On any given weekend, Rachel and Joshua take their sons to the desert and visit archaeological ruins where the children can run around and dig in the sand – exploring a world of imagination that children back in the UK only find in museums and books.
It’s just one of the advantages enjoyed by the family, who have been serving in the Middle East for the past 10 years.
During the week, Joshua travels to the city language school to help mission workers learn Arabic, while Rachel takes care of their three boisterous boys, Jonathan, six, Sam, five and Tim, two.
“Although I often feel the pressure that I should be doing more outside the house, I also see that the busier I am, the quicker things fall apart in the home,” she admits. “I’ve learnt the hard way that children of all ages need a lot of attention and my primary role is to take care of my family.
“The most important thing for our boys is for us to walk closely and genuinely with the Lord and have daily habits of spending time with him as a family.
While raising a family halfway across the world can be daunting, Rachel and Joshua, who are sent by a church in Birmingham, say it is a privilege to help their sons follow God as they grow up in an Islamic community.
“As we teach the boys about Jesus, they often ask whether their friends and our neighbours love Jesus too. As a family, we then pray for them to know the Lord.
“Raising our family in a new culture gives great opportunities to talk to our children about the differences, particularly if the host culture is made up of different religions. Not fitting in is also a reminder that for all believers, our citizenship is in heaven and we are only passing through this life.”
Learning to speak Arabic is also a must for Rachel and the boys: “If the mother and children don’t learn the language, they will feel isolated from the father and his ministry. This makes it hard to immerse into the culture and stay long term.”
It has also helped them build relationships and to show God’ love by inviting schoolfriends and neighbours into the family home.
“Middle East culture is very people-centred and spontaneous,” Rachel explains. “Although sometimes this means you need to flexible with your plans, which can be hard if you enjoy routine as visitors can arrive at your door anytime, but it’s important to show you care by genuinely welcoming them, even if the timing is inconvenient!
“The Lord has challenged me to see that interruptions are divine appointments and feeling prepared is not as important as being ready to give your time to the person who’s come to spend time with you.
“Arabs love children and our landlady and her extended family who live in the building have become like family to us and we are grateful for the way they have adopted us.”
So what advice does Rachel give mission families thinking of serving overseas?
“When you live in another culture, you will always be a student: Ask questions, listen and learn. The longer you are there, the more you will realise what you don’t know. It’ easy to get discouraged and critical by the differences between your culture and the new one, so guard your heart and keep a close, personal walk with the Lord and ask hm to keep your heart soft, not hardened by trials, but moulded more to the likeness of his son.”
By Kerry Allan
For the family’s close neighbours and others in their building to know the Lord.
For wisdom as Rachel and Joshua decide on the next school for their son Jonathan.
Give thanks for the provision of a new pastor to lead the family’s local church.
For the past six years, Keith Walker has been part of Serving In Mission’s International Leadership as Global Director for Strategic Development. Here, he shares some of the highlights during this time and his views on what lies ahead for mission today.
What would you say have been some of the most significant strategic developments for SIM over the past six years?
Keith: It’s been a period of very considerable change for us. Let me pick out three developments to illustrate the range of those changes in relation to our sense of purpose, our contexts of ministry and organisational shape.
Our new Purpose and Mission Statement has made a huge difference in being clear why SIM exists. Driven by the biblical conviction that no one should live and die without hearing of Jesus, it expresses the focus of SIM’s calling: Christ should be proclaimed in communities where he is not known.
It was this sense of purpose that sat behind our glad engagement with MECO, leading SIM back into the Middle East. We now have a growing work led by those who have laboured there for many years, but with SIM’s capacity to bring more workers into the harvest field.
Given our renewed sense of purpose, it became clear that our International leadership structure needed to be refreshed to pursue that purpose in today’s world. A major restructuring happened two years ago. This involved bringing new people into senior leadership without losing those with solid experience.
Where do you see SIM going in the years ahead and how will we take the next generation of potential workers with us?
Keith: As I’ve stepped back, future direction is for others to decide. But perhaps I can offer a couple of things.
I don’t believe that we need to trade off wise strategic direction in mission against the instincts of the next generation of workers. It isn’t always helpful to shape mission according to the preferences of those coming forward to serve, but neither is it necessary. My sense is that younger Christians are looking for authenticity and relevance.
SIM can be authentic, by remaining committed in heart and action to our purpose of proclaiming Christ, expressing his love and compassion in communities where he is least known. And if we are serious about discovering where those communities are, relevance will be assured too.
For example, we have begun to look afresh at the needs of Europe. The older way of prioritising mission sought to identify ‘unreached people groups’. That approach led to many places that were and are, proper places of focus for SIM, not least the Muslim world. But it tends to fail to acknowledge that there are whole communities of indigenous Europeans who are unreached.
As we continue to evaluate where the Lord is calling SIM workers to go, we also need to reassess where the Lord is calling workers from.
The Lord is calling workers from many countries, some to come here! And here in the UK, there are mission-ready Christians of Asian, African and Latin backgrounds whom the Lord has equipped for service here and elsewhere.
This reorientation of expectation is hugely challenging for mission structures and finance, but highly relevant to today’s world, and not least, to our country divided as it is by socio-economic and racial distinctions.
So what can our supporters do?
Keith: Be open – think differently about what a missionary might look and sound like, where they might come from and where they might go. Then pray, receive and send, go and give.
By Kerry Allan
For unity, courage and discernment for SIM’s International’s leadership team.
For the long-term sustainability of SIM’s ministries and projects in the aftermath of COVID-19.
Give thanks for Keith’s God-given gifts and skills that have helped to shape SIM’s gospel community’s vision, both in the UK and overseas.
As Bingham Academy in Ethiopia prepares to reopen on September 22, SIM UK worker Theresa Ebrahim-Adem says she has never felt “so at home” anywhere else.
This year, Theresa celebrates 15 years serving at the Christian school, based in Addis Ababa, which teaches the children of mission workers as well as the international community and Ethiopian families.
Theresa admits she was heartbroken when as COVID-19 struck and Bingham closed and went online, she and husband Aki took the difficult decision for Theresa to return to the UK with their two daughters.
“With so much of the future unknown, the hardest thing was to be separated from Aki, who remained in Ethiopia to care for his family and to continue mentoring young men in the community,” she recalls.
However, Theresa says she counts each hard moment she has experienced during her 15 years at Bingham as “pure joy, especially when I hold them up again all the ways that God has used me and blessed me in my work here.
“It’s very difficult to try and express how much I have learned from my time in Ethiopia,” she adds. “It is a country that has captured me and made me fall in love with it. It can be a frustrating place to live during the tough days, but looking back over the past 15 years, I can see God at work in many ways in my life and how he spent a lot of time putting me in his fire to refine me and challenge me.
“Working at Bingham Academy is demanding at times, but I’ve never felt so at home anywhere else. Teaching there is how teaching should be: We get to love our kids and help shape them the way I believe God intended teaching to be.
“I am overwhelmed with God’s love for me and the privilege he has given me to work with him in Addis Ababa. I’ve had the honour of been able to speak into the lives of my students and given them the opportunity to search the scripture themselves and ask the hard questions.
“It’s been amazing to witness their faith journeys and see God pursuing and loving them. It has been a reward in itself to see students come to faith and grow in their relationship with our Lord and saviour.
“I continue to feel so blessed by God that I get to spend my days doing so many of the things that I just love doing: teaching history, hanging out with teenagers, talking about God and his amazing love for us; challenging my students to really think through the truth of the gospel; cheering our school teams on in their sports competitions, and all of it in a country that tests my faith and how I live it out each day.”
However, along with the blessings come some deep struggles and for many years, Theresa needed to trust and rely on God as she experienced the ups and downs of working as part of an educational and outreach project caring for Muslim boys from the surrounding neighbourhood.
“Over the years, my ministry with the Horizon Project challenged me to recognise my role in prayer and service,” admits Theresa, who is sent by Hamilton Baptist Church, Scotland.
Bingham’s vision statement is ‘Teaching Truth, Equipping Generations, Impacting the world for God’s Glory’ and Theresa says she is grateful to all her UK supporters who have faithfully prayed for the work of the school since she arrived in Ethiopia in 2005.
