“Footprints, not monuments”
A pastoral letter from Valdir Steuernagel, Theologian at Large, World Vision International
As we celebrate World Vision’s 60 years of service this year, we look back at our history and see that our main intention was not to build monuments. Rather, it was to leave footprints all over the world as we sought to enable ‘life in all its fullness’ – in the busy streets of Mexico, in the desert sands of Sudan, and in the snow-covered villages of Romania. A monument, according to William Faulkner, says ‘at least I got this far’. A footprint, on the other hand, says ‘this is where I was when I moved again’.
The footprints of our fathers and mothers have left a mark, just as our footprints as sons and daughters do today as we follow and obey the Lord. We are deeply grateful to those who came before us. We honour their commitment with our work today.
And we are grateful for God’s faithfulness and grace throughout it all. We celebrate the One who called us – the Triune God. It is to him we owe our existence and it is from him that we have received the mission that we commit ourselves to again and again, ‘to follow our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’.
We know that our journey began with Christ and will finish with Christ. This is not a quick sprint, but a marathon of becoming more like Christ. Eugene Peterson describes discipleship as ‘a long journey in the same direction’. We know that this direction must be rooted in Christ, joyfully serving him in this world.
There are three key points to remember in this journey:
- Drink from the fountain of God’s Word
- Walk in community with others
- Listen and hear those who are poor
We must continuously drink from the fountain of God’s Word. It is there that we find Christ calling for us, speaking to us and challenging us to follow him. God’s Word is a fountain that has a fresh taste at every generation, culture, challenge and opportunity. It is a word that brings wisdom to humanity in its worst and best times. That fountain will help World Vision to listen to the voices of the children, especially those who are poor, disadvantaged and vulnerable. We have an opportunity to be responsive to the word and voice.
We must also walk in community with each other. Even if we live in an individualistic society, let’s celebrate the community that always emerges when we encounter God’s voice speaking to us and to ‘the other one.’ As God himself lives in the community of the Trinity, he calls us to live in the community of those who belong to him. By living and walking in community, we give potential to our humanity. At World Vision, to live in community means to practice partnership and understand that we are part of the global Church. This is God’s community, and this needs to be our point of departure and of arrival.
Finally, we must be sensitive to seeing and hearing the call to serve those who are poor and the community of the poor. It is in God’s Word that we see Jesus showing us the way towards that community. We see the way he touches, heals, restores, frees and loves people. We see what Jesus’ love and gift of shalom really means, and we see how the presence of Jesus can be embraced and discipleship can be shaped. We, at World Vision, have a call to serve the poor. By following this call, we are better able to see who Jesus is and how loving his touch is in the lives of those who are poor as well as ourselves.
As we see where God wants to take us in his Word, walk in community with fellow Christians and heed the call to serve those who are poor, we will find ourselves travelling to many places of the world. In those communities, we will see the footprints of God’s loving salvation and be encouraged to leave our own footprints of love and service behind us.
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him,
rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6