Walking by this week

By Nick Wright

I have been deeply challenged this week by an incident that happened to my colleague Jasmin in the Philippines. As she was getting off a minibus, she glimpsed a young boy trying to scrape an income guiding cars into parking spaces. The heat was overwhelming. The boy sat down exhausted, looking weak and unwell.

In the midst of COVID-lockdown, I’d have sensibly walked away. Instead, Jasmin walked over to him, spoke gently and reached out to touch his face. His skin was burning with a fever. She urged him to stay there while she rushed to find medicine, food and drink. When she returned with the supplies, she also gave him enough money to cover what he’d have earned in two weeks so that he could rest and recover. She helped him onto a minibus home. The boy looked up at her, a stranger. He couldn’t speak; he only cried.

When I asked Jasmin why she took such a risk, she said, quite simply, ‘I imagined how I would have felt if I was that teenager.’ She couldn’t bear to leave him alone, so very sick. She gave what little she had so that his family would not become destitute. To me, she lived out Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan.

This week, when we come across someone in need, let’s ask ourselves:

  • How are they feeling?
  • How can I help?

More stories about Jasmin in the Philippines by Nick Wright can be found here.

See, I am doing a new thing!

By Elaine Vitikainen

Every beginning of the year, Isaiah 43:19 speaks to me. Last year, I wrote a Weekly Thought about this verse too. However this year, this verse spoke to me very strongly. There is indeed a great longing inside of me for a real change to happen. I’m thankful that 2020 ended. 2020 didn’t perform as well as I expected. I realised during my review of the year that I was very much affected by the pandemic. It was a very frustrating year. I heard many distressing stories, not just from far away but from friends who were directly affected by COVID-19. 

Although, I can’t honestly say that I’m full of hope for 2021, that things will get back to normal, that we will take back our lives. However, there are things that I’m really looking forward to. I’m really looking forward to something new to spring up and becomes alive as God intended it. I would like to allow God to make a way for me in my present reality, and to quench my longings for a new beginning and a better year. There is hope and I’m actually looking forward to what 2021 will bring because I’ve come to realise that whatever good things that will happen in 2021 are founded on the experiences of 2020. All I went through last year will strengthen this year. And I’m thankful that amidst all the changes, my God is the same, yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) I’m constantly reminded to take my eyes off COVID and fix my eyes on what God is doing. (Hebrews 12:2)

How was your year 2020? What are your hopes for 2021? 

Have a blessed New Year. 

Love in conflict

By Elaine Vitikainen

Why are personnel conflicts so difficult to handle in a Christian organisation? A former colleague often said how much easier it was to deal with conflict when he was working with a secular organisation. Some cultures make it even harder to handle conflict positively. I was born and raised in the Philippines and have always been taught to overlook mistakes and avoid conflict as much as possible.

I was recently part of an organisational assessment process. Some real issues of conflict were surfacing. An individual spoke up, saying, ‘We should stop talking about this now and simply love one another’. The others assented saying, ‘Yes, this is what God commands us’. While loving one another is what Jesus requires of us, how is love best expressed in a situation of conflict? How many conflicts have gone unresolved because we don’t talk about it? Do we too easily sweep conflict under the rug using the excuse of love? Sometimes it is more loving to try to resolve conflicts rather than pretend they are not there.

In my experience, when a conflict is not properly resolved or understood, it comes back and hunts us down. It is not easy to talk about conflict, but in the long run it may be good for us. If we do not share our feelings of hurt, frustrations and disappointment with others, bitterness and hatred can set it. But when we deal with conflict in Christ-like manner, allowing grace to overflow, we will experience peace and reconciliation. It is important for each of us to be able to confess, to repent and to be reconciled rather than to keep unspoken conflict inside us. In this way, we can be healed and restored; we can learn from the conflict. Dealing with conflict enables us to become more healthy and effective as organisations.

This week:
Are there conflicts in your organisation that need to be resolved? How will you resolve them?