“To have the opportunity to share in this vision and see it being lived out is a privilege for me, but also answered prayers for all my supporters, who have prayed for the work of Bingham for many years.”
During her time at Bingham, Theresa is thankful to God for providing teaching staff from all over the world – from Bolivia to Finland – and to have the privilege of witnessing numerous students grappling with God’s truth and choosing to believe.
“I’ve watched them grow from little elementary students to adults and my previous students are now between the ages of 18 and 34, who are living all over the world,” she says.
“They are artists, medical professionals, teachers, government advisers, church planters, missionaries, and parents making an impact in their communities for God’s glory.
“Seeing this web go out from Bingham all over the world gives me such a clear picture of how God’s body works and how he uses all of our gifts to fulfil his great plan to make disciples of all nations. By faithfully supporting me in my role at Bingham, we are all part of our God’s body, working to expand his kingdom.”
Looking ahead, Theresa is convinced God has called her to serve for many years to come: “There is a personal cost to following God’s calling to serve at Bingham, but I can also say it is worth it and I’m so excited to see what the next 15 years will hold .”
“Overall, I am one of many people that would have a much worse life without you in it. You challenged me, taught me, showed me Jesus and became a friend. You shaped my studies, my politics, my faith and much more. I feel so blessed to have known you and hope my son (and any other brothers/sisters that come along) will have a teacher as impactful as you.“
One of Theresa’s former students
By Kerry Allan
Pray for the school leadership team as it works through how school will work this year and that the Department of Education in Ethiopia will allow face-to-face teaching in the mornings from the end of September.
Praise God that Bingham is fully staffed this year.
Pray for Ethiopia as COVID-19 cases increase daily and political unrest continues.
Riots in the USA over Black Lives Matter; a strident social media backlash in the UK – surely the dynamics driving this ugly clash aren’t present in churches committed to global mission? Or could we just be blind to them? asks Tim McMahon
The UK churches I visit as a Serving in Mission member are all committed to global mission. They exuberantly preach a gospel that proclaims salvation for people of all nations. They seek to practise ‘every member ministry’ and celebrate diversity of gifts.
Until very recently, such churches typically considered themselves to be inclusive, and church leaders often described themselves as ‘colour-blind’ to race. However, recent public expressions of passionate anger give voice to deep divisions present in our society and we’re beginning to ask, whether churches unwittingly contribute to these divisions?
One thing that’s clear is that the ethnic and socio-economic make-up of mission-supporting churches – even those in multicultural cities – is overwhelmingly monocultural. Why in practice, are Bible-believing, gospel-proclaiming churches in the UK far from diverse?
Christian communities that engage people from many different cultures say inclusiveness is the most important factor contributing to their ‘success’. However, real inclusiveness means more than just being welcoming and friendly. It requires significant investment, personal sacrifice, and courageous leadership.
Churches with growing intercultural communities intentionally invest in the lives of people in the different cultural groups around them. They ensure their activities and meetings are accessible and visible to local ethnic minorities by providing signs in multiple languages. They don’t just teach their membership about the cultures of the communities they seek to reach; they encourage them to share in, and learn from, others’ cultures.
Members from different cultural groupings need to be visible and active in the leadership of a ministry. They need to have a real voice, affecting how disciple-making and training-up of church members is done. This needs to take account of the cultural context and communities within which the church resides.
Why in practice, are Bible-believing, gospel-proclaiming churches in the UK far from diverse?
The leaders of genuinely intercultural churches lead by example. Not necessarily by being adept at cross-cultural work, but by being willing to go out of their comfort zone to deeply engage in the lives of those from different cultural backgrounds around them.
A willingness to be vulnerable – even to embrace weakness – is key. When people from a majority culture do this, they’re often surprised to find that they’re extended huge latitude by the minority groups they seek to serve. Repeated cultural faux pas are forgiven and genuine effort to humbly serve those who are obviously different is met with openness and interest. The gospel makes its way into communities previously considered ‘closed’.
God loves to turn human order on its head. His power is revealed through his people’s weakness. When we’re willing to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others, we find life and build joyful relationships.
When we’re willing to humble ourselves and learn from other cultures, we find those from other cultures are willing to listen to what we have to say – the gospel gains a hearing. After initial discomfort, we experience profound belonging when we embrace those from cultures very different to our own.
Thank God for the gospel and its servant by which he forms a glorious heavenly gathering around Christ by people from every tribe, nation and tongue.
For our church communities to be transformed by the gospel of Jesus, to become aware of our ‘cultural blindness’, and to commit to learning from and even celebrating the cultures of other communities around us.
That cross-cultural missionary training will help workers share the good news of Jesus throughout the world.
COVID-19 has created a global health crisis affecting millions of people in every community where SIM workers live and serve.
While SIM continues to help its medical ministries in need of resources through its COVID-19 Immediate Response Project, economists are now signalling a severe global recession, with unprecedented levels of unemployment, pushing more people into extreme poverty than ever before.
But of equal concern is a hidden global crisis triggered by these health and economic catastrophes: the crisis of human trafficking amongst the world’s most vulnerable people. Combatting trafficking is a significant spiritual battle and while this may seem overwhelming, the good news is that SIM is able to take steps to stop this crisis happening in our communities.
What is human trafficking?
Human trafficking is the illegal process of trapping people by violence, deception or coercion and exploiting them for financial or personal gain. Research has shown that people who experience the following are at particular risk of human trafficking:
• Conflict, violence, natural disasters or public health emergencies.
• Loss of income and livelihoods.
• Family violence and people who lack caring, supportive relationships.
‘We are going to witnessa tsunami of traffickingin the wake of thecoronavirus pandemic’
“Serving in Mission already knows that human traffickers prey on vulnerability and will flock to where there are crises of any sort,” says Sarah Scott Webb, co-leader of SIM’s global anti-trafficking ministry, For Freedom.
“Human traffickers lure victims by promising a better life, with the chance of earning money or receiving an education, of helping their families. They trick, deceive, and sometimes force them into situations of exploitation, abuse and slavery, from which they cannot escape.”
For Freedom was formed two years ago, to coordinate SIM’s response and address the root causes of human trafficking by providing training, support and strategic guidance to SIM teams, workers, partner ministries and local churches involved in anti-trafficking work.
“Prior to COVID-19, an estimated 40 million vulnerable men, women and children had been trafficked into slavery worldwide,” adds Sarah. “This statistic will increase dramatically over the coming months as loss of livelihoods will leave desperate families extremely vulnerable to false offers of work as they look for ways to survive. We are going to witness a tsunami of trafficking in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Severe economic hardship caused by loss of income and livelihoods will lead to an increase of families resorting to selling their children into situations of child labour and child marriage as a source of income.
“It is predicted that COVID-19 will directly cause more than four million girls to be married within the next two years and millions more men, women and children will fall prey to trafficking promising work and decent jobs. Migrants living in camps will also be at particular risk.”
For Freedom is now appealing to SIM mission workers to be aware of the trafficking risks in the communities where they work.
“By building awareness of what trafficking is and how traffickers trick people, at-risk communities are being protected. Sharing Jesus love in this practical way opens doors to be able to share the good news of Jesus welcome,” explains Sarah.
“Over the next few months, we want SIM mission workers to be our eyes and ears about how we can help them protect vulnerable people in their communities and stop traffickers from maximising the situation.
“SIM is already working, engaged in many practical ministries, including health, sports, church planting and education to name a few, so we’re already in a prime position to put practical protective measures in place to keep communities safe from the risk of trafficking following COVID-19.”
For Sarah and Karine Woldhuis as they lead For Freedom through this challenging season.
For those left vulnerable and desperate in the aftermath of COVID-19.
For the Lord to giver SIM entities and teams wisdom about how to keep vulnerable people safe in the communities they serve.
Five years after a wave of refugees and migrants came to Europe fleeing war and economic hardship, the chaos of a global pandemic prompted many to ask about the end times, says Peter Samir, who is joining SIM’s #HowWillTheyHear ministry.
“Questions were raised up among churches and Christians as to how to answer their questions during these uncertain times,” he says. But while the coronavirus crisis closed churches all over the world, Peter says God used his people to create thousands of home churches, discipleship groups and bible studies online and give Christians a new opportunity to point to Jesus.
