As churches and communities across many countries are stepping up to serve Afghan refugees – alongside other displaced people – we’re highlighting a couple of SIM ministries in different contexts and how you can partner with them in prayer and support.
When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.
Sports Ministry: Western U.S
Workers with Sports Friends have been ministering to Afghan refugees and migrants in the Western U.S for several years and now are uniquely placed to serve those arriving since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021.
Many of those who are already resident in the U.S are fearful of events in Afghanistan and of the effects on their relatives or friends who are there. Through football teams, a cycling group and other sporting activities, coaches and volunteers with Sports Friends are building relationships with families and young people, and able to share God’s love and compassion with them.
Local believers in a neighbouring Central Asian country are bringing direct aid and assistance to refugees fleeing Afghanistan.
Partnering with a local church, several of these workers are now studying at a local seminary, although the training costs are around $2,000 per worker. They are excited about the opportunity to share Jesus Christ with their new neighbours by building friendships and helping the refugees to settle alongside them into their community.
How can I help?
We all have a part to play in prayer. Use our Prayer Sheet and encourage others in your church or group to pray alongside you, lifting up our brothers and sisters to the Lord.
If you are able to donate, please tick ‘To help a specific worker or ministry’ and use one of the following:
Sports Ministry in Western U.S: ‘Afghan Neighbors’
Refugee Ministry in Central Asia: Project 99830 Refugees
The air-evacuation has finished, around 3.5 million citizens are internally displaced within the country, and ethnic and religious minorities like Christians, Hazaras and Shi’a Muslims are fearful of what the new order will bring. The UNHCR has called on the international community to show solidarity and sympathy amidst ‘a critical humanitarian crisis’.
Yet as those who trust the words of the Lord God Almighty, the Psalms urge us not to give up confidence.
“From everlasting to everlasting, the Lord’s love is with those who fear him”
Partners across the wider region do not speak of surrendering hope or of casting blame for recent events. Instead, they point us to pray for – and with- our brothers and sisters who remain in Afghanistan.
Mike Kuhn, a pastor and teacher who served in the Muslim world for many years, writes that “Jesus Christ never promised us any source of lasting change in our world and our souls outside of himself. Afghanistan was a big dose of political bravado and cultural superiority… two trillion dollars and 20 years of full-on military occupation have failed to bring transformation to Afghanistan. If we miss this wake-up call, then our sleep must be the sleep of death.
But like an acorn buried in the cleft of a rock, the gospel is planted in that land as it is in many intractable conflicts of our world. The end of the story has not yet been told. Though it lingers, wait for it. Waiting means doing the hard work of extracting the deferred hope by the roots and replanting it in the good soil of the gospel. It means living and acting and hoping differently in our world.”
And there is hope. Forty years ago, the Islamic Revolution in Iran seemed that it would entirely crush the Christian faith in that nation. Yet as Rev. Tat Stewart, a founder of SAT-7 PARS (a Christian broadcaster with audiences in Afghanistan, muses, “Since the Islamic Revolution, the numbers of Christians in Iran are thought to have grown to almost one million, or 1.5 percent of the population. What has happened there proved to the world that the gates of hell could not prevail against God’s church. Yes, the people of Iran suffered greatly after the Revolution. Christians suffered, too – pastors were martyred, the church went underground, and many fled the country. But if we are students of the Bible, we are not unaware that Jesus taught us to expect suffering for his sake.”
God is still sovereign and he stands alongside our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan. As the news brings further updates of the new regime and we hear of heart-breaking events, let us be faithful and committed in prayer.
Let us pray together for Afghanistan:
Pray for food, medical supplies and water provision to the cities and towns. Pray that those who are internally displaced would find relief and rest.
Pray for children across the country to have the opportunities to continue studying, to grow in dignity and health and to mature into young leaders who will stand for justice.
Pray for organisations and charities who were operating in the country to find ways of returning, to continue their relief and compassionate work.
Pray for believers across Afghanistan to be salt and light under the Taliban’s rule – to love, to forgive, to bring peace and share the Good News.
Pray for believers to receive pastoral care and support, and encouragement from one another and their Christian worldwide family.
Pray for the Lord to establish his kingdom in the hearts of Afghans and for everlasting peace through Jesus Christ – including for the Taliban.
“The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom rules over all”
Download our prayer sheet
Organisations taking donations for direct work with Afghans:
This is not the first time these areas have suffered violence from Fulani cattle herders, but the latest round of attacks seems more intense, with little, to no intervention from security agencies.
Getting an accurate assessment of the scale of destruction often proves difficult, with some news sources greatly underestimating the damage and loss of life, while other groups seem to report an inflated figure.
