“From Me to We” - Nadine Templer
A couple of months ago our family moved from the suburbs of Washington DC to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal - places with very different social landscapes. Generally speaking, we moved from a mostly individualistic social environment to a community based one. I have spent half my life in Europe and the US, and half in South Asia and part of Africa, and I have experienced both social constructs.
In our “Western” worldview, we think in a very linear way. We have goals, timelines, projects, and mission statements. Life is fast-paced, we have deadlines, places to be, and things to do. We value “success”, competition, and achievements. As a result, we tend to put ourselves first and look out for number one. Now I realize there are exceptions, especially in the Christian community, but that is often the environment we live in.
In many parts of the world, the social environment is different. The community comes first, the good of the family or the group we are a part of takes priority over personal needs and wants. People will not even think twice about sharing the little they have. They put others first as a way of life. Everyone looks out for the others in their group, their neighborhood, their extended family. Punctuality, time, and schedules don’t mean quite as much. People, relationships, and connections take precedence.
Friends or mere acquaintances come and visit with no planning, and they are welcome to stay for as long as they want. Having someone over will, of course, include a meal. Your children are my children. What is yours is mine and what is mine is yours. Everyone is a “brother” or a “sister”, and “auntie, and “uncle”, etc. Neighbors walk into one another’s homes without knocking. Again there are exceptions but it is really hard to feel isolated or even lonely in this part of the world. Incidentally, mental illnesses are a lot less prevalent.
Now wait… does this remind us of something? Oh yes, the Bible! The world we see in the scriptures was very much community-based.
- That is why Jesus could disappear for a day and his parents were not too worried (Luke 2:43-44).
- That is why we see feasts and lots of shared meals. For the disciples, the Lord’s Supper was an actual meal (Acts 2:46, 1 Cor 11:20-21).
- That is why we see Jesus borrowing a donkey for his entry into Jerusalem from a family on the edge of Bethany and Bethphage (Mark 11:1-3).
- That is why we see so much teaching about hospitality (1 Peter 4:9, Hebrews 13:1-2, 1 Timothy 5:10, Romans 12:20, etc.).
- That is why Jesus could so easily travel and find a place to sleep every night. Indeed, Jesus’ definition of a “worthy” person in Matthew 10:11 was someone who would allow disciples (strangers) to stay with them indefinitely. And that is why Jesus’ definition of the church was about people who met needs (Matt 25:31-46).
Our world today is very much in need of community. There is so much we can learn from societies around the world. Many places follow a system very similar to what we see in the Bible, yet in our Western world, it can sadly seem so alien. There is a dire need to put other people first and to “love our neighbor as ourselves.”
As we strive to bring our churches together and welcome those outside the church into our fellowship, it is crucial to embrace community, build bridges, and put relationships above ourselves. It may disrupt our comfort. It may be inconvenient. But it will be so worthwhile - and may I suggest - so much like Christ.
By Nadine Templer, November 21, 2020
Nadine Templer is the Senior Director-Volunteer Corps for HOPE worldwide. Mark and Nadine recently moved from Washington, DC to Kathmandu, Nepal. As a couple, they have spent most of their adult life on the mission field serving the Lord’s church. Nadine was born in France and baptized in London. She is passionate about serving the youth, the marginalized, and those who are less privileged.