What My Year At Viva Has Taught Me About Jesus


My first few days working at Viva were terrifying!

They coincided with the 2017 international team meetings, which meant I had a real baptism of fire; not only did I have to be introduced to and get to know everyone who works in the head office, but I also had to meet practically every staff member from around the world.

Paul from Uganda threw everything into wellie-wanging!

As a raging introvert and naturally shy person, it was pretty intimidating. One of my first days involved trying to get out of the way as a competitive game of wellie-wanging was waged by several of our international staff!

But it was also a privilege; it meant being able to put faces to names of the extraordinary work being done around the world. So, as I come to the end of my time as a Viva employee this week, I’ve been reflecting on three things that working at Viva has taught me about Jesus.

Wellie-wanging was a real crowd-pleaser!

Christ-like leadership is key

One of the things I’ve been reflecting on a lot this year is what it means to be a leader and more specifically, what does it mean to be a leader in the vein of Christ.

Hannah at the graduation of the ‘Find your fire’ programme

The model of leadership demonstrated by Jesus is pretty opposed to secular models of leadership. The great hymn in Philippians 2 shows us that Jesus’ leadership is sacrificial, humble, obedient and transformative, and invests power so as to empower the disenfranchised.

The Bible is full of leaders whose style is not quite what you’d expect, from Moses to David to the extraordinary early church women such as Phoebe and Junia. Only the apostle Paul seems like a secular-approved leader and yet, his leadership becomes most effective once he’s lost everything, has been humbled and becomes obedient.

One of the things that has struck me most significantly this year is how Mark, Viva’s CEO, models Christ-like leadership and how the positive impact of that permeates the whole organisation. It is a style embodied by others on the senior leadership team and on the trustee board and it sets the tone for our work: it’s about Jesus.

His cause has to be our cause, and, in our case, his cause for children has become our cause for children. Such an outlook is humble, obedient and transformative. And it’s taught me that Jesus’ model is the perfect one and does work in the everyday work setting.

Prayer makes a difference

It’s hard to avoid prayer at Viva! And this is an excellent thing.

Hannah was surrounded by prayer after suffering a swollen arm from a nasty bite

It changes the culture of the office and re-orientates us back to what God might be saying to us. It also helps us to love one another better and more deeply; when someone shares something they need prayer for, God uses their vulnerability to soften your heart and increase its capacity for love.

It also helps remind us that we’re a body and a family, with no-one part more important or significant (although is there was a hierarchy, Team Doorsteps would be at the top!).

Prayer ushers in equality – in his infinite love, mercy and grace, human competition is rendered mute. Prayer also reminds you that your power is limited. I have heard and been confronted with so many stories this year where I’ve wanted to sort a problem, a devastating issue and I have been powerless to do so.

Prayer, paradoxically, has been empowering. I might not be able to pull that child out of an abhorrent situation, but I can offer him to the Lord Almighty and the comfort of that cannot be overstated.

And it’s taught me that Jesus wants to be in every one of my concerns, not just the ones where I’ve run out of my own abilities to solve it.

Colleagues – and friends! After a water fight on a staff away day

We’re all in this together

Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, says that community “is the place where we ideally learn to be ourselves without fear or constraint. Community life deepens through mutual trust among all its members… Community is established by the simple, gentle concern that people show each other every day. It is made of small gestures, all the services and sacrifices which say ‘I love you’ and ‘I’m happy to be with you.’”

As a fiercely independent person, who had spent seven years in higher education before I came to Viva, it was a bit of a shock to the system to be in such a warm and caring environment! (If you’ve ever had an Oxford tutorial, you’ll know that ‘warm’ and ‘caring’ are not the usual adjectives associated with them!)

Such close and supportive working is not without costs; being vulnerable can be scary but through it you realise how much we all need each other. Take these blogs: left up to me, they’d be passably interesting, but riddled with typos, occasionally have overly obscure analogies, and be visually unappealing; but add in Andrew with his design-wiz skills and kindly saying, “So, I’ve just removed that reference to ‘The Scarlet Letter'”, et voila!

Hannah’s made some great friends at Viva

Teamwork makes the dream work. From Oxford to Kampala to Beirut to Potosi to Hyderabad, we are all connected and all in this together. It makes our work better and it makes us better as community life (however dispersed) develops our character formation.

And it’s taught me that Jesus didn’t have twelve disciples just for the fun of it; he had them because community matters.

To return to Vanier once more, “loving means to want others to fulfil themselves according to God’s plan. It means wanting them to be faithful to their own calling.”

So to my wonderful colleagues: from wellie-wanging to water fights, accident and emergency waiting rooms to escape rooms, continue to be faithful to God’s calling on you and on Viva – may you continue to inspire lasting change in children’s lives through the power of collective action because of that vision – God’s vision – to see children safe, well, and fulfilling their God-given potential.


Hannah Barr has been Doorsteps Project Manager at Viva for the last 14 months. This is the 28th blog post she has written during that time, covering a range of topics and themes including anxiety, Brussel sprouts, hope, Inside Out, bullying, hugs, Parks and Recreation, the Lord’s Prayer and marshmallow burgers. From September, Hannah begins ordination training at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford.


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