When Mary and I moved to Berryville, it was for the purpose of allowing Mary’s dad to finish out his days living on the farm and in the community he loved. For Mary it was like moving home, but for me, it was alien turf. I had never lived in a small community.
There were adjustments to be made with 3 generations living under one roof. It was give and take, but often seemed like more give than take. But as we received John for who he was, we were able to begin to enjoy and appreciate each other and what we each brought to the household.
Living in Berryville was a little different though. I chafed at the slowness and lack of change around me. Everything and everyone seemed “settled into a long winter’s nap” and were at peace with that. But I wasn’t! God had to jar me awake using John 1.14. Eugene Petersen beautifully translates this passage; “and God became flesh and blood, and he moved into the neighborhood”. Jesus was at rest in the small town of Nazareth going about the daily affairs of life and doing the “works of the Father”. I needed to learn a few lessons from Jesus!
Receive my neighborhood as from the Lord.
God had clearly brought us here, but after the newness wore off and the “dailyness” settled in, I longed for somewhere else. My greatest fear was that we would never leave. This attitude kept me from entering in to the “everyday” life of those around me. Elizabeth Eliot quotes Amy Carmichael, “In acceptance, there is peace”. To receive my place as from the Lord takes my perspective off myself and allows me to place it onto the Lord and others around me. I needed that!
Become an Insider.
Everyone in Berryville knew that I was an outsider. I did not grow up anywhere near the South and I surely wasn’t from Clarke County. Yet they always asked me if I was from around there. My saving grace was being married to John Friant’s daughter. This provided me with a degree of acceptability. But I wanted to be more than someone’s son-in-law, I wanted to be accepted as myself. This required me to plunge in and become an active contributing member of the community. So I joined the Ruritan, attended school events, and became active according to my gifts in the community. I am beginning to experience the joy of bringing myself to the community, not some message. My life is the gospel.
Build or become a part of a faith community.
This is the first time Mary and I have had the opportunity to choose to live among the people God gave us friendships with. If someone responded to us relationally, we include him or her into our neighborhood. There were no longer any “Christian” or “nonChristian” activities; there are only activities that we involved ourselves with and invited all our friends to join us. All it takes is an email saying that we are gathering at… and off we go. We are learning constantly and have been greatly enriched.
My neighborhood knows me by what I do.
Work is a very central part of the lives of our neighbors and to take an interest in their work communicates my value of them. Many of our friends work in the trades. They come alive when we ask them to tell us about their work. This has been a challenge to me as a full time missionary. What do I tell them? I’ve decided to tell them more through my involvement in the community. So I volunteer with a local Social helps group called “FISH” as a financial counselor. I have subbed in the school system for friends who are teachers, and I’ve even been asked to be the Ruritan chaplain. Credibility among our friends has taken time and our being there. Jerry White expresses it very succinctly, “You just have to show up”.