“Religion is a great aspect in the life of Arab people,” he adds. “The coronavirus crisis has been a blessing as God wants us to use different ways to show all Muslims in Europe looking for hope in their life, that Jesus Christ is their greatest security.”
#HowWillTheyHear mobilises UK churches to share the gospel with migrants and refugees across Europe. It also trains and sends Christians from overseas to help and support local churches as they reach out to refugees with the gospel and raises leaders among new believers from Muslim Background Believers (MBBs).
Within weeks of the onset of COVID-19, Peter launched five online groups, which now number more than 120 participants from Greece, Holland, Turkey, Germany and Sweden.
He also provides books and videos online for local churches in Europe to distribute.
“People are more engaged with the online groups because they can be ‘hidden’ behind a screen and they are going really well, Some have even invited families and friends from their origin countries to attend discipleship groups online,” adds Peter, who has been working in Muslim discipleship since 1990.
He is now keen to collaborate with churches, organisations and Christians to help them reach out to refugees and migrants.
“If you don’t know the language, you’re welcome to bring your Arabic-speaking believers or even seekers, to join discipleship groups or bible study and attend some training to equip and prepare them to be able to start a group among their friends and share the gospel with their family.”
For families and young Arabic speakers in Europe to find their true way with Jesus.
Give glory to God as he uses online meetings for his good purposes.
For local churches to collaborate with SIM’s #HWTH ministry in reaching out to Arab speakers in Europe.
In the aftermath of the Beirut explosion, our ministry partners have significant financial support needs – both for their compassionate programmes as they reach out to others and for the repair of damaged facilities as they restore ministry capacity. For those able to prayerfully consider a gift, we recommend the following evangelical ministries with whom Serving In Mission partners:
Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development
LSESD seeks to reflect the love of Christ through inclusive education, relief and development, and equipping the church. It is currently providing food aid and other basic needs, including shelter for displaced families at the Baptist seminary. It is also making urgent repairs to the Beirut Baptist School, ahead of the new school year, and to a Christian bookshop. To donate
Heart for Lebanon
Working among refugee communities for many years,Heart for Lebanonworks to move people from despair to hope in Jesus Christ. They say: “We ask that you partner with us to help bring relief and hope to those who have been affected by the explosion. Your partnership helps provide food, hygiene items, security, life-sustaining essentials, and COVID-19 protection.” To donate
Resurrection Church Beirut
RCB seeks to make disciples for Jesus Christ through a range of outreach and compassionate initiatives. It is seeking funds to enable it to renovate houses that have been damaged, provide for those needing surgery or other hospital treatment, and to care for those who have been displaced. To donate
Lebanon Evangelical School for Boys and Girls
As a large evangelical school in Beirut, LES is seeking funds to ensure ministry continuity and development at a time of huge financial need, exacerbated by COVID-19 and by the recent explosion. The school is seeking to develop its online teaching resources and IT infrastructure. It is appealing for loans, as well as for gifts, as its reserves are inaccessible because of banking controls. To donate
This Is Lebanon
Serving foreign domestic workers, This Is Lebanonbrings Christ’s hope to some of the most marginalised, vulnerable and abused in Lebanon through practical support, legal advocacy and raising public awareness. To donate
The leading regional Christian satellite TV broadcaster SAT-7 is responding to the disaster through special programmes to complement the work of humanitarian agencies and local churches. It is appealing for gifts to support its team on the ground as it makes repairs to its Beirut studio and continues to produce and broadcast programmes directly in response to the crisis and support to its viewers. To donate
‘As a Christian studying for a degree in Social Anthropology, I spent a lot of time feeling nervous whenever Christianity came up in class. Within a discipline that focuses on a close study of cultures around the world, Christianity had a bad track record of quickly changing and damaging other cultures as soon as it interacted with them. It felt like colonialism and cross-cultural mission work were synonymous.
This meant that I was a little apprehensive when upon graduating, I began working for SIM UK. I had fears about a Western view of the gospel being projected upon the indigenous people mission workers often live amongst, and that a power imbalance between ‘converter’ and ‘convert’ would perpetuate colonial roles.
Every new staff member with SIM UK is required to attend the same orientation week we ask all new missionary candidates to complete. This not only allows staff to have a deeper understanding of the work our workers do, but also allows us to form friendships that deepen our prayerful care of them.
However, the scepticism built into me from my years of anthropological study was heightened when I saw sessions entitled ‘Entering Another’s World’ and ‘Living in a Context of Poverty’, and I was admittedly nervous to see how SIM UK guides its workers as they leave this country to go overseas.
To say I was impressed is an understatement. Almost every session in orientation had an element of culturally-relative teaching built into it, and attendees were consistently reminded to be aware of their own ‘cultural baggage’. The complicated and troubling history of international Christian work was not shied away from, but seen rather as something to address and overcome, and the people SIM workers try to reach were spoken about with dignity and value.
There was a strong emphasis placed upon always remembering how much the local people have to teach and give to western mission workers, rather than being seen as empty vessels in need of teaching and physical and spiritual care.
Experiencing the way SIM UK equips its workers quelled the fears that years of studying the worst impact of Christian mission had placed in me. There are absolutely still complications in carrying out the work of evangelism across cultures and SIM as an organisation continues to have room to grow, but the ethos of humility, inclusivity, and self-reflection I have witnessed so far in my role, give me great faith for the future of international mission work.’
By Ella McCorquodale
The massive explosion at Beirut’s port on August 4 has brought fresh devastation to the people of Lebanon. The blast left an estimated 4,000 wounded, more than 200 dead, and caused extensive damage to the heart of the city, with currently, as many as 300,000 people homeless, at least temporarily.
With the country already gripped by economic, financial and political crises, exacerbated by COVID-19, this latest tragedy could not have come at a worse time.
Following nearly a week of public demonstrations, Lebanon’s entire government resigned on August 10.
Yet in the face of this tragic, uncertain and dangerous context, the characteristic Lebanese resilience and community spirit has been evident, with many joining the massive clean-up operation and providing what support they can to the desperate and hurting.
Lebanese churches, including SIM’s ministry partners, are playing a vital part by holding out the love and hope of Jesus Christ as they respond to the overwhelming practical needs in their wider communities and in their own church families. Beyond the huge repair needs of broken buildings, shattered lives need rebuilding – on the rock of Christ.
• For the Lord to bring healing, mercy and restoration to the country of Lebanon.
• For the bereaved, injured, traumatised and homeless. Pray that their practical needs will be met and that they will find comfort, healing and hope in Christ.
• For the healthcare sector, which is already under immense strain because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and all others involved in ongoing rescue and clean-up operations.
• For the economic provision as livelihoods have been shattered – the port was crucial for the already battered economy, leading to new fears of food and medicine shortages.
• For a political reform process that will restore confidence and stability, establish accountable and transparent governance for the benefit of the peoples of Lebanon, and promote reconciliation, justice and peace.
• For the church as it reaches out with Christ’s compassion and hope – that it would speak differently, not along sectarian lines nor appealing to revenge, but holding out the Word of Life.
Our ministry partners have significant financial support needs to help make a practical difference to those in Beirut, as well as bringing Christ’s light in the face of destruction and despair. Find out how to give financial help here.
In the Bible, Josiah was made king at the age of eight and his faith in the Lord had a transformative influence on the nation of Judah.
At Serving In Mission, our motto is ‘By Prayer’ and we recognise the importance of the formative years of a child’s life as we strive to help everyone whatever their age, to pray effectively for communities who have never heard of Jesus.
We do not underestimate the power of a child’s prayer and many of our mission workers testify to the way God put mission on their hearts from a young age. Inspired by this, we want to open the eyes of primary school-aged children to the gospel needs around the world and help every generation join the movement of prayer for global mission.
Could you be nurturing a future mission worker? We’d love to help you do that with our new prayer resource for children – SIMpray Kids. From September, our monthly prayer email will feature stories from our own Third Culture Kids (TCKs) on what life is like for their families serving across the globe and illustrated with pictures or videos and points for prayer from the children themselves.
We’ll be travelling through some challenging terrain – from the desert regions of central Africa and south Asia, to the urban landscape of central Asia – and meet families serving remote communities in South America and even visit a family serving at a mission hospital.
