We, as a congregation, are in shock. The ice storm devastated the area. Most of us were victimized by that natural tragedy. Some were without power or water for days. For months we have witnessed so much physical tragedy and sickness. While each incident caused us to grieve, Jonette Shirley's situation devastates us. Jonette is not yet 50. She bubbles with the joy of faith and life. Paul served us faithfully as an elder. He is open and friendly to all. To learn that multiple tumors are attacking her body exceeds comprehension.

Both incidents emphasize the importance and power of Christian relationships. In natural disasters, we need the closeness and strength that are natural expressions of godly friendships. In times of distress and trial, we need the loving support and comfort produced by godly friendships.

People who belong to Christ have something special to share. But we cannot share that "something special" if (a) we do not know each other, and (b) we do not experience joy in being with each other. A new need has evolved in this twenty-first century. The new need is to understand and form a caring, loving community.

Our older generations well remember when that need did not exist. Community and togetherness were the common state of existence. They know the meaning of closeness, caring, and receiving care. Those times are past realities. Today's culture emphasizes the individual, demands overcommitment, and imposes a hectic lifestyle. Many do not understand how to be family. Few understand how to be community. "No time" exists to know people. Consequently, we live as strangers in our own neighborhoods and perhaps in our own families.

This year we will experience several "target occasions" to encourage biblical but varied objectives. The first occurs this Sunday afternoon and evening. The objective is simple: strengthening and nurturing Christian friendship. We want you to discover or advance the joy of being with fellow believers. Come enjoy longstanding friendships and build some new ones.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 28 January 2001

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