I wonder what you think of when the words ‘next generation’ appear?
For me, it is both the children of today, who will become tomorrow’s adults; but also, the emerging world of technological, cultural and social developments that these young people immersed in a newly-digital world have created.
In SIM UK’s strategic review, the question weaving its way through many threads of listening and research, has been: What does the next generation of SIM UK look like? – both for the workers we send, but also the ways we equip, serve, and work with the UK church and mission members.
Generation Z (aka Gen Z) succeeds Millennials and refers to those born between 1995-2014. According to social scientists, Gen Z-ers are ‘digital natives’ and activists for development and improvement (as characterised by teen icons such as Greta Thunberg).
Generation Alpha follows on from Gen Z and refers to the first generation born entirely in the 21st Century. Early trends show digital ease and world-changing attitudes in Generation Alpha are only set to continue as technology becomes increasingly part of everyday life – already a large proportion of seven-year-olds able to code or use robotics.
When we match these attitudes and skills to the work of sharing the gospel, there are many exciting and creative possibilities of how the good news can be shared.
But we need to think how SIM UK will adapt to the rapidly-changing future, whilst remaining committed to its core purpose of sending and receiving workers who make disciples.
How can we use the gift of technology to mobilise and train digital natives?
How can we use the passions for social justice or the environment, alongside the sharing of the good news?
We long to see children engaged with mission from an early age, praying for communities around the world, or imagining ways they would want to serve Christ when they grow up.
That’s why in September 2020, we launched our monthly prayer resource SIMpray Kids in order to help the next generation pray effectively for gospel needs around the world, which you can sign up for here.
Becoming a Christian at university after the gospel was shared with me by a fellow student, whose family served in Nepal, helped mission awareness to be there from my first days as a believer.
How grateful I am that God led me from there to have the privilege of thinking about how SIM can best envision the next cohort of workers and supporters!
But it’s not just youth we see as the ‘next generation’. There are also those who have retired early – bringing a desire to use skills and experience from diverse careers – as well as many other interpretations of ‘next generation’, based on diverse vocations or backgrounds.
SIM UK would love to see others enabled to be the next generation by the removal of any barriers that currently make them think missions isn’t possible for them.
It’s already an encouragement to see members of the next generations sent to SIM teams around the world even during a time of pandemic.
However long they stay, may their experiences not only benefit the communities they serve and make disciples in, but also equip and envision the next generation to mission support and service – just like the fellow student who shared the gospel with me.
For the SIM UK review team as it considers how best to recruit, train and prepare future mission workers.
For God to be causing the children and youth in the UK church to consider their part in the Great Commission.
For our many next generation workers already in service, to be built up, developed, and used mightily for God’s purposes.
Despite travel restrictions and the challenge of raising support during a global pandemic, 27-year-old physiotherapist Kara B never stopped trusting in God’s perfect timing.
“Raising support during a pandemic when people had less financial security was very challenging, but seeing how God worked it out has really grown my trust and faith,” she says.
When SIM UK had to hold its summer orientation for new workers online, Kara took it in her stride and remembers it as a blessing.
“Being able to meet members of staff made me felt better connected to the organisation and I enjoyed learning about spiritual vitality and resilience as I waited to leave the UK,” she recalls.
“Throughout the months of uncertainty, I was also grateful for the support and encouragement of my church and for the prayers of my family, friends and SIM.”
Before leaving to join the SIM team in Ghana, Kara worked as a physiotherapist on the Covid wards at Barnet Hospital.
“God’s peace during my time of support-raising was a great blessing and doing virtual Bible study with some of my oldest friends during lockdown helped me process some of my feelings during the hardest months and maintain a healthy and consistent relationship with God,” she recalls.
Kara finally arrived in Ghana in January and although her new rural lifestyle is a far cry from bustling city life, she remains excited about pursuing her passion for cross-cultural mission during her two-year placement in community health ministry.
“After I arrived, I had to quarantine for seven days and after another negative swab, I was able to leave the compound.
“After two weeks, we then drove up to Tumu, where I’ll be living. It took two days and we drove through six regions and many villages, where I saw the lush green landscapes of the eastern region change to the dry charcoal dusted fields of the upper west region.
“My first impressions of Tumu were that it was larger than I expected and the goats and the sheep look alike! But the climate is so dry that it doesn’t just affects my body, but also the food.
“I know it will be a challenge adjusting to the climate, which will impact my capacity to do things, as well as life’s new speed, however, I’m looking forward to meeting new people, making new friendships and learning how to prepare local dishes.
“I’m also excited about understanding the culture more and joining in with what God is doing here. I’m learning the local language and I plan to go out every day to practise what I learn as I greet people and start a conversation with them.
“My work in community health education combines my health background with discipleship and I’m open to God using my fondness for youth work and creativity. My time in Ghana will also help me to discern if God is calling me to come back for a longer term.”
Art and poetry is an important outlet for Kara, who is sent by St Barnabas Church, north London, and much of the self-taught contemporary visual artist’s work is coloured by her deep Jamaican and Ghanaian roots.
“A good friend encouraged me to use my passion for art as one way of raising some support during lockdown and I found using my creative skills very liberating.
“Art is also a great tool for whilst I have a very basic grip of the local language and I can use it to bless others, as well as a way for me to process what God is showing me.
“This is just the beginning of my art journey and of course, my paints and sketch book have come with me!”
By Kerry Allan
For Kara to adjust and transition well as she joins the SIM Ghana team.
That new relationships will lead to good conversations and opportunities for Kara to share the gospel.
For Kara to be sensitive to how God wants to use her skills in Tumu; to bless his people and to draw them closer to him.
Over the past five years, SIM UK has seen how God has enabled us to fulfil our vision to work with churches to send and receive gospel workers who make disciples in communities where Christ is least known.
“In 2019, we began to start seeking God about what he’d have us do in the next five years – not realising the world was about to change as dramatically as it did in 2020!” says SIM UK’s Personnel Director Deborah Agnes.
“However, in many ways, Covid-19 has only emphasised the gospel needs of the billions who are living and dying without Christ around the world,” adds Deborah.
“The pandemic also opened our eyes to the opportunities – and limitations – of a world that’s digitally connected. We recognise we will only thrive if we understand what the next generation of gospel workers need in order to share the gospel in communities where Christ is least known.
“Over the past year, we’ve listened to our mission workers, staff, UK churches and partners,” adds Deborah. “We’ve had working groups looking at our service delivery and what we need to be aware of as we seek to send the next generation in mission.
“We all had to rethink so much, going through the trials of the pandemic, but we are hugely grateful to those who contributed ideas, returned surveys and were part of working groups.
“Whilst our vision is remaining the same, our strategic review is considering how we will respond to a changing world and stay well-placed to serve the church in its mission to the nations. There’s a lot more detailed work still to be done, but devising our strategic plan has proved a timely exercise and we look forward to sharing what main areas we want to develop over the coming five years soon.”
SIM UK’s recent move to a new base in Cambridge has also proved timely given the logistical and financial challenges of this year and we pray our new base will enable us to better connect across the diversity of the evangelical church and meet the needs of mission in the 21st Century. Our new address is:6 Trust Court, Histon, Cambridge, CB24 9PW.
For wisdom as SIM UK enters the next phase of finalising its strategic review.
Give thanks and praise for the opportunities the new SIM UK base will hold to work with all our partners in the months and years to come.
That SIM UK will continue to serve churches seeking to cross barriers with the gospel in places where Christ is least known and the church least resourced.
With more than seven million refugees in Europe, the HowWillTheyHear (HWTH) project has a passion to give people the skills they need to share the gospel with refugees living in their communities.
Despite the pandemic and Covid restrictions, HWTH launched a mission school in February for Muslim background believers (MBB).
HWTH wants to see more workers trained to be able to reach the refugees living among them and The Mission and Leadership Academy is aimed at three main groups:
New believers, those who want to get involved in missions among refugees and those already serving refugees.
When it opened, more than 80 registered Arabic and Farsi (Iranian background believers) students — from eight European countries — signed up and more joined in week two, including four men crowded around a single mobile phone in a refugee camp on the Greek island of Samos.
“The Mission Academy takes you on a journey to learn and gain new spiritual experiences and skills in the field of mission work, within the European context,” explains SIM UK mission worker and Arab speaker Peter Samir (right) who serves with the HWTH project and presents the training programme.
“Today is a real opportunity to discover who is the true God in the frame of freedom of worship and freedom of religious belief in Europe. There is a great general calling for Arab believers to share their faith and bear witness to God’s work for Arabs in Europe,” he adds.
Although all the weekly studies are online, students are also able to meet locally in person, to reflect on the main study themes of the four-month course:
Biblical dimensions of missionary work.
Cultural and anthropological dimensions in European society.
Challenges of the Christian faith in front of atheism and eastern religions.
Tentmaking and the financial independence of the missionary.
“With great feedback from the students, we pray they will know their calling and discover what the next step is for their lives,” says Peter.
For the pastors, leaders and teachers at the academy and those who are mentoring and supporting students in prayer.
For each student to use their training to reach more refugees and make more disciples by God’s grace and power.
The new potential mission workers will be a valuable resource to our local ministry partners seeking people to join them.
Fulani are one of the largest ethnic groups in west Africa with only a few believers among these traditionally nomadic herders.
Tambaya Ibrahim, a Bodaado Fulani, travels across Niger to preach to the Fulani and encourage new believers declaring: “God has called me to reach Fulani who had never heard the ‘habaru beldum’ (sweet news) and this dominates all my thoughts.”
I am a Bodaado Fulani. My father and forefathers are Wodaabe; all of them were cattle herders. I grew up in the bush. I knew only shepherding cattle – nothing else. As a child, I never visited a town, large or small. Sometimes, men might go to a town market, but children and women never went to towns. We only stayed in the bush.
I was born during the famine of 1974, when my people experienced much suffering, including the death of all our animals. Many lost everything. Within a week of my birth, my father was visited by Malaam T, a friend who was a Christian.
He brought the customary greeting for my birth and asked if he could pray for me. Although my father was a Muslim, he accepted.
Malaam blessed me and asked God to make me a worker for him.
Ten years later, during the second terrible famine, our people went to a large city to find food. There, two of my uncles met a mission worker, who explained to them the way of Jesus Christ. They trusted in Jesus that day.
From a young age, I suffered from terrible nightmares. My family thought these were caused by evil spirits and nothing could be done to alleviate these terrors.
On one occasion, I was taken to a traditional healer, who explained what must be done. My parents were away at the time, but when my mother returned, she flatly refused such a treatment. Then she prayed a prayer I will never forget, ‘Jesus, I trust you. You have saved me and my son. He is yours. If you choose to, you can cure him.’
She then took me to another town to see my father, who was now a believer.
While there, a SIM mission worker talked with me about Jesus and asked if I wanted to follow him. I trusted Christ that day. God removed evil spirits from me, and the nightmares stopped.
My heart was filled with joy and I began to follow Jesus.
I learned to read and write and loved studying. Some years later, a pastor observed my passion for learning and encouraged me to go to Bible school. This was God’s leading and I studied four years at a Fulani Bible school in Benin. God has called me to reach Fulani who had never heard the habaru beldum (sweet news) and this dominates all my thoughts.
I travel across Niger to preach to Fulani and encourage believers, finding great joy in working for the Lord; my life a testimony to how God is answering Malaam’s prayer for me at birth.
Courtesy of SIM’s AfriGO magazine
For the Fulani who have responded to the gospel, despite much opposition from their families and society.
For God to raise up more workers to be evangelists to their own people.
Give thanks that many people are coming to Christ all over the world and among communities where there were few believers in the past.
In 2016, SIM workers at our clinic in Doro, South Sudan, launched a maternity and family planning training programme.
The aim was to teach a vast and diverse community the importance of seeking safe reproductive health services, as well as reaching them with the good news of Jesus.
A total of 45 women have now been trained as reproductive health services promoters and are employed by SIM’s neighbouring health facilities to use their new knowledge and skills.
Many have also become believers through working in collaboration with the clinic’s chaplain during their training.
The diverse team at SIM Doro Clinic serves more than 150,000 people from within the local village and refugee camps.
The village of Doro was once a sleepy village in the middle of the bush, but today, hosts houses the largest refugee camp where more than 51,000 people are living – just outside the SIM clinic’s door.
Many living in other refugee camps around Doro, come from places that have in the past, been difficult if not impossible for mission workers to reach and seeking care at the clinic is the first time they have the opportunity to hear the gospel.
The clinic was started by Dr Bob Grieve in 1938. He and his wife, Claire, sought to serve the local Maban population with much-needed medical care.