One local organisation reports the following statistics for the period 30 July –4 August: 26 Irigwe communities attacked and displaced, 65 people killed, 55 injured, 3,141 houses burnt, 1,520 houses vandalised, 1,300 houses demolished.
The report says 2,901 farms were also destroyed, which will have an ongoing economic impact on the communities.
From this recent crisis alone there are 30,000 IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) taking refuge in Miango town and neighboring Kwall. The vast majority of these IDPs (65%) are children.
Through our project system, SIM Nigeria is helping with some immediate needs such as food, blankets and soap. The plan is to render immediate assistance, then assess the situation again in four to six weeks when the initial aid runs out. After two to three months, we will facilitate the trauma-healing process.
If you desire to contribute to this effort, donations can go through project #96037 – Christian Crisis Fund since the majority of the victims are Christians, or the more general project #96038-Nigeria Relief Fund. Please designate any gifts for this purpose as “Miango Crisis”.
Please pray divine wisdom and guidance as our administration unites with others in response to this trauma.
Pray for those affected that they would find strength and encouragement in the Lord even as they are seeking to care for their pressing physical needs.
Pray also for the relational impact this will have as the last few weeks could present a challenge to the attitude of local Christians toward Fulani in general.
“Some people think that missions is for western people,” Geoffrey said. He is from Machakos, Kenya. We had lunch in a coffee shop on the outskirts of the capital Nairobi and talked about his desire to serve God overseas.
People ask him, “Is there any need for you to go?” Maybe they ask because they wonder, “Isn’t that where we got Christianity in the first place?” People perhaps imagine men and women carrying Bibles, sporting a British accent and coming to Africa by way of colonial work.
I asked him how he responded to that assumption of mission from “West to the rest.”
He replied, “[It’s] no longer, ‘We need of gospel workers.’ We have plenty of them …” For Geoffrey, sending is not limited to geography. He feels the burden to preach the good news.
I want to use every opportunity to witness Christ. If I do that, I’ll fulfil my life mission.
“Some people in the rural areas of Kenya think that those who do gospel work do so because they haven’t performed well in school,” he added candidly. It’s a thought held by many in his community but seldom voiced.
Some people do gospel work when they have run out of career options. Maybe they would have liked to be a lawyer, a doctor, or a pilot, but the opportunity or grades weren’t there. But that’s not Geoffrey’s story, even if it looks that way to others.
“I know where my heart is,” he said. He found that heart years ago up in a little town in northern Kenya. He thought he would serve there for a year and then go back to school and study engineering. But in the northern and oft forgotten region of Marsabit, he witnessed people who seemed to pour out their lives for the Lord. In comparison, his plans of studying engineering seemed hollow and selfish to him. He was spending his cares on things that were fleeting.
Geoffrey said, “I don’t struggle with thinking I need to do something else… I want to use every opportunity to witness Christ. If I do that, I’ll fulfil my life mission.”
And that means even communities in the UK if God is calling him. And it’s clear after a chat with Myton Church in Warwick – where Geoffrey hopes to serve – that there are communities where God is least known. A culturally diverse population characterises the area. This includes a large Sikh and Eastern European population.
“Like the rest of the UK, the wider community is, at heart, secular,” said Jackie from Myton Church. The church has recently launched the Westbury congregation starting with 49 willing church congregants. They’ve done so to try to reach these communities where He is least known. This is where both Myton Church and Geoffrey hope he can serve.
It’s been a tough road for Geoffrey to get to the UK and he’s still not there yet. There have been a lot of things that could have dissuaded him. If not the prevalent attitudes in his community, it’s been the financial hurdles. But he’s got an inner resilience. He’s seen tough times before and God had always come through. It’s helped him to continue trusting. He narrated how a colleague of his recently managed to serve in the Comoros after an equally long wait, saying, “My experience is not isolated.”
If it weren’t for the call on his life, he would likely let others take his place in the gospel work of the UK. If it weren’t for the call, he would likely pursue a career in engineering. If it weren’t for Jesus, he might be doing a host of other things, but he’s not. There are plenty of obstacles, but it was clear to me after our meal that there’s nothing else he’d rather do.
Would you consider supporting Geoffrey Muatha in the ENGAGE programme? If you feel led, visit our donation portal and use missionary number 1181757.
In the last three months, SIM UK’s ENGAGE programme has received several new gospel workers into the UK. Each worker has been placed with a church partner to help reach a multi-ethnic community with the good news of Jesus. Elkin (Columbia) is focusing on the Latin community in parts of London; Mary (Ethiopia) works with a diverse community in central London; and Ram and Keshari (Nepal) among the Asian diaspora in greater Manchester.
