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World in union: rugby, teamwork and poverty

By Tarryn Pegna | 11 Oct 2019

A reflection with comments from former Samoa rugby captain, Dan Leo.

Why is Tearfund talking about rugby? We care about serious things like poverty and global advocacy issues like climate change. What could we possibly have to take from rucks, mauls and a squashy-shaped ball?

Rugby: A basic summary
Fifteen players per team on the pitch at one time. Each wears a different number marking out a very particular set of skills.

Some examples… Number one. Prop. Usually giant. Solid for the scrum. Number four. Lock. Tall. Kingpin in the lineout. Number nine. Scrumhalf. Quick and mobile. Everywhere, all the time. Ten. Fly-half. The ability to maintain calm and kick with pinpoint accuracy. Fourteen. Wing. Lightning fast with a nimble sidestep.

A body of members, all looking and acting differently, working together to achieve a common goal in a way that would be impossible if they were all the same. (Wait. Doesn’t that sound a little familiar?)

Rugby is a beautiful picture of how diversity shapes – and is crucial to – teamwork.

Part of the team – our Integral Alliance
Recognising the value of diversity on a team is why Tearfund deliberately works alongside local churches and partners in the communities we serve. By empowering people to use their unique skills, they can become valuable members of the team playing for their own restoration and transformation – making our game plan more relevant and sustainable.

In the same way, Tearfund is also an active player on wider teams in the global fight against poverty, such as the Integral Alliance and the Swift Consortium. These partnerships with organisations from different countries, bring together our diverse skill sets, capabilities and supporter bases with one goal – to serve Jesus where the need is greatest.

Like a rugby team, we are stronger and our reach is greater if we concentrate on our strengths and use each other’s skills. Together, we can be more effective and even overcome opposition that may not have seemed possible. (Just ask Japan’s current Rugby World Cup team.)

Dan Leo – a light on the world stage
We chatted about this briefly with former Samoa rugby captain, Dan Leo. Two World Cups, 39 international caps and an impressive club heritage in Australia, the UK and France, have given him a world stage view of rugby. A passion for justice and a heart of compassion have made him a light on that stage.

Dan spoke about how the sport’s innate emphasis on putting community above self reflects the core church values he was raised with. More than that, he spoke of his deeply held faith and the realisation that, although he had a role in the rugby team (usually at lock or flank), he has a unique position in the body of Christ.

‘I always believed God gave me the skills and talents I have for a bigger purpose than my bank balance or self-glorification,’ he says. ‘It’s about relationships. Bringing light. Finding a way to handle the pressure. Knowing that when things aren’t going your way, God has a purpose even in those moments.’

A place on the team
Each player – on the pitch or on the bench – has a unique and vital role. There can be no heroes without the shared try-line vision of the whole team.

Each of us – as individuals or as part of the church – has a unique and vital role too. An important gift to bring to the team with a shared, life-bringing vision.

And we have a firm foundation. An undefeated captain to follow. As Dan says, ‘Faith in God is that rock to fall back on. The consistency through the ups and downs. It’s knowing that we’re not in the race alone.’

Dan’s mission field may look much more like… well… like a field than yours might, but your position is crucial. If we believe that we were created with a plan and a purpose (Jer 29:11) then, no matter what that looks like – whether we feel like the head or the fingernail in the body of Christ, our place counts.

After all, when it comes to the try line, a fingernail breadth can win or lose a World Cup.

PLEASE PRAY

You can find more information and some encouraging statistics at www.integralalliance.org about how teamwork is bringing hope and relief in situations like the aftermath of Cyclone Idai.


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Photo of Tarryn Pegna

Written by Tarryn Pegna