I am the only daughter in my family, the third of four children. Like any insecure adolescent, I struggled with relationships. I was disillusioned with how unreliable people could be and I began to entertain the idea that the problem with the world was its people. I began to imagine an idyllic life on my own. I echoed Charli Brown’s statement, “I love mankind, but it’s people I can’t stand.”
In a misguided attempt to give people one last chance to “prove” themselves, I chose to live in the dormitory during my first year at Assumption College despite residing not too far away from school. There, God shattered the lies I told myself. He showed me that we are all made for community and that “no man is an island.”
After befriending the Assumption nuns, I joined the Assumption prayer meeting and began to discover the joys of sharing my life with others. New friends from the prayer meeting would come over to my home where we would engage in sports activities and plan evangelistic youth programs. I became part of the team that organized the weekly “Coffeehouse.” Our team took care of the physical setup, food to be served, the evening program, and welcoming the guests who came. I discovered there was more joy in putting the interests of others ahead of my own. I discovered the joy of serving others.
One day, I received an invitation from the leaders of the Assumption prayer meeting to join the Community Weekend Retreat of Ligaya ng Paginoon Community. I was unfamiliar with this group so I ignored the invitation. But God again intervened through my English teacher, Sr. Annunciata, r.a., who was already a member of Ligaya. With a wide smile on her face, she enthusiastically asked if I would attend the retreat. I could only say yes. The priest at the retreat explained that God did not create human beings to be alone. God’s eternal plan from the beginning was for us to live in community and not to withdraw into islands of isolation. This made me take the next step of exploring to be part of this community.
Ligaya was a place where I received formation as a Christian disciple. I learned the basics of faith, of a life of prayer, servanthood and mission. Ligaya not only provided the content, it also provided the perfect environment to live out what I was learning. Loving one another was no longer a generic phrase like “loving mankind.” It meant loving the specific people God brought into my life, whether they would be the kind I would choose to love or not. It was no longer based on a feeling of love but on a decision to love – to choose the good of others above your own.
We became a true spiritual family in community with God as our Father and members becoming my brothers and sisters in Christ. In community, I was loved as I am, yet loved too much not to allow me to remain the way I was. Brothers and sisters in community encouraged me to grow into the woman God had called me to be. Community was a gift from God, and without it, Christian life was impossible. There are no “Lone Ranger” Christians. God Himself is community – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and we are all called into the same communion of love.
God and life in community gave me the meaning I long searched for. Finally, I was home.
1. “Coffeehouse” evangelism is a very useful evangelistic tool in reaching out to young people for Christ. The coffeehouse allows for a great variety of activities that can be designed for a particular evangelistic setting.
2. Ligaya ng Panginoon (www.lnp.org.ph) is a family-based, transparochial covenant community in Metro Manila, Philippines that grew out of the vibrant Charismatic Renewal experience of the early ‘70s.
3. The legendary Lone Ranger is a fictional character who singlehandedly fought outlaws in America’s western frontier.
“You will see My face in the love you have for one another.”
My experience in community was an experience of God present in the midst of diverse individuals united in our desire to know and love God more. God was in our midst, teaching us how to concretely lay down our lives for one another in daily ways.
After suffering a massive heart attack, my father was confined for three months in a hospital’s intensive care unit. It was a challenging time for my family and the community was there for me. Brothers and sisters offered their help not just through prayers. There were brothers who volunteered to take over the night watch, sleeping on the hard chairs in the ICU waiting area so that my mother and I could get a good night’s rest at home after caring for Dad the entire day. Then when it seemed that Dad would be able to come home from the hospital, the brothers and sisters offered to help make our house wheelchair-friendly. We had to transform the garden area into a new extension with a flat area leading to their bedroom. Brothers from the community cut down a large tree, moved heavy piedra de china stone blocks out of the way, designed and built the actual structure. They did this voluntarily, freely and out of committed love.
This love endured until Dad was finally called home by his Creator 10 years later. The brothers and sisters were there again to help with all the details of the wake and funeral. One brother in particular, an elder in our community, was by my side for any little request – event to relay to the music ministry what song should be played or to carry Dad’s military cap and sword when his casket was moved. The same brothers and sisters who shared meals with my family and played games with my father were the same people who sang beautiful hymns at the grave site on the day he was laid to rest.
I cannot imagine life without community and it’s my ardent wish that all would come to experience this kind of life.
My Prayer for You:
In today’s world, people have grown more and more isolated from one another. Relationships have become utilitarian based on what we can get out of the relationship. But at the heart of the Christian life is the love we have for one another. They will know we are Christians by our love.
“A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). May you be blessed to know the joys of Christian community.
Photo credit: Man adrift in a boat, from Bigstock.com, © by Mike_Kiev, Stock Photo ID: 12118265
Dr. Beth Melchor (1956 – 2018) was a senior woman leader of the Ligaya ng Paginoon Community in Manila, Philippines, and Vice President for Academic Affairs at the Far Eastern University in Manila. She was active in youth ministry work for more than 40 years. She helped found the Philippine Foundation for Christ’s Youth in Action and was responsible for the training of women leaders and youth workers. She was also a founding member of Bethany Association.