There’s something quite unnerving about being invited to make a journey, and then finding that you have no idea how to get to the destination.
Or worse, discovering that there’s a bunch of other people who have pitched up at the starting gate, and who equally have no clue as to how to make a success of the journey. (In fact you suspect that they may well turn out to be a hindrance to your direction finding efforts!)
I have often wondered how the disciples responded to Jesus’ invitation to ‘follow me’. Oh, I know the shorthand version, which is paraphrased by gospel writers as something like, ‘so they did!’
“How are we going to get there?”
“We probably won’t.”
“Tell me Matthew’s not included…”
“Well, someone has to collect the tax!’”
“Does Jesus know what he’s doing?”
“Jury’s out on that, but looking at this lot you’d have to question it!”
“Ah, well, you know what, I’m going to give it a go…… ”
Within Viva, there’s a strong emphasis on journeying together, succinctly expressed in ‘Vivaspeak’ as ‘better together’. An exploration of how to continually improve that ‘togetherness’ has happened over the past couple of weeks.
Highly-qualified, servant-hearted people, representing national or international network consultancies – pastors, strategists, visionaries, trustees, administrative staff and communicators from Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe – all made their way to Oxford.
It was great to be with 50 delightfully varied saints on a journey of discovery and adventure, learning and sharing together as they strove to understand how they could improve the driving principles and working practices of Viva, so that the lives of children around the would be improved.
Above all it was about having a commonality of vision: that Jesus is the one who called us to serve alongside the poor, and he walks in step with us on the journey that we and he make together, always stretching the boundaries of the Kingdom.
And that foundational conviction is what shapes, energises and grows our partner networks and our programmes around the world.
As a UK-based trustee privileged to tag along for a bit of the journey, I watched in awe as the scenarios from city-wide and local initiatives were described and welled up a bit as the pain and frustration of hurting people, often working with minimal resources, etched itself across the faces around the table.
I was inordinately proud to bask in the reflected glory of all that is being achieved in community change and felt blessed by the new ideas emerging.
I also felt sad when they all had to leave the cold and damp of England in January to return to their warm and sunny countries! (Memo to Viva: next time invite them here in May!)
We explored a 21st century theology of mission with Krish, engaged in cross-cultural communication with Amanda and loved Katy and Zoe inspiring us about the local Doorsteps project.
And as we came towards the end, and shared communion together, we were reminded of the words of a personal hero of mine, Fredrick Beuchner, who wrote, “To lend each other a hand when we’re falling… perhaps that’s the only work that matters in the end”.
And do you know what? I think that’s exactly why Jesus called his followers to work in teams! Admit it: no one of us is as strong alone as we are when we are together.
We’re giving it a go! And the children we care about will benefit.