God’s Gift to Us
The promises and reality of God’s accompaniment in our journeys is abundant. We are assured he is our shepherd and we are the sheep of his pasture. He tells us he will never leave us, that he is always present. We become familiar with his voice that we may follow him. He calls us each by name. We are indwelt with the Spirit who spreads abroad in our hearts the love of the Father.
God surely accompanies us in every way, every experience, every season.
Our Gift to Others
Each of us yearn for companions in this life. We long for those who know us well, to the point of understanding us beyond words. One of the greatest gifts is to have friends to share a sense of history with. It is with those friendships that we have the same stories we tell and laugh about when we are together year after year.
In our shepherd work there is certainly a place for programs and events. When we offer a training on interpersonal skills or spiritual renewal, those are oft needed resources. These types of events can be an important aspect of the care we extend to others.
Beyond that, there is the hope that each of us as caregivers will have small pockets of individuals and communities to whom we can be companions along the way. Accompaniment over many years even at long distances is a profound form of care that is lacking in many cross-cultural worker’s lives.
What might be some of the essential markers of accompaniment of others at a distance?
The Ministry of Accompaniment
Pursuit – be encouraged as a shepherd to be the pursuer of others. Drop them notes (yes, actual physical pieces of mail that one can find amidst the dust bunnies of their mailboxes), set up video calls, and most importantly, go to visit them regularly. In all these acts, take the initiative. Don’t wait to be asked, call them.
Listen and Watch – As we journey with people over time we get to know them well. Maintaining a watchful, listening posture is a profound gift we offer. Over the course of many months we might hear certain comments that seem off-the-cuff and insignificant at the time, but prove to be glimpses into their hearts and even the heart of God towards them. When I sit with others, I will often reflect back to them with a statement that might begin with: “I have noted in recent conversations a few comments you have made that cause me to wonder….” Or I might say, “As I have listened to your life I find this question taking shape within me toward you…..” These types of comments can give a sense of being watched over and deeply listened to in a caring way. What a gift to receive from others.
Reminders – As we plow through life it is easy to forget key conversations or life lessons. By developing history with others we can provide reminders of past times of God’s presence, instruction, and especially acts of love. I know I need these reminders in my life. I so often forget something the Lord showed me and when I am reminded I am invited back to that moment to further reflect upon it and embrace the truth into my life. Only a person who has journeyed with me over time is able to remind me of those past markers.
Who are your “flocks” – those people you provide long-term accompaniment to?
What is the posture you want to have with them? How has God been giving you eyes and ears to see and hear another’s life so that you may be present with them in individualized and meaningful ways?