Finding a critical friend

By Elaine Vitikainen

“Leadership is so hard” I said to myself. I was reading the whiteboard in the meeting room. The last group had obviously been discussing leadership traits. The list went on and on. As I studied the long list of seemingly impossible demands, I wondered which of these traits are necessary and which ones are extras. I realised that perhaps one of the most important traits of a leader was not even on the list…

It is the ability to come to grips with his or her own flaws. It is only through accepting their own limitations that a leader can depend on others. Leaders who understand their limitations will tend to look for the potential of those he or she works with.

We all need people who encourage us and affirm us. We all enjoy positive feedback. But more precious still are people who will be honest with us about where we are failing. Leaders need people they can trust to give them honest feedback, however uncomfortable. Without such people, leaders will not see their blind spots. They will lose their humility. Their growth will be stunted.

This week:
– Who do you trust to give you honest feedback?
– How aware are you of your limitations? What are you doing about it?

The Cracked Cistern

By Steven Wetton (www.gcf.org.za)

I woke up today feeling drained and empty, dreading having to drag myself off to the office after the weekend… Why does my work leave me feeling like this? Why is my motivation so low? Is the sense of doing good not enough?

I wonder if the answer lies in where I get my refreshment. Jeremiah 2:13 says:
“For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living water, and they have dug their own cisterns— broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

Maybe I have been trying to drink from a cistern of my own making, a cracked and broken cistern of reports, outcomes and results that cannot hold water and leaves me dry, empty and drained.

I’m reminded that I need to drink my fill from the ‘fountain of living water’, the true source of life – a source that is fresh and pure and renewed every day. To allow him to renew me for the days and weeks ahead, I need to make time to spend with God every single morning.

Looking to the week ahead, how will you ensure you are receiving refreshment from the fountain of living water each day?

Strategy and Prayer

By Matt Parker

I love strategic planning. Writing mission statements, doing SWOT analyses, and setting goals excite me. I get a buzz out of envisioning the future and putting the plans in place that will help accomplish this.

I just started talking with my organization’s board about implementing a strategic review. They were enthusiastic as I laid out a six-month process to them.

But there was something that made me pause and reflect.

I was reading through the book of Acts at the time. And, in the second chapter, soon after Jesus ascended to heaven, we see the disciples gathered together in the upper room. They had been given a huge task: to continue the work that Jesus had started by taking the amazing hope of the Gospel message to the nations and baptizing and making disciples.

They were not (as I might have been tempted to do) writing a strategic plan, with vision statements, goals, objectives, and performance indicators (all in a nicely bound document with different colours and a beautiful cover photograph, of course!)

Instead, they were praying and fasting. And as they did so, the Holy Spirit came down upon them in power, strengthening them and guiding the way forward.

Think about that. We can compile the most detailed, ambitious, and compelling of plans, but these mean nothing unless God is at the centre. “Apart from me you can do nothing”, Jesus tells his disciples in John 15.

As we think about the future of our organizations, we must commit to prayer. We must seek God’s will, taking time to listen for his voice. And we must keep praying, pursuing him, listening carefully, and responding to his guiding throughout the entire process.

How can your organization better keep Christ at the heart of your planning processes?

Reminding ourselves of God’s presence

By Elaine Vitikainen

Monday is often a time for the office staff of Christian organisations to come together to sing, pray and to reflect on God’s word. It is a good way to start the working week by acknowledging that God is present with them and that God will help them as they work through the week. But what if you work from home? What if you work in a place where there are no regular office devotions? What if you don’t feel that God is by your desk on Monday morning? We all heard how people dislike Mondays. A friend once shared that it is even harder when she spends the whole Sunday at the church and returns to work on Monday in a secular environment. How can we experience the presence of God on a daily basis?

James 4:8 encourages us to come near to God. And as we come near to God, God will come near to us. But how do we do this in practice? How do we practice the presence of God at work; or as we sit in front of a computer?

Why not find something that reminds you that God is present with you every day. We may not have the benefit of a cloud above the tabernacle, but we each have our own experiences of God’s presence with us. What would symbolise to you God’s presence in your work place?

This week, reflect on Psalm 139:7-10

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.