A friend of mine is called the ‘Bulldog’. Doglike? Aggressive? No. She’s a chaplain, and has been so for a long time. She got the nickname at her former school, recognising her dogged ability to advocate for young people in the school. She is a shining example of the missionary virtue of bloody-minded intractability.

A couple of friends and I were comparing missional efforts we’d been involved in, and seeing what lessons we could learn for our current situation in Bendigo.We quickly concluded that our previous efforts, while recognised by others as ‘innovative’ and ‘radical’, were still mainly reliant on people coming to us…to our houses and ministry spaces. In the part of Bendigo where we live, people hardly move from their couches, let alone out of their houses. People tend to be wary of coming to things, even the front door when you knock. We re-realised* that we needed to get out to people’s houses. If we meet someone, find out where they live and visit. Call people up to come to events. Get to know as many people as possible, shallowly. Get to to know a few people deeply. Just keep doing it.

When Kylie and I moved to Long Gully, we spent the first 6 months visiting the neighbourhood centre once a week. Every time we would try to talk to them about our desire to volunteer, and gave them our contact details. It took 6 months to get a response. It took doggedness. For the last 18 months, I’ve seen a bloke in the street – and I just smile and say g’day. A few weeks ago, I saw him again, and the Spirit prompted me to introduce myself – turned out I was the first person in 2 years to do so.

In a climate of flexibility, got-a-better-offer and continual reform, doggedness seems twee, a bit naff, old-school in a bad way. But, to remix a cliche, if something’s worth doing, then it’s worth doing over and over again. In fact, in contexts of poverty and associated distrust, doing something repeatedly is the very definition of sanity and strategic brilliance. The shell of indifference with which so many people clothe themselves won’t be pierced by energetic church services or enthusiastic, but shortlived, attentions. It will take a long tapping away at the stone until one day it cracks.

I could write masses about this, and maybe I will. Stay tuned for the other unsung missionary virtues.

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* I do a lot of ‘re-realising’ – simple things get lost in my brain.