For these cross-cultural workers as they transition to life and work in the UK.
For Geoffrey to raise the funds needed.
By Tohru Inoue | SIM Stories
Long-term mission dentist Simon Stretton-Downes has been honoured with an OBE in the Queen’s birthday list for his work in Liberia in ministering to patients and training new dentists from the country.
Dr Simon STRETTON-DOWNES, Lead Dental Surgeon, Trinity Dental Clinic, Eternal Love Winning Africa (ELWA) Hospital, Liberia. For services to dentistry in Africa, particularly in Liberia
The London Gazette, Friday 11 June 2021
Simon and Grace are sent from St Gregory’s Church in Crakehall through SIM UK, and have worked in Liberia since 2017. Simon runs the Trinity Dental Clinic, whilst Grace works as a nurse at ELWA Hospital. They have also previously served with their family in Ethiopia for nine years.
In a country where there is a serious lack of trained dentists, Simon works directly with patients, both in the clinic and further afield in villages and smaller towns, and has also been instrumental in bringing change and development to the dental ministry.
In 2019, the new building for Trinity Dental Clinic was completed on the ELWA Hospital site. This has meant quicker interactions with surgeons and physicians when patients need to be referred for medical support.
Simon and Grace have also launched plans for a dental therapist training school to meet the needs of rural Liberia. This has involved discussions with the Liberian Ministry of Health to get appropriate permissions, and will be a significant investment.
Currently, Trinity Dental staff are sent to Nairobi Dental School in Kenya to complete their professional training. The vision of the training school is to train and support the ministry of its students to work in regions where there is currently no dental care.
SIM UK Director, Steve Smith, says: “I am thrilled to be able to share that the SIM UK Board recently agreed that we should apply to the UK Charity Commission to enable the further release of an endowment designated for dental mission.
“We are continuing to work with Simon on the best use of these funds in Liberia and I’m excited by the local-led strategies that are subsequently emerging through this. We continue to pray for the encouragement of the SIM dental project and the whole Liberia team through these challenging times.
“This is a wonderful honour and Simon deserves his OBE for the amazing work he is doing in dentistry at ELWA.”
As one of the highest cities in the world – at 4,090 metres (13,420 ft) above sea level – Potosi was also once the largest and richest city on the planet. The sprawling Cerro Rico (literally ‘Rich Mountain’) towers over the city and has been mined for silver for 500 years.
Much of the city’s economy is supported by the mines. Yet, mining is not just a job in Potosi, Bolivia: it’s an identity. During city festivals and parades, it is an honour for young boys to dress as miners and dance in teams through the streets.
The mines extend for miles underground, pitch black except where the gas lamplight touches and full of dust. The rock is poorer and the profits scarce, with most miners never striking enough metal to rise out of poverty. Instead of silver, they are searching tin, zinc and other minerals. The air is thin at such high altitudes and conditions are dangerous, with accidents frequently harming and killing those working there. But the alternatives for employment are few and far between.
Many Potosi miners would call themselves Christians and say they believe in God, but they do not believe he has power in the mines. Instead, they believe the devil-like spirit ‘El Tio’ rules supreme underground. Through offerings of cocoa leaves, tobacco and alcohol, they hope to placate him, providing success and safety.
SIM reaches out to miners and others in Potosi through a medical clinic, English classes, occupational therapy and community projects.
Many of the miners suffer from lung diseases like asthma or silicosis due to the dust and strong unfiltered cigarettes that they smoke. Others have physical injuries resulting from the dynamite, cramped tunnels and hard labour. Through demonstrating God’s sovereignty, ministering to the medical and spiritual needs of the community and showing the love of Christ, the team trust that the church in Potosi will be strengthened and glorify God.
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves…
During the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many clinics across Bolivia closed to patients amid fears of transmitting the virus further. Yet the Christian clinic Allinta Ruwana stayed open, gaining new opportunities to share medical help and the love of Christ with those in the community.
SIM is an organisation of very different people, from very different backgrounds, coming to do all sorts of different things in order to make Christ known in communities where he is least known.
So how do we help train and prepare our new workers to serve so cross-culturally?
Our five-day Orientation programme introduces all our people, mission workers and staff alike to some important areas they need to keep learning and growing in, as they start serving with SIM.
It’s not just adults though – children have their own programme, which is lots of fun, but also helps them start to think about what their family will be doing and how God is with them in that.
“We want those we are sending to have their expectations of mission grounded in God’s Word, connected to SIM’s vision and people, and reflecting the realities of mission life.”
