40 Ways to Build Community Overseas

by Anisha Hopkinson on December 12, 2017

Community: When it’s good, it’s so good! When it’s bad, it’ll knock the stuffing out of you. Trust me, I’ve been a part of both.

Moving overseas, this longing for good community seemed to increase a hundred fold in me. It’s so easy to feel isolated and alone even if we really aren’t.

In my quest for good community, I initially believed some myths. I thought we should all be friends, all agree, and all be happy with each other all the time. Perhaps we needed some grand manifesto we’d all agree to, some bold outspoken commitment to community.

What I found instead was a vibrant community of differing opinions, personalities, and even people I don’t necessarily get along with. We don’t have a manifesto and we aren’t all best friends, but I’ve found a home here. Good community is worth the tension of navigating differences.

I think community grows stronger through persistent, seemingly unremarkable actions. Grand gestures are sometimes needed too, but they aren’t the foundation of good community. It’s simple things like sharing a meal or helping someone solve a problem that builds up trust and respect over time.

Reflecting back on my time overseas, I put together a list of community encouraging actions that I’ve witnessed, received, or done myself. This isn’t written as a “must do” list, but rather as an encouragement for you to think through what you can do to build the community you long for.

40 Ways…

  1. Invite someone over for a meal
  2. Drop off a meal
  3. Send a spontaneous letter or card
  4. Babysit
  5. Host a party or open house
  6. Teach someone a new skill
  7. Ask someone to teach you a new skill
  8. Join a sport
  9. Organize a community event like a yard sale or Christmas program
  10. Attend a community event
  11. Greet people
  12. Give a special welcome gift when someone new arrives
  13. Play games together
  14. Host a movie night
  15. Help fix someone’s computer, stove, motorcycle, whatever…
  16. Invite someone camping, on a hike, a picnic, or bike ride
  17. Tutor children or host a home school co-op
  18. Set aside space in your luggage to carry back items for someone
  19. Bring small gifts back when you return from furlough
  20. Join a bible study or prayer group
  21. Host a bible study or prayer group
  22. Don’t gossip
  23. Keep confidential sharing confidential
  24. Offer to help someone with gardening
  25. Say “Thanks” when you see someone helping the community
  26. Offer to drive someone
  27. Ask someone about their day
  28. Do a task that needs to be done, even if you’re not responsible for it
  29. Ask about someone’s family back home
  30. Send a card to someone who moved away
  31. Read someone’s newsletter and comment back on it
  32. Bring snacks to a meeting
  33. Make special snacks for someone with food allergies/sensitivities
  34. Let others know when you see special items available in the store
  35. Lend things
  36. Donate to a financial need
  37. Be an emergency contact
  38. Check up on someone ill or injured
  39. Help someone even if it isn’t convenient
  40. Be nice even if you don’t like or agree with someone

I’d love for you to add to this list or share your stories of building a good community. Feel free to do so in the comments.

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About Anisha Hopkinson

Anisha was born to Chilean and Texan parents, first tasted missions in Mexico, fell in love with an Englishman in Africa, and now lives in Indonesia. She journals about cross-cultural life, helping people, and loving Jesus on www.namasayamommy.blogspot.com
  • Lindee

    Well we are in Germany. We have invited people for meals for years and no one comes. Germans think if they come to your house, they will be obligated to invite you to theirs. Many of those just would never work in the German culture. isolation is really bad too.

  • I love your point that community doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing about everything. I’ve found this to be true in my relationships with people in both our “home” country and our “host” country. Our differences are part of what makes life so rich, especially as we live inter-culturally.

  • Shannon Thomson

    I think the most important thing is to get involved in whatever you can! Maybe there is a charity fun run in your area, or a fundraising event coming up. Find a way to get on the committee, join the parents group at your kid’s school, get involved in a local arts event. Show up at whatever you can and see who else does, you might find you connect with someone and you might just find that you experience community by being part of what people do in your local area. Sometimes we can struggle to know who to connect with to build community, and getting yourself out there and bumping shoulders with new people is definitely the first step! After that, follow up with whatever things on this list feel right and see what happens 🙂

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