They and their team also had a deep desire to introduce the Mabaans to Christ. Unfortunately, they were both killed in WWII when an Italian plane bombed the region.
The clinic was opened and closed a few times during the long 50-year civil war in Sudan and reopened its doors in 2008.
Currently, the clinic provides outpatient services including a very busy primary health care clinic, prenatal and maternity services, leprosy treatment, and a nutrition village that serves the needs of severely malnourished children.
By Kerry Allan
Support a clinic assistant with a week’s salary enables them to continue their work supporting those in greatest need. Click here for details.
Give thanks the SIM clinic cares for the physical and spiritual needs of more than 35,000 patients a year.
For funding to enable staff to provide round-the-clock maternity services to an expected increased population by September 2021.
For protection of clinic staff and patients from Covid 19.
It was the summer of 1987 and Samson, a Muslim, had just graduated high school and unbeknown to him, life was about to change in miraculous ways when a young girl called Veronica, introduced herself to him.
Veronica came from a devout Christian family and was part of the local Christian union, which was the ‘talk of the town’ as Samson explains: “We used to think the Scripture Union were the only faithful Christians in Nigeria. They were very dedicated, very Christ-like in everything they did.
“We respected them so much and said if you come from any other religion, don’t try to get a man or woman from their circle. But then one came my way.”
Veronica invited Samson to church and told him about Jesus. What developed was, in Samson’s eyes, a “holy, sacred friendship,” however, in the eyes of their parents, it was more a matter of forbidden love. “Me being a Muslim and she being a Christian was terrifying for them,” Samson shares.
Veronica adds: “It was so difficult because at first my mum was not happy, everybody was angry, asking ‘How can this be?’ There was a lot of fighting and arguments, but we kept on seeing each other.”
Surprisingly, it was Samson’s sister who tried to build a bridge between the families by going to Veronica’s family and saying: “If they love each other, I will fight for them.”
The church was also concerned about Veronica’s desire to marry a non-believer and it became a divisive issue with their pastor committing to fast and pray about their marriage.
Samson recalls him declaring: “The Lord says, ‘Leave them alone.’ He is behind this.” Sadly, for the couple, being left alone translated to being cast out and abandoned by the church.
However, eventually, the message of the gospel took root in his heart, and Samson professed faith in Jesus.
Since then, he’s attended Bible school and taken university courses in theology. He has led church plants and served as a pastor himself. Now parents to four adult children, they are preparing for the next chapter of their lives.
The couple plan to relocate to Thailand in late 2021 and will join a Faithful Witness team in a village that has little exposure to the gospel. Their two daughters, Eunice and Anne, will accompany them.
Eunice is 20 and has a passion for baking and dancing. She is studying international management and will continue her education remotely from Thailand. “Personally, I feel excited about it,” she says. “We are ready for new discovery and adventure; new beginnings in our lives as Christians and as members of SIM.”
Anne is 18 and the youngest (or as Samson refers to her, ‘the Benjamin’ of the house). She’s in her first year of university and wants to study communication and translation.
“I loved as a kid that my parents always talked about mission in their prayers. I’m now seeing it happen and I’m so happy and excited,” she says.
Samson and Veronica have jobs with an international school and between work and home life, they make time for Thai language learning as they try to raise funds for relocation, although this is proving difficult.
Veronica admits: “It’s challenging because you’ve been the one giving before and now you’re asking for help.”
But Samson stays positive and adds: “I’m not discouraged. I’m confident and tell my wife every day that the Lord knows what he’s doing. If he started it, he’s going to perfect it.”
And this perfecting is evident in how God is caring for details of the couple’s ministry in Thailand. The SIM team’s desire is to use sport as an outreach opportunity and Samson is an avid athlete, with table tennis, badminton, and volleyball among his favourites sports.
The family will receive a warm send-off from their Muslim relatives who recognise that something bigger is unfolding, says Samson: “They finally see that the Lord is behind it. It’s not at all by our power.”
While Covid and other lingering obstacles may seem overwhelming, Veronica and Samson are familiar with waiting on the Lord and submitting everything to him in prayer. And when doubt creeps in, they need only go back to the beginning to see God’s kindness on display.
By Amy Bareham Chapman
Plans to launch a surgical training programme in Madagascar are moving one step closer, as final ratification is expected by the end of April.
SIM UK member Ted Watts is the senior surgeon at The Good News Hospital in Mandritsara, and is spearheading an exciting vision that will ensure this vital medical mission continues for years to come.
The hospital plans to train local Malagasy doctors in partnership with PAACS — the Pan African Academy of Christian Surgeons — which exists to disciple African Christian physicians and train them to be surgeons.
With very limited training opportunities and fewer than 100 surgeons serving the island’s 26 million inhabitants, the hospital has always relied on overseas missionary surgeons
“While we do very much welcome both junior and senior doctors from the UK joining us for a short time, at the heart of our plan is looking to the future, when some years down the line, we’ll have local, Malagasy surgeons who are mission-minded and providing high-quality surgical care,” explains Ted, who is sent by Beeston Free Evangelical Church.
The five-year PAACS training programme would give Malagasy junior doctors a qualification equivalent to a surgical qualification from the UK and include a discipleship curriculum to enable graduates to be gospel-minded, as well as highly-trained in their medical skills.
As Ted explains: “Alongside teaching the junior doctors the knowledge and skills they need, we can also model and teach them to be surgeons who are compassionate towards those they treat.
“We want our graduates to be those who love Jesus and love to tell others about him — surgeons who take every opportunity that healthcare provides to share the good news.”
The programme has already been approved by the PACCS surgical council and the decision now needs final ratification by the PAACS board, which is due by the end of the month.
“We hope the programme will be a blessing to the whole country as graduates take this brand of highly-skilled, compassionate, mission-minded surgery to the furthest reaches of the island,” says Ted.
The Good News Hospital hopes to launch its PAACS programme in January 2022.
For rising Covid-19 numbers to be brought under control and God’s protection on hospital staff.
For God’s will to be done as the PAACS board meets later this month to make a final decision.
That the trained graduates would be surgeons who take every opportunity to share the good news with their patients.
By Kerry Allan
The Tamajaq (or Tuareg as they are often called in the West) roam across a vast area of the Sahara Desert, stretching from far south-western Libya, to southern Algeria, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, where the biggest group is found.
Also known as the ‘blue people’ – for their traditional indigo dye-coloured clothes – the Tamajak represent a Saharan offshoot of the Berbers, who have lived in north Africa for several millennia.
These mainly nomadic people herd cattle, camels, goats, and sheep, and live in family groups within tents of wooden poles covered with goat hide.
During the rainy season, they move camp every three to four days in search of grazing for their livestock and during the dry season, they move to find water, but prefer to stay in the vicinity of their ‘home territory’.
Translator Andrawes* and his wife joined the SIM Niger team in 1999, where he spent many years helping to translate the New Testament into the Tamajaq language.
Since then, Andrawes’ focus has been to help the good news take root in the heart of his people and to help remote believers grow in their faith by recording the gospel and making it available on SD cards to use on mobile phones and solar-powered Mega Voice radios.
“The Tamajaq live in an oral society, with an extremely low literacy rate,” he explains, “and being nomadic and semi-nomad, it’s easy to understand why probably less than ten per cent of Tamajaq people can read.
“They are used to hearing stories being told and listen intently, taking everything in; which is why we focus on helping them hear the good news in their own language so it can enter their hearts and make a real impact on their lives.
“We distribute micro SD cards and Mega Voice radios with gospel messages and the Tamajaq New Testament recorded on them; knowing these recordings will reach where we can’t go and be heard by hundreds, if not thousands of people, for whom this may be the only way to hear the good news about Jesus.
“We also proclaim the gospel through radio broadcast twice a week on national radio and people are listening to our programmes across Niger.
“We’ve received feedback from every region except one and listeners will call to tell us how much they appreciate the programmes – some even ask if we can make them more often and longer than the 18-22 minutes!”
The Tamajaq Ministry seeks to:
Share the good news of Jesus with the Tamajaq using audio and visual forms of communication.
Care for people’s health and help with community development.
Plant and strengthen the church among new believers.
Fifteen years ago, SIM helped set up a church in the main town nearest Tahoua (Niger’s fourth largest city) which is led by Andrawes’ friend, a Tamajaq pastor called Gad*.
Pastor Gad (below) regularly visits three villages on his motorbike, which was bought by SIM supporters, spending time building relationships and explaining the gospel.
“Our ministry focuses on the Tahoua region where most of my people live,” says Andrawes.
“We see our work as firstly, correcting some false misconceptions Tamajaq people have about the Christian faith, preparing minds and hearts for the gospel message to take root, and helping them to grow in their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Human needs are overwhelming in Niger’s poor and remote communities and why Andrawes also seeks to serve the Lord among the Tamajaq through practical support.
“Access to any sort of health care is almost non-existent and the nearest medical centre is up to 40 miles away and only accessible by a motorbike, or on a donkey,” he explains.
“Because of little faith in the health centre, coupled with lack of education and money for treatment, people tend to treat themselves with traditional medicine first – including prayers from the local Muslim priest. When this doesn’t work, for obvious reason, they travel to a medical centre, but by then, their body is weak and their system doesn’t respond well to treatment.”
Thanks to the generous giving of SIM supporters, Andrawes and his SIM colleagues run several community development programmes, including supplying farmers with millet from the SIM Grain Bank and providing one meal a day for schoolchildren in the poorest villages.
“Niger may be a hot place, but it can get relatively cold, especially for people who are not prepared for it, so last year, we also distributed blankets and soap to the two schools we are supporting,” he adds.
“We hope to be able to do more in the area of education, beyond just offering a daily meal, as we all know that education is the key to any social and economic development.”
“Malaria is also a huge health problem for the communities where our ministry is and abundant rain means more mosquitos. Since the flooding crisis of summer 2020, more people are getting malaria, especially children,” says Andrawes.
“After many years, we are now by God’s grace, seeing our work bear fruit,” says Andrawes, “and we are extending our outreach into the Agadez region, which is an exciting ministry opening for me. I recently joined a pastor from Agadez to meet a group of men who were very welcoming and said they were Christians. This is amazing and now these new believers need teaching to grow in their faith.
“We also have two projects planned, including setting up a Tamajaq-speaking Bible school and a regional Bible school.
“Planting and strengthening the church is our ultimate goal and although we’re unsure of what church will look like in a nomadic and semi-nomadic people, we give thanks to the Lord that he is working among the Tamajaq.” *Names changed
By Kerry Allan
Praise the Lord for Andrawes’ audio ministry in Niger and the gentle spiritual awakening, SIM is witnessing in the Agadez region.
Pray the church will strengthen among new believers.
For God’s provision of funding for Andrawes’ ministry. (Click here to partner with him, citing Project 962960).
When you pick a book, you’re not just reading words and punctuations – you’re travelling to places you have never been and meeting people you’ve never met before.
Many will tell you that a hunger for reading gnaws harder when you can’t find the right book. This is a hunger that mission workers Tony and Julia Mburu knew too well.
Biographies were a huge motivation for the couple during their discipleship training with SIM’s friends at the Kenyan organisation Mission Campaign Network (MCN).
Like hungry caterpillars, they devoured books such as The End of the Spear, For this Cross, I Will Kill You, and biographies of Amy Carmichael, Gladys Aylward and other brave mission workers.
These biographies, focused on taking the gospel to others and influenced the couple to become mission mobilisers, as the inspirational stories opened their eyes to God’s heart for saving the nations and their role in it.
From the outset of their ministry, they drew up lists of the best books they found, encouraging others to read them.
Many were dismayed and frustrated, however, by lack of access to these books. The couple therefore decided to source books for their friends, colleagues, and the people they were ministering to.
In 2013, they began selling books, soon discovering that selling to readers scattered around a country was not easy. As newlyweds setting out on life together, they did not have cash to rent premises, and they did not know a book supplier.
Their venture fizzled and their dream remaining untouched until 2020.
After they moved to Mombasa in 2017, a friend introduced them to a ministry supplying Christian books to booksellers and organisations in Kenya.
“The desire to get involved in bookselling was there, but we hadn’t fully grasped the logistics,” they said.
In early 2020, the coronavirus pandemic closed down the country for several weeks, causing job losses and pay cuts.
This also greatly affected the Mburus. Many of their supporters had little choice but to withdraw their financial contribution, while others significantly reduced theirs.
In no time, 40 per cent of their financial support had trickled away. They needed a fast solution, and the book idea was the first to come to mind.
People, now confined to their homes, had switched to shopping online, removing the previous obstacles of premises and distance.
Obtaining stock from a book supplier, they founded Bottomline Books in July 2020, with the goal of providing quality Christian books focused on discipleship and mission.
