As I sit down to write at a café, drinking a house blend tea at the hottest time of the day—at this point very used to living in my own sweat—I realize that I have almost forgotten what it was like to arrive here for the first time. Two weeks in and we have settled into our little routines. We no longer forget to throw our toilet paper in the trash. We cycle through the two or three cafés we’ve chosen as “our” place, whether for the good company, the affordable drinks, or the stable Wi-Fi. We even, maybe, have grown used to the sound of the waves of the Mediterranean rolling in and the glorious array of blues, all only a stone’s throw away.
Altea has become an odd extension of home. It is still undeniably foreign territory, yet something strikes us at EDGE as quite familiar. Perhaps it’s the cozy, small town feel of this city on a hill, or the fact that all of the European tourists during the summer make Altea quite welcome to international passersby. But then I think of the café owner I will say good-bye to by name as I leave for the day, with promises that I will be back soon. If Altea feels like home only after two short weeks, it is because God, through EDGE 2015, has shown us to seek community in everything we do, no matter where we are.
The greatest evidence of the community already being built through us in Altea is in our stories. If week 1 was about receiving the stories of things past, then week 2 has been about making new ones. We now have stories of both locals and international travelers coming to our group meals every Monday and Thursday and blessing us with their hungry stomachs and hearts. We have stories of unexpected encounters with other Christians in the marketplaces, in the stores, or on the streets. One of the most exciting stories to be told is of our second art night at El Diseño, EDGE’s newly-restored art gallery. Even in the restoration process of the building is a new story still being told as we chip away the old paint and infuse it with new life.
In this second week especially, community has been the basis for our stories because community has a way of giving life to a vision we all pine for, whether a believer or not: that of an eternally inter-connected network of humanity. Here at EDGE we hold true to this vision, looking to find a glimpse of eternity in every encounter. This need not be sending someone off with a Bible or leading someone through the sinner’s prayer, though these are great signs of God’s work in the lives of the previously unreached. Instead, community here has most often and most powerfully been found in the little things.
As encouraging as it was reading a few of my poems at last week’s art night, I sensed the greatest communication between my heart and that of the city when a fellow EDGE member read a Spanish-translated version of my work. It was only when my words had been transformed into the native tongue that I saw a mixture of tourists and everyday Alteans stop, stare, and listen to what was being read. I didn’t know what they were thinking; but I didn’t need to. Community had taken place, with God as the holy intercessor of our thoughts. I’ll likely never meet again the ones who were mildly curious in my poetry. I’ll never see again the mother and son, who, riding bicycles down the pier, looked up to see me watching the sunset on a fat, sizzling concrete slab. I likely won’t even see again the countless Spaniards who excused themselves past me while I waited to cross the street. But you’ll likely never meet the congregation of retired British believers in Calpe, a cousin town to Altea. And you’ll never get a ride from the kind and studious British reverend, whose own story of leaving England for Spain involves a desire for greater community, for a place with more open and relational hearts. You’ll never meet the church planters who came to our art night out of a hunger to see youth engaging in art, culture, and faith, or the Scottish family of seven who dined with us and invited us to their homes if we ever made it their way.
But in now knowing they exist, through my words, you too have been invited to our community. What joy there is in a community we cannot even see. And what joy it is to have been passed by and to have been seen, even if not knowing what will ever come of it.
EDGE 2015, now halfway through, I pray that every encounter holds the potential to be a holy one, that every act be one of invitation, and that every thought be of the ever-evolving community within our hearts and minds because of these encounters. Bless those who are making deep relationships with those in Altea and bless those who are building community in the little things. We are only a small group of Christians in a small town for a short period of time. But what bliss that we are even here at all! Expand our vision, for the Kingdom is here, written in the hearts of those who know the community that is to come at the end of all things.
May the lady we buy fruit from at the market be the one we fall on our knees beside as we welcome in the new city and the new earth. May the café owner I say good-bye to be at my side at a much higher feast, served to all who believe in the Feast Maker. Let us anticipate the infinite in the right now, so that all those we have met, or only glimpsed, or never even heard of, may come together and sing a never ending Buenos días.
Post by 2015 Edgies, Tober Corrigan
Photo by Annabelle Chinchen