There will also be activities on the SIM UK website for you to try at home – anything from colouring-in sheets, to favourite recipes from where the children are currently serving.
Our journey begins with a glimpse into the lives of Ellie May and Mim, who serve with their parents at Bingham Academy, a school in urban Ethiopia. Please join us on a journey of prayer around the world through the eyes of our TCKs and sign up to receive SIMpray Kids every month at https://bit.ly/SIMprayKids.
By Linda Hunt
One sure way to bring mission workers back home early is a lack of good educational options for their children and with the recent closure of the country’s only international Christian school, SIM Pakistan’s director says some mission partners are considering leaving if no solutions can be found.
“When I was a mobiliser in the SIM UK office, we were shown statistics of the places that have the most SIM mission workers. The personnel director pointed out that the one thing they all had in common was good provision for education of mission workers’ children.”
SIM’s Pakistan international team represents nine different countries and includes five families – with five more expected in the next two years. Most of the children are currently pre-school or primary age.
But the closure of Murree Christian School after 65 years has raised concerns about the future schooling of many missionary kids (MKs).
“Some families are having to relocate,” says the director. “Our deputy director and his family are moving, which is a huge loss to us. Others who had hoped to stay in Pakistan for A-levels are now having to look at studying in passport countries and some parents are considering moving their families home if no solutions can be found.
“We want to help our families stay serving in Pakistan and for their children to get a good education.”
The SIM team now plans to create an educational hub, using a combination of online and face-to-face instruction. The hub will have a classroom, a well-stocked library and outdoor space for play and learning, with accommodation for teachers and families onsite or nearby.
“We are developing a flexible MK education model where kids live with their parents and come together once a month for several days of a lessons and activities,” explains the director.
“Our vision is to have a small study centre in Rahim Yar Khan where children spend a week learning together, then spend the other three weeks learning back at home, boosted by online tuition and visits by a mobile tutor, who would travel to the different families to provide support and encouragement.”
The SIM Pakistan team is now urgently looking for two teachers: an education coordinator and a teacher-tutor, ready to start by September 2021.
“Our prayer is that our new format will enable families to serve in smaller, interior town and village communities where gospel needs are greatest,” says the director.
If you think you could educate children in Pakistan and equip families to stay where he has called them, please contact the SIM Pakistan director by emailing email@example.com
By Kerry Allan
The Lord will raise up an education coordinator and teacher-tutor to help parents continue in ministry and their children in learning.
For SIM workers in interior parts of Pakistan to keep sharing the gospel with love and boldness.
For MKs and their parents to trust God as he works out his purposes for their future schooling.
Coronavirus is continuing its spread across the world, with nearly 15 million confirmed cases in 188 countries and more than 600,000 deaths.
Now health experts are warning that in most of the world, the virus is not under control and countries with fragile health systems and a lack of critical medical supplies and equipment are at extreme risk if largescale outbreaks occur.
While prayer is our greatest need in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, many of SIM’s medical workers remain on the frontlines, motivated by the love of Jesus.
In response, Serving In Mission is raising vital funds to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and other basic supplies to a number of its medical ministry hospitals and partners in Africa, South Asia and South America, so they can effectively care for patients.
Donations to the COVID-19 Health Ministry Immediate Response project will be used to help health ministries receive immediate assistance so they can continue their crucial tasks as they serve on the frontline in countries with less advanced health care systems.
The range of ministries include essential medical and dental care; general surgery; community health care; care for people living with HIV and AIDs and laboratory and X-ray services.
The relief fund will provide critical medical supplies and equipment needed to treat COVID-19 — including help to cover the cost of paying medical staff during this time — and provide emergency supplies, such as food and hygiene items, to local communities.
For the sick to have access to the care and treatment they need.
The Lord to give strength and endurance to SIM medical staff and support teams extending Christ’s love to the vulnerable.
For the fund to continue helping SIM ministries in countries with few resources and fragile health systems deal with COVID-19.
Like many SIM workers, Sherilyn and Deane Grainger had to suspend their usual ministry – working amongst refugees and migrants in Palermo, Sicily – because of COVID-19.
The couple were forced to close the Gospel Hope Centre, where normally, refugees and migrants can drop by for food, clothes, Bible studies or just a friendly chat. The pandemic has intensified the struggle for survival among the refugees, who mostly come from West Africa, North Africa and Bangladesh.
“COVID-19 has ruined the local economy. The lack of tourism has affected many businesses and Sicilian people, so it is extremely difficult for refugees and migrants,” explains Sherilyn.
Sicily’s tight three-month lockdown kept non-essential workers within a 200-metre radius of their homes and they could only venture out for food and medical supplies. “Very few refugees and migrants were essential workers, so they had no means or money to pay the rent, or for power or gas,” adds Sherilyn.
And as lockdown restrictions continued, phone calls to the centre increased as desperate refugees and migrants struggled to feed their families once their work and income evaporated and they were denied any form of government assistance.
In response, the couple stored food supplies at their home so they could deliver relief parcels – each with a gospel tract included.
When the centre had a limited reopening in May, summer clothes were sorted and distributed and Deane was able to meet some of the regular men for discipleship and encouragement.
However, amidst fears of a second wave of the virus and uncertainties about further restrictions, it was decided not to renew the lease on the centre. However, the couple find this is creating new opportunities to show God’s love to migrants and refugees.
“Since the lockdown was lifted and without the centre, we now meet more people every day on the streets and in a cafe, getting contacts to distribute more food bags,” says Deane, who also provides biblical encouragement through weekly messages and videos via a WhatsApp group.
The couple are also able to share the hope of Christ while remaining socially distant through a Facebook page ‘Gospel Hope’.
On a personal level, the couple, sent by SIM New Zealand, are grateful their personal experience of lockdown meant extra time to study Italian and spend more time in reading God’s word and prayer.
And now summer has arrived, the beach is beckoning — with masks worn by order of the mayor — although it “does give scootering a somewhat clandestine look,” jokes Deane.
By Susan Beguely
For the Graingers to have the resources to continue demonstrating Christ-like compassion to those in Palermo.
For refugees and migrants to find a source of income and stay healthy during the pandemic.
That they will clearly see Jesus in their interactions with Sherilyn and Deane.
‘People of prayer’ and ‘Dependent on God’ are two of SIM’s core values and we are thankful for local churches who are pivotal partners for our mission workers, our ministries and vision to see each community able to respond to the gospel.
When COVID-19 lockdown restrictions prevented people meeting together in large gatherings, many prayer groups rose to the occasion by turning to technology to engage with each other and remain united in prayer – at a distance.
Many members of the Bangor Prayer Group are elderly and some are shielding, but they continued to pray for the work of SIM in their own homes.
“I try to keep in touch with them each week by posting out the various prayer newsletters and email correspondence I receive,” says leader David Thompson. “I also email information about COVID-19 from SIM and the messages from SIM International Director Joshua Bogunjoko. They enjoy his weekly devotionals and look forward to receiving them as these have been a great encouragement to them as they remain shut in.”
Other groups came together via video calling platforms to pray for SIM UK mission workers, as Andrew Mackie, of the Suffolk Prayer Group, explains: “One benefit of meeting by Zoom is that we have ready access to the experience and the ‘hot off the press’ news of missionaries stranded in the UK by lockdowns here and in the countries they serve.
“Another is that since those attending the meeting are already using their PCs or Macs, it’s easy to share visuals etc. on the spur of the moment, rather than having to ensure that the appropriate IT is attached to a television and that everyone is seated so that they can see the one screen in the room.
“One of our members is on the leadership team for a country where almost all of those serving had to leave early in the pandemic. We meet on a Friday afternoon and finish in time to allow that member of our group to make a cup of tea before their second catch-up meeting of the day with a team whose passport countries span 23 time zones.
“Therefore, even when UK regulations allow the group to meet face-to-face again, we will probably continue with Zoom at least until the regulations in that country allow the team to return. And we may continue longer by Zoom as we think of the good we are doing to God’s creation by not all getting in our cars to travel to our host’s house.
“However, the one downside of Zoom meetings is that we haven’t yet found a way to share the fellowship of all appreciating the same cakes and biscuits at our meeting!”
