the day. I personally ended up in Jorge and Ginny’s apartment playing board games with them and a friend visiting them from Colombia.

And then Sunday came. Thinking back, I can only imagine that we experienced something akin to the church depicted in Acts 2:42. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” To be honest, those words characterized not just Sunday morning, but every waking moment of that weekend. It is this experience that helps me define real Christian community, and it is this type of community that I hope comes to characterize what we plan to do in Whitehaven, and who we hope to be in Whitehaven. A body of believers living out Acts 2:42. A community that is part of the greater community that we might also see “the Lord adding to (our) numbers daily those who (are) being saved.”

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