“I don’t want to draw, I hate Art,” the student muttered rebelliously to his teacher. Though well known to all his teachers as difficult and sometimes just unlovable, this teacher refused to give up on him. Three years later, Robert, now in secondary school, once again stood in front of his previous Art teacher. “Mrs P,” he said, “I have been having bad dreams and felt in my heart that I should come and see you for help”. With the same patience that had characterised her relationship with Robert years earlier in Primary School, the teacher led the boy to put his trust in the person of Jesus Christ. Time and again, and not just with Robert, she influenced the lives of the children she taught. The children who came into contact with her heard of the love of Jesus and experienced that same love in her classroom. Here in this classroom they came face to face with Love that could be touched, experienced and was real. Tangible love.
It is this Love of God that should characterise the lives of everyone who belongs to Interserve. This is the love that Jesus demanded of Peter by the Sea of Galilee – “Simon son of John, do you love Me more than these?” (John 21:15 NIV) At the core of our organisational life should lie the ability to answer that question of Jesus in the affirmative.
Discipleship is one of our elements of purpose as an organisation. At the heart of Discipleship is a love and passion for God and His Kingdom, above every other love. The Biblical narrative, however, always sets individual discipleship within the context and framework of a community. Just as the evidence of our love for God is the demonstration of our love for each other, so also the evidence of true discipleship (both being and making) among our individual members is the presence of real community in the life of the fellowship. If we find it difficult to work with others or tend to criticise others far too quickly, then we know nothing of Calvary love (in the spirit of the book If by Amy Carmichael). One look at the life of Jesus should convince us of this. The sinners, the ‘rejects’ of society and the failures of the world found themselves (paradoxically) most comfortable in the presence of the One who was always effective and in whom was no sin found. Our discipleship, while driving us to excellence and holiness, needs to understand how to encourage those who fail, be available for those who struggle with sin and be compassionate towards those who miss the mark.
Discipleship and Community Life lead almost naturally to the other elements of our organisational purpose – Partnership and Serving the Church. Discipleship and community confer on us an agenda that is bigger than our narrow and sectarian understanding of purpose. They give us the security that comes from our identity of belonging to Him and to each other. Sure of who we are organisationally and driven by a Kingdom agenda, we are able and ready to give ourselves away in service and collaboration.
In the last few months, God has clarified His purposes for us as a fellowship – Discipleship, Community, Partnership and Serving the Church. But these are outcomes of the Love of God in our lives. Tangible love is the clearest signal of our desire to honour God in who we are and what we do as an organisation. God’s call is also our challenge today. To fulfill the elements of our purpose, we are reminded that we are to operate in the love that we have received – the love of God that enables us to love Him and our fellow community members.
By Dr Bijoy Koshy, International Director