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25
By Kerry Allan
Give thanks that church fellowship transcends isolation and that prayer knows no boundary, quarantine or confinement.
Praise God prayer group members used alternative methods to fulfil the charge of Hebrews 10:24-5 when lockdown restrictions were in place.
Pray for wisdom as church leaders look forward to reuniting in fellowship as they consider reopening for public worship.
Following a pause owing to lockdown, construction has restarted on building a new training centre that will help SIM workers in a South Asian country reach more people with the gospel and create disciples in a country where Christians are in the minority.
Managing a socially-distanced building site is a challenge according to one of our mission workers, but basement rooms have been built and work is ongoing on the ground floor of the new three-storey building.
“We began this project in faith and it looks like we are almost 90 per cent there with the money we need to raise, but that leaves us needing approximately £20,000 more,” explains the SIM worker. “Also, one of the grants we have been promised is time-limited and contingent on us raising the rest of the money soon.”
The ministry is upgrading its facilities in the southern town of where it offers both a practical and spiritual lifeline to young men from poor villages, as well as a school, where children from all backgrounds get access to education in a Christian environment.
The new building will allow SIM to expand its youth vocational project, where illiterate young men learn a trade, such as tailoring, as well as study the Bible and learn numeracy and literacy skills
“More than 70 per cent of our graduates become established in their new field of expertise,” adds the SIM worker. “Many of these lads choose to join our church-planting programme after they graduate and go on to lead churches back home in their villages.
“But they are learning in temporary facilities that are not adequate to the task and the motorcycle mechanic students have nowhere to learn except outside, whatever the weather.
The new centre will provide space for the students to live and study and we can expand what we offer to include mobile phone repairing.”
The new building will also free up space to open a girls’ section of the school, so girls from rural villages can study as long as boys – up to age 16 – and a flat for one of the SIM team families to live on site.
“They can be involved in mentoring, discipling and supporting the students and staff living here,” adds the SIM worker. “The time seems right for this kind of spiritual and infrastructural investment, which will by God’s grace enable us to expand the discipleship ministry of SIM in cooperation with SIM-related churches throughout this region.”
If you would like to donate to this Project Centre, please go to www.sim.co.uk/donate(Project Number 98175).
By Kerry Allan
Praise God that he remains faithful as the SIM team copes with many changes over the past several months.
For the Lord to provide the funds needed to complete the building project.
That the SIM ministry will continue to bear fruit for years to come.
When SIM workers Peter and Claire-Lise Judkins first arrived in Castres, in the south west of France, they quickly set to work to help a small church plant be more effective at disciple-making.
“The church plant had started four years previously and had become a mixture of people at different stages of their faith – from those discovering the gospel and very new Christians, to followers who had been disconnected from church for a while (and were often emotionally damaged) plus a few mature Christians,” explains Peter, sent by Christ Church Balham.
“We were therefore keen to do more than meet up on Sundays and disciple this varied group of people making up the congregation,” he adds. “Since then, it’s been a huge encouragement seeing people’s responses when their previous beliefs are confronted by the Bible and we’ve been amazed to see God at work in people’s lives.”
One of them is Anne*, a teenager who was in her final year at high school and now studies English and Chinese in Lyon, with ambitions to become an interpreter.
“Coming from a Christian family, she already had many biblical notions, but struggled to understand God’s grace,” Peter recalls. “But after a few months meeting together (one-to-one and as a couple with her) we had the joy of baptising her last June – the church’s first baptism!”
Within weeks of beginning their ministry, Peter also started meeting up with François*, whose first question was: “Can you explain to me the Trinity?” And then: “I don’t understand prayer!”
The pair spent time together as François showed Peter around Castres and they read John’s Gospel together.
“François had always believed there was a creator God (‘a distant bearded old man’) but came to realise that God became man so that we could know him,” says Peter. “Over time, he recognised he needed to trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection to be made right with God. From not understanding prayer, he now prays out loud at church and encourages others to pray through our Facebook group!
“François is an example of how God uses intentional discipleship for a wider evangelistic purpose,” says Peter.
“He enjoyed reading the Bible so much that he suggested others might benefit from a smaller group interaction. So seeking to reach those on the fringe of church, we invited anyone who wanted to examine the claims of the gospel. This led to six of us reading through Mark’s Gospel and then a course, looking at the Bible’s big story.
“In particular, Maria*, who was from a Roman Catholic background and very defensive of her heritage, began to notice how some things she learnt as a child were not biblical, and that the gospel of grace was more beautiful than she realised.”
Looking to the future, the church plans to multiply its discipleship groups so Peter and others can walk alongside people at different stages in their faith, in a way they are not able to on a Sunday gathering.
“After many administrative hoops to jump through, we were finally told that we can open up our building as a public meeting place.
“This means that we can now fully use the building for our activities and fulfil our aim of making the gospel known in Castres.” *Names changed
By Kerry Allan
Praise God for the transformative work of the gospel in people’s lives.
For wisdom as the leadership team works out a longer-term vision for strengthening church-planting in Castres.
For the team’s vision to help build up the body of Christ through intentional discipleship.
With its diverse population of hundreds of ethnic groups speaking 120 languages and dialects, it’s no surprise that Chad is sometimes called the “Babel Tower of the World”.
It also has more unreached people than any other African nation and why SIM UK member Sam has been learning Daju – the language spoken by many people in the remote area where he’s living – enabling him to make friends so he can tell them about Jesus.
Sam and wife Katie, who grew up as Missionary Kids (MKs), have a passion to share the good news with those who’ve never heard it, but as Sam explains: “There are lots of people willing to do this in Europe, but not willing to do it in places like Chad.”
There are many challenges for the family living in this impoverished region, which gets just four months of rain a year and daytime temperatures regularly above 30 degrees Celsius.
Although the family live in a reasonably western-style house (home for most people is a mud-brick house with a tin roof, or a straw hut) they only get an average of about 30 minutes of running water a day.
It’s enough time to fill up a water tank, but when the pipes are out of service, Sam has to resort to filtering precious rainwater.
“The most obvious challenge living in Chad is that it’s quite remote and hard to get from here to the rest of the world,” he adds. “We also have a terrible internet connection, which sometimes makes it very difficult to communicate with the outside and from a health perspective, we have to travel hundreds of miles just to get an X-ray, for example.”
With Chad’s proximity to Sudan’s Darfur region, Sam is also mindful of the potential threats of national instability, the kidnapping of foreigners and carjacking.
“We try to use common sense, not take unnecessary risks and get advice from others alongside entrusting ourselves to God’s protection,” he says.
As part of his ministry with SIM UK, Sam travels to rural villages with at least one Chadian because they have a deeper understanding of what’s going on and can vouch for him. “Sometimes it’s really useful to be partnering with a local who knows what’s going on more than we do,” he explains.
However, driving in Chad is inherently dangerous because of the poor state of the roads.
“We always have a reasonably high risk of car accidents because there’s no tarmac and the roads are horrendously bad with rock, sand and gravel. Last year, we had a car accident while heading to our ministry location. We were driving off-road and a cow walked into the road and I swerved,” he recalls.
“The car rolled over, which can easily happen with four-wheel drives and as were about to tip over, I was afraid of what might happen.”
But despite knowing that he is serving in a very high-risk, low-safety environment, Sam has no fear.
“God sent us here and is providing for us as we face the challenges of bringing the gospel to people who live in a place where it’s really difficult. Also, SIM has the resources to help us when things go wrong, ensuring we have insurance to deal with evacuation and medical expenditure.”
The couple have spent most of the past 18 months learning Chadian Arabic and becoming part of the community by helping them in practical ways.
“That’s an easy one for Katie because she’s a vet and there are lots of people here who own camels, sheep and goats,” says Sam.
“We’ve been building relationships with one village treating the animals for parasites and we want to develop this work to allow conversations about Christ to flow more naturally.”
For Sam, who describes himself as an “old-school missionary”, he spends as much time as possible building relationships and visiting friends, contacts and dignitaries.
God sent us here and is providing for us as we face the challenges of bringing the gospel to people who live in a place where it’s really difficult.
“I make friends with people; talk about Jesus and what’s in the Bible and respond to any questions.”
He will soon take on a new role leading SIM’s Faithful Witness team to serve among eastern Chad’s desert people and to eventually establish a local church.
