Being in community is one of the most transformative aspects of Christianity. It is a call to vulnerability, sacrifice and faithfulness to others. It is also a source of joy and support in times of difficulty.
This summer, a group of four Trevecca students including myself, Jarren Rogers, Garret Smotherman, and Madeline Clark made the choice to seek out authentic community within the refugee camps of northern Greece. It was not a decision that we made lightly. The IMMERSE program allows students—particularly those in Trevecca’s intercultural studies program— to spend three months in another country, engaging with local people, learning language and applying the theological and practical concepts they had studied in the classroom.
The concept of community has been one of the most crucial to our journey.
“Humans can’t be fully human unless they are in community...the Kingdom of God means the full reconciliation of relationship between humans, with God, and with creation,” Smotherman said. “Whole reconciliation is realized within community.”
In choosing this path, we also were enabled to join in a tight-knit group of individuals and families practicing the Muslim faith. Though our beliefs differed, our recognition of community did not. We were invited in with open arms, and we have sat day after day and night after night, speaking, listening, playing card games, holding children, laughing, and, at times, mourning with those in a place of crisis and suffering.
War, political upheaval, and persecution in the Middle East, particularly Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, sent people fleeing from their homes and searching for a better life for themselves and their families in Europe. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) estimates that 1.3 million people have traveled through Greece on their journey to a safer place.
The four of us who are participating in IMMERSE were acquaintances who had previously sat in classes together, but in the last few weeks, we have come to find we have far more in common than we would have thought. We all share a deep passion for seeing wholeness, new life and light come to some of the darkest places. We laugh together quite regularly, and the joy that is present has been a gift in the face of challenging experiences and emotions.
“Trevecca sets a good example of what Christian community is supposed to embody, especially through the friendships we’ve formed on campus and the theology we are taught,” Clark said. “We’ve been able to carry that understanding with us as we participate in a community we’ve never experienced before.”
Jacob and Dorothee Morris have served as Church of the Nazarene missionaries in Greece for 10 months and are both Trevecca graduates. They have led our small group as we have explored the city of Katerini and adjusted through cultural shock and language learning.
To be in community with those who have experienced Trevecca is special. ey possess a deep and similar understanding of the call to bring the Kingdom of God and to do so through commitment to relationship with those who have endured suffering and transition far away from their homes.
On this trip, I’ve found that to carry the ideas of Christian community that we have learned at Trevecca is to embrace the Kingdom of God tangibly as it reaches out in love, compassion and justice to those of all faiths and nations. It is to recognize the need for wholeness and restoration in our lives and to seek that out in the midst of faithful friends.
It is to stand in solidarity, even when that necessitates mourning with those who mourn. It is to see the image of God and the beauty of the Savior in those who serve with us and to be willing to be served and shown hospitality by those whose camps and homes we have chosen to embrace.
The discovery of what it means to be in Christian community has been a result of deepening faith and relationship for me. Living, learning and serving with those at Trevecca has become an integral part of the foundation that has allowed us to embody the Kingdom of God, even on the other side of the world.
By Rebekah Warren, a senior communications studies major at Trevecca.