I think Elora and I are sisters from different mothers. We share the same heart for those far from God, those in poverty and orphaned. I’m not sure when or how we connected – I think she commented on my blog & then I checked her’s out and never left. We text, we email, we twitter. We almost met in real life a few weeks ago until some other things happened :(. One day we will meet, New Mexico cannot stand in our way. Elora’s blog. Elora’s twitter.
Sometimes, when I’m talking to other people, I hear how crazy it sounds. I see the questions in their eyes. You have friends….online? And I get it. I get the ridiculous bent of their eyebrows as they fight laughing at me.
But I also get they just don’t understand.
The truth: My husband & I are part of a community of believers where even though we have never met in person, if at any point a need arose, we’d be there in a heartbeat.
Why? Because we’ve experienced the unquestionable generosity of these friends more than once.
Last year, Russ & I went through a period of time where everything around us was going haywire. Without any warning, we found ourselves in a state of limbo where spiritually we knew what God wanted of us, but physically? We just didn’t see any way. And then Russ wrote this post. He didn’t write it in order to spark a catalyst of compassion on our behalf. He wrote it out of honesty and conviction.
Within 24 hours, our community of friends gathered around us and began to support us through this difficult time.
Our friend Dave Ingland, whom we met on twitter earlier in the year through Idea Camp, posted a challenge on his blog – asking for prayer & support on our behalf. We didn’t even realize what was going on and before we knew it, we were receiving text messages, DM’s, and @reply’s from people all over the US letting us know we were in their prayers. Later that week a donation was sent to our paypal with the exact amount we would need for bills. We never even asked – never even considered praying for God to do something. We knew we were in a place where faith was essential, but the thought of people online coming to our aid just didn’t cross our mind. But God’s provision didn’t stop there.
Later that month, a friend we knew through Invisible Children who read Russ’ post sent us the cash she found in her purse. The day we got her letter in the mail, we spent the last of our cash buying prescriptions at the pharmacy. Opening the letter and finding the exact amount we just spent was one of the richest moments of our marriage. I remember reading her words of encouragement and feeling God’s presence – hearing Him whisper, “I’m here. Keep going.”
And we did.
Russ & I knew before this the power of online community. We knew, through events like The Rescue, what can happen when people join together and use social media for good. We never experienced it personally though – and at such a neck-breaking velocity. Suddenly, we looked at eachother and realized, “oh. so this is community. This is what it looks like to give so someone else can have…”
Since the spring, we’ve grown considerably. Not only has God revealed to us the power of online community, He’s blessed us with an incredible in-house group of friends who challenge and walk hand-in-hand with us daily. As I’m writing this, I’m texting my friends, planning a pancake supper with one of our kids & his mama and tweeting at people from across the country – encouraging them in what they learned at church. Never before has the church had this capability to connect at such a constant level. It’s exciting.
When we came back from Africa this past summer, my heart suffered for weeks. I mean, there were things I experienced I probably won’t ever find words for – and it showed. My blogs frequented the topic and danced around the trip, trying to find the perfect way to describe the change in my heart. My tweets revealed my struggle with culture shock – the discrepancy between our excess and their need – it was just too much. And while I was at home, it was bearable. I knew I could call one of my friends who understood and we could go grab coffee. But then I left town for a teachers’ conference…and where those around me wouldn’t understand because they weren’t there – my friends online stood in the gap. Not a day went by without an e-mail or DM or personal card (thanks, Prudy) encouraging me and lifting me in prayer. Processing a trip is difficult enough with other people – but it’s absolutely impossible doing it on your own. Without my friends coming together and praying for me, I’m not sure how I would have made it through that week.
I know there may be a few people who won’t ever understand our relationship with these people we’ve never met. I know we still may receive odd looks when we share the latest story of someone who we’ve been connected with through twitter staying at our house. But…we’ve grown to accept the furrowed brows and shakes of the head with a grain of salt. Once these people experience the encouragement, prayer, support and genuine concern we’ve experienced – and once they witness the stories coming from around the country of people joining together to make a difference – then they will see the possibility.
The rest of the series: