Breaking into a new community can be tough. Several months ago, my husband and I started attending a new small group at our church. All the other couples have known each other for years. They know each other's children and back stories — they have shared histories. At first on the nights of our meetings, I had to resist the urge to just stay home. Although they welcomed us and invited us in, a voice in my head still whispered, "You don’t belong here. They don’t really want to know you. Why try?"
Stubbornly, I decided to keep showing up. I believe gathering with other believers to talk about faith and the Word is essential for my spiritual health. We need each other. So, pressing through the awkwardness was worth it.
My struggle is not unique. A sister in Christ in Africa, Jummai, wrestled with similar voices in her head. But she resisted the urge to run and found a sweet reward.
"What Am I Doing Here?"
Jummai reluctantly took a seat as the first session of the conference was about to start. Her brother had been chosen to represent their church at this "Magdalena: Released From Shame" and "Walking With Jesus" training conference, but he could not go because of his job. So he convinced Jummai to take his place.
She didn't know why she agreed to come; she had lived a life of prostitution and felt she was somewhere she didn't belong. As the conference progressed, the Holy Spirit worked on Jummai's heart, and she started to feel the training was meant specifically for her.
A Challenge Accepted
At the end of two days, the training team passed out DVDs of "Walking With Jesus"—a series of five dramatic episodes that illustrate what happens when an African chief meets Jesus and experiences the life-transforming work of the gospel. They issued the participants a challenge: show "Walking With Jesus" to others.
Jummai invited her neighbors to watch the first episode, skeptical anyone would show up. To her surprise, several took her up on her invitation. As the episode finished, they begged her to show the rest. Jummai was pleased to see their interest, but she challenged them to come back the next day for more.
Later that week, Jummai sat in her living room studying her Bible. A friend appeared at the front door and was shocked at the sight. Staring at Jummai, the woman said, "What are you doing? I can’t believe it! You mean you will handle a Bible?" Jummai saw this as an opportunity to tell her friend what Christ had done in her life.
In the following weeks, Jummai went to see her parents, who had lost hope for her in the life she led. Kneeling before them, she asked their forgiveness.
"Please, I know you have given up on me, but I am telling you, I'm back. I have encountered Christ. Please forgive me for all the hurts I've done to you. Forgive me."
With tears flowing, all three embraced. It became a day of reconciliation. Because of Jummai's humility and change of heart, her parents agreed to watch "Walking With Jesus." At the end they prayed together and made decisions to follow Christ.
Taking the Next Step
Now Jummai leads devotions in their home, and neighbors show up to watch the episodes and listen to the Word. Slowly a community of faith is growing and inviting others in.
Jummai's steps of obedience inspire me. My husband and I have stayed with our small group at church and have opened ourselves up to these believers. As a group we wrestle with the Word and trust God with matters of faith—the body of Christ in action. And slowly, because we keep showing up, we're starting to feel like we belong.
Do you have a group of believers you connect with? If not, what about finding one or even starting one? These resources on jesusfilm.org could help you start a group for high school students or women. Though it's set in Africa, "Walking with Jesus" is a great tool for getting people to talk about matters of faith. Use the comments below to let us know what tools you'll use.