I think one of the traps that we fall into when we consider the community that God has given us is that we think it is up to us somehow to go out and find the persons God has given to us. We think that God has given us just some generic idea of what little corner of the world He has for us, and it is then our responsibility to make it our own.
But that's not really the testimony of the Bible, either in the Old or the New Testament.
See, this is how we think it happens - we think that like Noah, God tells us something like "Go, get some of everything, and bring it to this sacred ground on which you walk." That's essentially what He told Noah, right? Go, get two of every animal, seven pairs of every clean animal, and stuff them into your boat. We spend so much of our time trying to get out people into our boat!
Read the testimony, though. Noah doesn't have to go on one single hunt. He prepares the boat, makes the place, builds faithfully, and then the animals come to him. He doesn't go to the ends of the earth and round up a few armadillos here and some camels here and a jar of locusts from yet another place; they just...show up. They come to the ark.
The same is true with Jesus. When we get to the Gospels, we see Jesus living in this place that God has given Him, and we hear Him talking about the persons God has given to Him. But by and large, Jesus does not go out and find these persons. Rather, He prepares the ministry, makes the place, walks faithfully, and these persons come to Him. In fact, the overwhelming majority of the Gospel testimony is that the people came to Jesus, even though it was He who was sent to them.
We let ourselves get so flustered by all of this, by all of these ideas we have about what it means to be a people of God given to a certain time and place, to be a people of God who have been given our own little corners of the world. But it need not be so daunting. The truth is that most of the time, we don't have to figure out how to go out and get it; we have to figure out only how to create the space for it to come to us.
And we do that by preparing well, making a place, and living faithfully. Just like Noah. Just like Jesus. Just like thousands of other men and women across history.
When you talk with persons who have been in ministry for awhile, either a formal or an informal ministry, one of the things you often hear is how they don't really have a choice in the matter; the need that they now minister to has always seemed, in one way or another, to seek them out. The hungry have always come, the sick have always sought them, the poor have knocked on their doors, the dying have called them in the middle of the night, etc. Whatever it is, most of us find, at one point or another, that the world that God has given us is actually coming to us; all we have to do is be here, faithfully.
Not that this is a passive existence; not by any means. It's just to say that we spend too much of our time thinking we have to go, when the truth and the testimony is that so much of our going is done by creating a place for others to come. They come to us, but it's not really us; they are coming to something sacred, something holy. They are coming to God. In us and through us.
And so, we are given to each other, not in a way that makes us to spend our whole lives seeking, but in a way that makes us to spend our lives welcoming, embracing. Going, yes, but only in coming, one to another, each to each other, to the ends of all the earth, from our own very little corners of it.