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Monday, July 23, 2012

Building a Community of Love


The little boy appeared tentative. There were so many of them, and all of them seemed somewhat scary. Yet he detected a certain friendliness about them; as if they didn't really care about how he looked or how he behaved - only that he was a child just like them - a special and unique individual - just like each one of them. Slightly hesitant at first, but with a gradual aura of confidence, he took his first step towards them - he had decided to join the community of grace.

Just a few months back, my family decided to join a new small group community in our church. As newcomers in a strange environment, we were unsure of what the group would be like. This was especially since we did not know anyone in the group. There were naturally fears that we would not be able to "click" with this new group; or worse - that we would ease into a group which discussed superficial matters more than deep personal concerns. All our fears melted away on the day of the first meeting, when we saw our son settle in comfortably with the rest of the children. He was so happy that he had a group of kor kors and jie jies to play with; so much so that he cried when we had to leave that day - he wanted to stay on and play more with them...

It has been one of our top priorities for our son to find a community where he is accepted and loved. Indeed Z has been blessed with grandparents who love him so much, and with our close friends, whose children have been Z's playmates during our family gatherings and play-date sessions. Yet his recent experiences in play group have been worrying for us; especially since he has been choosing not to join in the group activities, instead deciding to stand in a corner and observe the rest of the children. It was therefore really important for us that he could join a community of children who would welcome him and accept him - just as he is.

Our small group has been one such community. At a recent birthday celebration, one of the children fell ill, and the rest immediately gathered around him to pray for him and to help him. It really warms your heart when you see a child go to another just to pray for him - what an example of child-like faith; a trait much lacking in a self-oriented, self-centred world.

Our small group leader Lawrence shared his heart for the group - he and his wife Regina have a desire to build a community of parents, one whose children become good friends over the years. And when the time comes for the children to weather the tumultuous teenage years, they would turn to their good friends within the group for answers, and not to the negative external influences that permeate the adolescent world. In our short time with the group we are already observing the fruits of Lawrence's labour - the teenagers are good friends who serve together in youth ministry. As for the children, they learn and play together during their own separate session conducted as part of the weekly small group meetings. They even sit and play together during the post-session meals, at a separate table from their parents; which enables the adults to interact and enjoy their food in relative peace.

As parents, we want the best for our children. And so often we strive to provide what we feel would be best for them - better schools, better enrichment classes - all to provide them with as much opportunity as possible for them to succeed in life. Desiring such an environment for our children is certainly not wrong, but I strongly believe that we need to do more to build for the future of our children; we need to build deeply into their personal values and convictions, so that they would not be blown away by the winds of compromise when things get tough. We therefore need to build into our children's support network - not that we get obsessive and dictate the friends they choose, but instead that they get influenced by the strong positive environment surrounding them, and choose the close friendships that matter. 

We need to build a strong and loving community for our children - one that accepts them for who they are; that our children would be able to develop holistically, and to realise their full potential as "little persons", individuals who will make a difference in society and love others more than they love themselves. And of course as Christians, we strongly desire that our children will have a deep intimacy with God - to know Him and to make His name known.

A good friend of ours, Charmaine, was inspired to bring together a small group of parents who have young children. She felt that in busy Singapore, it's not often that young families spend time together to share their joys and struggles. Indeed we had a meaningful time of sharing, and we have learnt much from each other. Charmaine's initiative has inspired me to gather other young families - those who share similar parenting principles and believe in similar life values. It is my hope that Z will interact and play more with these other children who have had a strongly positive parental influence in their lives. Our desire is that they will eventually grow up together and become good friends; that he too would be influenced favourably by them, and choose to live a life that realises his full potential.

For our deepest desire is that Z will develop a deep and intimate relationship with God; to love others, and to make a difference whatever he chooses to do.

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