The name ‘bottomline’ is derived from the Kairos course’s training on bottom-line blessings; teaching that we are blessed to be a blessing – to spread the love of Christ.
Avoiding motivational and self-help books, Tony and Julia carefully select sound discipleship and missional books, biographies and biblical books for children.
Tony created a Facebook page and invited his friends to follow. His WhatsApp group has 196 participants and he uses the groups to market books, advertise new stock, and allow members to reserve books for purchase.
Tony takes photos of book covers to post with prices on WhatsApp and Facebook, where customers can order. Once payment has been made, the books are sent to a central pick-up point in various towns to be collected in person or delivered for a fee.
“Our goal is to build rich libraries in people’s homes, and we’re glad that we’re able to do that while augmenting our income,” he says.
Proceeds from book sales are used for MCN team ministry in Mombasa, to support other missionaries and for their own family needs.
By Mercy Kambura (This article first appeared in SIM’s AfriGo magazine)
For perseverance and resourcefulness for many missionaries facing the loss of financial support during the pandemic.
For new support channels to open for missionaries, ministries and churches so they may carry forward all God has called them to do.
For readers to be transformed by the books newly available through BottomLine Books.
The past year has been challenging, but give thanks to God that he is at work. No boundary, quarantine or confinement can stop the work of his hands.
It has been a great encouragement to us in the SIM UK office over the past year to read in the prayer letters of our mission workers, snippets of how God has been changing lives around the globe, using times of isolation, confusion and restricted travel for his glory.
Click here or on the image above to watch our video illustrating 12 months of pandemic praise. We hope it brings you as much joy as it has us.
SIM UK’s most important resource is its people and the reason it created a special team to support mission workers and families in their ministries — both in the UK and overseas.
Led by our coordinator Rob Eldred, the People Care team includes Cheryl Gibson as Family Adviser for families and TCKs (Third Culture Kids), and Phil Griffin as Health Coordinator.
“People Care is about building relationships with those God has placed in our care and in partnership with churches, we strive to ensure our mission workers and their families are equipped, cared for and able to grow throughout their mission service,” Rob explains.
“In sending people, SIM recognises the sacrifice and commitment of those sent cross-culturally to make disciples and we want to be good stewards of the people God has entrusted to us.”
Rob and his team provide online debriefs, crisis care and ongoing support for workers, plus training in areas such as resilience and burnout, as well as liaising closely with our mobilisers and helping during SIM UK’s orientation programme for new workers.
The People Care team was set up in 2018, dedicated to caring for our mission workers’ health; spiritually, physically and psychologically. The principles of People Care are:
A genuine and intentional concern for people.
People care is a whole organisational commitment.
People care involves working in partnership.
People care applies t every worker.
People care is a flow of ongoing care from recruitment to retirement.
Support during a global lockdown
The coronavirus pandemic meant many mission workers returning to the UK had to delay their return; live with the uncertainty of getting flights and then leave quickly.
“All this impacted the way people left, meaning goodbyes and endings were cut short and they did not leave how they had hoped to,” recalls Rob.
“This was tough on those leaving and those being left and the people care team, alongside mobilisers, offered debriefs as part of the ongoing care.
“Coming alongside people and allowing them to process and grieve these losses was a crucial part of people care during this time. Doing this in partnership with the sending church also enabled them to understand what the mission worker was going through and what ongoing care was needed.”
The People Care team offered ‘crisis debriefs’ for mission workers feeling overstretched as their workload increased and colleagues left the field during lockdown.
“Crisis debriefs gives the chance for the mission worker to talk to someone objectively outside of the situation, helping to normalise the stress going on and find healthy ways to cope and receive further support to sustain them,” adds Rob.
People care applies to all workers, including the children sent through SIM UK and the team seeks to ensure the whole family is valued and supported as they serve in mission.
Connecting with families was also high priority for the people care team throughout the pandemic,
“Our family adviser Cheryl initially sent resources around our families to help equip them, such as home-schooling ideas or coping with anxiety during lockdown,” says Rob.
“Continuous support was offered in the form of online debriefs for children; sending cards of encouragement, and regular catch-up meetings to help prepare the whole family to return.”
Despite the difficulties of this past year, Rob says it has been a joy to see candidates coming through the process and to be involved in equipping them to serve.
This has included running sessions during orientation, such as staying healthy, TCK support and resilience.
“Learning together is an enriching time not just for our candidates, but for us also!” adds Rob.
By Kerry Allan
For the People Care team as it offers support and care to mission workers and the mobilisation team.
That the team will continue to serve with God’s grace during 2021.
For People Care’s first re-entry seminar in March, aimed at helping those resettling in the UK, to transition well.
“Many Sunday School teachers want a story and a colouring page, but we wanted a creative, Biblical session that engages children and gives them good foundations for understanding the Bible correctly for themselves,” explains SIM UK teacher Mike who, has served in the Middle East with his wife Vicky, for 18 years.
When the couple moved to a new church in 2013, they offered to help run the Sunday School with the help of some of the local church members and asked TnT if they could translate its ‘Mustard Seeds’ children’s activity sheets.
TnT Ministries’ range of faithful and creative Bible teaching material has been translated into 12 languages and is used all over the world.
“The material was both Biblical and creative and worked so well that the children became more than half the church attendance!” says Mike.
“There’s everything you need for a 30- to 60-minute lesson, including Bible preparation and teaching plan; games, discussion questions, crafts and worksheets,” he adds.
“We then saw the need to train more teachers, but not all those willing to help were able to use the teacher’s material in English, so we asked whether TnT would be willing to embark on a full translation of the Mustard Seeds curriculum.”
Since 2016, Mike helped with the translation and the result is a dedicated Arabic web portal of the Mustard Seeds curriculum that gives free access to lessons covering an age range of 18 months to 18 years.
“We’ve only a few remaining series to be translated and the next important step is to have someone dedicated to promoting this resource and training more Arabic-speaking churches how to use it,” explains Mike.
“Everyone who’s tried it loves it and we’d like to get funding to employ someone locally to visit churches, offering training and helping them make the most of the material.
“The feedback from our partner churches is that they felt fed and trained by using it, as well as it being an excellent resource for their Sunday School classes.
“The lessons are so easy to access and you can download the whole PDF to read on your device and then only print the resources you need for a particular lesson,” explains Mike.
“The big challenge ahead is to convince churches that this curriculum is worth the time it takes to prepare as it’s not a quick and easy resource, although it gets much quicker as you learn it.”
Rory Bell, TnT Director of Training, says: “The result of this collaborative project with SIM UK is a portal dedicated to providing affordable, user-friendly resources for the Arab-speaking world that are free to download. A subscription for English and other languages is required, but discounts are available upon request, especially for mission workers.”
Go to www.mustardseeds. net/arabic to register and for more information.
By Kerry Allan
For the Lord to provide funding for a worker to help train Arabic-speaking churches to use the Mustard Seeds curriculum.
That the new resources will be widely used by churches across the Middle East.
That they would provide the foundation for a new generation of gospel workers.
SIM is an organisation of very different people, from very different backgrounds, coming to do all sorts of different things in order to make Christ known in communities where he is least known.
So how do we help train and prepare our new workers to serve so cross-culturally?
Our five-day Orientation programme introduces all our people, mission workers and staff alike to some important areas they need to keep learning and growing in, as they start serving with SIM.
It’s not just adults though – children have their own programme, which is lots of fun, but also helps them start to think about what their family will be doing and how God is with them in that.
“We want those we are sending to have their expectations of mission grounded in God’s Word, connected to SIM’s vision and people, and reflecting the realities of mission life.”
Deborah Agnes, UK Ministry and Personnel Director
From the hundreds who have been through Orientation in the past five years, many talk about attitudes that orientation has helped to change or challenge, uncertainties it lays to rest, and tools they feel able to take away with them.
All are encouraged by coming together with like-minded people, taking a similar step of faith, and learning lots from each other.
From child safety training, workshops on cross-cultural communication and risk theology, and advice on how to raise a faithful team of prayer supporters, our team of presenters share their expertise and experience, so that each new worker is prepared for living in a very different context.
We hope they go away ready to be life-long learners; gaining the skills they need to be effective cross-culturally, humbly seeking to serve and love the church and be faithful witnesses to Christ.
For nearly 20 years, career coaches Daniel and Jeanie Ough have been helping people cope with the challenges of unemployment and landing a new job.
“After living and working in Dubai for seven years, we emigrated to Australia in 2011. We are committed Christians who feel passionate and excited about using our skills to serve the kingdom as volunteers, which we have been doing with missionary organisations and Christian groups around the world since 2013,” says Daniel, a former engineer, originally from the UK.
“When we moved to Dubai, we had no idea that God would lead us into coaching, using skills that he had equipped us with through life’s experiences,” adds Daniel. “We established a coaching company and worked with a wide range of clients, from university students to corporate executives, doing individual coaching, executive coaching, and team development.”
In 2013, the couple began using their coaching skills with SIM Australia, where they are now Associates – giving presentations at SIM conferences, as well as coaching individuals and SIM teams around the world.
When the pandemic was declared and the international travel ban prevented the couple from travelling overseas, they returned to what they’d been doing in Dubai – helping job seekers.
“We decided we wanted to reach out to those who had lost their jobs, or faced uncertainty, by offering job-search help services for free,” explains Daniel.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters - Colossians 3:23
The couple launched a website, where those needing help getting back into the workplace, are able to access their help, including free workshops over Zoom that focus on skills such as preparing a strong CV; succeeding at interviews; networking effectively and managing a career transition.
“As we’ve publicised our services through churches, in Christian publications and over Christian radio stations, many of our clients are Christians, including mission workers returning from the field who are looking for employment,” says Daniel, “but we also have non-believers as clients and we welcome the opportunity to witness to them through this service.”
The Oughs’ help is freely available to anyone, anywhere in the world, as long as they speak English. Find out more at www.jobsearchhelp4u.com
By Kerry Allan
It’s rare to meet someone with an infectious enthusiasm for accountancy – rarer still to meet someone with the same enthusiasm for mission accountancy. But Darren Campbell, Serving In Mission’s International Director of Finance, is that person.
Almost from his schooldays growing up in Northern Ireland, he has wanted to combine his love of mission with his love of accountancy.
Darren, who lives and works in the US, says: “I’m passionate about mission finance because it matters so much.
“Think what would happen to SIM if we didn’t care about these things? Even though we are often short-staffed and might not have staff with all the correct qualifications, we must strive for excellence in the way we run our financial affairs.
“If we did things badly, the damage to us, and more importantly to our witness for Christ, would be enormous.
“We are stewards of God’s money and we have a responsibility to spend it wisely. It’s also vital that we have accountability across SIM and that the people who are responsible for the money, are accountable for the way it is spent. Ultimately, we’re all accountable to God.”
Darren is also passionate about training people to manage SIM’s money well, recognising that in many countries, there are not enough qualified people to do that work.
He adds: “That’s a key part of my role and is absolutely vital, especially in places where it is difficult to find trustworthy accountants. It’s a great way to witness to local Christians and to their churches, that we want to do things properly and not cut corners.
“It’s vital we get new workers because so many of our fields are struggling to find suitable people. That means we suffer a lot of burnout among our finance people, because they have such a huge workload.”
Darren and his wife Ruthie, who also works for SIM International, are sent by Cheam Baptist Church, which they joined when Darren was training as an accountant in London.
Ruthie grew up as an MK (Missionary Kid) in Nigeria and the couple met on the field in Kenya, where they both were serving in short-term roles with AIM (Africa Inland Mission). The couple also served with SIM in South Africa before God led them to the US.
Darren says: “I’ve always wanted to work wherever I felt my gifts and my passion for mission finance could be best used. Our children were very reluctant to leave South Africa and move to America, but we prayed about it and we feel blessed by what we do.”
The continuing need to raise personal support is a particular challenge for the couple, as they don’t have the kind of roles that even committed Christians often feel drawn to support.
“As passionate as I am about mission finance, I find it very difficult to talk about our own support-raising needs. We are very blessed to have two great churches behind us, who really support us well in all sorts of ways,” he admits.
“The costs in America are much higher than in South Africa, especially when it comes to health insurance, but we trust in God to provide the finance. If he wants us to stay in our roles, then he will provide the finance.
“It’s a privilege to do the work I do and to serve SIM, which makes the gospel its first priority.”
By Tim Allan
Give thanks for all those using their finance and accountancy skills, which are so vital to the integrity and future of God’s kingdom.
For Darren and the SIM International finance team, as they serve SIM’s global leadership and support SIM finance workers around the world.
