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Cultivating Community Through a Life of Generosity

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Cultivating Community Through a Life of Generosity

Bonnie Dinkins is a dynamic leader in the non-profit sector, a steadfast friend, and a community creator in her own right. Learn how to cultivate a community and maintain long-term relationships with her practical tips!

Who is Bonnie? How would you describe yourself and the roles you have right now?

First, I am a follower of Jesus. Second, I am a wife to my husband, John Robert. I believe the Lord has called me to use my enthusiasm and people skills to invite the body of Christ into deeper relationship with Him through service as Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” More specifically, my heart beats to engage volunteers here in the US to send the gospel to the ends of the earth. In the past 5 years, I have done that at Water Mission and in my Charleston community.

Currently, I am stepping into a role with Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child to do this in a new capacity. I will be working with year-round high impact volunteers to coordinate the packing and shipping of shoeboxes (aka gospel opportunities) to children around the world.

What drew you to Water Mission?

After graduating from Clemson University (go Tigers!), I knew I wanted to work for an organization that shares the love of Jesus with people around the world. My roommate told me about an internship opening with Water Mission and the Lord opened that door. During my time interning with Water Mission, I realized the incredible blessing of working with people who share the same motivation and encourage me to trust and love Jesus more. When a full-time position became available that would utilize my talents, I followed His call to stay and contribute to ending the global water crisis.

woman holding watering can

Do you have any tips for women just starting out on how to create lasting friendships with coworkers?

Honestly, I prayed a lot and the Lord blessed me with community! But it doesn’t happen overnight. (Unless you have a crazy experience traveling for a work event or something - talk about bonding!) Don’t be afraid to be the person asking a co-worker to lunch, or (if appropriate in your office) sending the all-staff invitation to hang out after work on a Friday.

At the end of the day, just invite coworkers into your everyday life. That vulnerability can create lasting friendships.

When in doubt, choose to love your coworkers. You might not always get along or see eye-to-eye, but simply by accepting them and asking God to help you see and love them the way He does, will change your heart towards them. You’ll find yourself going out of your way to help them, and that will make your friendships real.

Also, seek out people who intimidate you in some positive way and always say yes when they want to hang out. I became best friends with a coworker who was so cool and intentional, I never thought I’d be a good enough friend to be worthy of her time. She chose me though, and I’m so grateful she did. I am a better friend and person today because of how she has loved me! Praise the Lord that He didn’t let my pride and fear prevent me from hanging out with her.

How do you maintain relationships over the years as childhood friends move to new cities and the demands of new seasons limit your availability?

One of my best friends, Olivia, and I met in 5th grade. We have sustained that relationship by consistently inviting each other into the important moments of each other’s lives.

We show up for each other in happy and sad times. Being present whenever possible helps with time/distance barriers.

Another best friend, Maggie, lives in Germany. We have a recurring calendar reminder to call each other every first day of the month at noon. Having a plan and reserving the time makes it happen!

My closest friends from college live across the country right now. We use work trips to stay in touch, and the Lord has blessed us in having overlapping opportunities in the same city, so we get to know each other's new communities in those visits. Aside from work trips, we have a group chat going where we send updates at least around the holidays. We also keep up by making long-range plans for adventure! Haley and I planned a trip to hike the Inca trail from afar over the course of a year, and it gave us something to look forward to and practical reasons to stay in touch. They're always the first people I tell about big life events outside of my family!

In your local community, you've created many connections. How did you make friends and grow your community when you moved to Charleston?

I cannot stress this strongly enough to my generation: COMMIT.

Aside from praying for community, the most effective way I found it was to plug-in at my church. Serving is a privilege and a calling. When you obey the Lord by giving your time and talents to serve the church, you will meet other people who are living on mission too.

It was a challenge to commit to a life group when I first moved to Charleston. To be honest, our group was so large at one point, I even had anxiety about going. But I knew that fear of rejection was just the devil trying to keep me away from the people who would grow with me towards Christ.

I also realized that sometimes church groups can be awkward. Think about it, the gospel is for all people, so it attracts a diverse crowd. That’s how it was in Jesus’ day and that’s how it is today too. The commonality of our love for Him is foundational to those relationships in the body of Christ and allows you to meet people with whom you might not otherwise come into contact. That’s the beauty of the Church! It’s worth persevering through the occasional awkwardness to see God move through those relationships.

What have been some of your favorite service opportunities in the last few years, and how did they come about?

To really feel plugged in at my church, I knew I needed to join a service team and a life group. I grew from member to leader in both of those areas as the Lord led. Leading our church’s Coffee Team actually helped to reinforce a lot of what I was learning in my role as a Volunteer Supervisor with Water Mission. I enjoyed being able to apply some of the High Impact principles I had learned professionally to my leadership at Church.

