For me, 421 came about after a church-wide push. My regular Bible study group took it up, and the leaders arranged our groupings.

Mine was quite the eclectic bunch. Girly Lydia, artsy supersmart overachiever non-mainstream Rachel, everybody-loves-Ruth, and me. We began our first session deciding the general programme for each meeting (devo, sharing, prayer), confidentiality business (sacred unless jointly agreed otherwise, e.g. for reasons of safety), and naming the strengths and weaknesses we saw in each other. The last was quite intense.

For a year, the girls traveled with me over southwest France, as I spent some months in different houses earning my keep doing different jobs. Thanks to technology, we were constantly each others’ support group over Skype and WhatsApp. No problem was too small; every text asking for prayer for any situation was met with a flurry of replies from all of us. No trite responses either; replies were questions finding out more, words of empathy, promises of prayer, and followed up with expressions of concern and love.

I know the many 4/321 groups in my church have had all sorts of experiences, ranging from the ideal to disappointing. Mine was the textbook ideal.

We’re in different groups now, having been reshuffled. We have plans to meet quarterly this year, before preggy Lyds becomes servant to baby Socipater (in-group joke #sorrynotsorry), and Rachy leaves us for her turn overseas. Whether we last for a lifetime or are this season’s blessings, I am profoundly grateful for my girls, my 421.

— Rachel, 29