For David, Graham and Sam in the SIM UK finance team, whose work makes it possible for others to continue serving the least-reached communities with the gospel.
Today, there are no known believers in the Kayes region of Mali, which is predominantly inhabited by Hassaniya herdsmen.
Living in this remote region on the edge of the Sahara, which until recently, was only accessible by unmade roads, are three major people groups: Moors (Hassaniya), Soninke, and Fulani.
The Hassaniya – named for the language they speak – are mostly Tijani Muslims. However, they are open to gospel workers coming and living amongst them.
Enter Ode, Jennifer Agabi and their ten-month-old son, El-Yaweh, from Nigeria. Ode and Jennifer, met while they were in university and married in 2017. They bonded over a shared enthusiasm for missions and trusted that God would eventually reveal to them his plan. That revelation came when SIM partners spoke at the couple’s church about Mali’s need for Christ.
“Going to Mali as part of our Faithful Witness scheme was absolutely God’s plan for Ode and Jennifer,” says Daniel Nunkop, SIM’s West African Mobilisation Office Director. “He is very, very passionate about reaching the lost. This is evident in the way Ode has cultivated a thriving student ministry at a local university in his home town. He’s also devoted himself to learning and recently earned his doctorate in theology.”
And when it comes to the couple as a team, Daniel says: “I see them as looking into the future of missions, not just the now. They have what it takes. I’m so excited about them because they are young and they are vibrant.”
The couple’s journey to Mali was beset by enormous challenges, but they remained faithful and arrived in Mali’s capital city Bamako in December 2019.
“We must confess it wasn’t an easy decision to make,” they admit. “But knowing that there are people dying without the opportunity of hearing about the salvation in Christ Jesus is enough reason for us. What good is a room with 100 lamps when another is in deep darkness?”
During their first visit, the couple and their Faithful Witness teammates received numerous requests, including help with reading and medical care. This made it very clear to the whole team that Kayes is a ﬁeld ‘ripe for harvest’ but in need of harvesters.
The couple have been in language school since January, but are currently unable to attend classes owing to Covid-19.
And despite the challenges to gospel work there – including insecurity, a harsh climate, isolation, and deeply held cultural beliefs – SIM Mali Director Joshua Ngunta remains optimistic: “We want to step into this land by faith.”
There are opportunities to join the Mali Faithful Witness team in medicine, community health, teaching, adult literacy, rural development, engineering, sports, media, church planting, and anti-human trafficking. To find out more, please contact email@example.com to talk to our team.
For peace and stability in Mali and for God’s protection of Ode and Jennifer as they transition to their new ministry location among the Hassaniya people.
For God’s Spirit to prepare the hearts of the Hassaniya to receive the gospel.
For God to bring more workers to join the Mali Faithful Witness team.
The call to ministry has not been an easy one for Jane*, serving with SIM UK in South Asia, but she has faced the challenges of raising financial support, coping with health issues, and struggling with extensive language learning, with SIM UK by her side.
Since 2017, she has been working with SIM UK to help raise anti-trafficking awareness among women and girls.
“My ultimate goal is to see healing for victims, not only physically, emotionally and mentally, but also spiritually,” she says.
“My ministry has been a full bag of emotions – joy and happiness for the friendships I’ve made; sadness for the dire needs there are in this place and the difficulties of living in a very different country.
“Learning the language was harder than I expected, but being able to have conversations gave me a deeper insight into the culture and God also opened doors for me to help out in a girls’ home, where I came alongside girls who’d been trafficked and sexually abused,” she adds.
Jane says she is grateful for the prayers of her supporters and the help and guidance given by SIM UK from afar: “Prior to joining SIM, I was working alone in another South Asia country, while supporting the work of local organisations.
“However, gradually the sense of being alone became too great. Also, my home church was very concerned about my well-being, as being thousands of miles away, they realised they couldn’t provide me with the support I needed.
“At first, I was reluctant to join any mission agency as I’d always worked independently, but having been with SIM for three years, my heart is filled with gratitude and thankfulness that it cares so deeply for me.
“The vast variety of support it can offer is definitely something I can’t find myself, or my church could provide. For example, with just couple of emails, I can get in touch with other SIM workers to discuss different ways to approach ministry and to bounce ideas off each other.
“The back-office financial support at SIM UK has also freed up so much valuable time to focus on my ministry and being in a team of like-minded people in a foreign country definitely gives me the feeling of belonging – a family away from family.”
In 2021, Jane will relocate from the capital city to an area where 97 per cent of the country’s Muslims live and where, together with SIM’s local ministry partner, she’ll help to launch a children’s nursery school.
“I’ll be overseeing the building project and also connecting with anti-trafficking organisations working in the various border crossings connecting to a country where human trafficking is a major problem and especially high in children,” she explains.
“The area is known for its harsh climates and there is hostility to the gospel, but I know God is with me and guiding each step daily. He knows my needs and concerns and has clearly to let me know I’m walking on the right path.” *Name changed
By Kerry Allan
For Jane as she crosses barriers to demonstrate Christ’s love to communities where he is least known.
For repentance, reunion and restoration among the victims of trafficking, their families, and their traffickers.
Give thanks along with Jane for the prayers and encouragement of SIM UK staff and her supporters.
In April 2018, after 15 years working with women and children in northern Ghana, Penny was called to lead a new team – new in role and new to each other.
Part of Penny’s role involves working to develop stronger partnerships with Ghanaian church leaders as she shares SIM’s vision of sharing the love of Jesus in places where the gospel has seldom, if ever been heard.
In her role of moving the team forwards, Penny, sent by Holy Trinity Church, Norwich, has been exploring what it means to be a ‘team’ – especially in this time of Covid.
“The answer requires that we seek to look with God’s eyes through his Holy Spirit to see who he is calling together to accomplish his work in his world,” she says.
When Pam came to Ghana to oversee the guesthouse in Accra, little did she know that God would be calling her from the bustling city of Accra to the northern town of Sandema.
The Lord had laid on her heart the need to equip churches to reach and disciple children and a team is forming between pastors and parents, who are united by a deep desire to see their discipleship happening within the home.
Pam, who is sent by Carntyne Church, Glasgow, shares a house with SIM teammate Yvonne, whose heart is to see marketplace leaders in Sandema, view their work as worship.
During COVID-19, this growing team supported one another through further online training and encouraged one another as they learned.
Lockdown also gave Yvonne, who is sent by St Silas Church, Glasgow, time to study more about business in mission and she was able to work through online Christian business courses with three church leaders.
SIM Ghana Personnel Director Bev changed teams by leaving the balmy beauty of Kenya for Ghana. In 2020, Bev, who is sent by New Life Bible Church, Wealdstone, travelled by plane, car and packed minibuses in order to spend time with her teammates and to understand more of what life is like for them.
“My desire is to see this team thrive in life and ministry,” she says.
In 2021, SIM Ghana has welcomed a new member to its team: Kara, who is sent by St Barnabas Church, north London, and will be using her physiotherapy skills in community health ministry in the north of the country.
By Kerry Allan
For Penny and Bev as they seek to move the Ghana team forward and explore new ways of working in this time of Covid.
For Yvonne and Pam to make good and safe connections as they relocate back to Sandema after sheltering in Accra.
That Kara will integrate well into the team and settle into a new, rural lifestyle and culture.
Five years ago, more than a million people crossed into Europe and safer parts of the Middle East to escape conflict and poverty. Many of them took huge risks and embarked on dangerous journeys in an effort to find a better life.
Knowing the most important thing is to find new life in Jesus Christ, SIM UK launched the pioneering HowWillTheyHear (HWTH) ministry – in partnership with several evangelical mission agencies – to share the gospel with refugees and migrants in the midst of the crisis.
Today, the HWTH vision remains unchanged: to see the global church respond to the migrant crisis through prayer and practical action.
“The reality is that the problem is still massive, as last year’s fire at the Moria refugee camp in Greece and the coronavirus lockdown has shown,” says SIM Europe Director Marcus Baeder, who takes over as chair of the HWTH steering group from SIM UK Director Steve Smith.
In 2021, the campaign particularly wants to help those agencies, discouraged about recruiting and sending because of COVID-19, that within Europe, mission workers are still needed.
“We want to expand and build on the connections we already have with partner agencies and churches seeking to mobilise workers into refugee and migrant ministry. It can be from within Europe, from Arab diaspora – from anywhere,” says Marcus.
The ability for different agencies to recruit, train and serve together with multicultural teams composed of people who speak French, Arabic and Spanish, allows HWTH to offer a culturally diverse approach.
“Every part of the worldwide church – near and far – has a role to play in responding to the opportunity to reach out to refugees in Europe and the Middle East, whether that’s through sending workers, sharing financial resources or prayer support,” adds Marcus.
“The number of people with the desire to serve in cross-cultural ministry has not decreased because of COVID-19.
“We have enquiries from the Middle East and there are great opportunities to mobilise believers from Eastern Europe and to help local churches and agencies become more able to send successfully.
“The pandemic has forced HWTH to think innovatively about how we work, but moving forward, we remain true to the heartbeat of the campaign when it first began.”
Give thanks people are still coming – from many nationalities – with a desire to serve in refugee and migrant ministry.
For God to continue opening paths for new mission workers to join HWTH and more churches and agencies to send them.
For new opportunities to share the gospel with some of the hardest-to-reach people who are now in our midst.
The Fulani are masters of herding and a majority Muslim people with a storied past. Prioritising the well being of their animals, they follow well-established grazing patterns, which lead the Fulani to linger in rural areas.
Approximately 40 million Fulani live in west and central Africa, with an estimated 20 million found in Nigeria alone.
Historically in Nigeria, Fulani have identified with one of four class structures: The nomadic; the semi-nomadic; the settled, town Fulani and the ruling class.
But the semi-nomadic Fulani (the largest of the four classes) are deemed outcasts and left on the fringes of society.
SIM worker Jon explains: “Because they have only ‘come in from the bush,’ in recent years, they are marginalised and not trusted by most settled people. Even the name Fulani seems to be a somewhat othering derivation of the Arabic word fulaan, meaning ‘so-and-so.’”
Furthermore, the Fulani are governed by a social code called pulaaku i.e. ‘Fulani-ness.’ It encapsulates the principles of reserve and endurance, in which the Fulani take great pride. And while the Fulani are typically a peaceful people, several pockets appear to have recently formed affiliations with extreme Islamic groups, adding fuel to the fire of suspicion that keeps much of the world at arm’s length.
It is unsurprising that the Fulani are living and dying without hearing the good news of Jesus as they’ve simply had little opportunity to learn about him in their cultural framework.
A mobilised a team of workers has now been created to bring the good news to the Fulani in northern Nigeria. A few Christians have been ministering to them already, but Faithful Witness will bring further coordination and support to this space.
“If the Fulani are to be reached, it will require an approach that is as unique as they are,” says Jon. “It will mean employing all the principles of cross-cultural understanding at the disposal of the workers.”
For Faithful Witness, the best approach to build relationships is language learning. Traditionally, the Fulani speak Fulfude, which according to Jon, is a remarkable but complex language that takes years to master, let alone use articulately.
Recalling his time befriending Fulani in Niger, Jon says: “I spent hours and hours and hours hanging out and just talking. Your back gets sore from sitting on a mat. But life happens around you, and you learn the culture. There’s no word in Fulfulde for please. But it’s in the way you say it – there’s the right way to say it and the wrong way…Language is a verbal expression of culture.
“A key step in effectively working among the Fulani] begins with first learning their language … This allows one to effectively communicate to them in their heart language, while showing them your love in Christ.”
Grant Birks, Interim Nigeria Director, agrees. “Working among the Fulani is both a rewarding and challenging task,” he shared. “A key step in effectively working among them begins with first learning their language…This allows one to effectively communicate to them in their heart language, while showing them your love in Christ.”
Fulfulde language immersion will happen in due course. For now, the Faithful Witness team is starting with Hausa because the region uses it more widely and it is generally a more versatile language.
Another facet of relationship-building is appreciating the needs of the Fulani people. As more choose to put down roots and establish permanent homes, they are facing new challenges.
They must arrange education for their children and source clean water, but keeping and herding the cattle, which are practically extensions of their families, are also significant responsibilities. Since the Fulani value outsiders showing interest in their animals, mission worker with veterinary experience could successfully form connections.
Grant adds: “Empowering the local church and Fulani believers to minister among the Fulani is a key step at reaching them for the gospel. Major ministry opportunities include theological education, the production of Fulfulde gospel materials, medical and movie-based outreaches…and supportive based ministries.”
His charge to the Faithful Witness team, and to anyone considering mission work in Nigeria, is to, “Come and tell the stories – good stories – of what God is doing here.”
