Joy Forney on Finding and Being Community
Joy Hlavka Forney and her husband Dave, along with their children, serve with Mission Aviation Fellowship in Uganda, East Africa. Joy grew up at our church, Good Shepherd Community Church, along with her sisters and our daughters. I served for years with Joy’s dad Alan, one of our pastors, and more recently our lead pastor. The Forneys are quality people and in this article Joy said things that really resonate with me. This is church in its simplest and most precious form. Thanks, Joy:
True community. We all crave it, but it can be so difficult to find, can’t it?!
We sat on wooden benches creaking under our weight. The music blaring next door ringing in our ears. Several different languages spoken all under one roof with names like Luganda and Acholi. One translator for all of us.
I sat on the floor, dusty with red dirt, in my sweet spot, with the kids.
It started as a Christmas gift to my friend Chaundra, who dreamed up a space where we could meet as families of kids with special needs. She decided to build community and invited me to join in, and here we are, month by month, meeting together.
A foot brace squeaks and creaks as we play. My little boy, Giftie, finding his spot in the group, a place to belong for a boy who is deaf and has cerebral palsy.
We gathered. We weren’t sure what exactly it was going to look like, we just knew that we wanted a safe place, a place for the people to come and be filled, encouraged.
The Ugandan pastor and his church body showed us the way. The way to love, give, serve and build community. These saints traveled on foot to tell each of the families about our gathering, since most had no phone. They lovingly cooked the food and made sure each family had transportation money.
Humbled by the turnout, I nervously bit my lip and wondered if everyone was disappointed.
We brought a speech therapist, nurses, a prayer warrior, and us fellow mamas to special needs kids to encourage.
One family, with their sweet son, traveled by bus 8 hours just to be a part of the group. I felt bad.
You came all this way for this? We don’t have much.
A meal and some encouragement was our simple offering, and still they came.
One girl with hydrocephalis, many with cerebral palsy, children with burns, autism, deaf, mute.
All are welcome to our gathering. We are in this together.
Come, sit. Belong.
Let’s eat together, share stories, and come away refreshed for the difficult weeks ahead.
I leaned over to our friend, a Ugandan nurse. I told her I felt bad and she looked at me, confused.
I explained we didn’t have much to offer, much for them to do or take away.
Still confused, she spoke true, “These people are just happy to find a community, to belong, and see other people walking their same road. This gives them hope.“
Hope and Community.
Long after I figured it was time to go, they lingered. Not saying much, simply sitting and enjoying.
To be with all the others. To know you aren’t alone. To look around and see your people. That is enough.
How many times when offering something, hospitality, friendship, do I think I have to clean it up, prettify it, offer something spectacular, when all I need to offer is community?
To sit, in the dirty, dusty, mess of it all and offer the hope of knowing we are in this together?
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, …” Acts 2:42-47 ESV
It is what we all crave. To belong. To be seen. To be understood.
I hear from a lot of women, wishing they had community.
My best advice? Create it. Find those who need a friend, who need to belong, and give them the gift of community with you.
Who in your life needs the gift of community, the gift of hope today?
Reach out to them. Text them, call them, invite them.
Give them the gift of hope and community.