“Faithful Witness is all about sending people to places where there’s not been a missionary presence and we fit that bill because we’re in a totally unreached area with a brand new team,” he says.
“Getting mission workers is difficult as Chad is not an easy location, so SIM’s capacity to send people has really strengthened what’s going on here and it does that by supporting other organisations,” he adds.
“We have this challenge before us – to bring the gospel to people who live in a place where it’s really difficult and there are few mission workers – but we trust in God and we’re confident that if we’re faithful to what God wants, then fruit will happen.
“In the long term, it’s amazing that we get to be part of establishing a local church here. It will have lots of ups and downs and we may even not be here by the time that church gets started, but fruit will happen and it will be partly because of what we do and that’s really exciting.”
By Kerry Allan
• For more workers to be raised up who are eager to share the gospel in Chad.
• For the Lord’s protection on Sam and his family.
Windows of Hope Zimbabwe in collaboration with Serving In Mission’s For Freedom anti-trafficking ministry recently held an awareness campaign and training for residents in rural areas affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Freedom’s COVID-19 response is an integrated, holistic approach programme to protect and prevent those most at risk of being trafficked and exploited and is a major partner of the Windows of Hope ministry.
Volunteers in the Chiredzi district were also supplied with branded face masks and hand sanitisers to enable them to to conduct safe home visits to critical clients who need urgent interventions during the current coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking during the event, district coordinator Mrs Susan Mutendadzamera said the project would go a long way in enabling and intervening in all forms of human trafficking and exploitation within the Chiredzi community.
By Kerry Allan
For discernment for SIM teams across the world as they build protective strategies into their ministries to keep at-risk communities safe from exploitation.
Praise God for the work of Windows of Hope Zimbabwe to care and support people in the aftermath of COVID-19.
For local churches to reach out to the vulnerable in their communities.
“As in most relationships here, it doesn’t take long for religion to come up in workplace conversations,” explains Barry*, a businessman who is sharing the good news with non-Christians in Egypt.
“As soon as I arrived many years ago, I found sharing the gospel much easier than I thought – not only through my work, but also in everyday encounters with people like the grocer, barber or taxi driver and in evenings spent playing backgammon with friends.
“I often heard endless presentations about why I should become a Muslim and I, in turn, shared the hope of eternal life through faith in Jesus,” Barry recalls.
Years later and Barry still makes the most of every opportunity to share the gospel. However, he has learned there is no easy fix when it comes to discipling new believers in the community-oriented culture where he serves.
Not long after starting his business, Barry employed Amgad*.
“Amgad grew up in a Christian home in an area where there was very palpable discrimination and violent persecution against the church,” explains Barry. “This made it hard for him to share his faith, or even care about Muslims, who are driven to convert others to Islam.”
In spite of the threat of being discriminated against, or becoming a victim of mob violence, Amgad has matured in his faith and today has a sense of security that means he is more confident in opening up his heart to non-Christians thanks to his and Barry’s ‘mutual discipleship’.
As Barry explains: “Every day we have lunch together, then read the Bible and discuss it. Amgad is now more mature in his faith and enjoys working with me as we look to make the most of every opportunity to show the love of Christ.”
As part of a small, multi-ethnic SIM team, Barry says it’s important that each one uses their unique gifts to serve within a broader ‘family’ of believers, which is so foundational to Middle Eastern cultures.
“For an Egyptian Muslim, the biggest obstacle to professing Jesus as Lord is the certainty of losing his or her community – the broader ‘family’ that is the air a person breathes in this inter-dependent culture,” he explains. “The SIM Egypt team believes it’s not enough to share the good news without also being an alternative family to those who lose theirs because of their faith in Jesus.”
By Kerry Allan
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. – John 17: 20-23
Give thanks for Barry and Amgad’s passion to share the good news through their business dealings.
For the SIM team to grow and continue building a ‘family’ for new believers.
For God’s continued protection for believers from non-Christian backgrounds.
“Holding on to memories of a place once called home and knowing things have changed since, can be a challenge,” says Josh Gibson, who has produced a powerful video from the perspective of a Third Culture Kid (TCK) growing up overseas.
In 2000, Josh, aged three, moved to Burkina Faso with his sister and their parents, Mark and Cheryl Gibson, who were serving with SIM UK. Josh also spent some time at boarding school in Niger, before the family returned to the UK in 2015.
“Friends often find it difficult to understand when I talk about my upbringing, which consisted of living on the edge of the desert in 50-degrees Celsius heat with water shortages, daily power cuts and the threat of terrorist attacks,” says Josh.
“This was all part of normal life for me, but it’s difficult for them to relate to as they will probably never see where I grew up. They know me now, but there’s a part of me they can never understand.”
The 23-year-old made his video, A Different Time, while working towards his degree in Theology and International Studies at All Nations Christian College in Hertfordshire.
The video features snapshots of Burkina Faso as Josh delivers a poignant poem about his experiences and memories.
“I think the hardest part is not the memories themselves, but it’s searching for the box of memories and realising how far under the bed it is hidden, and how far away that world has become.”
His video has also resonated with many TCKs around the world, who admit to forgetting or dismissing memories and experiences of their multicultural childhoods as they struggle to fit into adulthood ‘back home.’
“Sometimes it’s important to remember, even if it hurts,” insists Josh. “It’s learning to let go, whilst not forgetting and that there was a time for that and now there is a time for this.
“I don’t expect others to understand, but it’s remembering that God understands; God has seen, he was there. He’s collected those memories – the good ones and the tough – and that’s more than okay; that is enough.”
Mark and Cheryl Gibson currently work for SIM UK as the Mobiliser for Wales and our TCK Coordinator, respectively.
For TCKs to know they are just as important to God as the people group(s) their family is serving.
That many TCKs will be encouraged by Josh’s video not to dismiss and forget their childhood experiences.
That God will make it clear how Josh can use his videography skills after he graduates.
Doctors Ted and Rachel Watts, along with their two young sons, are living in Mandritsara in northern Madagascar and serving with SIM UK at the Good News Hospital, part of a project that seeks to make the good news of Jesus known in this rural part of Africa and beyond.
Like almost everywhere else in the world, the Madagascar government put stringent measures in place to try to limit the spread and development of COVID-19 and the Good News Hospital was no exception.
The hospital’s senior surgeon Ted, who is sent by Beeston Free Evangelical Church, Nottingham, took this photo (below) of the hospital entrance, where a temporary triage centre was set up to screen all new patients for coronavirus symptoms and if necessary, send them to a newly-created “red zone” to isolate them from other patients. “The ‘rainbow in the clouds’ is a wonderful reminder that in these days of turmoil in the world, God is on the throne,” says Ted.
However, despite the impact of COVID-19, the team give thanks that work to prepare the ground for a new theatre complex went ahead and a ceremony was held in May to publicly commit the building project to God in prayer.
The new building will include three major and one minor operating theatres; four consultation rooms and a new recovery and intensive care unit. Once built, the new block will offer better medical care for patients, as well as provide facilities to train local Malagasy surgeons and ensure the long-term sustainability of the hospital and its gospel witness in Mandritsara.
For everyone involved in the Good News project to know God’s presence and sustaining power through these uncertain times.
For God to bless Rachel’s plans to identify children in need of help through a new malnutrition screening programme.
That building work on the new surgery block would progress well and for the remaining funds needed to complete this project.
SIM UK director Steve Smith reflects on the challenge of the COVID-19 crisis to our mission through the lens of how the gospel first came to the early Christians and went out across their whole region.
MINISTRIES WILL EVOLVE
As every nation of the world responds to COVID-19, churches and mission teams also need to respond to our times with confidence and resourcefulness in faithful witness to the hope we have in Christ. The chaos surrounding coronavirus has forced all of life – businesses, schools, families and churches – to adapt to a ‘new normal’ and varying degrees of enforced lockdown. Wherever we are in the world, the communities we serve and the ministries we undertake are in uncharted waters.
Colossians 4:2-4 One of the most striking lessons from Paul’s imprisonment is how he still sought to get the gospel out to people and to make the message known to people with clarity – even under house arrest.