“Although work among the Fulani often seems slow-going, God is actively working.”
By Amy Bareham Chapman
• Grace for the team as they adjust to cultural differences.
• Peace for the transition, especially as the team gets settled.
• Perseverance and encouragement throughout the language learning process.
Our world has become very diverse and is becoming more diverse as people move around more easily and quickly than in previous years. In recent years, the topic of multiculturalism and multicultural teams has become popular and many books and articles have been published.
But for Christian missions, working cross-culturally has been part of the game right from the beginning.
The story of the early church is all about crossing boundaries. The book of Acts narrates the movement of the gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth, fulfilling Jesus’ promise in Acts 1:8.
Like ripples caused by a stone dropped into a pool of water, the witness of Jesus’ followers extends to new people groups in ever-widening geographical areas. The Holy Spirit guides and empowers this movement from beginning to end.
The first signs of the cross-cultural gospel appear on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is accompanied by the miracle of people from all nations hearing the Good News in their own language.
This event indicates that the gospel is not confined to any single nation or tongue. It can address all people in their own ‘heart language’, which is a foundational pillar for the church in mission.
The story of Peter and Cornelius paves the way for a mission to Gentiles (Acts 10). We see an actual example of that mission in the church in Antioch (Acts 11:19-26). This is the first multicultural church, where Jewish and Gentile Christians worship, and apparently, share meals together — a big issue in their cultural world!
How interesting to note that the first multicultural church was also the first missionary sending church! Under the guidance of the Spirit, they sent out Paul and Barnabas on the first ‘overseas’ mission to Gentiles as well as Jews (Acts 13:1-3).
Mission today does not remain the activity of lone Christians, but is the calling of the whole church to take the whole gospel to the whole world.
A beautiful picture of the people of God in the end times is seen in Revelation 7:9: “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.”
God’s people are multi-ethnic, multi racial and multicultural. To reach the entire world for Jesus, Biblical diversity is required. A diverse team is better equipped to reach people in diverse contexts; it also models the gospel’s relevance for people of every culture.
Duane Elmer, author of many books on cross-cultural ministry, describes obvious benefits to multicultural teams. When God created the world, he pronounced it good. This proclamation allows us to celebrate the diversity of God’s creation in cultures.
Therefore, although there are challenges, the benefits are great.
SIM’s Faithful Witness scheme is a pioneering mission to share the good news of Jesus with those who have never heard it. The initiative seeks to place teams of multicultural and multi-skilled workers in communities across the world where there is no church and virtually no Christian witness. Find out more.
SIM along with many other mission agencies has historically been involved in both sending medical missionaries and running mission hospitals — often in remote places.
Praise God for those who have served, sent and prayed for such people, but it’s always good to take stock, to ask what is currently on God’s heart.
With such changes in health needs, highlighted by the global pandemic, we have seen new challenges in health care and as such, Christians need to be asking where Christ is leading in such times?
One thing we can be sure of is that the compassion of Christ — as demonstrated by Jesus himself in his healing ministry when on Earth — is needed more than ever. People across our world still stand in need of physical, mental and spiritual healing.
Another thing we can be certain of, is that the Biblical command to make this same healing and saving God known, remains unchanged.
But in this COVID era, especially when we have appreciated our NHS workers here in the UK, we need to remember that for millions of people around the world, there is no such guaranteed access to health care.
Whilst the UK spends $4,536 per capita on health care, this stands at $32 in Bangladesh, or $24 in Ethiopia. For those nations around our world with limited resources, the need is especially great.
Whilst we are thankful that between 2000 and 2017, the maternal mortality ratio (number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) dropped by about 38 per cent worldwide; yet every day in 2017, approximately 810 women died from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth and 94 per cent of all maternal deaths occur in low and lower middle-income countries.
Each year, 143 million additional surgical procedures are needed in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to save lives and prevent disability.
Of the 313 million procedures undertaken worldwide each year, only six per cent occurs in the poorest countries, where more than one-third of the world’s population lives.
As Christians, we need to be mindful of the changes afoot. Urbanisation requires us to review where we send people to.
How can slum dwellers across our world access affordable health care? How can we influence the development of health care systems in Christ’s name?
Are there ways in which gospel workers can serve in preventative health care (especially in a time of pandemics) where the need is greatest? How do we build partnerships that enable Christian health care professionals to go to countries closed to gospel workers, who will not grant visas to mission workers or pastors?
And as countries develop their own health staff, perhaps the role of UK personnel is to go and teach in universities, or in less well-developed specialisms, such as mental health?
Christian Medical Fellowship is actively seeking to raise up a new generation of health care personnel who will go and serve — wherever Christ may call — going in his name, using their professional skills and passionate about making disciples.
We need to work in partnership with agencies, as we do with SIM, training those that God is calling to be missionally-minded, and partnering in church-sending, disciple-making mission.
For wisdom as CMF and partners respond to the health care injustices that have been highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic.
For SIM UK and CMF to continue working together to mobilise more Christian workers for medical mission.
For God to bless and protect SIM UK workers serving in different health care ministries across the world.
Back in March, God gave SIM UK workers Josh and Helen an unexpected opportunity to partner with church leaders and develop an impactful online ministry during COVID-19.
“The pastors of two Ethiopian refugee churches asked if we could help them record their services so people could continue to worship during the Kenyan lockdown,” recalls Josh.
“As I had my photography equipment and a reasonable knowledge of how to go about this, we began to film their sermons and upload them to YouTube,” he adds.
“That weekly sermon recording turned into an online ministry of podcasts, midweek devotions, worship services and Bible talks, which were used by Ethiopian fellowships across east Africa, as well as in Amharic-speaking communities in the west.
“God provided us with loaned equipment and a recording space on campus that we turned into a studio. Using these things, we produced more than 100 sermons in five different languages.
“Not only did God enable us to give mission workers and pastors a voice they carried back home to their churches, we able to help establish a media ministry that will help to spread the gospel across Africa.
“There are now a number of exciting projects we hope to carry forward, including a series of videos working through the gospels in Sudanese Arabic, allowing Sudanese believers to hear God’s word, even if they cannot safely attend a church.”
Dr Yohannes Sahile, one of Josh and Helen’s professors at the Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology, and an elder at the Ethiopian Evangelical Fellowship Church, says: “When I told Josh about our problem, right away, he said he wanted to help
“Josh gave his expertise and his time to help us develop this amazing online ministry and enable our church to reach, not just our members, but many Ethiopian who live in Kenya and abroad – even in Europe, America and Australia.
“We are very grateful to Josh and Helen and also thankful to their supporters, whom we pray will continue to partner with them so they can continue their ministry.”
By Kerry Allan
Pursuing God’s calling as a couple
Josh and Helen have known each other for as long as they can remember. They both grew up as missionary kids in Tanzania, where their parents were church planting with Africa Inland Mission (AIM).
“For years we were classmates, but could never have imagined that God’s plan was for us to get married,” says Josh. “After not seeing each other for many years, God brought us together again in 2016 and we started on a new road as one.”
Before they came back into each other’s lives, God had been calling Josh and Helen individually into mission – placing ministry to Muslims on their hearts.
“As part of our training for these ventures, we both attended the Islamics Course in 2016 at All Nations Bible College. It was there that God made it abundantly clear that we had found the person we were going to marry and our individual visions for mission became a shared on,” says Josh.
“Since then, we have pursued God’s calling for us as a couple.” The couple, sent by Long Crendon Baptist Church and Emmanuel Church, Bramcote, took their first step into long-term mission in Africa when they moved to Kenya in 2018, to do a two-year Masters in Mission Studies, with an Islamic focus.
The couple worked with SIM UK to choose the right long-term placement and are now sure God is calling them to join the SIM South Sudan team, for which they will need to first study Arabic.
“We don’t know what the next few years hold, but we know that God will guide us step by step,” says Josh.
By Kerry Allan
Give thanks for how God was at work to help Josh and church leaders work together to develop a fruitful online media ministry.
For Josh and Helen as they look ahead to join the SIM Sudan team and make plans for language study.
That God will clearly guide the couple as to where best he would use the gifts and skills.
When COVID-19 struck, Serving In Mission set up an Immediate Response Project to help provide critically-needed personal protective equipment (PPI) along with cleaning and medical supplies to our frontline workers across the globe.
The relief fund was designed to help relieve some of the burden many of SIM’s medical ministries were facing and to support dedicated healthcare professionals, like SIM UK’s Dr Mikey Bryant, who were determined to carry on their ministries.
Thank you for your prayers and donations to our COVID-19 Immediate Response Project. Please continue reading to see how your response helped SIM deliver essential equipment and materials to protect patients and staff at two rural health centres in Zimbabwe…
In the mid-1900s, SIM set up the Rusitu Hospital, which is a referral hospital for six rural clinics in a valley of more than 50,000 people. The hospital is part of a mission station that has a Bible college and a high school – all owned by the United Baptist Church, which was planted by SIM and is now one of our major partners.
Rusitu Hospital is one of the most needy medical ministries in southern Africa.
It has an outpatients department, paediatric, male and female wards, a maternity wing, a lab and a family and child health clinic. The staff is made up of 14 nurses, three lab technicians, seven general hands, three nursing auxiliaries and two cooks. However, there is only one doctor, who is paid by the government and as these are often young doctors, they do not stay long.
With the money given by its supporters, SIM was able to buy and deliver the following items that were in very limited supply:
Surgical/ Sterile Gloves
Infra-red Thermometers + batteries
Electric Nebulizing Machines
Hand Sanitisers (5ltrs)
Chikwakwa Clinic is a small rural health centre in a remote area of Zimbabwe, but serving more than 300 households (approximately 2,400 people) and a place where almost every month, babies are delivered.
It has two nurses, a nurse auxiliary and two general hands. It is run by a rural district council, which when the pandemic started, only had one thermometer and it was broken.
Rather than sanitisers, the clinic asked for liquid soap, which they put in containers for hand washing. They also desperately needed laundry soap, for washing uniforms and materials.
With the money given by its supporters, SIM was able to respond to the clinic’s urgent requests for the following:
KN95 Face Masks
Disposable Delivery Gowns
Batteries for thermometers
“Zimbabwe is a land of peace-loving people but has experienced continuous economic downfall for the past 20 years,” explains SIM Zimbabwe worker Caiphas Ngarivhume.
“As a result, its the health system is ruined and workers at major referral hospitals have gone on strike several times, demanding basic equipment to enable them to discharge their duties. Most of the time, they are forced to bring their own materials so they can work.
“This situation was made worse by COVID-19 and frontline workers were dangerously exposed. Now these supplies will go a long way to helping them serve the community with confidence and we thank the SIM supporters very much for their generous gifts.”
When her youngest brother became severely ill, Meron Haile (left) and her family in Ethiopia searched for answers and healing.
“I stumbled upon audio recordings of Bible teachings online and it completely changed the way we prayed as a family and the way we viewed our situation,” she recalls.
“We learned to patiently wait and trust God and I decided to surrender my life for one purpose: To be a student of God’s word and to teach others the powerful truths I experience.”
Meron’s brother is now able to live a normal life with the help of medication, while over the years, God has guided Meron into full-time multicultural ministry, beginning when her father took her to the only international, English-speaking church as a young child.
“He hoped I would learn the Bible and pick up some English. I stayed there till I was 19. With more than 50 nationalities represented each Sunday, I was able to master the language and learn about several cultural differences we have with the western world,” she recalls.
“Slowly, God increased the love I have for him and his word, which slowly led to the path I’m on right now.”
As soon as she is able to travel, the 29-year-old will be partnering with Inspire St James, Clerkenwell, as part of SIM UK’s Engage programme, to bring experienced workers from overseas to work with churches in their multicultural communities.
“I’m excited about being the first women missionary from Ethiopia to be represented in the Engage programme,” says Meron. “The story of Engage’s first mission worker Daphne Kabeberi, from Kenya, gave me such strength to boldly say that God has called me to the UK and that he is doing his business all over the world.”
Pete Nicholas, Senior Minister at Inspire Saint James, says: “As a united and diverse community seeking to inspire London with the good news of Jesus Christ, we have been keen to partner with SIM through its Engage programme for some time.
“We hope that receiving an overseas gospel worker will both be a blessing for our church family as we learn how to receive a missionary to help us better to reach out in our multicultural context, as well as a blessing to Meron by continuing her development and helping her to fan into flame her gifts.
“We’re excited about having Meron with us. We already have fruitful and well-established ministries amongst internationals in London through our English as second language classes that Meron will be helping with. We’ve also been working amongst and ministering to the local estates and Meron will be living on one with other church family members seeking to share Christ with her neighbours.”
