Journeys can be exciting and adventurous; scary even, but one thing is certain, they always move us from one place to another. It involves leaving where you are and setting out to a new destination. Life, it has been said, is a journey and hence the idea of the Travel Club.
But what is the Travel Club? Where did the idea come from and how did it all get started?
Travel Club founder, Dr Jeremy Baker, says the idea came to him when he realised that many patients at the medical centre where he worked had emotional, spiritual and even physical needs which medicine alone could not address and which were blocking progress for them. There were also those who had experienced parental or previous church rejection.
He felt a burden from the Lord to reach the broken and set up a group to respond to their needs, which he did and called it the Travel Club.
Dr Baker and his wife made a commitment to transform Settlers Health Centre in Christchurch into a space where people could also enjoy daily Christian support. Part of the ministry is the running of the Travel Club, but they are also fostering an association with churches who often aren't sure how to deal with people who have special needs.
The Travel Club was designed to take people on a journey with Christians, who had themselves been journeying with the Lord and had walked the distance with Jesus. They are called 'Support Crew' and are there to be sturdy companions displaying Jesus' love and support to the 'Travelers'. It takes sacrifice of time and patience from the 'Support Crew' to be there alongside.
Travellers journey through things like the despair of what it is like to experience depression and anxiety, rejection and loneliness, lack of confidence and insecurity. They talk about gaining trust and how to make new relationships with God and with other people; how to hold back anxiety and despair, and how to make positive decisions.
Much like the Alpha course, the Travel Club meets once a week over a 12-week period where travellers and support crew usually share in a meal.
The journey usually starts with a general topic for discussion, but there are times when travellers will be challenged to take a more dangerous journey and look at who God is and their past memories of how God has rejected them. The support crew reassure them that God is open to this sort of dialogue and that He will journey with them. They are then encouraged to develop some resilience in this area.
The group will also look at the Father heart of God and how He wants to open a dialogue with the very centre of us all, even if we've previously failed in that relationship. He wants us to give up our false expectations so that we can respond to Him. It's a conversation about how Jesus is always open to us.
They also look at examples of Jesus going through the same experiences as the travellers, such as before his arrest and crucifixion and also when Peter betrayed him. He Himself had anguished conversations with God.
As the weeks unfold, they discover who the real God is and why He would choose an ordinary family for His Son. He came as a person who connected with us at our level. Christianity has its beginnings in Jesus reaching the broken and Jesus engaging us in conversation along the journey.
The group will also talk about faith and what it is, what the triggers are that turn people away from faith and practical ways to deal with that when they find life becomes too much.
Confidentiality is a fundamental requirement of the support crew and has to be taken seriously. “Travellers come to the group with desperate stuff”, says Dr Baker, “but as they open up, it is an opportunity to show what Jesus does for all of us; we're all in the same boat.”
Part of what the Club aims to do is give the travellers skills that teach them not to see themselves as bad, but to reflect on a God who wants to reach out to them. They look at what it is that God wants from each of us and how to break our self-sufficiency.
Past travellers who have responded to this have gone on in their relationship with the Lord.
Dr Baker has plans to develop “Especially for Women” to support those who come from a broken marriage or who have a mental illness. He is also looking at a ministry for men as they have other issues around identity and what it is to be a Christian male. He thinks the Travel Club is an ideal set-up for them and if there is sufficient interest, he will establish that group this year.
The encouragement for Dr Baker is that he is not only serving the church by bringing people into it, but that he is also teaching the church how to minister in an area that they often find uncomfortable. To date, he says that between 10 – 15 people have come to Christ through the Travel Club which is a wonderful result, considering that on average, churches see one new convert every two years.
Are you ready to take the journey?