The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “community” simply as individuals with common interests living in a particular area. We see community everywhere we look: classrooms filled with children, teenagers playing soccer on the town field, or different departments working together at a corporate office.
God knew that community would be a crucial element to human life; he designed us to need one another; to walk alongside each other, to bear one another’s burdens, and to speak truth to one another in love.
A favorite verse of mine, which became so apparent during the pandemic, when the appearance of community changed drastically is from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
During the height of the pandemic, humans, as social beings, were mandated to stay home and maintain social distance. When gathering with one another in community was no longer an option, we all realized just how essential it was to our physical, emotional, and even spiritual wellness. As someone who would identify as an extrovert, the pandemic left me many times feeling sad and even depressed. I had shared this with my Growth Group and within the next couple of days, my family and I received sidewalk chalk messages on our driveway, homemade cookies left on our front steps, and invitations to video chat! I had fallen down and my friends had helped me up!
Looking beyond the pandemic, our Growth Group has been a constant source of community since 2015, when we joined the Bourques’ group. A Growth Group provides such a unique type of community – one that stands firm on the foundations of the gospel, always pointing one another to the promises we have in Christ.
I remember back when my husband (Gabe), newborn (Charlie), and I first joined the Growth Group. On the exterior, I was great! I had a part-time job with flexible hours, allowing me to be home with my new son. My husband, child, and I were all healthy; we had a home in a safe neighborhood. Literally, every single secular box that could be checked, I check them off. Yet I was struggling, suffering even with undiagnosed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Something that had plagued my whole life was coming to a head now that I was a mother and my thoughts and actions were no longer affecting just me, but now my family. I shared this with my group and received support as I had never received before. Genuine care and concern! I was prayed for. Checked on. I even had a friend offer to come with me to talk to a doctor about appropriate medication. The support from my Growth Group helped break down the walls that were built around my heart so that the gospel could (for the first time in my life) truly penetrate my heart.
Gabe and I now lead this Growth group along with our friend and mentor, Steve Hoogerhyde, and we are eternally grateful for the community it continues to provide. We are thankful for the love and support we receive, and for the love and support we are able to give!
Katelyn Naranjo has been a member of GRC since 2012.