The same applied as a life group leader. That opportunity really pushed me to grow spiritually and emotionally.

For my 25th birthday, I decided to create a fundraiser for Water Mission (walking the walk, if you will). I enjoyed being able to apply what I had learned about fundraising in a personal effort and give my friends and family a way to contribute to the causes I feel so passionate about.

As I mentioned, my coworkers have sharpened me more than I can ever adequately convey. Our culture celebrated joyful occasions together (weddings, babies) and shared in each other’s burdens (sickness, death of loved ones). And being in the South, we do that by “taking them a meal.” We were all invited to spearhead or participate in such events, but I am especially grateful for the close friends who contributed to my own wedding! Flowers, music, day-of coordination, none of it would have been possible without my colleagues pitching in. They really taught me a lot about how to live generously!


When one of your friends has a need, does it feel like "service" to you, or does it just feel like part of your everyday life?

Yes and no. In my mind, there’s not really much of a question when it comes to helping my friends. If they need me, it’s my honor to be called upon to help. But let’s be real too - sometimes I’m totally selfish and don’t have the best attitude in the beginning. A great barometer for how much time I’ve spent with the Lord, is how eager I am to jump at the opportunity to help my friends. When I am tired and haven’t spent time with Him, I have nothing of value to give. “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” So if I have a bad attitude, I’m not doing anything that counts! I want my service to come from the overflow of the love He has given me. I have to spend time with Him for that to be possible.

What are your best tips on practicing generosity and growing friendships over time?

Shift your mentality about giving.

Create habits of giving.

When you recognize that everything comes from the Lord, it’s a lot easier to be generous with all He has entrusted to you. When you surrender your entire life to Him, He will provide more than you can ever ask for or imagine. It might not look like the type of provision you want or expect, but He will always provide what you need.

Practical applications: tithe and time. I choose to manually give my tithe each paycheck instead of using automatic withdrawal. The habit of giving reminds me that He provides my every breath and certainly my paycheck too. It is a simple way for me to slow down and thank Him for that provision. And the act itself reinforces my belief that He is trustworthy.

Time: it’s our most precious commodity. To really love someone and invest in them, is to give them your time. Start by giving the Lord your time. Even just a few minutes praying or reading His word can radically change the outlook of your day. Then ask Him to show you who to spend your time with today.

 

That’s also how you grow friendships over time. It happens day by day, walking alongside people. Rejoicing with those who rejoice, mourning with those who mourn, and simply finding beauty in everyday life together.

Bonnie Dinkins is a dynamic leader in the non-profit sector, a steadfast friend, and a community creator in her own right. Learn how to cultivate a community and maintain long-term relationships with her practical tips!

Who is Bonnie? How would you describe yourself and the roles you have right now?

First, I am a follower of Jesus. Second, I am a wife to my husband, John Robert. I believe the Lord has called me to use my enthusiasm and people skills to invite the body of Christ into deeper relationship with Him through service as Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” More specifically, my heart beats to engage volunteers here in the US to send the gospel to the ends of the earth. In the past 5 years, I have done that at Water Mission and in my Charleston community. Currently, I am stepping into a role with Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child to do this in a new capacity. I will be working with year-round high impact volunteers to coordinate the packing and shipping of shoeboxes (aka gospel opportunities) to children around the world.

What drew you to Water Mission?

After graduating from Clemson University (go Tigers!), I knew I wanted to work for an organization that shares the love of Jesus with people around the world. My roommate told me about an internship opening with Water Mission and the Lord opened that door. During my time interning with Water Mission, I realized the incredible blessing of working with people who share the same motivation and encourage me to trust and love Jesus more. When a full-time position became available that would utilize my talents, I followed His call to stay and contribute to ending the global water crisis.

Do you have any tips for women just starting out on how to create lasting relationships with coworkers?

Honestly, I prayed a lot and the Lord blessed me with community! But it doesn’t happen overnight. (Unless you have a crazy experience traveling for a work event or something - talk about bonding!) Don’t be afraid to be the person asking a co-worker to lunch, or (if appropriate in your office) sending the all-staff invitation to hang out after work on a Friday.

At the end of the day, just invite coworkers into your everyday life. That vulnerability can create lasting friendships.

When in doubt, choose to love your coworkers. You might not always get along or see eye-to-eye, but simply by accepting them and asking God to help you see and love them the way He does, will change your heart towards them. You’ll find yourself going out of your way to help them, and that will make your friendships real.

Also, seek out people who intimidate you in some positive way and always say yes when they want to hang out. I became best friends with a coworker who was so cool and intentional, I never thought I’d be a good enough friend to be worthy of her time. She chose me though, and I’m so grateful she did. I am a better friend and person today because of how she has loved me! Praise the Lord that He didn’t let my pride and fear prevent me from hanging out with her.