Meron is grateful to God that her African background will give her an inroad when meeting people from many nationalities and backgrounds.
“I come from a culture where you can start a conversation and taxi drivers will invite you home! I’ve learned how to make deep connections fast and have grown to really love people from other nations.
“I believe God will use me in two ways,” she adds. “Some will be curious to hear from someone completely different from themselves, while to others, the fact that I too am a foreigner experiencing London just like them, will be the way in to start conversations and build relationships. I hope to be able to understand their challenges and desires from a different angle.
“I know London will be different,” she admits. “I’ve never worked abroad before, but the Engage programme is designed to provide me with mentors who will guide me along the way. In my time at Inspire Saint James, I hope to be a useful part of the amazing church team and become an added voice and asset in their work.
“The biggest challenge will be leaving my family behind and having to adjust to a new way of eating and living. But these are challenges I welcome with open arms knowing that such sacrifices are a very small price to pay.
“By God’s grace, I want to build strong relationships and lead many to find their way back to God. That’s the fruit I long for more than anything.”
By Kerry Allan
If your church would like to be involved with our Engage programme, please email Tim Barrow (firstname.lastname@example.org)
For Meron’s safe arrival in the UK following a delay because of COVID-19.
For Meron to be a blessing to Inspire St James in its work to reach the international community in Clerkenwell with the gospel.
For more workers to join Engage as it seeks to partner with UK churches and grow their cross-cultural ministries.
Like many others, Regan King, pastor of The Angel Church in Islington, prayed for opportunities to engage with the local community, other than online, during the coronavirus lockdown.
“I read a story in the local newspaper about a lady called Hazel, who was trying to get an initiative off the ground to provide food to were self-isolating,” he recalls.
“Knowing we had a big church kitchen and large freezer, I contacted Hazel and offered to help cook meals. We started cooking 75 meals; then 150 and then it got to as high as 250 to 300 meals a week.
“We also helped distribute food to many elderly, vulnerable and homeless people to show God’s love in a practical way.”
As more people in neighbourhood heard about the project, they began turning up at the church to collect their meals.
“I’d been praying for God to help expand the project, so we decided to invite them inside and play Christian music and videos while they ate,” says Regan.
“It also gave us the opportunity to start conversations and answer questions such as ‘Who is Jesus?’ and ‘Where is God when things go wrong?’ and we spoke about the hope and forgiveness found in the gospel.
“People were awakening to what true Christianity is all about. Before COVID-19, we were valued – but at arm’s length – then during lockdown, people were coming to us and saying: ‘We need you’.
“Many said the quality of discussion, without anger or judgement, and the way it was allowed to be free was amazing. We had great conversations ‘over the chopping board’ and one volunteer, who is a non-believer, admitted he could see there was something about faith in crisis and he made a video of the project, which we put on our website as an encouragement to others.”
When the first lockdown ended, Regan was motivated by the love of Jesus to carry on with the project that continues to run from the church, with Hazel still providing volunteers.
Islington Council gave a grant towards the cost of the project, with several local churches and other Christian organisations in the community also coming on board.
“We now hold sessions three times a week, which are more formal, where we pray and have a Bible study – although those who come may not call it a Bible study as such!” says Regan.
“The aim is to discuss topical issues surrounding God’s identity, our problems and the hope that’s in Jesus, and things like depression and loneliness from a biblical perspective.
“We now have enough money to run the project until the end of the year and when our church reopened, everyone returned with a real spirit of understanding to continue loving our neighbours and being an example of God’s love to those around us.”
By Kerry Allan
God would use churches for his glory and bring many to the hope found in Christ in times where hope is lacking.
That churches will become ‘lighthouses’ for Christ and show clearly the way to salvation.
For churches to work together to use creativity and clear thinking in how to reach their communities with the gospel.
Egbe Hospital in Nigeria was founded in 1952 by SIM mission workers Dr George and Esther Campion.
Located in the small town of Egbe, over the years, the hospital has grown from a small maternity clinic, to a 75-bed, multi-service complex that serves a 100-mile radius of rural villages and small towns, whose approximately 200,000 tradespeople, cattle herders and small business owners, rely heavily on the hospital for medical care.
In 1976, the medical complex was transferred by SIM to Nigerian mission organisation, ECWA (Evangelical Church Winning All). When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the SIM-affiliated facility faced a daunting task: protecting patients and staff from the virus, while fighting against a lack of education and information.
However, thanks to SIM’s COVID-19 Health Ministry Immediate Response project, funds were available to provide staff with critically-needed personal protective equipment (PPI) along with cleaning and medical supplies.
The hospital was also able to provide preventative handwashing stations at multiple locations and supply local church and community leaders with educational materials, such as leaflets and billboards.
The relief fund has helped to relieve some of the burden many of SIM’s medical ministries are facing and support dedicated healthcare professionals, like SIM UK’s Dr Mikey Bryant, who are determined to carry on their ministry.
Mikey, who serves at the ELWA Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, where many Ebola patients were treated in 2014, said: “God has asked us to stay and serve the people of Liberia. He 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 hospital staff as they continue to upgrade their response to the virus and that many lives will be saved; both physically and spiritually.
Give thanks God is at work through his people to show compassion and grace during a time of great need.
For the fund to help SIM ministries in countries with few resources and fragile health systems as suffering and uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
As a community committed to supporting families as they take the gospel to the least reached, SIM UK’s TCK coordinator Cheryl Gibson works within our People Care team to help families make good choices in order to reduce uncertainty and stress in their children’s lives.
Tell us about your role?
Cheryl: During our 15 years of serving with SIM in West Africa, my children got to experience a variety of educational settings – from home-schooling, local missionary school, boarding school and a few other options in between! A lot of time was spent making sure they got what they needed educationally and emotionally and so I learnt a lot along the way.
On our return to the UK in 2015, there were challenges in helping our children make that huge adjustment to their passport country that was my home, but not there’s.
I appreciated the support and help I‘d received over the years and was keen to put my experiences as a mother, who had served overseas and as a home-school teacher, to good use. An opportunity came to help the TCK coordinator, mainly with home schooling resources, and then after he moved on, I took on the role.
My job is to equip and hopefully encourage our families as they leave for their country of service, to provide resources in both education issues and pastoral care and then when returning to their passport country, to be a support for our TCKs.
I usually organise the children’s orientation programme before they head overseas and then a time of debriefing once they return. During these times of COVID-19, we have needed to adapt how we do this online.
A TCK, growing up cross-culturally while their parents share the gospel overseas, develops a sense of relationship to all of the cultures while not having a full ownership in any.
What advantages/benefits do TCKs enjoy?
Cheryl: Growing up abroad and having a world perspective gives TCKS a greater maturity and a heightened respect for other cultures. They are more also empathetic and tend to learn languages easily.
What do TCKs most struggle with?
Cheryl: The life of a Third Culture Kid is not a simple one. It’s wonderful, enriching, colourful, and filled with incredible life-altering experiences, but certainly not neat and tidy.
On their return to their passport countries, TCKs look as if they should fit right in – but they don’t quite. Differences in experiences and cultural backgrounds keep them from fully fitting to the patterns of their new home and this can give them a nagging sense of rootlessness and restlessness.
What do you hope to achieve in your role?
Cheryl: SIM UK desires to be a loving and caring community that believes in the worth and giftedness of each child, therefore my role is to try to meet the unique needs of all the TCKs so this can be achieved.
For each of our TCKs to grow in their relationship with Jesus.
For wisdom for Cheryl as she seeks to encourage TCKs and help them in their transitions.
That God would use TCKs’ love of different people and cultures to glorify him.
Experts are predicting a significant rise in mental health issues owing to the profound effects of COVID-19 and social distancing rules that make it difficult for those looking to their local church for help when struggling to cope.
While many people are staying connected through the use of digital technology, Paula Beaton, (Executive Assistant to SIM’s Global Director of Strategic Development and International Personnel Director) has been relying on a tried and tested method of encouraging others and boosting morale during these difficult times.
“Not everyone is on the internet and I’ve reverted to good old-fashioned post to encourage friends from church, who may be elderly and lonely, to give them a sense of knowing they are remembered and cared for,” Paula explains.
When time permits, Paula posts a personal letter, along with SIM UK’s supporters’ magazine Serving Him and even a tea bag (sealed in a pouch) to bring good cheer and ensure no one feels excluded and forgotten.
“I’m grateful to God that he has blessed me with a gift of encouragement as it helps disciple other believers to develop a stronger relationship with Christ,” she says.
“Rather than add the magazine to the recycling bin, I can pass it on for others to enjoy. It also ensures the magazine is sent to someone who will pray for the work of SIM UK, as well as find encouragement in receiving a surprise letter.
“This also applies to other women’s Christian magazines, which my mother passes to me. I then deliver them to a couple of church friends’ letter boxes and they pass them around a small network of folks.
“Reading the stories and articles in these magazines helps us focus on what God is doing in the UK and elsewhere in the world. The news can be so gloomy these days, so having good news to read takes the focus away from ourselves and gives wholesome news to think about and bring to prayer,” adds Paula.
Although a small gesture, Paula’s acts of kindness have had a really big impact. “Sometimes I get a note or card in reply or a phone call to thank me for thinking of the recipient and bringing cheer to their day. This then surprises me in return!” she says.
“People understand that with the need to keep everyone safe from infection, personal visits are less frequent for the time being and whilst we can’t easily meet face to face, sending these surprise letters is something I’ve loved doing over the past few months and hope to continue.”
For God to comfort all those struggling with anxiety, depression, isolation and loneliness.
For the Holy Spirit to help us all be encouragers as we reach out to others with the hope found in Jesus Christ.
Give thanks that a global pandemic cannot hinder faith, compassion and acts of loving service in Christ’s name.
By Kerry Allan
How do you get started in a place where there is no gospel witness? Why are there still ‘forgotten communities’ in today’s world?
They all require the church to count the cost if they are to be reached. But are we willing to send people to places that are risky because of remoteness, high levels of persecution against those choosing to follow Christ, kidnapping, or even a global pandemic?
Are we willing to invest for the long term – if multiple languages need to be learned, hearts are spiritually ‘hard’, or professional qualifications need to be improved in order to secure a visa?
The church is finding all sorts of ways to cross barriers and reach people with God’s spoken word in this digital age.
A radio broadcast can be picked up in a remote Eritrean village; a Fulani herdsman can have God’s word on an SD card that plays through his mobile phone and young people in Indonesia can hear God’s word preached via YouTube.
We can be brought into relationship with one another, through the communication of God’s word across a distance, just as Paul found as he wrote to and prayed for the church in Colossae, whom he had never met.
Yet the good news of relationship with God through Jesus is, at its heart, designed to be shared through relationship with his people.
God counted the cost and sent the word in human form, that we might know him. He has made the church his body on Earth today, to continue to bear witness to Christ in person through relationship; through lives lived out in the power of his spirit.
Serving in Mission is excited to serve churches worldwide in sending and receiving their best people to hard places to bear witness to Christ through relationship.
Our Faithful Witness in Forgotten Communities initiative started last year to better enable this work.
This initiative is supporting new ministry efforts by SIM to launch and establish teams of faithful witnesses from all over the world to demonstrate the goodness of Jesus Christ in communities where people currently live and die without ever having one Christian friend.
Working with partner agencies and recruiting from churches across the globe, we are already seeing teams come together and we have prayed and listened to understand what is needed in eight specific locations – Chad, east Asia, Mali, the Middle East, Nigeria, north Africa, Asia and Thailand.
Each team has no more than two people from any one nation, and each has a mix of skills and experience, with an experienced team leader, sometimes from a partner organisation.
SIM International Director Dr Joshua Bogunkoko says: “Less than five per cent of missionaries and mission funding go to places where people have never heard the good news of Jesus. Traditional missionary sending depends on the presence of other mission workers in locations, and so cannot address this imbalance. SIM’s Faithful Witness in Forgotten Communities initiative is designed to send a team of gospel workers to where none exist.”
Each member of a Faithful Witness team is given up to one-third of their funding for the first five years, so they can get going and start communicating back what they are seeing and doing – building their support as they go.
If your church would like to partner with a specific team, you can find out more information at sim.org/Faithfulwitness or watch a video that features several SIM leaders giving an overview of this pioneering mission.
By Deborah Agnes, SIM UK Personnel Director
For the Lord to raise up multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-skilled teams to work in this pioneering mission.
For gospel workers to raise the resources – financial and other needs – and trust in God’s perfect timing.
That churches will be led by the Holy Spirit and guided by his word and his love for all people to support the Faithful Witness ministry.
Although about 69 per cent of Ghana’s population profess to be Christians, there are still many people who have not had any meaningful contact with the gospel.