To be effective and relevant, our ministries, priorities and structures must be subject to ongoing evaluation and understand the times we are in – let’s use all the social and digital channels available to share the gospel hope and learn how to love each other in new ways.
PRESENT BY PRAYER
1 Thessalonians 1:2-3, 6, 8– The Holy Spirit showed extraordinary power in the hearts of the early Thessalonian believers through seemingly ordinary means.
As Paul reasoned with them from the Scriptures, the Spirit was at work in their hearts to give them conviction that the gospel is true. The way Paul prays for the church shows whose power is at work in their lives. Fill a heart with Christ’s teaching and passion for the lost, it will beat to a different drum to the world around us. This requires God to be essentially present, but not necessarily us.
Even from prison Paul persevered in prayer for believers and unbelievers alike and worked with renewed energy for the spread of the gospel and the strengthening of the church. He was convinced God is at work when people receive the gospel and when the message of faith goes out from them.
We don’t have to be physically present for this to take place – all it takes is the work of God’s Spirit through the message of the gospel. While we are wrenched from each other, let us give ourselves to prayer and expect great things from God.
TOGETHER IN CHRIST
Many individuals and families will be self-isolating together or alone during the peak of the pandemic. This provides a unique opportunity to stay close online or in-house – to build family identity and team togetherness in Christ and invest spiritually in our children, as well as in people around us.
For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. Colossians 2:5 show us that there is nowhere that God is not present, and the eternal purposes that he has realised in Christ continue to come about – even through the gravest of trials.
HEARTS OF HOPE
1 Peter 3:15 How we approach Christ in our hearts will shape how respond to our times. Jesus’ promises about his enduring presence go hand-in-hand with our involvement in the global spread of the gospel. He remains trustworthy in the eye of the storm, as much as by the calm of still waters.
In testing times, we need to give time to intentionally honour Christ in our homes, prepare ourselves to share gospel hope across barriers newly drawn, and learn to love people according to their changing needs. But in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience.
This calls for great ingenuity. It’s important we do our best to minimise the spread of the virus and protect ourselves, our families and our communities. We also want to maximise the spread of gospel hope at this time of hopelessness for many who face real danger of disaster and death.
STRENGTH THROUGH WEAKNESS
In such a time as this, we are made more aware of our weaknesses than ever. This is just as true for a church-centred mission organisation as it is true of a local church on mission. God’s word is not in self-isolation. Jesus’ face radiates the light of the knowledge of God. Giving ourselves in sacrificial service – fragile as we are – this is the way of life Christ calls us to.
2 Corinthians 4:7-9 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
I pray that the love we show for the people around us will increase with knowledge and discernment – evaluating ministry priorities to best respond to our times with creativity and courage – offering fellowship online; volunteering our help for those in particular peril and repositioning resources to best serve people’s greatest need. In these and other ways, we must adapt not just what we do, but the way we do it, so that we take the best course of action to remain fruitful in Christ’s service.
Loving your neighbour is one way to fulfil the Great Commission, but sometimes this involves stepping outside your comfort zone, says Justin Agnes, who served with SIM in South Sudan from 2009 to 2015.
‘Do you know that feeling of letting go of the river bank and being taken with the current – the panic of realising you are not in control, but then relaxing into it and enjoying the feeling of being carried along?
That’s a bit how it’s felt for me since I started the Living Room in April 2019.
I was introduced to Les by a mutual friend at church on our return from South Sudan in the summer of 2015. When I first met Les for coffee, he told me it was the first time he had been out of his flat for five days and his eyes were bloodshot and his hands shaky.
I was well out of my comfort zone, but with each encounter, we got to know each other better. Behind the rough exterior was an intelligent, compassionate and humorous man and Les has become one of my most valued friends.
Over the next few years, we settled into a pattern of shopping together on Mondays; housework on Thursdays and a visit on Sunday to read a few Bible verses and pray. Les said he wanted to start following Jesus some time in 2017.
At his 58th birthday, he introduced me to several of his friends and my eyes were opened to the hidden masses in our city, who live alone and struggle daily with the torment of poor mental health.
At the same time, I learned about the imminent closure of a mental health drop-in centre where Les went two days a week. I couldn’t help thinking, surely it wouldn’t be too hard to organise a day of activities for Les and others like him?
Fast forward a year, and the Living Room is a thriving group of 12-15 people, who meet each week in a local church to enjoy board games, discussion, an art activity and an obligatory homemade soup lunch!
A highlight for everyone is exhibiting their work at the end of each term – more than 40 people came last Christmas and the group were rightly proud of what they’d achieved.
At the end of our meetings, we have an optional devotion and prayer time. Each week, more people are staying and their growth in interest and faith is evident – even those who have previously declared themselves to be ‘anti-religion’. It’s such a thrill when someone prays for the first time or shows the first glimmers of understanding.
I feel every bit as much a missionary now as I did when working in South Sudan. It is just that in this instance, the unreached are right on our doorstep – so close, in fact, that most people don’t even notice they are there. ‘
A passage that has been important to Justin in this work:“What do you think? If a man owns 100 sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the 99 on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the 99 that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”Matthew 18:12-14
Give thanks for the way members of the Living Room were able to stay connected through the coronavirus lockdown.
For Justin to build connections with local churches and help them to better serve this neglected part of their community.
Give thanks that each group member appreciates being part of a caring family and is being encouraged in their journey of faith.
Being caught in a pandemic and unable to serve in the usual way, Sarah Dorman is happy staying at home and to use these unprecedented times to improve her language skills that will help with her youth ministry once it resumes.
While the coronavirus crisis forced many mission workers to return the UK, Sarah Dorman, (right) decided to stay in Ethiopia, the country she loves.
Sarah’s first trip to Ethiopia was as a teenager, when she joined a SIM UK short-term summer team. She then did a summer placement; a gap-year-programme and an Immerse internship.
Now a fully-fledged member of SIM UK, sent by St Andrew’s Church, Oxford, she moved to Mekelle – one of the country’s regional capitals and largest cities – in October 2019.
“Moving to Ethiopia has definitely been one of the best decisions in life that I’ve ever made,” says Sarah, 26, who spends most of her time at the Mekelle Youth Centre (MYC), where each day, hundreds of youngsters attend English and computer classes, Bible club programmes, play sport and hang out in their spare time.
A few months before Mekelle declared a state of emergency in response to COVID-19, Sarah launched a new initiative aimed at ‘street boys’, who have come to the city from across the region with several coming from as far as Eritrea.
“The boys, aged 10-18, come and play football, then we meet, have an English class and afterwards share tea, bananas and bread,” she explains. “The boys started to trust us and come to the youth centre after hearing how we’d helped a street boy who had suffered a serious burn injury. The programme soon expanded to include shoe-shine boys and boys doing day labour work.
“In English classes, we started by going through the alphabet and learning different greetings and numbers. In just a couple of months, we met around 70 different children, four of them girls, and around 18 turning up each time.
“We were getting to know them and they were slowly starting to share more about their lives with us, but then the centre had to close because of the virus.”
The pandemic also meant the usual MYC summer programme was cancelled, which is the centre’s busiest time of the year, when it’s not unusual for up to 1,000 youngsters to come by each day.
“The youth centre has now been shut for nearly three months and it’s still hard to walk in and not see hundreds of children running around hanging out and playing sport. We see a number of them when walking around Mekelle and we’re regularly approached with hope and the question ‘when will MYC open?’, ” says Sarah.
In the meantime, staff have been doing various jobs around the youth centre and recently had the opportunity to start working with a school in the city, which is currently hosting a large number of street children and vulnerable people in their classrooms.
“We are able to do programmes there as it is private property as opposed to a public facility (which MYC is). After being approached by the headmaster, our staff have begun some sports and health education programmes with the children there several times a week.”
And despite the disruption, Sarah remains positive and is taking the opportunity of lockdown to spend more time learning Tigrinya – Ethiopia’s most widely spoken language.
“Learning the language is really hard work,” she admits. “Although I can understand a lot of conversations, I struggle with contributing, so, I’ve been focusing on learning how to put sentences together and use different tenses.
“I’ve been taking Bible stories and translating them into Tigrinya and also using children’s story books in Tigrinya to practise reading, speaking and translating. My teacher Gerray (right) is great and feel like I’m making progress.”