Deborah Agnes, UK Ministry and Personnel Director
From the hundreds who have been through Orientation in the past five years, many talk about attitudes that orientation has helped to change or challenge, uncertainties it lays to rest, and tools they feel able to take away with them.
All are encouraged by coming together with like-minded people, taking a similar step of faith, and learning lots from each other.
From child safety training, workshops on cross-cultural communication and risk theology, and advice on how to raise a faithful team of prayer supporters, our team of presenters share their expertise and experience, so that each new worker is prepared for living in a very different context.
We hope they go away ready to be life-long learners; gaining the skills they need to be effective cross-culturally, humbly seeking to serve and love the church and be faithful witnesses to Christ.
After weeks of heavy rain, whole neighbourhoods of Niger’s capital city, Niamey, have been flooded. The dyke downstream from the Sahel Academy and the Bible school broke two weeks ago, with the water breaking the compound walls and rushing through the campus. Earlier today, the dyke upstream also broke and a new wave of river water destroyed more homes and buildings.
The flooding has already displaced more than 226,000 people from their homes (1), and many SIM personnel have also been evacuated into temporary accommodation. Rescue efforts are underway to salvage materials from the school compound, and to retrieve essential items.
The torrent rapidly surpassed the level of the 2012 floods, which had led to the fortification of the compound and a new berm constructed around the school. SIM member Scott Eberle said, “This took many by surprise … parts of the compound are now only accessible by canoe or swimming.”
There is concern that the water will cut off more access roads, leaving residents stranded, but there is no idea how high the river will go. SIM Niger is keeping a close eye on the situation, particularly thinking of people and ministries who still remain on that side of the river.
“We need your prayers at this time. How do we help one another grieve well? How do we show Christ’s love to our neighbors in this tragedy? They are also grieving and have experienced devastating loss. How high will the river rise? How and when will we be able to rebuild?
“The questions feel unending. Our community feels fragile and battered and most are exhausted from being in emergency mode for so long. We are thankful for the continued hope we have in Jesus. Truly he is our rock during this time. Pray for us to cling to him in faithfulness. May he be glorified.”
To donate and help our ministries rebuild in the wake of this disaster, please click here and write Niger Flood Relief or Project 97260.
‘Just because we live in a place, doesn’t mean we always know what’s going on,’ admitted one church leader in conversation, early last year. He wasn’t alone in wanting a clearer picture of the different challenges and opportunities faced by multicultural churches as they seek to share the gospel in their communities.
Throughout the Bible, salvation is for all nations, tongues and tribes. And the UK is an increasingly fitting example of an environment where many ethnicities, cultures, languages and religions can be found in one postcode. To best serve churches and ministries, we need to identify and understand their attitudes to intercultural local and global ministry.
In autumn 2019, faith-based research company Eido Research undertook a pilot project, looking at two cities: Leeds and Manchester, to find out where churches are succeeding in embracing and learning from their diversity and how they are praying, coming alongside, and reaching their communities for Christ.
The research was set up by SIM UK in collaboration with AIM Europe, AWM-Pioneers, OMF and London City Mission. We spoke to 60-70 churches in each city by phone, or via an online questionnaire. In addition, several churches took part in a ‘hotspot’ interview to share specifically what they had experienced through lessons learned and areas of best practice.
Some key factors that were identified in successful intercultural ministry included: – Actively welcoming and listening to diverse voices and perspectives – Being present and consistent within diverse communities – Training and equipping congregations to understand different cultural, religious or ethnic perspectives
There were also specific challenges that both cities faced in reaching out interculturally: – Absence of resources (time, funds, people) – Lack of confidence or fear of saying the wrong thing to those from a different background – Apathy or lack of drive for churches to reach out, resulting in the church becoming inaccessible.
Alongside the written results, we met online (owing to COVID-19) with several pastors and leaders from both cities, as well as guest speakers from intercultural networks, to reflect and delve deeper into the findings in order to help us look at what SIM UK and the other partner agencies could be doing to serve the churches in these areas.
As a result of both the personal meetings with ministry leaders and the research findings, there was a clear recognition that our hearts must be humbled to address the barriers to Christ-like inclusivity in leadership and fellowship within UK churches.
With a growing number of people who haven’t heard Christ’s message of salvation in our own country, it was also a reminder of the pressing need to train and equip ourselves to meet with, welcome and show hospitality, as we share the gospel with people from all nations.
“As the final written report on the findings of these two cities nears completion, we’re excited to continue building relationships with churches across the UK to see how we can serve hand-in-hand in helping them to equip and mobilise congregations to the great gospel need in our diverse country and overseas,” says Steve Smith, SIM UK Director.
