By Maddison Souza, an MAF missionary serving with Alas de Socorro del Ecuador (ADSE – an MAF affiliate) in Shell, Ecuador.
Something that we really struggled with when we first moved to Ecuador was feeling like we didn’t belong. We were the new people and the only foreigners on our team here at ADSE, and we didn’t connect immediately with a local church.
But as the years have gone by we’ve realized, especially during our times of deepest need, the depth of community that God has blessed us with here. When we experienced a family trauma, our ADSE teammates showed up at our house and sat with us for hours. When Marcos traveled out-of-country and I stayed here with the kids, friends brought meals, checked on me via text, and came to hang out and give us something to do. When we just needed to see another living person during the lockdown of 2020, our neighbors became like family.
This didn’t happen overnight. It was the result of several years of praying and intentionally working towards building relationships with people. And it goes both ways, with us being on both ends of the giving and receiving that happens when you live life together with other people.
Finding community in a new place can be hard. It takes work; it takes hanging on through the awkward beginning when you aren’t quite friends but you are something more than acquaintances.
There are days when the effort doesn’t seem worth it, or you don’t want to make any effort at all. Friendships, especially ones worth having, don’t usually just fall into your lap. It takes a commitment to be the one to invite, to go out of your way to make time for people, to be available to help, serve, and give.
But the results? Oh, the results are beautiful. They are beautiful because they reflect what being the church is all about. We are the church and the beauty of the gospel is lived out in our actual lives. Invest in creating a gospel-centered community where you are, and you will be amazed at the results.