After several years without a furry friend, our family made the fateful decision this summer to adopt a cat. Previously a dog friendly family, our strata bylaws in North Vancouver made it clear that only a cat would do. We began our search online and saw the various dodgy websites advertising pets for sale. Then we stumbled upon an organization called VOKRA. “What’s that?” I asked myself thinking it sounded vaguely like the super villain organization SPECTRE from the James Bond franchise. “The Vancouver Orphaned Kitten Rescue Association,” my wife replied. “That’s quite a handle,” I conceded and agreed to check it out. What followed next taught a budding missiologist a few lessons about what the church should look like in society.
First, I visited their excellent website (http://www.orphankittenrescue.com) and filled out an application for adoption. Next, I was contacted immediately by a volunteer asking for a good time to chat on the phone to explain the mission of the organization. I soon found myself on the phone with the most delightful woman who clearly articulated the vision, mission and goals of the the organization. She even added a little testimony about how her life was changed by adopting cats through VOKRA and decided to give of her time to volunteer so that others could experience “the good news.” She explained how there are 400 foster homes for orphaned cats in our city and soon set us up for a house visit with a potential new cat friend for our family.
A couple of days later we found ourselves in the home of two lovely young women who foster cats on behalf of VOKRA. Again, they could easily and convincingly describe both the purpose of the organization and why their involvement was so important. The cat was perfect for our active family and so we found ourselves meeting next, the following day, with yet another volunteer (proudly wearing her VOKRA t-shirt) at a neighbourhood Starbucks, where we went through a home assessment, transition plan and paperwork to pay and adopt this stray cat. You’ve already guessed. The normal, lovely volunteer took time to talk about why the organization matters to the life of our city and then added some personal narrative about her experiences of rescuing cats and matching them with loving homes.
So, we now have Rosie the cat who is playful and a wonderful addition to our home. But in addition to that, I was left in awe of this “rescue organization” in our city. Completely staffed by volunteers who understood their work to be urgent, transformative and life-giving (salvific?) not just for the individual (cat/owner) but for the welfare of the city. Hmm. Here I am an Ordained Pastor in the Reformed tradition and I’m not sure many of our church goers could give such a clear and passionate description of the rescue mission God has given Ambassadors of Christ through the gospel. (2 Corinthians 5) Imagine, if the Church could know itself, in response to the Holy Spirit’s prompting, and declare itself to be so urgently needed for the salvation and welfare of the community. Time for some missiological lessons from our cat friends – of which, now I am one.
Ross Lockhart is Associate Professor at St. Andrew’s Hall, Vancouver and Director of the Centre for Missional Leadership at UBC.