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.
Please pray: – 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.”
Ariana Bertolini, 2019 SIM US intern, Bolivia
For the Lord to become more and more real to Ariana as she builds on the foundation the Lord ha 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 worldviews value something greater than the here-and-now; everything the secular worldview 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 these 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 China, 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
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