I just received this message from one of the first Alongsiders in Europe:
“My time with John is good, I very much enjoy the time that we spent together and so does John. This is special since John is not used to this. His mother at first was a little hesitant. Talking like “you know, I give him enough attention already, and more like this”. But she now hears from John himself how good our times together are and is completely supportive. She even asked me to help discuss things with John like gaming, curing and violence. This is so special!
John also sees how things are different at our house. For example we share meals and eat together. And we pray and give thanks before the meal. Now they invited me to join them for a meal as well. They will soon - they promised before I will come and share a meal - get a dining table as wel and begin to give thanks for their food. 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 way forward to regularly meet and spent time together.”
As a family we were still working hard in Cambodia finishing of our work - but our minds are 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 the change happens. But that is not easy.
Here are some things I learn from the message above.
1 - Relation is Key
John was needing someone to come alongside him. Someone to pay attention, to spent 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 that you need and that I will give that idea (or information or lesson or whatever) to you. Me the ‘giver’ and the other on the receiving end. Even writing this makes me feel the distance that’s embedded in this. It’s not necessary 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 the ‘giver’ so much, no, we have a relation together. We invest in each other, we share joy’s and struggles. That takes something. We need to open up to each other. And often 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 where life is shared. 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 herin lies a paradox. We all spent lots of time on things that don’t really carry a lot of value, and we don’t on the things that do carry value like relationships (previous point). 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 it?
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 priorities 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 you done that?
Someone said that the most precious thing you could give to someone is your un compromised and full attention. And wether this is completely true or not it gives us something to think about…
At Alongsiders Europe we mobilize youth to intentionally walk alongside one other child each and prioritize this relationship.
3 - Proximity
I see one more thing in the message that I got and I call that ‘proximity’. I see that in the relation with John his mum is changed as well. She sees the change in John and begins 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, and uncle. Whoever, but in there they see change as well. Proximity.
Salt does not bring any tast as long as it is in the bottle. 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 prioritize 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 and do the same.
Join the Alongsiders movement and make a difference today.
One on one.