Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Cleopatra Xigalia and the Ephesians Four Christian Community

By Bixyl Shuftan

Not long ago, I traveled to the Faravari sim on the mainland to meet up with Cleopatra Xigalia, who wanted to talk about the Ephesians Four Christian community that she was part of. Cleopatra was one of a group of people at the spot I arrived at, a resting place with some pillows and chairs and a hammock under some palm trees. I had been there earlier for a live music event, and Cleopatra welcomed me back. Cleopatra told me that conversations at the place could be in voice, chat, or both. We decided on chat so I could take down more information.

One of the women there offered to record the conversation. Another responded, "need to fix my hair and make up (giggle), just joking." "I haven't started the record. and make your make up (giggle)." A third girl grinned, "need to put on a longer skirt ... funny in real-life I spend all day filming people. Now ... there is cam crew filming here." A fourth lady commented, "I trust you *name), I am sure you'll make me look cute *giggles*. Okay I'll be quiet (laughter)." More would continue to drop in as we talked.

When I asked Cleopatra where the idea for the group got started, she answered, "I dont know where to start." She had been talking with a friend, "about having Christian hangout sort of place maybe over a year ago. And then someone else I know wanted to also do it. And Ceasar (her partner) and I were led to have one. So there was a group of us who seemed to have the same need, to find fellowship with other Christians in Second Life and have a place to do that. So when the sim was set up, we had no idea what to expect really. Then one by one people came, and we bonded in Christ. We study His word. We get to know each other."

It was about then that one person, Jamiela1, dropped in and greetings were exchanged. Cleopatra told me she "was drawn back in to Second Life, and then found us right after logging back in. It seemed that in Second Life, there are Christian sims. But for us ... um, they didnt meet the full need. We saw a gap, sort of, if you know what I mean. There were classes, bible studies, but not really place for us to meet and spend time together building bonds in such a way as Christians."

Ckeopatra explained, "Here is a passage from one of our studies on fellowship.last week. 'Ephesians 4 is a sim founded on the idea of fellowship.  But what does that word, "fellowship" really mean?  Is it swapping life stories about ourselves?  Is it sharing the Gospel at campfires with visiting nonbelievers?  Is it keeping to our own Christian community, growing ourselves to the exclusion of other believers?' It is a critical part of the Christian life. It is essential for new believers. It is a direct call from God for us to have unity." Jamiela1 commented, "I think this is a Christian Hangout that welcomes fellowship along with Bible Studies and open discussions. We welcome the curious of faith....the new in faith and the experienced in hopes to help us all in our journey of the Written Word (Bible) and to what God plans for us all."

I asked Cleopatra where did the name "Ephesians Four" came from? She answered, "The name came after we had prayed about what to call the group. So the chapter in Ephesians has the essence of what we wanted to provide here. It is about unity and maturity in Christ. How we grow together and use our Spiritual gifts in a unique way within the Body of Christ. We are *one.*" Several others expressed their agreement, "Fellowship with the purpose of also bringing others to Christ. We share our burdens with each other, prayer for each other. We praise God and the goodness he does in our lives. We play games and hang out. We go sailing. We have music ministry too. ... Jamiela leads the Bible studies and coordinates that. Caesar provides the sim for us to use."

Cleopatra mentioned the people in the group were from around the world, the United States, Scotland, England,Germany, Holland, India, France, Philippines, Denmark, Mauritius Island, Italy, Switzerland, Ireland, Finland, Israel,Canada, Jamaica, and probably a few others. "We have many discussions with many all over the world," Jamiela1 told me. Cleopatra nodded, "We get some interesting visitors, we have lots of interesting discussions." "Yes, we learn about everyone's experiences all over the world."

What experiences did they have? Cleopatra mentioned, "We had a gigantic dragon visitor." Another answered, "I learned the word 'yuckie' and Jesus is God." After a moment, she spoke again, "not in the same sentence." That caused a few chuckles. Jamiela commented, "... to me so many to name. ... Everyone has an interesting story once they become comfortable" One person spoke, "Sometimes people come here and talk about their problems and we pray for them and with them."

Jamiela1 stated, "We study from the King James Version of the Bible so we have many who come curious, and many faithful." I asked if they used more recent translations of the Bible. Jamiela1 answered, "Many people use different translations, but we follow and are guided by King Jame Version." Cleopatra told me, "We use the NIV too, any translation that helps us understand, also going back to the Greek.  One way we learn is in discussions of the Bible, so usually yeah, KJV is the go-to. Butour style of teaching is more discussion type, Bixyl, very participative. Some people here are very new to their Faith and understanding. Some people have been believers for decades." Jamiela1, "Some other versions give more modern terms and translate to modern usage, but can loose somewhat the true translation. so we always refer back to the KJV."

Cleopatra added, "We learn about God from reading and studying the Word, and from living and gaining experience applying His Word to our lives directly. 2 Timothy 3:16, All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, we also learn from each other. Proverbs 27: 17 As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." Jamiela stated, "The core of this group sticks to the teaching from the KJV."

