Participation, integration, community, journeying, incarnating Jesus, making disciples, bringing them together as a Community…. All these words, all these concepts merge and leave us with one burning question – when it comes down to it, what does VIANOVA do? Let’s ask our trainees. They are from different backgrounds, for our placements are not only for bible school students. Each of them has a heart set on incarnating Jesus in their daily life.
Géraud and Elsa joined VIANOVA in September 2018 as part of a two-year placement with the Geneva Bible School. Great fans of motorbikes, of nature, of creative and craft activities, they are interested in people, especially young people. Rebekah is taking advantage of her gap year abroad to join the ranks of VIANOVA. A musician and artist, she loves to help and encourage others. Blake is crossing the Atlantic and will face the shock of a new language; if he wants to mirror Jesus in Wallonia, he will need to learn French.
Leaving their comfort zone
They could have chosen anywhere for their placement, but Géraud and Elsa came to Belgium. Why? Because VIANOVA encourages everyone to “incarnate Jesus”. In imitation of Christ Who was willing to leave the glory of heaven to join Man where he was and to live with him, our Swiss friends have decided to live ‘in’ society as salt and light. This decision has changed their vision of the world, their involvement and their interaction with those around them.
The combination of English and Scottish culture in her life has given Rebekah a real penchant for diversity. What country could better satisfy her curiosity than Belgium, a land of contrasts and oddities of language and culture? Incarnating Jesus is, for her, synonymous with the presence of God that helps differences and divisions to be overcome and unifying what is usually separate. God created us to be different and He loves us. When we understand that He became incarnate in order to re-establish a relationship with us, the prejudices we may have about our society fall away.
Very committed to his local church, Blake asks himself the following question: how can I give a taste of Jesus to those around me? In becoming integrated, for a time, into a Belgian society still unknown to him, he is choosing to go and meet his new fellow citizens through sport or public initiatives already underway.
Géraud and Elsa have become integrated into various organisations and local activities – help for migrants, a people’s café, a local cafeteria, the Red Cross… This is not merely in response to the VIANOVA principle of integration, it is because to incarnate Jesus, to reflect Him, they are responding to His call by loving their neighbour and caring for the oppressed. Incarnating the Lord, does this mean a new nature? It seems to be more of a reflex. “Incarnating Jesus on a daily basis, particularly on a social level, demands continual effort and it would be presumptuous to say that it has become natural for us,” confess Géraud and Elsa. “However, we can no longer imagine life without thinking this way about other people and the world around us. We hope that we will remain willing to be used by God to bear witness to His love. In fact, in many ways, it seems easier and more spontaneous to be going out to folk rather than in asking them to come to us.”
A year is scarcely long enough to become integrated into the fabric of local society but Rebekah is ready to accept the challenge. As she already speaks French she hopes to quickly find ways of sharing the love of God with those who cross her path, even if it has to be on a temporary basis. “Incarnating Jesus is not only for Sundays, it’s a way of life,” Rebekah explains. “Whether I am in church or with my friends, when I am at work with non-believers or participating in a Bible study, my ‘incarnation’, that is, God in me and the difference that He has brought to my life, should be reflected in all my actions.”
When he is playing beach volleyball with his friends, Blake has the habit of inviting passersby to join in. In fact, this shared enthusiasm generally facilitates those first contacts. “I incarnate Jesus when I meet people where they are in their lives. I need to go out to them as Jesus did, as Paul did before me,” he adds.
Accessible to all
What would happen if every believer deliberately chose to better understand and to love others, to do good to those around? What impact would it have if each, in their own way, were to allow Jesus to incarnate Himself in every part of their lives?
Géraud and Elsa invite you to ask yourself these questions – how can I love, help, encourage, mobilise myself for those around? How can I join in something already going on in my town? Blake insists that our contacts with others must show the love and interest we have for them. The process may, indeed, take a long time but it is a great investment for the Kingdom of God. Rebekah concludes, “If you are a Christian but just not convinced that God can use you for His mission, don’t let your doubts stop you. When the children of God incarnate Him there where God has placed them, they are participating in the re-establishment of the relationship between the Creator and His creatures. He lives in us and loves us, follow Him.”
[interview by Eunice Parodi]