Hopelines March 2019

Stuart Swartzentruber leads a discussion on how Living Hope Native Ministries staff can effectively lead people into belonging.

A Place to Belong

Stuart Swartzentruber
Growing up with six siblings in my family meant that as we gathered for supper every evening, all nine of us had our spot around the table. I distinctly remember sitting on the long bench between my brothers, joining in the conversations about everyone’s day. I felt included, cared for, and safe.

Belonging is a vital part of one’s identity. What does it mean to belong to a country, a culture, a community, or to a church? What happens when this sense of belonging begins to break down at different levels? What roles should followers of Jesus have in inviting people to become participants in an authentic community called “The Church”?

Currently, in multiple places around the world, thousands of refugees are looking for a home. Indigenous peoples around the world, including Canada, are unfortunately familiar with a history of displacement and a loss of identity which is still impacting lives today. As our North American families become more mobile and spread out, it is becoming more challenging to maintain meaningful relationships with family members in spite of (or some may argue, because of) our access to social media. In Acts 26:18 NLT, Paul is recounting to King Agrippa what Jesus had said to him when blinded on the road to Damascus. Jesus told Paul he was sending him to the Gentiles… “To open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people…”

We are called to invite people to come out of darkness into God’s glorious light and receive his wonderful forgiveness. But this isn’t the end of the Gospel. We also invite people to a place of belonging. How can we better provide communities where people love to belong?

I mentioned sitting around our supper table as a boy with my family. What I didn’t mention was that many times our table was expanded to include teachers who lived there, new immigrants staying in our home, and sometimes a lonely single mom who needed to talk. I am thankful my parents modeled a home where the invitation to belong was extended beyond our comfort levels.

Click here to view the online LHNM Staff directory team. Each picture represents a person or family who is committed to living life in community with others. I am so grateful to belong to this team as we make room at God’s table for the many yet to come.