Experiencing koinonia — cross culturally

This could probably be two posts in the least, maybe three. But I will limit it. You see, I have experienced “koinonia.”  I realize that is a thoroughly “religious” word. I realize it doesn’t mean much to many people outside the church. Perhaps this definition does though, “fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, the share which one has in anything, participation intercourse, fellowship, intimacy, the right hand as a sign and pledge of fellowship, a gift jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution, as exhibiting an embodiment and proof of fellowship…”*

Recently, I have needed my fellow believers in profound ways. I have needed their trust, their belief in me and my calling, their companionship, their prayers, their understanding, their help, their fellowship, their compassion…you name it, and I have needed it. In awe and humility, I can say, they have provided it. I read various blogs from those associated with the church (or who have become disenchanted with the church) who feel as though they have been cheated of this. I am profoundly sorry for that. I wish it were not so. Perhaps I am in a unique place and position to receive this as a career missionary. But today I was reminded yet again that God is calling his people to “koinonia” in beautiful ways that we are not privy to often enough.

I preached in a small town in South Carolina. I spoke of the many Internationals that are here in our communities. I shared stories of the ways that God had caused my life and others lives to intersect with these friends and neighbors from other countries. A bit surprisingly I admit, in the children’s sermon the leader mentioned the name of a child from Mongolia. This name was obviously known to the children and the congregation. I thought, “Neat. They know someone from another country.” Not surprising at all given what I know about Internationals in the United States.

I was not prepared, however, for the professor from a local university that approached me at the end of the service. He told me of the numbers of International students he was in relationship with. Great! He told me of the name that had been mentioned and how that was the child of a family he was involved with. Great! Then as he became obviously moved, he told me how these children were his grandchildren in every sense of the word. He shared how he welcomed opportunities to speak and teach as an entomologist in numerous countries around the world because God expanded his family with these precious lives from other cultures. Another walked up and shared how as a result of this professor bringing these “family” members into the love and fellowship of the church, they too were able to experience “koinonia.” They were able to not only provide bicycles but helped the children learn to ride.

They all share life, love, fellowship and family…together!  Beautiful! I had to smile and laugh when this professor presented me with his business card and asked which language I would prefer! Now that is cultural sensitivity!

I came home to an email from this remarkable professor who wrote,” I will be glad to do whatever I can to help our brothers and sisters in Christ build cross-cultural relationships.”

I am a part of the “church” and have enjoyed and yes, expected, even needed “koinonia” from my brothers and sisters. What takes me even deeper is when my brothers and sisters in Christ move outside our worldviews and extend that “koinonia” to the Diaspora in meaningful and intentional ways.

Another congregant after the service said, “You have inspired me! There is an International, a professor at our local university, living across the street from us…all alone in a big house. I have wondered how he is managing all alone. I am going to his house and invite him to dinner!” Koinonia…. Amen.


Nell Green

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Nell Green currently serves as Field Personnel with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Along with her husband, Butch, she has experience ministering primarily among Muslim peoples in Africa and Europe. For the past few years the Greens have been helping churches in North America develop multidisciplinary ministries to meet the needs of Internationals, share the gospel of Christ and become effective global partners.

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