The Library Story
This is a story of a library that was built by some very dear friends. The library contains 50,000 books, in a beautiful building that uses a barn motif and with a rustic feel about it. For the last 7 years it has been a centre of learning and innovation, out of which has flown a good deal of inspiration that I have directly applied in our ministry.
The story can be divided into 3 stages:
1. Getting the books
2. Building the library
3. Developing activities
It would be fascinating to know how many book sales, antique stores, yard sales, 2nd-hand businesses were visited over a 20 year period. Imagine the passion for learning that fueled this quest: the cost in time, in experimenting with good sources, the physical effort to move and store these books and not to mention the hundreds of thousands of individual decisions to buy a certain book or not.
The building of the library was a story in itself. The conversion of circumstances, the insight in the location and design and the use of Amish barn builders to create an authentic feel both inside and out. This also included building a literal mile of pine shelving and untold hours of sorting, cataloging and displaying every item.
While one would think that the library was principally for reading, at least my interaction there contained almost none of that. While I have enjoyed reading many loaned books, the profound impact has been almost exclusively around conversation and connecting. We connected our stories and our dreams, our joys and sorrows, our intercession and our celebrations. We connected with God and with one another. The environment encouraged pursuing dreams, a new way of thinking, a safe place to muse and a regular place for retreat.
1. The skills for each of the three stages were vastly different. Imagine for a minute what was needed to do the three stages well. Observe completely different skill sets. Being good in one stage really didn’t guarantee excelling in another. Compare picking a good book, with settling on a good construction design. Or having the physical strength to lift the boxes with having the relational strength to ask great questions. It was the collective expression of all the skills that enabled this to succeed.
2. Not all skills were resident in the ALL the people ALL of the time. Specialties were called in. Events triggered new ways of thinking. Many things were started without knowing the outcome. God seemed to open a unique window of opportunity that in retrospect would not have worked at other times. Only in retrospect could many of the detailed patterns be really observed especially in the interactions of people that triggered progress.
3. There were some commonalities in the skills used at various stages. All involved some degree of risk, whether financial or use of time or even being able to finish such a massive undertaking. The decisions involved some consensus, some intuition, some ‘good luck’ and a whole lot of perseverance in not giving up. A big common denominator was praise and dedication to the Lord in each step where God, in His faithfulness, overcame many hurdles that were exhausting and discouraging.
1. The outcomes are so much more than a place to keep books. The place itself is a story on dream building and the social interaction centered around it. There is a coherence of narrative from the books to the structure to the social interaction that affirms a kingdom quest for interaction at the deepest levels with God and others. It is something that is wonderfully disruptive, authentic, visceral, unexpected, yet safe, smelling good, fun and a space that one wants to return to. The library story is empowering.
2. Our lives are more than just having the right information. Books can be viewed as ‘information’ and we can obsess with getting the information right. But just having 50,000 books in boxes would be almost valueless without having finished the story of the library. Offering another book, for however true it might be, without the environment and relationship to support the truth could make it almost meaningless. Transformation needs information, environment and relationship but we cannot simple focus exclusively on the first. So we would be correct to say there needs to be coherence of narrative between information, context and relationship. This has profound implications on the church in today’s society.
There is a real parallel to my quest in mobilizing labourers. Getting the books represents many years of study and conviction-building concerning mobilizing labourers. Building the library represents the online stage of what tools work best to connect people to the resources they need. Developing activities represents the interactions, observations, commentaries, visits, tweaks, prayer and thinking that is involved in trying to encourage this learning community to practice the ideas of labouring in the kingdom. The skills sets I have used in these information/ infrastructure/ relationship stages have been very different although they all share the commonality of risk, perseverance, experimenting and treasuring people. This quest is also a place where many are using their unique gifts that thankfully reach much further than what I can do personally. And there seems to be a unique window of opportunity where God is doing something that at times seems very clear and others times painfully fuzzy. This library story gives me lift in my vision. It helps me get out of bed in the morning and work hard day after day. It helps me see what I need to do next.
What is your library story? What skills do you need to develop your vision of God’s plan for you? How can I encourage you to keep risking in the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus?
Thanks for journeying together,