This is my first summer since 2004 without VOICE. Even without VOICE this year, many of us past VOICE staff gathered in Saint Louis for a wonderful reunion hosted by Luke and Karen. Part of each day was spent sharing about the lessons God has been teaching us, and through it, I noticed a surprising common denominator: the shadow of a little friend lurking, nagging for our attention, gnawing away at our emotions. You may not yet be aware of it’s presence, but trust me, it can creep upon you in surprising ways.
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)
In recent years, one of the greatest things that I am thankful for is being a part of Bible Lab. What is Bible Lab, you might ask? Bible Lab was started by my sister Karen originally as a time for her and another VOICE student to study the Bible together in English, and they came up with the term “Bible Lab”. I decided I would start doing the same thing, and so I and another VOICE student (who just happened to also be the younger brother of the first VOICE student) began to meet as well. Though at first I wanted a different name for the boy’s Bible study, the name Bible Lab name stuck.
Over the years, the people who make up Bible Lab have changed a lot. At times, the change can be sudden and difficult to adjust to. I remember back in 2011, when many students from that year’s VOICE joined Bible Lab, and suddenly, Bible Lab felt very different. At first, it was tempting to look back and wish that things could remain the way that they once were, to look down on the new students as immature strangers intruding in our close-knit group. At that moment, us older Bible Lab members had a choice: would we love and accept these new people as a part of us?
I am so thankful that together, we chose to love, and through that choice, God’s love became more real to me, and to all the people who attend Bible Lab. Because of that conscious choice, we have set a pattern where we continue to choose to accept anyone who comes to join, no matter what their age is, even if they haven’t been to VOICE. Currently, the people who come regularly to Bible Lab come from a variety of different years of VOICE— and even some who haven’t ever gone. We come from different churches, we are all different ages. What unites us is our love for God, our love for each other, and our desire to grow closer to Him.
While Bible Lab may only be in Taipei, remember, the body of Christ is all around the world. Don’t worry if you start small, because God’s love is contagious. Make the conscious choice to open your heart to others, and see how God’s love transforms your life and the lives of those around you.
Oh, and if you’re in Taipei? Let us know. You’re welcome to come to Bible Lab!
I hurt my knee recently. It wasn’t serious; I just bruised it slightly playing football. However, to give it time to heal I stopped running for a few days and favored that leg until it felt fine to walk on it again.
On an unrelated note, the idea of ‘community’ has been a recent trending topic in Christian circles. I’ve certainly talked about it a lot in the past few years and have read blog posts, heard sermons, and been a part of Bible studies that have discussed what Christian community should look like.
Christian community has many different aspects including encouraging each other, providing for each other, guiding each other, warning each other and building each other up in the love of Christ, but hurting my leg got me thinking about another part of Christian community talked about in Galatians 6.
“ Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2, ESV).
We’re told to look out for each other in difficult times. In addition to providing encouragement and spiritual companionship, the idea of community also has a very active component to it. When I hurt my knee I had to rely on my other leg more while the hurt one healed. In the same way, as members of the Body of Christ, when one of us is hurting, overwhelmed, scared or frustrated God asks the rest of us to step up. Take on some of that hardship. Help a brother out.
From what I can see, sharing burdens requires two things. First, it requires Christians who are willing to reach out to their fellow believers in love, compassion and often forgiveness. Now for what I haven’t learned yet. The second thing this requires is people who are willing to admit they are scared, hurt, confused, frustrated and unable. It require people to admit they need help. It requires believers to admit that they can’t handle their problems on their own.
It requires me to admit that I’m weak and incapable. I have to admit that God has put other weak and incapable people around me to help me, that I need them. It requires humility.
Are you willing to be someone’s Christian community?
Or do you need a helping hand?
Can you admit your need?
When I was still single, I remember hearing about different friends who were devastated when they miscarried their first baby. For some reason, I thought that if they had just kept their pregnancy a secret, they wouldn’t have been so disappointed. And so I made up my mind that when I was pregnant, I would try to keep it a secret until I was pretty sure it was “safe” to tell.
Last March, I miscarried my first child. True to my resolution, aside from Luke, I didn’t tell many people. In fact, it took months for me to tell my own family. I tried to be brave and strong, but the disappointment was devastating– especially since I bore it alone.
When I told a friend about it later that fall, she was shocked. “Why didn’t you tell anyone?” she asked. “When I found out I was pregnant, I told people right away, because I knew I’d need the church’s support if anything were to happen when my husband was deployed.”
I’ve been pondering her words ever since. Why did I think it’d be better to tough things out on my own when God had designed a community of support for me in the church? Is it really better to hold those struggles inside? Is it really Christian to be “strong” by being private about my difficulties?
These last few months, as Luke and I have been adjusting to a lower income, his new schedule for work and school, the changes that will come with a baby, and certain issues in our marriage, I’ve discovered that I really can’t shoulder my problems on my own. Aside from casting all my cares on Christ (1 Peter 5:7), I’m also learning to humble myself and share my struggles with the believers God has placed in my life.
Sometimes, living like God is real means learning to embrace the church community by being vulnerable about our struggles and weaknesses. Don’t tough it out alone.