Christine Gobius – National Director at Interserve
A kind and gentle soul, Christine is easy to talk to, and a pleasure to spend time with. Christine reflects quietly before choosing her words and imparts a depth of wisdom that God has given her through her studies, life journey, ministry and many experiences.
Christine’s love for the outdoors led to her veterinarian career and completing a PhD in patterns of cattle and human health. Whilst studying at Brisbane School of Theology, she was introduced to Interserve. Prior to her current role, Christine balanced professional roles in public health administration research and voluntary roles in Interserve, where she now serves as National Director. We have been blessed to have her complete a Master of Arts in Vocational Practice (Aid and Development) with us at Eastern.
Interserve is missional community dedicated to serving amongst the peoples of Asia and the Arab World. As followers of Jesus, they reach out to the most marginalised – physically, economically and spiritually – and commit to serving alongside them with His love.
What does your role entail?
Interserve exists for the glory of God, so a big part of my role is providing spiritual leadership for the organisation, which I believe is most important. Our vision is to see the transformation of individual lives and communities through an encounter with Jesus. My role changes very much day to day, but I have a responsibility to ensure that the organisation keeps focused on that vision and in doing that is functional, legal, compliant and financially healthy. I also help to bring the international vision of Interserve into our Australian office whilst bringing our Australian understanding and learning into our international sphere. But at the end of the day an organisation is only as healthy as its people are.
I read somewhere that CEO stands for the ‘Chief Encouragement Officer’ and that’s something I try to keep in mind each day.
What are some things that you love about your job?
The name ‘Interserve’ reflects our truly international fellowship and our value of serving people. In this role I get to work and spend time with some incredible people, cross-cultural workers who are innovative, faithful, adventurous whilst also being reflective practitioners. I get to see God at work in ways that expand my understanding of Him and His word. Spending time with people from different countries helps me get a more complete picture of what God is saying as I experience the word through the eyes of people who sometimes come from cultures more closely aligned the culture the Word was written to.
What are some challenges you face in your role?
If you want to avoid problems, don’t get involved with people. People are sinful and broken and we work with communities in some of the most challenging parts of the world. During my time in this role I’ve had to deal with some very confronting situations, in terms of the wellbeing and security of our people, which forces us to depend on God because we aren’t able to control it all.
What is the significance of your logo?
Our logo depicts a weave and the two colours that go in two directions reflect the strands of a diverse group of people, working in a variety of ways, in many places. It demonstrates missions as involving sending and receiving. It’s an open weave because we are part of something bigger. It’s work that other people need to be a part of. It’s open to partnership and reflects the name.
What lead you to studying at Eastern?
Whilst still in Brisbane, my husband and myself were in a season ready for change. I knew that I wanted to work in aid and development and I had a strong calling to the Christian space, so I enrolled for the MAVP program. But in January 2011, on the eve of my first unit of study, there was mass flooding and we had water up to 60cm above the upstairs floor of our house. Recovery from this flood was going to be an intense experience and we lived in five different houses whilst making our house liveable again. The MAVP was going to be my first significant study in the aid and development sector and I knew that it was going to be a tough gig, but I felt God tell me to trust him and he’d get me through. And you wouldn’t believe it. Our first unit of study was climate change, social justice and the environment. It was such a privilege to think through my personal experience and how it fit with my understanding of God and what he’s doing in the world. I ended up writing an essay about a personal theology on flooding and through this study I had the opportunity to reflect very deeply on a relevant topic.
Did your studies help prepare you for what you are doing now?
Definitely! I constantly draw on many things that we covered in our studies because it’s relevant to our work and I frequently lean on the leadership modules that we covered in the course. Just this week, I was speaking to a couple who work in Cambodia at the forefront of developing ways to keep disadvantaged children with families rather than going into children’s homes. This is an issue because the majority of kids in orphanages have parents, and the best place a child should grow up is in a family. Research also shows that the long-term impact of orphanage experiences is detrimental to children’s health. Another complication this couple faced is that over 50% of Australian Christians support orphanages but it’s far harder to get funding to do community development to help families to provide for their own needs. It’s harder to “sell”. However, during my studies at Eastern, I had written a composite narrative as one of my assessments. It involved interviewing people who had worked with vulnerable children and then writing a fictional story based on real elements from real people’s lives. I was able to draw on my study in this area to support our Interserve workers and help them understand that better solutions may exist.
Something unforgettable that I learnt through my studies is the importance of listening and appreciating when others challenge how you understand and see things.
The way we engage with scripture and with prayer, the Holy Spirit and literature really encouraged us to think critically, listen to others, and think about what in our thinking is cultural or truly scriptural. So, it’s really important to keep going back to the Bible rather than relying on personal cultural constructs. Learn to listen and be challenged.
Do you have any advice for people considering missions or aid and development?
I think that the best way to get involved in aid and development is to first recognise that all people are made in God’s image and the only way for people to reach their full potential is through the transformative power of the gospel. We live in a world where people suffer injustice and suffer from lack. We can’t truly claim to love God if we aren’t concerned with the suffering of others and sometimes we must take the time to ask God to give us that heart. Whilst we are called to participate in meeting the great needs that exist, we can also learn and be enriched from the process. There are many needs in our own culture and society and as we engage with other peoples in poverty alleviation or addressing oppression and injustice, we have a lot to learn. It’s a two way street.
So, get involved! God said to Abraham, ‘You will be a blessing to all nations’. That call comes to all of us who are followers of Jesus.
Ask God to grow in you a heart for people different to yourself and share with them the hope of God and His love for them.
So practice listening and getting to know people. If you want to cross those cultural barriers, you need to put yourself out there, get to know others and get to love them so that you can demonstrate God’s love to them.