Once upon a time, over twenty years ago, we believed that God had given us a dream to minister to people one on one, in an environment somewhat apart from "normal" life that included aspects of close community life. This dream followed us through the ensuing years, but remained a dream as raising a family and other ministry opportunities took priority. Unrealized dreams become burdens and the frustration of not making this dream a reality became so great at times that we prayed and asked the Lord to take the dream away. He never did.
In 2000 we received a very unexpected letter from a missionary friend who shared with us that the Lord had prompted him to encourage us not to lay our dream aside. Four months later some dear friends called and said that the Lord had laid on their hearts a similar message: we needed to be encouraged to proceed with our dream. In the subsequent year and a half we met with these dear friends, Larry and Becky Castleberry, almost every weekend to talk, pray and wait on the Lord for guidance and direction. We are excited to report that at this time the Castleberrys, along with four other couples, have been serving on the Life in the Vine board of directors for the last eighteen months.
As we share the vision of Life in the Vine, almost without exception we are received by hearts that are hungry for a deeper walk with God. Through His picture of the vine and branches Jesus gave His disciples a beautiful picture of a life of intimate, organic, life giving relationship. The individual life as a branch is focused solely on staying connected to the vine. If that connection is strong so that the life of the vine can flow freely into the branch in a moment-by-moment relationship, then fruit is a natural result. However, deep relationships and the cultivation of this connection require time, communication and love. Only by following the example of Jesus, who exemplified practices that kept him connected to His Father, can we know the life in the vine that He offers us.
In a culture of activity and noise that has little regard for silence and peace, it is difficult to find the time and space to pursue the kind of intimate relationship with God that Jesus had. Every believer needs help and guidance in order to understand this relationship and put into practice the spiritual disciplines such as prayer, meditation, silence, solitude and service that encourage this connection between the branch and vine. In recent years we have witnessed a fresh interest in these time-honored traditions among Evangelicals. This interest has encouraged us to feel that this is truly the time for our dream to be realized. Our vision for Life in the Vine is to not only address this new interest, but believe that it is only the tip of the ice burg, we seek to help individuals, groups and churches really embrace these disciplines in a way that they can carry through their lives. These disciplines were practiced by Jesus Himself while he was here on earth and have continued to be practiced in various corners of Christendom.
We believe that to fulfill this vision Life in the Vine will need to meet these eager hearts with spiritual friendship and guidance. Equally important is a physical environment that offers the silence, peace and beauty that we need to connect with the vine. And this brings us to the second half of our story.