Jenni Alley is a woman who embraces challenges and makes choices that enable her to connect with diverse cultures and communities. She is leading a team of people to bring Manning Valley ReachOut to Taree, and it is her hope that it will be a catalyst for people of faith to step outside of their comfort zone.
What is Manning Valley ReachOut?
It’s a conference designed to challenge people, and we want people to see God’s world is bigger than our little corner. It targets Christians but in no way is limited to Christians. There will be dozens of mission agencies and representatives who are engaged with cross-cultural work, and people will have the opportunity to chat with people who are working all over the world and to ask questions like, how could I get involved?
The featured guest speaker will be Simon Longden, who will teach on the theme “Unfinished”, and there will be a series of talks called “Compass Points” on a bunch of engaging topics, such as “Our Response to Migrants”, “Apologetics”, “New Age Spiritualism”, “Reaching out through social media” and “A day in the life of a persecuted Christian”, as well as a kids’ program.
What is the objective, and why is it needed?
It will hopefully inspire people to action and put a fire in their bellies to learn more about what God is doing in other parts of the world. There are some amazing things, and some hard things, happening in persecuted countries, and it is important to learn about them from people who go there and work there.
What is your learned experience from travelling overseas to Borneo and Vanuatu to connect with people in conversations about faith?
I met people who are completely different to me, who think differently about the world, who process information differently, who live in different homes and eat different food and normally, there’s no good reason on this earth why we would be friends, simply because we are just too different, and clash on too many things for us to be able to relate to one another.
However, for no other reason other than this person also loves Jesus, there is an instant connection, and that really struck me. I think that when you meet somebody else, it doesn’t matter how different they are, and how differently they see the world, if we both love Jesus there is a really strong, beautiful and close connection, and I think that is God’s purpose for the world – God created us for connection and community, and that can happen across barriers. That’s what struck me in the early stages of delving into going to other countries and engaging with other people who love Jesus.
I want us all to be passionate about creating those connections and I want other people to love Jesus, whether that be in my own town, or whether that be in the far corners of the globe.
Is it necessary for people to travel overseas to reach out to a diverse range of people from differing cultures and faiths?
We get to do that by stepping out of our front door. Even in Taree. We want the conference to also equip people to think, “I don’t need to be frightened of somebody who is different to me”, because that’s our natural inclination. We meet somebody who is different, who sees the world differently, or who wears something like a scarf, and we just immediately think, I can’t have a relationship with that person; I’m fearful of that, because it is too different from me.
We need to learn how to cut through those barriers and to see the opportunity for conversations and connection. We are both humans, we are both created by God, we are both created in the image of God.
How does your relationship with God shape your life and the choices you make with your family?
I was born into a Christian family, so I’ve been a Christian all my life, but I came into my own ownership of that in early high school.
As life goes on and you engage in a relationship with Jesus, I think your understanding of how much you can’t do grows, and how much God can do grows. Early on in my life I went on a couple of mission trips, and that really transformed my thinking; I got that glimpse of God’s big purpose for the world, and that affected my decisions about what I did with my life.
My husband, Robert, and I are also missionaries who run bus trips to Aboriginal communities, and we’ve been doing that for a long time. I’ve spent many years visiting outback and rural Australia, and our three kids will be going with us in a few weeks.
Organising Manning Valley ReachOut adds a significant workload to your life; what do you and the team hope for as an outcome?
I think I go to this conference as ready to be challenged as I hope to challenge others, and I think I would say the same for our team members, Margaret and Robert Love, Kim Stevens, Beth Woolnough, Jacobus Boshoff, Beth Willis, Beck Woolnough, Ross Nancarrow, Kim Macpherson, and John and Lizzie Stevens. We go there ready to hear what God has to say.
Expanding our vision, stepping back and seeing the bigger picture helps us to see the closer picture more clearly. Often when you experience something outside of your own existence, it helps you to see things clearly.
My hope and prayer are that by stepping back and hearing what God is doing around the world might mobilise people to go and sharpen the focus of people who stay.
Manning Valley ReachOut will be at Taree Christian College on October 18th and 19th. The conference is free and to register attendance, visit mvreachout.com.au
Ainslee Dennis, Love Pray Do