By Chloe Blainey
This research will be used to inform and inspire intercultural evangelism, discipleship, church-planting and leadership.
For evangelical churches in the UK to receive the strength needed to respond to our times as we fulfil the Great Commission in, to and from intercultural Britain and Europe.
For hearts to be humbled to address any barriers to Christ-like inclusivity in leadership and fellowship within our churches.
This story first appeared in our quarterly magazine, Serving Him, below:
The COVID-19 pandemic is placing enormous stress on SIM workers and ministries around the world, especially in the areas of health care and education. By prayer, we’re seeking individuals, families, and teams of people to engage with SIM in God’s global mission. While borders in most countries are currently closed, we’re working hard to prepare workers to go shortly after countries have reopened.
SIM UK’s Dr Mikey Bryant, who is serving at the ELWA Hospital in Liberia, says God is his refuge and strength during the current coronavirus crisis.
When the first case of COVID-19 was announced on March 16, within minutes, every member of staff at the ELWA Hospital was wearing a face shield. However, the experience brought back painful memories from the time of the deadly Ebola virus of 2014-2016, which still casts a shadow over the country.
SIM opened its ministry in Liberia in 1954 with a radio station to share the gospel. The original call letters were ‘ELWA,’ which stands for Eternal Love Winning Africa.
The ELWA Hospital was one of the leading centres in fighting the outbreak and as Mikey says: “Some of the team had Ebola and survived; had members of their family and friends die; or were involved in caring for patients in the Ebola treatment unit. Every day, they are revisiting painful memories as they are reminded of their loss.”
Thankfully, Mikey says that by fixing his eyes on Jesus, he is finding the strength to cope with the current challenges.
“God has called us here for such a time as this. These are the people who he has loved and sent his son Jesus Christ to die for. Our lives are not our own — they are his, and we have the privilege of serving him.”
For several weeks, the hospital prepared for the influx of patients. With help from SIM’s partner organisation Samaritan’s Purse, a separate tent was erected so patients having COVID-19 symptoms could be screened and treated appropriately without taking unnecessary risk. But some are reluctant to come to the hospital owing to rumours that during the Ebola crisis, many people got lost and were sent to an unknown place for treatment.
“Some died and were buried with no information available to update their relatives and families lost touch with each other. We also don’t have enough PPE (masks, gloves etc) and it’s taking time to convince everyone that this time, there is unlikely to be help shipped in providing this equipment or the personnel,” he says.
However, Mikey is grateful to God that the community in Monrovia is working together with hospital staff to help deal with the limited resources.
“Everyone has achieved a lot in a short space of time, especially the cleaners who have a very challenging job in this hot, dusty, dry season. They are working tirelessly to keep everything clean, hand washing stations topped up and complete the many other tasks added to their list right now, and all at 30+ degrees (Celsius).
“We have local people making masks for the hospital staff, which is not ideal, but it’s better than nothing. We are thankful we have an oxygen plant, even though it is not working efficiently as it needs repairing and now that the borders are closed, this will be particularly challenging.
“We are reminded that the only thing that is certain is that Jesus is on the throne. If we take our eyes off him it can become too overwhelming— he is our ever-present help.”
The current 47,000 sq ft hospital opened in 2016 to replace the original facilities, founded by SIM in 1965. Through multiple civil wars and, most recently, the Ebola epidemic, ELWA Hospital has remained true to its vision ‘To glorify God by ministering to the whole person — the spirit, the soul and the body.’
Give thanks for the hospital team united in working together to coordinate a response to the pandemic and to remind patients of Christ’s steadfast love at this time.
For trauma-healing courses that have begun at the hospital to support staff through this pandemic.
For the ELWA Hospital to be a beacon for Christ in Liberia.
COVID-19 has forced Peru into a state of emergency as the country basically comes to a standstill.
With a curfew and quarantine of all non-essential workers, the coronavirus has created a desperate situation for many Peruvians, especially for the thousands of Venezuelan refugees, who don’t have access to government help or family support.
These people normally make their living selling on the streets or cleaning windscreens, but since the crisis, the streets are empty and they have no source of income.
In order to support this most vulnerable group of people through this critical time, SIM Peru has launched a relief project (91155) to provide emergency food relief to these Venezuelans living in Arequipa, as well as some Peruvians in extreme need.
In the first week of the project, the team distributed 150 packages; in the second week 250 and in the third, 500. There are currently 800 families on its list and rising.
A food bag costs about 40 to 45 soles (£10) and contains 2 kg potatoes, 2 kg rice, 1 kg spaghetti, 1 kg lentils, 1 kg oatmeal, 500 gr beans, 500 gr sugar, three cans of milk, two cans of tuna and a bar of soap.
