Movements that change society emerge and grow in villages, neighborhoods, streets, and workplaces as regular people actively take their parts. Organizations may tend to centralize leadership and power, but movements must allow leadership and power to reside at the (human) edges.
Our goal at Alongsiders is to empower and release movements of young people who make long term commitments to walk alongside the most vulnerable children in their own communities. Such movements would transform individuals, churches, and society.
Big words. But these high hopes boil down to lots of young people in scattered communities at the margins of society and what they do with the vision entrusted to them.
Last week both Serey and Phearom, who direct and coordinate Alongsiders Cambodia, went to a village in Kandal Province to meet with a group of Alongsiders who joined about a year ago. The main purpose was follow-up, and also to orient some new Alongsiders.
Becoming an Alongsider is a long-term commitment based on trust. Most of the time no one is looking over their shoulder to see if they spend time with their little brothers and sisters each week. They aren't paid or rewarded, except for an invitation to national camp each year. What they do flows out of motivation and character qualities like faithfulness, generosity, and a willingness to share as they learn and grow - all rooted in the love of Christ.
Yet most Alongsiders are young people whose character is still forming. It's a process of discipleship for them. They need words of encouragement and refreshment of the vision, plus examples to follow. That Sunday afternoon, Serey and Phearom took time to travel to the village and meet face-to-face. They carefully reviewed what Alongsiders is all about and talked honestly.
Serey was an Alongsider herself for years before she became the national coordinator. She epitomizes faithfulness in her leadership and in her ongoing relationship with her own little sister. She earnestly desires Alongsiders to be committed and faithful.
Phearom came to Alongsiders after serving in a national youth organization. He is passionate about education and mentoring. He hopes Alongsider mentors will be a potent force for education and change in Cambodian lives and society.
On this day, they trade off roles. Serey goes through the vision and expectations in all seriousness, while Phearom goes outside and organizes fun games for a group of little brothers and sisters and their friends. Later he comes inside and leads a discussion about child protection issues, and he encourages the Alongsiders in his own humorous way.
The two compliment each other: Serey's stability and Phearom's zeal. They are both very earnest about Alongsiders. Afterwards they offer candid assessments: two or three in the group seem very dedicated, a couple are less sure. But it was a good meeting.
And then it's time to go and release the movement back into the hands of these young people. And trust God.
The Body of Christ is moving.