I stole this entry from an email update from someone who is joining our team soon--Kelly Wills. I thought you'd enjoy having a first-hand glimpse of what a typical Mountainview group looks like. Kelly does a good job of describing what it's really like to be part of Mountainview. Hope you enjoy this. -- Troy
P.S. Tomorrow, I'm going to start posting a series of writings that I've just completed that deal with my life in sixth grade. It was quite an interesting year in my life so I do hope you'll check back daily during the next few weeks to follow those "snapshots".
This month, I want to try to give you an in-depth picture of one of the regular things that goes on in my apartment--the Wednesday night Community Group.
I've talked about community group a lot in my newsletters, but I don't think I've ever really explained what it is. As part of the Leaders' Community in Mountainview International Church, I lead one of our community groups in the city--these groups aren't an extra ministry of the church-the community groups are the core of what makes up the church. Our church's regular weekly meetings take place in apartments or houses in Madrid and the northwest suburbs--we eat a meal together, pray, worship, and study the Bible as a group. We try to do life together rather than just "going to church". Twice a month, the groups come together to worship God all together in big services, but the heart of it all is in these little communities. We train up leaders from within the group, so when a group gets too big, we form another group with one of the apprentices as the new leader. And that, basically, is how the church operates and grows. We just had to form another group in the city because a couple of our groups were overflowing, so I think that makes 13 community groups going on right now. I love my church here--I'm so thankful to be part of a group that is committed to following Christ as a community, to being the church.
Each group has a different personality, depending on the people in the group, the leader, the place, etc. My group (the Wednesday group) has been dubbed "the loud group," and I think that fits us pretty well. Over the past few months we've ranged from 9-14 people (hence the new group formation)--and when we're all here we manage to cover pretty much every square inch of the apartment. We start the meal together at 8p.m., and we split up who brings which part of the meal so no one's stuck with the main meal every week.
Ana Maria and American Nicole
I love when Shawn cooks--his spaghetti sauce is amazing, and he always manages to finish cooking the meal at exactly 8, which is more than I can say for anyone else in the group, including myself! Shawn is an English teacher from Richmond, VA, and I enjoy the southern American influence—it’s like home. English Robyn (we have a lot of repeat names in the church, so we have to add the country to their names!), Matt 2 (of 3 English Matts), and American Nicole usually come early and hang out. Robyn is one of the quiet ones, and really sweet. Matt is a great guy, although I can only understand about 30% of what he says.
Kelly and Sofia
Sofia is an au-pair from Finland, and she makes me smile just by her presence every time I see her—she is beautiful inside and out. She also loves to wash dishes, so I make sure she knows she’s welcome to come wash mine any time! Marianna and Elida are roommates, and wherever they are, there seems to be lots of energy and, yes, noise. Everyone always begs for Marianna to bring dessert because she is an amazing cook.
Victoria and her antics
Victoria comes and makes us all choke on our drinks because we’re laughing so hard—she’s funny and she’s an artist, and she and I will be roommates next year. Ana Maria leads worship for the group. She is from Colombia, and she is a student at the University here, studying chemical engineering. She is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and one of my closest friends here. According to Ana, I’m not allowed to leave Spain until she graduates. I’m ok with that.
Some of the new faces in the group are Anna and Lenore from Georgia, Sherwin from Hong Kong, Emily from England, and Kate from California. I’m just starting to get to know these guys, and they seem to be jumping right into the thick of things. Coming into a large group can be kind of intimidating, so I’m glad they’re enjoying it.
After the meal, at about 9, we get together and spend some time worshipping God and praying, and then we start the discussion. Right now we’re looking at eight big-name characters from the Bible and learning what we can from their lives—it’s a really participative group, so after reading the passages of scripture we usually discuss enough that we don’t make it through even half of the questions I had planned! One of my favorite things about our discussions is that people feel safe and free to question here, and that they feel safe to be open about things that are going on in their lives and encouraging each other. Rather than only coming to teach or to be taught, there seems to be an awareness that we are on a spiritual journey together—discovering God and helping each other discover Him. Over the past few weeks in the new study we’re doing, I honestly feel like I’ve learned more from them than I’ve taught. We finish up (technically) at about 10:15 or 10:30, and the last of the group members usually leave around midnight.
I love my community group. I don’t just mean I love opening my house to people from all over the world, or that I love leading discussions, or that I love meeting new people and developing friendships, or that I love worshipping together---I do love all those things, but most of all I just love these people. We are a crazy bunch. We all have our quirks—some of us are loud, some of us are late, some of us have a hard time focusing in the discussion, and we all manage to make my flat look like a tornado has ripped through it by the end of the night. Sometimes on Wednesday morning I think forward to Wednesday night and think “I just don’t have the energy for my big, loud group today!” But they come, and they love me and encourage me. These people are my family. I love my community group.
This month, instead of a bunch of prayer requests, can I ask you just to pray for some of these names I’ve mentioned? Pray that God will continue to encourage and lead these people, and that we will show His love to each other and those around us as we get to know Him better together. Pray that the new group that starts next week will form a community that can seek God together as well.
Thank you so much for your love, encouragement, and support. I thank God for all of you.
And, Kelly: we thank God for you!