This week, VJN member Jared Boyd reflects on his time at the 2014 VJN conference. Jared Patrick Boyd is a Vineyard Pastor, Spiritual Director, and Founder of The Order of Sustainable Faith : A Missional Monastic Expression for the Vineyard. Jared and his family are planting a Vineyard monastery on a 360-acre farm in Ohio. @boydjared @SustainFaith
“I pin my hopes to quiet processes and small circles, in which vital and transforming events take place.” – Rufus Jones, Quaker
I find one of the greatest challenges is to remember that the work of God is often long and slow work.
There is very little that happens quickly.
I was reminded of this at the Vineyard Justice Network conference in Anaheim back in October. This was a conference where people were sharing stories of faithfulnesses to the work that God has invited them into. Everything that I heard felt like slow work. I was reminded that people who have vision for real change are thinking 60 to 80 years into the future. I was reminded that the vision is often big and the work always seems small in comparison, but it’s this kind of ordinary work and everyday work where God shows up and the divine presence becomes evident.
The stories that Jamie and Michelle Wilson told, for example, are stories of the ordinary and slow work of God. In their plenary talk on Partnering for Justice in the Neighborhood, the Wilsons told a story about their friendship with the local Imam. Michelle went to the Intro to Islam class on the suggestion of Rick Love. She built friendship with the Imam and she learned that the Imam has an incredible passion for justice; she learned that he is the one who is most connected to the poor in the community. Her friendship with the Imam grew, she met the Imam’s wife, and the relationship that was born in those meetings has led them together, partnering in serving the poor in their city.
What strikes me about this simple story is the heaps and piles of long and slow work that made it possible. Michelle’s connection with the local Imam felt slow and even strange for Michelle, and yet, when we pull back our gaze and take a look at the longer story, the friendship with the Imam and his family has been growing, in the way that I imagine God telling the story, since Rick and Fran Love were serving Muslims in Indonesia.
Rick Love has spent years immersed in friendships with Muslims. He often gives encouragement to many of us to simply reach out in friendship to our muslim neighbors, to go to the mosque and be present; to learn. Rick and Fran’s work, twenty-some years ago, was an offering to the Lord and seeds sown for Michelle’s friendship harvest in her neighborhood. The stories we tell about faithfulness in the work toward justice are actually longer than we ourselves are able to put into words. The work is slower than we can imagine.
This is the way that Rick Olmstead tells his story too. Rick has a story about a passion for kids, and when he tells it, he goes all the way back to his childhood and reflects on the way that God met him as a teenager through his foster parents.
Rick and Becky Olmstead told us about their passion for children and their vision for the “4-14 window.” Their vision is for the long and slow work of God. They want to plant seeds of the kingdom in young children so that others after them might harvest where they did not sew.
I sat in a workshop with Lance and Cheryl Pittluck where a small group of us gathered on couches and chairs in Lance’s office. Lance and Cheryl listened and asked questions. They listened and spoke into the work that God has given each of us–our assignments.
It was a kind of listening and speaking that can only happen on this side of 30 years of sowing seed and having seen that the work is slow, and yet God is in the business of transformation.
We sat in a small circle and listened to Fred and Oralia Collom tell stories of the long and slow work of God among the poorest colonias in Mazatlan, Mexico.
I was reminded that a little leaven works its way through the whole lump of dough, and that we can pin our hopes on the slow and faithful missio dei.