How do you maintain relationships over the years as childhood friends move to new cities and the demands of new seasons limit your availability?

One of my best friends, Olivia, and I met in 5th grade. We have sustained that relationship by consistently inviting each other into the important moments of each other’s lives.

We show up for each other in happy and sad times. Being present whenever possible helps with time/distance barriers.

Another best friend, Maggie, lives in Germany. We have a recurring calendar reminder to call each other every first day of the month at noon. Having a plan and reserving the time makes it happen!

My closest friends from college live across the country right now. We use work trips to stay in touch, and the Lord has blessed us in having overlapping opportunities in the same city, so we get to know each other's new communities in those visits. Aside from work trips, we have a group chat going where we send updates at least around the holidays. We also keep up by making long-range plans for adventure! Haley and I planned a trip to hike the Inca trail from afar over the course of a year, and it gave us something to look forward to and practical reasons to stay in touch. They're always the first people I tell about big life events outside of my family!

In your local community, you’ve created many connections. How did you make friends and grow your community when you moved to Charleston?

I cannot stress this strongly enough to my generation: COMMIT.

Aside from praying for community, the most effective way I found it was to plug-in at my church. Serving is a privilege and a calling. When you obey the Lord by giving your time and talents to serve the church, you will meet other people who are living on mission too.

It was a challenge to commit to a life group when I first moved to Charleston. To be honest, our group was so large at one point, I even had anxiety about going. But I knew that fear of rejection was just the devil trying to keep me away from the people who would grow with me towards Christ.

I also realized that sometimes church groups can be awkward. Think about it, the gospel is for all people, so it attracts a diverse crowd. That’s how it was in Jesus’ day and that’s how it is today too. The commonality of our love for Him is foundational to those relationships in the body of Christ and allows you to meet people with whom you might not otherwise come into contact. That’s the beauty of the Church! It’s worth persevering through the occasional awkwardness to see God move through those relationships.

What have been some of your favorite service opportunities in the last few years, and how did they come about?

To really feel plugged in at my church, I knew I needed to join a service team and a life group. I grew from member to leader in both of those areas as the Lord led. Leading our church’s Coffee Team actually helped to reinforce a lot of what I was learning in my role as a Volunteer Supervisor with Water Mission. I enjoyed being able to apply some of the High Impact principles I had learned professionally to my leadership at Church.

The same applied as a life group leader. That opportunity really pushed me to grow spiritually and emotionally.

For my 25th birthday, I decided to create a fundraiser for Water Mission (walking the walk, if you will). I enjoyed being able to apply what I had learned about fundraising in a personal effort and give my friends and family a way to contribute to the causes I feel so passionate about.

As I mentioned, my coworkers have sharpened me more than I can ever adequately convey. Our culture celebrated joyful occasions together (weddings, babies) and shared in each other’s burdens (sickness, death of loved ones). And being in the South, we do that by “taking them a meal.” We were all invited to spearhead or participate in such events, but I am especially grateful for the close friends who contributed to my own wedding! Flowers, music, day-of coordination, none of it would have been possible without my colleagues pitching in. They really taught me a lot about how to live generously!

When one of your friends has a need, does it feel like “service” to you, or does it just feel like part of everyday life?

Yes and no. In my mind, there’s not really much of a question when it comes to helping my friends. If they need me, it’s my honor to be called upon to help. But let’s be real too - sometimes I’m totally selfish and don’t have the best attitude in the beginning. A great barometer for how much time I’ve spent with the Lord, is how eager I am to jump at the opportunity to help my friends. When I am tired and haven’t spent time with Him, I have nothing of value to give. “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” So if I have a bad attitude, I’m not doing anything that counts! I want my service to come from the overflow of the love He has given me. I have to spend time with Him for that to be possible.

What are your best tips on practicing generosity and growing friendships over time?

Shift your mentality about giving.

Create habits of giving.

When you recognize that everything comes from the Lord, it’s a lot easier to be generous with all He has entrusted to you. When you surrender your entire life to Him, He will provide more than you can ever ask for or imagine. It might not look like the type of provision you want or expect, but He will always provide what you need.

Practical applications: tithe and time. I choose to manually give my tithe each paycheck instead of using automatic withdrawal. The habit of giving reminds me that He provides my every breath and certainly my paycheck too. It is a simple way for me to slow down and thank Him for that provision. And the act itself reinforces my belief that He is trustworthy.

Time: it’s our most precious commodity. To really love someone and invest in them, is to give them your time. Start by giving the Lord your time. Even just a few minutes praying or reading His word can radically change the outlook of your day. Then ask Him to show you who to spend your time with today.

That’s also how you grow friendships over time. It happens day by day, walking alongside people. Rejoicing with those who rejoice, mourning with those who mourn, and simply finding beauty in everyday life together.

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