In 1977, the Ghana Evangelism Committee conducted a survey to identify communities as yet unreached with the good news of Jesus Christ. One area was the Kasena people of Chiana – in the Upper East Region – where translation work on the Kasem New Testament had begun five five years earlier.
Around the same time, circumstances in Ethiopia caused many SIM mission workers to leave and after discussion with the local chief in Chiana, it was agreed some of those workers should move to Chiana.
Many Kasena followed the traditions of their forefathers by making sacrifices to the local shrines and to ancestors as a means of reaching God. However, on hearing that the only sacrifice that God would accept had already been made through Jesus Christ, slowly churches grew and the Lord worked in the hearts of the Kasena people causing them to leave the traditional ways.
While SIM mission workers helped in planting churches among the Kasena in Chiana, the growth and spread of the churches was mainly through the Kasena themselves as they shared their testimonies and the gospel with family and friends.
This is the continuing story of one of the first families of believers in Chiana:
Sylvester is the day guard at the SIM house in Accra. He is a loving husband and father of two, and a final-year theology degree student. He also founded a charity that supports families and runs children’s holiday clubs in Chiana, where he grew up. He is about the same age as the Chiana church.
When asked by Pam, a member of the Ghana team, what sort of difference he thought Christianity had made to his family and community, Sylvester smiled and answered: “The fear is gone! We don’t have to be afraid of the spirits and the ancestors. People live more peacefully with each other. Husbands take better care of their wives. The children are better cared for. People don’t waste their money on sacrifices any more.”
He showed pictures of his uncle, John Akekudaga, and his sister Dinah Abanapawo, his ‘spiritual grandmother’, featured in the book, History of Good News Bible Church, Chiana 1978-2016, written by Pat Robertson, a former SIM missionary nurse in Chiana.
In her book, Pat wrote: “John Akekudaga knew he was missing something important in his life. Then in 1979, he met Peter Jenkins, a SIM missionary, and asked him why he had come to Chiana. Peter replied that he had come to tell people about the one true God. John said, ‘Come to my house and teach me.’ Peter went and as John learned more, he decided he wanted to become a follower of Jesus Christ.”
Aunty Dinah was the person who had the greatest influence on the young Sylvester. Her father died when she was very young, so she lived with various relatives and finally with a Muslim family headed by a distant relative of her father’s, where she ‘learned the Muslim prayers but did not understand them’.
Eventually Dinah married and had three children, but she returned to Chiana with the children to be with her mother in 1981. It was there that she met Peter Jenkins and one day, heard him explain John 3:1.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:1
It spoke directly into her heart and she decided that day to give herself to the Lord.
Dinah enrolled in courses, to get to know God and the Bible better and as a women’s leader in the church, she attended classes at the local Bible College.
Sylvester still remembers as a child being gathered around the fire in the evening with various siblings, cousins and other children to listen to Aunty Dinah tell them Bible stories. Today, it is something he loves to do with his own children and the children in his church in Accra.
In 2019, Sylvester and Amy, a short-term mission worker from UK, led the children’s programme at SIM Ghana’s Spiritual Life Conference, giving back to the SIM team what had been given to his family 40 years ago.
“I had the privilege of visiting and talking to Aunt Dinah earlier this year,” recalls Pam, who is sent by Carntyne Parish Church in Glasgow.
“Her love of the Lord and her desire to reach others, particularly the children and women in the church, still shines out of her face. She truly is an ambassador for Christ and I’m looking forward to living near her and learning from her as I move to Sandema to encourage local churches in their ministry to parents and children.”
Give thanks that having God’s word in their mother tongue has greatly contributed to the spread of the gospel and the growth of the church in Chiana.
For SIM Ghana’s three teams currently working with other unreached people groups in northern Ghana.
For Pam’s work with a local pastor and churches to develop a new children’s ministry.
During her four-and-a-half years in Madagascar, teacher Naomi Coleman has experienced surprise school closures, random food shortages, temporary ‘don’t go out’ rules, nearby epidemics and sudden relocations. But with the arrival of COVID-19, she feared what the implications would be for herself and her ministry.
Naomi, sent from Cambray Baptist Church in Cheltenham, teaches the children of the only family currently on the team – SIM UK doctors Ted and Rachel Watts, sent from Beeston Free Church, Nottingham, who both work at Mandritsara’s Good News Hospital.
The hospital does great work as a local church-run project that proclaims Jesus Christ, as well as providing excellent and compassionate medical care to some of the poorest people on the island, who travel for hours or even days, from surrounding villages where there is no Christian witness.
As in other countries, lockdown restrictions were put in place before the first coronavirus cases in Mandritsara were announced, but Naomi admits she regularly woke up during the night worried about what the implications of a mass coronavirus outbreak would mean.
“I wasn’t really worried about becoming unwell myself,” she explains, “but I hated the prospect of seeing our hospital overwhelmed as we only have a small number of doctors. Many people don’t have access to running water and they struggle to make ends meet ordinarily, so thinking about the impact of many people getting sick was quite frightening.”
Naomi made a number of significant changes, including teaching extra lessons to the Watts’ two young children to compensate for local school closures and moving house to be nearer her missionary colleagues and cutting down on non-essential journeys.
Talking through the ‘what-if’s with her team was vitally important, but not easy. However, as contingency plans were made and the ‘new normal’ became more familiar, Naomi put her trust in God to work out his purposes during the global pandemic.
“I tried to think much more about the eternal hope we have – not speculating about what the next few months may hold,” she says. “Usually, we’re looking ahead to the next visitor or short-term missionary coming to support the team, or a chance for a holiday or break. I really needed to adjust my mindset at a time when travel was so difficult. Using my time to pray, to worship through song and to study the Bible were really helpful in finding a good perspective and a sense of peace.”
When her local Malagasy church stopped gathering, Naomi tuned into to her sending church’s new online services. Friends in the UK soon became more used to communicating electronically and she was encouraged by supporters who were now more available to chat during lockdown.
By God’s grace, Naomi says it is a huge privilege to be part of a project that seeks to share the gospel, while meeting people’s health needs: “The Good News Hospital does not have the same kinds of resources and personnel as many British hospitals, but it does have the freedom to share the message of hope and life in Jesus Christ and be a beacon of light during a time of crisis.”
Praise God for all the blessings he gave Naomi and more time during lockdown to reflect on his goodness.
For more doctors and surgeons to serve at the Good News Hospital, even for a short time, and for the plans to establish the long-term sustainability of the hospital and its gospel witness.
That the Good News Hospital will be a beacon of hope throughout the pandemic.
The Friends of Mandritsara Trust, which supports the work of the Good News Hospital, is building a new theatre complex to bring much-needed additional facilities and establish the long-term sustainability of the hospital and its gospel witness in Mandritsara. Read about these exciting new plans.
Every year, hundreds of Christians around the world move into unfamiliar environments, some with their families, in obedience to God’s call to take the gospel to all nations and make disciples.
Among them is a young family from Jos, Nigeria, who have taken a leap of faith to live amongst the Hassaniya, as part of the Mali Faithful Witness team.
Faithful Witness is an initiative of SIM that recruits and sends multicultural, multi-organisational and multi-skilled workers into communities across the world where there is no church and virtually no Christian witness – a description that fits the Hassaniya-speaking people of the Kayes region.
The Hassaniya-speaking Moors are considered unreached. Most villages in that region are without churches or Christian organisations, with the majority of Christians concentrated in urban centres. These villagers would have died without hearing the gospel of salvation.
“There are no known believers amongst the Hassaniya, and less than a handful amongst the Soninke and Fulani,” says Joshua Ngunta, SIM’s Mali Director.
A SIM team on a fact-finding visit discovered God was opening opportunities ahead of them, but there was a need to get ‘feet on the ground’.
The Hassaniya villages they visited opened their arms in welcome. The labours of previous workers had lit the path for the new team and they saw God’s love and the mission workers’ goodwill through acts of compassion and other outreaches. They provided famine relief, built wells, schools and children’s clubs. The church teams showed the Jesus Film and distributed tracts. They held medical clinics, and learned their language and culture.
God had used these contacts to soften the hearts of the people; even their village heads were delighted to have the team and publicly honoured them. These villagers also expressed zeal to engage the team in conversations.
The Hassaniya of Kayes
The name ‘Hassaniya’ defines both the people and their language. They are typically rural and live mostly as pastoralists. Amongst the Hassaniya in Mali, there is only one known believer, but he is from a different region. They are mostly Tidjani Muslims and the country is dominated by Islam.
There are mainly three groups in this region. The Moors (Hassaniya), the Soninke people, who are business minded, with entrepreneurs among them, and the Malinke (Maninka) with a very small number of believers.
No books of the Bible are translated into Hassaniyya, but The Jesus Film is available in Hassaniyya as well as audio recordings of gospel stories from the Global Recordings Network.
God has opened doors of ministry and the Hassaniya have expressed openness for workers to live among them and learn their language. The team has received numerous requests for help, including adult literacy teachers, medical staff and children’s club workers, among others. This became a sign to the whole team that this is a ﬁeld ripe for harvest and in need of harvesters.
While the Hassaniya welcome the team, the team also realised the challenges to gospel work in the region. Insecurity, a harsh climate, isolation and deeply held cultural beliefs are huge impediments.
Leap of faith
Undaunted by the enormity of the task, Ode and Jennifer Agabi, a young family from Jos, Nigeria, took a leap of faith to live amongst the Hassaniya.
“We must confess that it was not an easy decision to make, but knowing that there are people dying without the opportunity of hearing about the salvation in Christ Jesus is enough reason for us. For what good is having a room with a hundred lamps when another is in deep darkness?”
The Agabis journeyed to Mali amidst enormous challenges. In spite of long waits, they considered it an adventure, and arrived Bamako in December 2019.
Their faith in the Lord and warm fellowship with other mission workers on the ground is helping them to scale the hurdles of a new environment and make it easier to deal with harsh weather, the higher cost of living, ill-health of their son, and learning Hassaniya and French.
God has been graciously on their side all the time. They are driven by the truth: “For the gospel is no longer good news if it doesn’t arrive on time.”
By Victor Bajah (www.afrigo.org)
For God’s Spirit to prepare the hearts of Hassaniya herdsmen to receive the gospel.
For financial provision for the team and for God to bring more workers.
For peace in Mali and other west African states threatened by extremists.
For 25 years, The Good News Hospital has been a beacon of hope in Madagascar — one of the world’s poorest nations.
Before it opened in a remote part of the island, patients needing emergency surgery would travel 200km to the nearest government facility. Today, the hospital performs approximately 1,600 operations a year. However, medical experts say the need is ten times greater.
SIM UK member Ted Watts is the senior surgeon at the Mandritsara hospital and is spearheading an exciting vision, which by God’s grace, will ensure this vital medical mission continues for years to come.
“The hospital needs to expand how many operations it does as we anticipate the number of patients will continue to rise,” explains Ted, whose wife Rachel also works as a paediatrician within the small medical team.
The small, 57-bed hospital provides medical, surgical, maternity and ophthalmology services (including cataract surgery) to Mandritsara’s population of 250,000 – as well as patients from across northern Madagascar – where staff share the gospel, as well as provide life-saving, compassionate care.
However, with very limited training opportunities and fewer than 100 surgeons serving the island’s 26 million inhabitants, the hospital has always relied on overseas missionary surgeons
“While we do very much welcome both junior and senior doctors from the UK joining us for a short time, at the heart of our plan is looking to the future, when some years down the line, we’ll have local, Malagasy surgeons who are mission-minded and providing high-quality surgical care,” explains Ted, sent by Beeston Free Evangelical Church.
For this vital medical mission to continue, the hospital plans to offer the Pan African Academy of Christian Surgeons (PAACS) training programme to Malagasy doctors, which is a five-year integrated Christian discipleship and post-graduate surgical speciality programme.
“We believe the best way forward is to train Malagasy doctors to staff the surgical department, who in turn, can train the next generation of missionary surgeons to follow in their footsteps,” adds Ted.
A new theatre complex is being built to both increase the surgical capacity of the hospital, as well as provide essential training facilities for the Malagasy trainees.
The surgical complex will include three major operating theatres and a minor operating theatre; four consultation rooms and a new recovery and intensive care unit.
“We have made good progress because when the Government laid off construction workers during lockdown, we decided to keep our builders in employment, many of who are itinerant and need to work —and because the infection rate on a building site here is low,” says Ted.
“Now it’s almost ready to put on the roof and we’re on target to perform the first operation before the end of next year.
To find out more, or if you are interested in joining this mission-centred medical ministry, please contact Ted Watts at email@example.com
By Kerry Allan
For the hospital staff as they serve in the face of COVID-19.
