As we look forward to Just Love’s 5th Birthday at the end of the month, we thought we’d ask National Coordinator Tom about the 5 things he’s been most grateful for over that time.
When I graduated, aged 22, and decided to pursue Just Love full-time, I don’t think I really knew what I was doing. We knew that we wanted every Christian student to be pursuing the biblical call to social justice – but where do you start?! I remember spending several mornings sitting in my room in Oxford, looking at my laptop, feeling vaguely confused. Fortunately, many wiser and older people were willing to meet with me and point me in the right direction. Just Love would never have got to where we are now without our trustee board, our advisory board, and partner charities such as IJM and Tearfund. I’m especially grateful for the way that Pete Wynter, Jo Herbert and Peter Jeffrey have championed me and the Just Love vision right from the start.
In November 2015, we did our first fundraising event. There had been much more red tape and bureaucracy involved in starting up a charity than we had anticipated, and this had damaged our ability to fundraise. The three of us on the team had hardly been paid anything in previous months, and we were worried about how much longer we could sustain what we were doing. At that event, two couples really believed in our vision and gave really significant sums – I can’t describe the joy and relief that we felt as a team, knowing that we would be able to continue pursuing the vision we had. The reality is that charities can’t operate without money. I’ve been so grateful for every person who has decided to put their money into this movement and invest in raising up a generation of Jesus-centred, justice-focused leaders.
Our student leaders
One of the things that we’ve really focused on in Just Love is developing leaders. We recognised that the student world is very transitory – and the leadership committees in each city would change over every year – so if we wanted to achieve consistent growth, we needed to focus on consistently developing new leaders. I’ve been so grateful for the way this has multiplied – seeing leaders who are developing leaders who are developing leaders. I’ve seen students change so much during the course of their time in Just Love, and I can’t wait to see what they go on to achieve as a result. The best part of my job is meeting a student who tells me that their confidence, their leadership and their future has been completely reshaped by their involvement in Just Love.
I’m grateful for Josh’s inspiring levels of integrity, his determination to keep learning and growing, and his incredible communication ability. I’m grateful for Hannah’s ability to build great relationships with everyone, the way she can command a room, and her ridiculously good cooking. (If you’ve been to any of our events you’ll know how true this is). I’m grateful for Naomi’s ability to bring encouragement and joy to any situation, for the way that she develops and invests in student leaders, and for the way she’s shaped our communications over the past year. I’m grateful for the way that Sarah lives out the things she believes in (ask her about the lifestyle challenge she’s been doing this year), for her discipline and determination, and for enthusiasm in taking on and brilliantly completing so many of the detailed administrative tasks that I hate! I’m grateful for all of the fun that Fiona brings to the team, for her really engaging communication style, and for the way that she has won over so many people across Scotland this year. We also have some incredible new people joining the team in September – I feel really lucky to work alongside such passionate, capable and fun leaders!
‘Social justice’ might intuitively appeal to a lot of us. Of course we want to do something to help the most marginalized in society. However, it makes such a difference to know that you are doing it for someone bigger, as part of something bigger. I was recently lucky enough to hear my colleague, Josh, give a talk on the theology behind our pursuit of social justice. In an hour and a half, he managed to touch on every single book of the Bible, framing it all in the context of God’s mission to restore the broken relationships that we have with Him, with each other and with creation. It’s exciting to know that the social justice we seek is a part of that mission, that we’re joining in with Christians all over the world to do it, and that we can turn to prayer in the good times and the bad. And it’s been a pleasure to spend these last five years serving a cause and a God much bigger than myself or my own ideas.