No one is from here.

It’s a saying commonly heard in Washington, D.C., a place with changing political administrations, students and interns who come and go, and a workforce of upwardly mobile professionals.

It seems like so many people here are either brand-new to the area or on their way out. A city report this year found that, according to tax rolls, fewer than 1 in 4 people who moved to the District a decade ago remained residents eight years later.

In such a transient place, the church’s special role in creating a sense of home is tangible. Our relatives are far away. We may feel isolated, lonely, or overwhelmed. Through my church community, I quickly discovered an uncomfortable yet extraordinarily comforting fact: My husband and kids and distant relatives aren't enough. I must depend the friends I make, the people around me, as our “practical family.”

When babies arrive, parents fly in for a visit, but they aren’t on hand to watch your older kid when you go into labor. That’s what practical family is for. When your apartment doesn’t have room for a blow-up mattress for your sister to come stay, you call someone from the congregation. The same when your car battery dies in a parking garage, when it’s your birthday, when you need a ride to the ER, or when you don’t land the big promotion.

In other settings, these responsibilities fall to family or lifelong friends, but my husband, my kids, and I don’t have that support network here. Instead, the people God put next to us become the family we need for getting through hard times, for celebrating everyday joys, and for learning to live out our faith. Our practical family is not only a help for ...

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