Sarah hopes that when the youth centre reopens, her progress in Tigrinya means she’ll be able to communicate even better with the children and young people. And thanks to new technology, Sarah never feels far away from her friends and family back in the UK.
“One of things I do to stay in touch is send birthday cards,” she says. “It’s a helpful way of thanking people for their support and those with children love it, it’s always fun getting post from Ethiopia, even if it doesn’t always arrive on time!”
By Kerry Allan
For God to give Sarah continued perseverance and patience as she learns Tigrinya.
For Ethiopia as it deals with the coronavirus outbreak and that the measures in place help to reduce the number of cases.
For the street and shoe-shine boys to return to the programme when it restarts.
Within months of arriving in Nigeria, the coronavirus pandemic forced Paul and Tricia Todd, sent from High Kirk Presbyterian Church in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, to be confined to their compound.Here, the couple share how they and others have used their God-given gifts to adapt to the challenges of community living in lockdown.
Tricia Todd writes:
Two months ago, we were told to expect lockdown as the coronavirus had started to make an appearance in Nigeria, so I started to buy a few extra items and then put some things into the freezer, in preparation for the stay-at-home order.
The lockdown meant that there were no gardeners, or house helps allowed and then the news came that the schools would not reopen after the Spring break, meaning children on the compound were no longer allowed to attend Hillcrest School in Jos.
After a few people from other compounds came to live in empty houses here to avoid being isolated, we started adapting to a new way of living so we could best support one another.
As a teacher, it started with the issue of schooling. When Hillcrest decided to have online classes, we set into action. With the help of Jenny, an SEN classroom assistant, we set up a schoolroom. The children came to school each morning and we supervised their learning, making sure that they understood what was being asked of them, as well as making sure that work was in on time. Before long, people who were gifted in art, crafts, cooking and sports, all got involved and we had a whole day of school!
Everyone living on the compound waited two weeks to make sure we were clear of the virus, before starting to meet together. We decided to hold church on Easter Sunday with a potluck afterwards. Those gifted in music and singing led and someone preached.
We so enjoyed worshipping together, that we have continued our Sunday morning services each week, with different people leading and preaching. As we have two Nigerian families on the compound, we also have worship ‘Nigerian style.’
As time went on, we started helping one another. As a new mission worker, I was unsure of some of the techniques of preserving food that was in season and so my neighbour showed me how to can tomatoes and beetroot for the months ahead.
Someone on the compound can make bread and so we are all learning how to do that – some better than others I might add, but it has been fun learning and experimenting. The mission maintenance man is on the compound and so we are making sure that our houses are rainproof and anything that needs to be fixed is being fixed! Someone is good at sewing and is helping others to use a sewing machine to make clothes. One of the ladies decided to start a Bible study for the ladies on the compound and that has been a real blessing to us as we grow in our faith.
What about exercise? Well, we have a large court in the middle of the compound for basketball and tennis and you will see people out in the mornings or evenings, walking around and during the day, the children are playing on the court as well as cycling around it.
We have had pizza nights and evenings watching a DVD together – making sure that we are all together and able to chat with one another and support each other when we are feeling low.
In the beginning, when we were limited to getting out of the compound and needed fresh fruit and vegetables, we were able to have our own delivery service – one of the ladies knew one of the market sellers and we placed an order and it arrived at the gate, where we picked it up and paid the man. We also have people coming with meat, eggs, granola, bread, English muffins, gas, and then if we can get out, someone will go for others on the compound for supplies. It’s like an extended family.
As for our ministries – for some, they are continuing as we work from home and keep in contact with people by email, WhatsApp and ZOOM. (We just had a really special SIM Nigeria prayer meeting using Zoom to bring together most of our missionaries in Nigeria or on home assignment). For others, they have had to adapt to helping in the compound and learning new skills.
As I think of the body of Christ, I feel that we on the compound are like that. Each of us is needed to help and support one another and as we use our gifts, we are building each other up and encouraging each other as we live alongside each other.
Paul Todd writes:
One of our colleagues keeps writing about how we now have the time to read books, think, and pray. I’m not sure just where she is finding that mysterious element called ‘time’, as I am as busy as ever.
Before returning to Nigeria, I had spent about nine years seconded from SIM Nigeria to work with Africa Christian Textbooks (ACTS) where I am the publishing director. Most of that was done by working from home – a spare bedroom in our house in Northern Ireland.
When we returned to Nigeria in 2019, some of that work had to take a back seat, as I have been filling in for the home assignment of our personnel coordinator, as well as being deputy director for SIM Nigeria. It has been a steep learning curve dealing with all of the comings and goings of missionaries and working on recruiting and placing new folks.
With lockdown, I am once again working from home – this time in our house in Jos. Apart from some limited personnel work, I have tried to get caught up on some editing and preparing for lectures via the internet at the Jos ECWA Theological Seminary (JETS) summer school.
So far, I have two books ready for cover design and printing. There are two to three others still in the works and I have a lot more to do with lecture preparation. Hopefully, we will have the funds to print the books when we can function more normally. The postgraduate dean at JETS also sent me an MA thesis to mark, which I’m busy working my way through – I spent this afternoon checking the student hadn’t plagiarised his work. He is in the clear on that one. However, as for his writing style and grammar..!
And of course, there are all of the routines of just living here. We have had to pick up some chores that we would have normally asked our house help to do. We are currently allowed off our compound four days a week and on one of those days, I take our single girls out shopping as none of them have a car. Another of those days I usually head to one of my three workplaces – the SIM Nigeria office, JETS, or the ACTS Bookshop HQ. I also share in the preaching at our Sunday morning compound service alternating with another colleague.
How long is this likely to go on? While community transmission of the virus is growing in Nigeria, people are getting tired of the lockdown – and some have never paid it any heed in the first place. So, there is more pressure to go back to work.
Many Nigerians are day labourers needing to earn money every day just to buy food for that day. Food prices have risen sharply, in part due to all the restrictions trying to slow down the spread of the virus. So, folks are hurting and the authorities seem to be recognising that they need to relax the restrictions, despite the numbers being infected.
Perhaps by July or August, many of the restrictions will be removed – but then the big challenge will be as to what we can safely resume doing and where we can safely go. With the virus still spreading, in some places quite rapidly, we will have to come up with ideas of how to do ministry in a potentially unsafe environment as we can’t isolate ourselves on our compounds when the rest of the country is trying to get back to work.
By Kerry Allan
Pray Tricia’s home school will continue to be a real help to both children and their parents.
Pray for the ACTS management as it seeks to survive in these difficult times.
Pray for wisdom about how to resume ministry safely once lockdown restrictions are lifted.
Caring for those who are suffering provides a unique opportunity to share the love and compassion of Jesus Christ. Responding to physical need through health-related ministry is a core component of Serving In Mission’s role to reach out to communities where he is least known.
Two weeks after the first COVID 19 case was confirmed in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, the government declared a national health emergency and there were hefty fines for those found to be disobeying quarantine orders.
Pharmacies, hospitals and health centres were allowed to remain open, but stories emerged about how one coronavirus patient was refused treatment after hospitals became concerned about scarce resources and overcrowding.
In Potosi, many medical centres closed their doors to new patients amid fears of transmissions of COVID-19, but Allinta Ruwana remained open as staff continued reaching out, not only with treatment, but with the gospel message and prayer.
This prompted one of the clinic’s patients to call a local radio station to let people know that they would not be turned away.
“This one call led to further mentions of the clinic on the radio, which has resulted in new patients coming to the clinic, many of whom have been open to hearing about Jesus and are open to prayer,” says Eleanor Clibborn, who has been serving with SIM UK in Potosi for the past two-and-a-half years.
“As this pandemic causes many to re-evaluate their thoughts about who or what they put their trust in, we as Christians have a real opportunity to witness through the way we live our lives and speak of the confidence we have because we have a sure foundation, a rock on which we stand.”
Click here to explore opportunities to serve with SIM UK in health care ministry.
For protection over the medical staff Allinta Ruwana as they strive to be salt and light.
Praise God that his light is shining through the medical team and that they would be able to speak of Jesus to many more patients.
Pray for churches as they unite to provide food packages to the population of Potosi and that previously hardened hearts will be open to hear the good news of Jesus.
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