The team also inserts a copy of John’s Gospel, Christian literature and sometimes a handwritten note of encouragement. Where possible, workers look for conversations with the Venezuelans, many of whom are open to the gospel. SIM Peru is now planning how best to stay in contact with the refugees after the crisis.
Pray that the SIM Peru team would show Christ’s love to the people it serves with food.
For God to provide the funds and faithful workers to serve in this ministry as long as it is needed..
For wisdom as the SIM Peru team seeks to build on the contacts it has made beyond the coronavirus crisis.
Read a testimony from a young SIM intern in Bolivia to encourage anyone exploring mission.
“My last few weeks in Bolivia – spent tying up loose ends of our engineering projects – were altogether hard and sweet. It included the installation of a pump for a widow, which was truly special. The community also thanked us with kind words and gifts as we said our final goodbyes.
Then together with the two other interns, I hopped on a night flight, arriving in the US on Monday morning.
Gradually, other interns arrived from all over the world and we spent the rest of the week together, talking through our experiences and sharing what we had learned with one another.
I’d love to tell you I feel called back to Bolivia; I’d love to tell you that I had a wonderful experience; I’d love to tell you that I felt the Spirit moving; I’d love to tell you that the fire in my heart was reignited – I’d love to tell you all of this and more, but I can’t.
I don’t find myself being lonely very often, but there was a lot of loneliness during that time – primarily in my relationship with God. He felt distant and I felt isolated. I woke up daily pursuing him in the Word – some days very intentionally and prayerfully, and some days out of habit or guilt.
I learned what it really felt like to trust God, when it felt like I was talking to a wall. I realised that this is what I am most grateful for.
I had seen missions work through rose-coloured glasses and as a ‘spiritual high’ kind of experience with missionaries as the top of the top. But now I see that they are ordinary people, who simply listened and obeyed.
My mission experiences shaped me a lot and taught me so much, but every one of them was a mountain-top experience – full of doing good things and feeling great and seeing God abundantly show up in our daily activities because they were so tangible – and all the while being surrounded by a team of people.
Back in the US, the days were primarily filled with the boring and mundane and I saw little fruit. I often felt like more of a burden than a help, and there were many days where I did nothing.
I saw a raw side of missions that I had never seen before with no mountaintop or spiritual high, but a series of day-by-day meetings in the early morning with the Lord – sometimes fully committed and sometimes half asleep, but altogether showing up.
At first, I think I chose to show up in the mornings because it felt like the right thing to do while in a cross-cultural context. I felt like I needed to be a “good Christian” – and that meant reading my Bible and journaling. But as the days and weeks ticked by, it became instinctual, habitual, and necessary. It transformed from an obligatory time to a treasured time. If I missed it, I missed out.
This whole experience was not a mountain top, but I desired – desire – to meet with God and learn from him. He gave me the gift of a foundation to build on, somewhere to go, a path to grow closer to him, instead of an experience that gave me a fire that could be extinguished, or a yearning that could dwindle or a mountain to descend.
It was not so difficult to leave Bolivia. Of course, I made friends there and cherish the people very deeply, but I was ready to leave the experience behind. But it was much more difficult for me to leave North Carolina.
The friends I made and the people there were a light and steadiness in the craziness of the summer. I did not want to leave at the end of our time because I knew what was looming on the other side when I landed – my last full semester of school, a really long internship report, a Spanish CLEP (and let me tell you, I did not learn as much Spanish as I had hoped), a job that had changed a lot, a new house, new roommates, and no bed.
I was not ready and as I said my final airport goodbyes and hopped on my plane, I couldn’t help but think about what I would do if the Lord called me abroad right now? What if this plane changed directions and I was headed somewhere completely new and maybe this experience would happen all over again in a new, unknown place?
I thought I was ready for that and wanted to go right then and there. But as I peered out the small, oval window in a plane travelling at 30,000 feet into the vastness of the most densely populated county in the US, the darkness of the night parted to the light of the 10 million inhabitants of LA and I felt the Lord nudging me, “This is your mission field right now – you’re right where I want you.”
I am grateful for this experience and for the foundation God has given me. I am grateful for what I learned in Bolivia from those with whom he surrounded me. I am grateful for the Lord’s provision and guidance. I am grateful for a good God who opens doors. I am grateful for this opportunity and for where he has me now – I am grateful.”
“Amy”, 2019 SIM US intern, Bolivia
For the Lord to become more and more real to “Amy” as she builds on the foundation the Lord has given her.
That all SIM interns would continue to learn from their experiences and for the Lord to continue to guide them and provide for them.
For SIM workers using their engineering skills in mission, to have resilience and endurance to continue this good work.
