20 05

Finding Fellowship and Joy in a New Community: Monday, May 20, 2024

By Elena Olvera from Westmont College

Juggling an armful of dirty socks, I pushed through the heavy door into the dorm’s communal lounge space—and was instantly greeted by a dense cloud of acrid smoke. Out of view, in the kitchen, the remains of one charred bag of microwave popcorn still revolved slowly in the microwave. Behind closed doors, students bartered for laundry detergent and quarters for the washing machines.

Three weeks ago, I left college with a diploma in my hand and a vague sense of trepidation in my heart. Even as I looked forward to a new chapter, I mourned the small moments of lighthearted fellowship and camaraderie that had marked my college experience.

I was afraid that I’d never again get to experience that unique and special sense of oh-no-things-are-crazy-but-at-least-we’re-all-in-this-together. That beautiful unexpected moment where a group of strangers thrown together, seemingly randomly, has become friends without realizing exactly when or how.
Suddenly, though, I was in my pajamas, holding wet laundry in a roomful of popcorn smoke and laughter. That moment of late-night chaos and hilarity is concrete proof to me that the kind of fellowship I so crave wasn’t strictly limited to the college experience. It is, rather, the God-given community of the everyday; the natural result of living life together. And it’s just a part of what makes this program so special.

At WJI, it has become increasingly clear to me that God reveals Himself in the small things. I see His provision in the way that Naomi (our assistant director) keeps an empty classroom well-stocked with snacks and coffee for us. I see the Father’s love for his children in the way WJI Director Lee Pitts interacts with his own two kids. I see His truth in the words of our instructors.

And yes, I see His design for community life in a group of students who (sometimes) burn their popcorn.