Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Village Center

The Village Center is an apartment in the Villages at Lamar apartment complex that three churches rent together. It is not a big space (it's only a 1-bedroom apartment) and it is not glamorous. There are often Cheetos smashed into the carpet. The bookshelves need to be reorganized. The lamps tilt at wonky angles. But it is one of the most beautiful spaces I have ever entered.

Almost two years ago, those of us at Westover Hills who work with refugees began meeting people from two different churches, Austin Stone and Hope in the City. The refugees we were friends with were all living in another apartment complex at the time. We kept running into the same people, these American faces in the living rooms of our Burmese, Burundian and Iraqi friends. When a crisis hit, we exchanged phone numbers and e-mails and banded together to help our friends. We found that these Christians were the kind of people whose hospitality ran deep, who were adaptable and flexible and creative. We had no ideas about their doctrinal stances on minor issues, whether we agreed on worship styles or what their buildings looked like. Instead, we knew them because of how they loved.

When many of our refugee friends moved to a new apartment complex, Villages at Lamar, these three churches set up a meeting place in the neighborhood. The apartment came together within a few weeks (which in church administration time is like a nanosecond). We share the space. On Monday nights, Hope in the City helps the area kids with homework. On Tuesday nights, it's Westover Hills. Austin Stone has all kinds of groups in and out during the week. Our fourth of July and Halloween parties were unbelievable. We've handed out Christmas gifts the last two years--there's been a line out the door of the 1-bedroom apartment that has made people in the community stop and stare.

Hill Country Hill Tribers meets every other Monday morning at the Village Center. The front room is our classroom and meeting space; the back bedroom is the kids' play area, where our children love on and play with their Burmese friends. Simone and Maizie are fascinated by Htoo Hti's missing front teeth. Two of the Karen babies are a month younger than Gabriella and we've loved watching them take their first steps together. We prayed in tears for the country of Burma when the election was tearing apart the country. The prayer was in Burmese, but we shared their pain in that tiny living room.

So often you hear stories about how churches do not get along, how they're fighting over tiny divisions. The Village Center is an example of what happens when churches forget what separates them and work together for the sake of love. The space may be small, but the impact is limitless.

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