I expect you will have heard of Rag Week. They have become iconic at Nexus ICA, not just as a fundraising mechanism but as a way of genuinely experiencing what it means to endure, to persevere, to build community and to carry one another’s burdens. These things sound great when you read about them in the Bible, don’t they? But try doing them, when not doing them fades away as an option, and you realise you don’t actually want to love that person you don’t get on with, you don’t actually want to walk at the pace of the slowest, you don’t want to persevere and endure.
We thought we’d challenge that because we didn’t want to have a Kingdom institute where we are training people to be worshippers, pastors, leaders and world-changers and realise at the end of all that they were ineffective in their faith. All that skill and no character? We couldn’t allow that to happen.
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ”2 Peter 1:5-8 NIV
You’ve got to start with one and add the others on. Actually you start with God and His amazing promises, but you’ve got to start somewhere! So what started off as a little 24 hour ‘Music Marathon’ (of which the breakfast bacon sandwiches are the part I remember most!!) grew slowly but surely into a yearly event which tested the limits of our capabilities as humans, showed us what real community looked like, caused us to learn lessons that couldn’t be learnt in a lecture, and allowed us to see what happens when we walk together on a road that can’t be walked without each person contributing.
People often ask me what my favourite memories of Rag Week are. There are so many, but my mind turns not to events themselves but to the people who took part and were changed as a result. To the people who gave sacrificially and enabled us to carry on for one more year.
I think of Josie* who walked her way from a closed heart and a cynical attitude to freedom in Christ and a place in a loving community. I think of Sem who was overwhelmed by seeing the staff clear up the rubbish and attend to students’ needs. It inspired him to believe again that Christian leadership wasn’t what he thought it was and to give his life to it. I think of Jed who cycled through a thunderstorm in the dark at the end of a long day, shouting encouragements to his fellow riders who were scared, and reminding them of God’s protection. I think of Gabriel and Cleo who learnt what it meant to truly serve. I think of Elias who learnt that to wait for and encourage others was more beautiful than beating a personal best. I think of Corinda, exhausted and exhilarated after a 12 hour climb and learning something irreversible about the faithfulness of God.
I remember Mike who arrived dressed for work in his suit at 3 AM because he was supporting us in the Music Marathon, but had to go straight to work after his shift at Nexus ICA. I remember Sean’s parents who made cakes, got bowls of water for our tired feet and encouraged us to keep going. I remember Eva who gave consistently, year after year, sacrificially to our fund raising so that we could carry on building as God has instructed us to.
And I remember the cheer from the gathered crowd of supporters, riders and parents at Nexus that went up every time a cycling team came home. I will never forget that sound of victory, pure encouragement, community and joy! I reckon it’s going to be something like that when we arrive Home.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”Hebrews 12:1 – 3 NIV
Go for it guys. You are stronger than you think!
*all names have been changed to protect privacy