Can we bring ourselves to see the coronavirus pandemic as ‘a severe mercy’?
What is God doing through the fallout caused by COVID-19? All endeavours are curtailed by the global health crisis, and Christian mission work is no exception.
Your heart might be crying out in anguish at the suffering you are seeing around you and at your inability to do anything about it. You may be feeling the onset of grief as the prospect of losing your mission work, mission projects and mission relationships becomes more and more likely.
But in all these circumstances, you can hang on to God and refuse to give up on faith in him. You can, like Job, cry out to God and express your anguish – even outrage – at him. But this is an act of faith, not doubt, if you express your pain to God.
You can ask God to give you supernatural strength so that you keep seeking to serve others; you can ask him to help you grow in the realisation that the only thing that matters is faith. To keep serving and to keep believing in such circumstances might make no sense whatsoever, but it will bring God glory. This is what he made you for.
Amidst all the unknowns, there is one thing we do know with absolute certainty, about God’s purposes in suffering. It provides us with an opportunity to grow in Christlikeness. Can we bring ourselves to see the coronavirus pandemic as ‘a severe mercy’?
This is, after all, our eternal destination – to share in the glory of Christ, to reflect his character. This is how we bring God glory now – by being transformed moment by moment into the likeness of his son.
And this transformation happens in front of a watching world.
Because of instantaneous global communications, the effectiveness of various cultures to equip their populations to cope with severe suffering and life-threatening situations is evident to all. Many cultures with no Christian heritage are far less panicked by this epidemic than the secular west. Why is this so?
Pastor Tim Keller observes that karmic cultures allow their adherents to detach from suffering and so cope with it; stoic cultures consider it a virtue for people to stand firm in the midst of suffering; and honour cultures see adversity as an opportunity to display courage and dignity, with death even being welcomed because it allows such qualities to be displayed.
Some in the secular west, on the other hand, are reacting as though the world is about to end and there is no tomorrow.
That’s because, for the secular mind, death does end the world, and death removes the prospect of there being a tomorrow. All other world views value something greater than the here-and-now; everything the secular world view offers can be destroyed by one’s own death and by worldwide devastation. No wonder the West is in a panic.
Western Christians should be humble enough to acknowledge the superiority of non-western cultures in this respect. But the Christian gospel transcends all cultures. It can equip individual Christians and believing communities to face this pandemic with even greater engagement, peace and courage than karmic, stoic or honour cultures do.
The coronavirus crisis is a backdrop against which Christians’ love for others, faith in God, and hope for the future can be seen.
Far from repelling people, Christian communities’ responses in the midst of despair should attract at least some people to God.
While certainly severe, can we bring ourselves to see the coronavirus pandemic as ‘a severe mercy’? To see it as a global opportunity for the watching world to see faith in Christ at work – loving service, steadfast peace, and humble strength wrought in the lives of communities of God’s people?
Can we give a reason for the hope we have?
Is it wrong to hope that what people see and hear will cause at least some to turn to Jesus and be saved? God will save people in and through and after this pandemic, if Christ’s people live steadfastly with faith, hope and love.
The backdrop of world cultures that cannot offer faith, hope and love in the face of despair will mean Christ’s light is seen to burn all the more brightly through his people.
By Tim McMahon
For our mission workers to know God’s peace and maintain hope in uncertain times.
For Christian communities to be united as they respond to the coronavirus crisis with increased love and commitment to serve.
For non-believers to come to Christ because of his love, shown through his people during this global pandemic.
To support SIM’s COVID-19 Immediate Response project, please click here. (Project 99753)
Revelation 7:9 gives us the amazing picture of a host of people before the throne of the Lamb, people from every nation and tribe and tongue. Now, after almost two decades of painstaking work, another people group in Malawi has a full version of the Bible in their own language, and will be able to join that throng.
The Yawo people are one of the main peoplegroups in Malawi. On 25 October 2014 the first Bible in their language, Ciyawo, was published. Printed over in east Asia, a small number of Bibles were air-freighted to Malawi for the launch.
SIM workers Winfried and Hildegard Steiner had spent 15 years working on the translation from their home in Mangochi. Three pastors from different evangelical churches in Malawi worked as translators and there were 12 other reviewers from different backgrounds. The team also included one consultant from the United Bible Society, one manuscript checker and a technical assistant from the Bible Society of Malawi.
Groups and choirs from the area marched, sang and danced at the special launch event in Mangochi. SIM worker JoAnn Burdette comments, “Martin Saidi, one of our long-time Yawo workers and a dear friend, prayed over one of the Bibles before he opened it up. The look of absolute joy when he read Psalm 46 in his own language makes my eyes fill with tears, even thinking about it now.”