Cleopatra moved to another subject, "We laugh a lot too," then smiled. Jamelia1 chuckled, "Eheheh, yes." I asked what gets the most laughter around here. Jamiela1 answered, "We laugh about lots of things, people telling about their everyday, fun things we experience in the same way, just a joy of being together makes us happy." Cleopatra added, "We sing too." One of the others commented, "We are not demure all the time. Sometimes we act like children (smile) and we sing joy joy joy." Cleopatra told me, 'We are singing and laughing now, Bix. (She) right now makes us laugh." Jamiela commented, "And sometimes we are just silly."

Cleopatra then moved on, "Some things we do though are very very serious. People bring real problems to us and issues." One man commented, "We had a woman share her story about losing her children.It was moving to see and her. That's the key in our fellowship to build each other up and comfort each other in the word of God." "It is very real here," Cleopatra told me. "We truly are here for and with each other," Jamiela added. Another stated, "That is the point! We are real and our faith is real. It's not a roleplay."

Cleopatra told me, "We dont have a 'pastor' or have sermons in the church. We are here for each other in fellowship. We aren't a church. We are *the* Church." The man commented, "We are the Church as it was intended originally." One girl commented, "Sometimes we also just hangout without doing something, just sitting around in silence and enjoy not being alone alone ... brothers and sisters in front of God." "We are safe here and are secure in our silence," Jamiela added, "We are together for one another."

Someone commented, "We are by no means Teletubby Christians." I asked if he meant televangelists. He laughed and Jamiela1 told me he meant the kids show, the man going in, "We dont jump in the air and shout how good we feel and how everything is sweet and fine." Jamiela1 added, "Right we live real lives and have real struggles and we come together for each other. And sometimes do things together just for a safe fellowship, hangout, with great people. We have dinner with each other, sharing what we fixed and or eating. We are real, not roleplay. ... We find comfort with each other as we are on our journey with GOD and the real struggles, pain, heartache and joy that comes with life."

I asked about some of the challenges the group has had over time. Cleopatra told me, "We have only been here since May, so we didn't know what to expect. We had to get more chairs for one." She also mentioned griefers, "I think there were seven of them at one of our first events. ... Last night we had a couple trolls." I asked how often they show up.Cleopatra told me, "Less than I expected actually." One other challenge was the group was getting larger in size, "growing kinda fast. So we just take this one day at a time, and look to God's word for what we are to do and how to handle things. We have struggles daily. We look to the word for how to handle them. The Bible gives us instruction on how to handle these." Jamiela1 added, "We seem to be able at the end of the day handle through God what we deal with each day."

I asked what their plans were if the group continues to grow. Jamiela1 answered, "We do have discussions about it, but have nothing set in stone at this time really. As the need comes, we try to deal and discuss accordingly." Cleopatra told me, "We plan to continue to follow God's direction. We will not ask for donations or rent land or take up offerings. We will do as the Bible teaches us, to walk daily with Him and have faith that He wills how us what to do next. If we get too big, God will tell us what to do. We are handling it fine so far it seems.  We deal with things as they come." One man stated, "If the group  at some point will expand we hope to reach more people and be even more  activities  in what we do. That also means more responsibility. ... As our core continues to grow, we will eventually get more ability to spread more activities over more people and therefor we become more effective." Cleopatra told me, "Most people find us from search. Some send their friends and some bring others. As we grow we share the responsibility and work. As God brings more people to us, our core group will grow and more people will contribute their spiritual gifts."

I asked about their more memorable events. Cleopatra told me there was a music concert not long ago attended by more than a dozen that was probably their most memorable, "We also had a great little pool tourney the other night in Ceasar's office, playing secondlife billiards pool table. People just gather and we had someone there from Greece and Brazil." Jamiela1 added, "We have had a few game events where we played pool or chess. We are still so new, we haven't had many, but they have all been memorable." Cleopatra mentioned of the concert, "someone ... told us she was getting baptized the next day."

"If you know what I mean," Cleopatra told me, "in the end it is *all* for God. So we are here for each other, yes, to grow together, but of course in the end our mission is the spread the Word." She pointed to a nearby structure, "The lighthouse is on the sim in the corner. We are here to be light."

Cleopatra would show me around their land, places like a gelato (ice cream) ship, a coffee house, "If you notice, there are lots of pianos, a little garden, we made a lot of smaller gathering places in the sim. We have lessons here too." She also mentioned the boats, "Ceasar's boats are in the harbor and people get taken on rides and stuff. He likes to sail and taking people to the Blake Sea from here." There was also a ballroom, a church, "this is just used for people to sit and pray or meditate onthe word. We dont really have a pastor or sunday services or anything." There was also a Tardis in the area, "The Tardis does bring some interesting people sometimes too."

It was about then that Cleopatra and I parted ways, "I hope you had a good time visiting us."

Faravari (150/85/25)

Bixyl Shuftan


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