By Micha Kandal
I grew up going to church. All through middle school I did the occasional retreat and weekday hang outs. But I was in no way invested in a community, and I didn't have anyone investing in me. (Mom & dad don't count) I just accepted this as what it was. I was meant to be independent and a "loner."
I wasn't upset about this, and it didn't keep me up at night. I could just tell there was something missing.
So fast forward a few years, and I'm moving to Indy. Freshman year dorm room. The only person I knew was my new roommate. We came from the same home town, and that was about it.
Naturally, it was 1,000 degrees outside on move-in day. I was tired and exhausted and ready for my parents to leave so I could settle in and cry and breathe and do whatever else a freshman in college does in a new city.
That’s when I heard the laugh, followed by really excited small talk. This random girl with a bright smile and sunshiny hair was talking to my mom and brother about Evansville and how she is also from this same place. My mom decided that she fully trusts this complete stranger and tells the stranger (Samantha Wittgen) to "take care of me" while I live in her absence.
Sam and I exchange numbers, and as I get to know her, we become pals. She invites me into her community and to all of the young life events. During this whole process, that feeling of something missing that I mentioned before is starting to feel different. Jesus was doing some cool things. At the time, I thought I was just following around this new human, but looking back, Jesus was inviting me into new friendships that would change my life, to a community that would change my life.
As I went into my sophomore year of college, I continued developing these awesome relationships over hundreds of cups of coffee and felt God answering prayers. He was answering my deep desires of wanting to be known and loved and encouraged by others around me.
When I started coming to New Circle Church, my view of community completely shifted. I thought I knew what it was and what I wanted, but once I walked through the doors of the Oaks Academy, I knew I was home. All of the feelings and settling-for-being-a-loner, all were completely erased and replaced with that beautiful feeling of being wanted and known, accepted and invited in.
Learning how to be a good friend and a part of my community has been challenging for sure. There are days when I put my phone on do not disturb and decide to not invest for a minute. There are also the super Jesus infused days, when I get the opportunity to hear more about people's lives, and to pray over them or alongside them.
I know we were made to be with people. We were created with the capacity to love them well. I'm so thankful for all of the people I have come to know, and those who invest in me, and I in them. To feel known, respected, and encouraged is the closest thing to the kingdom I think I'll see and feel before the real thing. So until then, I'm going to keep walking with all the beautiful humans God has placed in my life. I’m going to keep listening for the loud laughs and excited small talk because this is how my sweet Savior lets me know I’m not alone.