I just received this message from one of the first Alongsiders in Europe:
“My time with John is good, I enjoy the time that we spent together very muchand so does John. This is special for John, since he is not used to this. His mother was a little hesitant at first. Saying “you know, I give him enough attention already, et cetera”. But now she has heard from John himself howvaluable our times together are and she is completely supportive. She even asked me to help discuss things with John like gaming, cursing and violence. This is so special!
John also sees how things are different in our family. For example: we share meals and eat together. And we pray and give thanks before the meal. Now they have invited me to join them for a meal as well. They spoke to me about purchasing a dining table soon. And they even began to give thanks for their meals as well. Very special indeed.
A prayer point is time. My schedule is very full. Literally from Monday ‘till Saturday is packed and even the Sundays are pretty full. To meet with John I often stop working early so that we have time. Since I am self-employed I can do this, but the problem is also that John’s schedule is very full as well. He is not always available and - like his peers - has responsibilities as well. Please pray for a good solution forward to meet regularly and keep spending time together.”
As a family we were still working hard in Cambodia finishing of our work - but our minds were with the vision for Alongsiders in Europe as well. We ‘secretly’ started before we arrived in Holland. In one of the bigger cities in Holland a small group of Alongsiders was formed. Soon after they started and the pairs were formed we received the message above. What an encouragement it is!
Systems are not running yet, we’re not in Holland yet - but you know what? That is not the core of Alongsiders at all! The core is a young person loving one other (like John) in Jesus’ name. That is where change happens. But that is not easy...
Here are some things I learn from the message above.
1 - Relation is Key
John was in need of someone to come alongside him. Someone to pay attention, to spend time, to love. Not that his mum was not doing so - surely she was doing her best, but sometimes we need someone else as well to speak into our lives. To have a real influence rarely happens on-the-go, quick and easy. Nope. It will take energy to prioritize that relationship. And to focus on it.
Within Alongsiders Europe we often talk about ‘transactional’ versus ‘relational’as a mark of the movement.
Transactional carries the idea that I have something you need and that I will give that idea (or information or lesson or whatever) to you. Me, the ‘giver’,and the other person on the receiving end. Even in writing I feel the distance that’s embedded in this. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but why would I start doing something that someone told me, if it is just brought to me as a lesson, a piece of information, transactional? Honestly, I probably won’t.
Relational is very different. I am not so much the ‘giver’, no, there is a relationbetween us. We invest in each other, we share joys and struggles. Thatrequires something. We need to open up to each other. And oftentimes that means that the alongsider needs to do that first so that little brothers and sisters (like John) will open up as well. And that is the basis for shared lives. That is where ideas come across and people start to imitate what we do. Not because I told them, but because they have seen in my life what it meant and why I do so. It’s within the context of a relationship that we influence others the most. That is discipleship and that is what Jesus did as well.
Alongsiders Europe is relational at the core.
2 - To give time is to make a sacrifice
We live in a time-pressured world. A standard response to ‘How do you do’ would be ‘Good, but busy.’
Time is valuable. And herein lies a paradox. We all spend lots of time on things that don’t really carry a lot of value, and we don’t spend time on the things that do carry value like relationships (as I mentioned above). The key lies in intention and priority. If we would begin to intentionally invest in one other person and prioritize that relation in our busy agenda’s things would look different, wouldn’t they?
That is what I read in the little posts above. Time is under pressure, life is busy. Busy with all good things probably. But the alongsider intentionally schedules and prioritizes time with his little brother or sister (like John). And that makes all the difference. Jesus said that following Him would not be without a cost - there is a cost involved and Jesus said we should count and consider the cost before we choose to follow Him. Have we done that?
Someone said that the most precious thing you could give to someone is yourun-compromised and full attention. And whether or not this is completely true,it gives us something to think about…
At Alongsiders Europe we mobilize youth to intentionally walk alongside one child each and prioritize this relationship.
3 - Proximity
I see one more thing in the message that I got, called ‘proximity’. I see that in the relation with John, his mum was touched as well. She saw the change in John and began to adapt her life and family rhythms as well. That is huge!
Imagine that the family begins to get together around the table.
Share the stories of the day.
Cries and laughs together...
Can you see it?
That is why Alongsiders is so important as well. Through the relation with one child, we enter into a relation with others as well. A mother, a father, a friend,an uncle. Whoever, but in there they see change as well. Proximity.
Salt does not bring any taste as long as it is in the shaker. It needs to come out and connect to food (or slippery roads) to have an effect. To make food taste great (or to make roads less slippery). Proximity.
Let’s pray for children like John, and pray for their Alongsiders. That they might be Jesus’ hand and feet, building relations intentionally and prioritizing that in their busy lives. And let’s pray that they will be ’tasteful’, within proximity of others. And let’s pray for ourselves that we will follow Jesus and do the same.
Join the Alongsiders movement and make a difference today.
One on one.