Ian Farrimond from Newscastle manages communications for SIM Malawi.
In 1893, three young men who founded SIM set out for the interior of the Sudan in west Africa, compelled to see souls saved for eternity. The next seven years of SIM’s ministry in Nigeria produced more missionary graves than converts.
As in times past, persecution, disease and violence are still the reality of missions. Indeed, some risks are greater today than ever before. In West Africa, there are terrorist attacks and abductions. In Pakistan, the church and mission have faced bomb threats and other risks. And in India, Bhutan, Northern Nigeria, the Middle East and north Africa, physical and spiritual risks are part of daily life.
Yet how can we stop when 3,961 distinct people groups — more than three billion people — are living and dying without Christ? Risk-taking, and a clear theology of risk, are therefore vital as we move forward to do the remaining work left to be done.
Christ crossed barriers to be born into human history. As missionaries, we continue to seek out and identify barriers, specifically in order to cross them. Every barrier is, therefore, an opportunity. Barriers can be cultural, generational, geographical, social, racial, economic and others. Crossing barriers is the DNA of missions.
By Dr Joshua Bogunjoko, SIM International Director
Pioneer mission worker Daphne Kabeberi is pretty unusual on the Edinburgh council estate of Niddrie. Not only does she have a passionate heart for the gospel, but she has yet to meet anyone else from Kenya since she arrived in Scotland at the start of August.
Daphne, 26, is the first person to join the ENGAGE programme, which seeks to bring workers from the global south to join church teams in the UK. She is now part of the staff team at Niddrie Community Church and primarily responsible for outreach to the growing international community in the local area, running English classes and building relationships with women. She also does some children’s work and helps out in the church café.
Daphne says, “I was aware Britain was ‘post-Christian’ and in need of the gospel. In Kenya, the gospel is not preached very well, if at all, and there is a lot of emphasis on the prosperity gospel. In Britain, there just doesn’t seem much interest in the gospel and that is sad to see.”
“Lots of things surprise me here – the price of a bus fare and how much food is thrown away. At home, there is always someone we can give leftover food to. We don’t throw anything away. I’m also shocked that I’m not allowed to hug the children in the groups – that is such a natural thing to do in Kenya and we do it all the time with the children in church.”
“When I arrived, I was eagerly waiting to be taken to see ‘the scheme’, expecting to find filthy, dilapidated streets and accommodation. What I discovered was that the beautiful, orderly neighbourhood where I live and work is actually ‘the scheme!’ By comparison with what I have seen in Kenya, this area does not seem very poor. But the poverty here isn’t so much on the outside as on the inside — sin and its effects are evidenced in things like difficult family situations, hostility to God, foul language and bad behaviour.”
Her journey from Emmanuel Baptist Church, Nairobi to an Edinburgh scheme (council estate) started in 2015, when Niddrie pastor Mez McConnell visited Kenya. The following year she met SIM’s UK Director Steve Smith in Kenya and then applied to join ENGAGE. The connection was cemented when one of the Niddrie staff team, Sharon Dickens, came to her church and spoke at a conference on women’s ministry.
A key part of the ENGAGE programme is finding the right UK church for an overseas worker to join, so it seemed clear Niddrie was where God wanted Daphne to be. She comes from a Christian family, and made a personal commitment to Christ in secondary school. Throughout university as an engineering student, she became more and more interested in mission. After graduating, she worked as a church intern and was well-discipled by the solid teaching at Emmanuel Baptist Church.
At the time, she had a vague notion that she might become a mission worker in Europe or Africa, but decided to apply for Engage at the prompting of her pastor. It was a big step for someone who had never left East Africa!
Daphne has left her mum, younger brothers, dad and boyfriend in Kenya and is grateful that the internet allows her to keep in close touch with them. She is also hugely grateful for the new family she has found in Niddrie, where she lives with pastor Mez, his wife and their two teenage daughters.
Daphne says, “It is very exciting to be working here and I am really enjoying it. The people have been so welcoming and friendly and I know I am with family — my church family, my brothers and sisters in Christ.”
“I’ve settled in well and I’m involved in a lot with the rest of the team. I’m starting to make some friendships with women outside church by going to community activities like exercise classes. I still feel I’m finding my feet but the other interns are a great help too and it’s wonderful to be part of a church which is reaching out with the word of God and teaching the Bible faithfully.”
Daphne is due to spend at least a year in Niddrie and after that, who knows…? She says, “I think my future will probably be in church ministry, maybe back in Kenya, but I will wait to see where God leads me. I trust in him and in his plans for me.”