For God to bless plans to recruit Malagasy mission-minded surgeons to hold out the hope of Jesus Christ as they offer compassionate, skilled surgical care.
For more Christian doctors and nurses to plug the hospital staffing deficit, which is ongoing.
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 ten 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 him to keep your heart soft, not hardened by trials, but moulded more to the likeness of his son.” *May have used pseudonyms
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.
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.
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.
Mapping intercultural ministry in the UK
‘Just because we live in a place, doesn’t mean we always know what’s going on,’ admitted one church leader in conversation, early last year. He wasn’t alone in wanting a clearer picture of the different challenges and opportunities faced by multicultural churches as they seek to share the gospel in their communities.
Throughout the Bible, salvation is for all nations, tongues and tribes. And the UK is an increasingly fitting example of an environment where many ethnicities, cultures, languages and religions can be found in one postcode. To best serve churches and ministries, we need to identify and understand their attitudes to intercultural local and global ministry.
In autumn 2019, faith-based research company Eido Research undertook a pilot project, looking at two cities: Leeds and Manchester, to find out where churches are succeeding in embracing and learning from their diversity and how they are praying, coming alongside, and reaching their communities for Christ.
The research was set up by SIM UK in collaboration with AIM Europe, AWM-Pioneers, OMF and London City Mission. We spoke to 60-70 churches in each city by phone, or via an online questionnaire. In addition, several churches took part in a ‘hotspot’ interview to share specifically what they had experienced through lessons learned and areas of best practice.
Some key factors that were identified in successful intercultural ministry included: – Actively welcoming and listening to diverse voices and perspectives – Being present and consistent within diverse communities – Training and equipping congregations to understand different cultural, religious or ethnic perspectives
There were also specific challenges that both cities faced in reaching out interculturally: – Absence of resources (time, funds, people) – Lack of confidence or fear of saying the wrong thing to those from a different background – Apathy or lack of drive for churches to reach out, resulting in the church becoming inaccessible.
Alongside the written results, we met online (owing to COVID-19) with several pastors and leaders from both cities, as well as guest speakers from intercultural networks, to reflect and delve deeper into the findings in order to help us look at what SIM UK and the other partner agencies could be doing to serve the churches in these areas.
As a result of both the personal meetings with ministry leaders and the research findings, there was a clear recognition that our hearts must be humbled to address the barriers to Christ-like inclusivity in leadership and fellowship within UK churches.
With a growing number of people who haven’t heard Christ’s message of salvation in our own country, it was also a reminder of the pressing need to train and equip ourselves to meet with, welcome and show hospitality, as we share the gospel with people from all nations.
“As the final written report on the findings of these two cities nears completion, we’re excited to continue building relationships with churches across the UK to see how we can serve hand-in-hand in helping them to equip and mobilise congregations to the great gospel need in our diverse country and overseas,” says Steve Smith, SIM UK Director.
By Chloe Blainey
This research will be used to inform and inspire intercultural evangelism, discipleship, church-planting and leadership.
For evangelical churches in the UK to receive the strength needed to respond to our times as we fulfil the Great Commission in, to and from intercultural Britain and Europe.
For hearts to be humbled to address any barriers to Christ-like inclusivity in leadership and fellowship within our churches.
This story first appeared in our quarterly magazine, Serving Him, below:
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 or would you like to encourage the young people at your church to support worldwide mission?
We’d love to help you do that with our monthly prayer resource for children – SIMpray Kids – that features 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.
Since September, we’ve had the joy of praying with families serving in Africa, South America, Europe and Asia and there have been activities on our website for you to try at home – anything from colouring-in sheets, to favourite recipes from where the children are currently serving.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
The Lord will provide the funds needed to complete the building project.
That this 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.
Josh Gibson 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.
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.
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.
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.
SIM UK’s Dr Mikey Bryant, who is serving at the ELWA Hospital in Liberia, says God is his refuge and strength during the current coronavirus crisis.
When the first case of COVID-19 was announced on March 16, within minutes, every member of staff at the ELWA Hospital was wearing a face shield. However, the experience brought back painful memories from the time of the deadly Ebola virus of 2014-2016, which still casts a shadow over the country.
SIM opened its ministry in Liberia in 1954 with a radio station to share the gospel. The original call letters were ‘ELWA,’ which stands for Eternal Love Winning Africa.
The ELWA Hospital was one of the leading centres in fighting the outbreak and as Mikey says: “Some of the team had Ebola and survived; had members of their family and friends die; or were involved in caring for patients in the Ebola treatment unit. Every day, they are revisiting painful memories as they are reminded of their loss.”
Thankfully, Mikey says that by fixing his eyes on Jesus, he is finding the strength to cope with the current challenges.
“God has called us here for such a time as this. These are the people who he has loved and sent his son Jesus Christ to die for. Our lives are not our own — they are his, and we have the privilege of serving him.”
For several weeks, the hospital prepared for the influx of patients. With help from SIM’s partner organisation Samaritan’s Purse, a separate tent was erected so patients having COVID-19 symptoms could be screened and treated appropriately without taking unnecessary risk. But some are reluctant to come to the hospital owing to rumours that during the Ebola crisis, many people got lost and were sent to an unknown place for treatment.
“Some died and were buried with no information available to update their relatives and families lost touch with each other. We also don’t have enough PPE (masks, gloves etc) and it’s taking time to convince everyone that this time, there is unlikely to be help shipped in providing this equipment or the personnel,” he says.
However, Mikey is grateful to God that the community in Monrovia is working together with hospital staff to help deal with the limited resources.
“Everyone has achieved a lot in a short space of time, especially the cleaners who have a very challenging job in this hot, dusty, dry season. They are working tirelessly to keep everything clean, hand washing stations topped up and complete the many other tasks added to their list right now, and all at 30+ degrees (Celsius).
“We have local people making masks for the hospital staff, which is not ideal, but it’s better than nothing. We are thankful we have an oxygen plant, even though it is not working efficiently as it needs repairing and now that the borders are closed, this will be particularly challenging.
“We are reminded that the only thing that is certain is that Jesus is on the throne. If we take our eyes off him it can become too overwhelming— he is our ever-present help.”
The current 47,000 sq ft hospital opened in 2016 to replace the original facilities, founded by SIM in 1965. Through multiple civil wars and, most recently, the Ebola epidemic, ELWA Hospital has remained true to its vision ‘To glorify God by ministering to the whole person — the spirit, the soul and the body.’
Give thanks for the hospital team united in working together to coordinate a response to the pandemic and to remind patients of Christ’s steadfast love at this time.
For trauma-healing courses that have begun at the hospital to support staff through this pandemic.
For the ELWA Hospital to be a beacon for Christ in Liberia.
COVID-19 has forced Peru into a state of emergency as the country basically comes to a standstill.
With a curfew and quarantine of all non-essential workers, the coronavirus has created a desperate situation for many Peruvians, especially for the thousands of Venezuelan refugees, who don’t have access to government help or family support.
These people normally make their living selling on the streets or cleaning windscreens, but since the crisis, the streets are empty and they have no source of income.
In order to support this most vulnerable group of people through this critical time, SIM Peru has launched a relief project (91155) to provide emergency food relief to these Venezuelans living in Arequipa, as well as some Peruvians in extreme need.
In the first week of the project, the team distributed 150 packages; in the second week 250 and in the third, 500. There are currently 800 families on its list and rising.
A food bag costs about 40 to 45 soles (£10) and contains 2 kg potatoes, 2 kg rice, 1 kg spaghetti, 1 kg lentils, 1 kg oatmeal, 500 gr beans, 500 gr sugar, three cans of milk, two cans of tuna and a bar of soap.
The team also inserts a copy of John’s Gospel, Christian literature and sometimes a handwritten note of encouragement. Where possible, workers look for conversations with the Venezuelans, many of whom are open to the gospel. SIM Peru is now planning how best to stay in contact with the refugees after the crisis.
Pray that the SIM Peru team would show Christ’s love to the people it serves with food.
For God to provide the funds and faithful workers to serve in this ministry as long as it is needed..
For wisdom as the SIM Peru team seeks to build on the contacts it has made beyond the coronavirus crisis.
Read a testimony from a young SIM intern in Bolivia to encourage anyone exploring mission.
“My last few weeks in Bolivia – spent tying up loose ends of our engineering projects – were altogether hard and sweet. It included the installation of a pump for a widow, which was truly special. The community also thanked us with kind words and gifts as we said our final goodbyes.
Then together with the two other interns, I hopped on a night flight, arriving in the US on Monday morning.
Gradually, other interns arrived from all over the world and we spent the rest of the week together, talking through our experiences and sharing what we had learned with one another.
I’d love to tell you I feel called back to Bolivia; I’d love to tell you that I had a wonderful experience; I’d love to tell you that I felt the Spirit moving; I’d love to tell you that the fire in my heart was reignited – I’d love to tell you all of this and more, but I can’t.
I don’t find myself being lonely very often, but there was a lot of loneliness during that time – primarily in my relationship with God. He felt distant and I felt isolated. I woke up daily pursuing him in the Word – some days very intentionally and prayerfully, and some days out of habit or guilt.
I learned what it really felt like to trust God, when it felt like I was talking to a wall. I realised that this is what I am most grateful for.
I had seen missions work through rose-coloured glasses and as a ‘spiritual high’ kind of experience with missionaries as the top of the top. But now I see that they are ordinary people, who simply listened and obeyed.
My mission experiences shaped me a lot and taught me so much, but every one of them was a mountain-top experience – full of doing good things and feeling great and seeing God abundantly show up in our daily activities because they were so tangible – and all the while being surrounded by a team of people.
Back in the US, the days were primarily filled with the boring and mundane and I saw little fruit. I often felt like more of a burden than a help, and there were many days where I did nothing.
I saw a raw side of missions that I had never seen before with no mountaintop or spiritual high, but a series of day-by-day meetings in the early morning with the Lord – sometimes fully committed and sometimes half asleep, but altogether showing up.
At first, I think I chose to show up in the mornings because it felt like the right thing to do while in a cross-cultural context. I felt like I needed to be a “good Christian” – and that meant reading my Bible and journaling. But as the days and weeks ticked by, it became instinctual, habitual, and necessary. It transformed from an obligatory time to a treasured time. If I missed it, I missed out.
This whole experience was not a mountain top, but I desired – desire – to meet with God and learn from him. He gave me the gift of a foundation to build on, somewhere to go, a path to grow closer to him, instead of an experience that gave me a fire that could be extinguished, or a yearning that could dwindle or a mountain to descend.
It was not so difficult to leave Bolivia. Of course, I made friends there and cherish the people very deeply, but I was ready to leave the experience behind. But it was much more difficult for me to leave North Carolina.
The friends I made and the people there were a light and steadiness in the craziness of the summer. I did not want to leave at the end of our time because I knew what was looming on the other side when I landed – my last full semester of school, a really long internship report, a Spanish CLEP (and let me tell you, I did not learn as much Spanish as I had hoped), a job that had changed a lot, a new house, new roommates, and no bed.
I was not ready and as I said my final airport goodbyes and hopped on my plane, I couldn’t help but think about what I would do if the Lord called me abroad right now? What if this plane changed directions and I was headed somewhere completely new and maybe this experience would happen all over again in a new, unknown place?
I thought I was ready for that and wanted to go right then and there. But as I peered out the small, oval window in a plane travelling at 30,000 feet into the vastness of the most densely populated county in the US, the darkness of the night parted to the light of the 10 million inhabitants of LA and I felt the Lord nudging me, “This is your mission field right now – you’re right where I want you.”
I am grateful for this experience and for the foundation God has given me. I am grateful for what I learned in Bolivia from those with whom he surrounded me. I am grateful for the Lord’s provision and guidance. I am grateful for a good God who opens doors. I am grateful for this opportunity and for where he has me now – I am grateful.”
“Amy”, 2019 SIM US intern, Bolivia
For the Lord to become more and more real to “Amy” as she builds on the foundation the Lord has given her.
That all SIM interns would continue to learn from their experiences and for the Lord to continue to guide them and provide for them.
For SIM workers using their engineering skills in mission, to have resilience and endurance to continue this good work.
Can we bring ourselves to see the coronavirus pandemic as ‘a severe mercy’?
What is God doing through the fallout caused by COVID-19? All endeavours are curtailed by the global health crisis, and Christian mission work is no exception.
Your heart might be crying out in anguish at the suffering you are seeing around you and at your inability to do anything about it. You may be feeling the onset of grief as the prospect of losing your mission work, mission projects and mission relationships becomes more and more likely.
But in all these circumstances, you can hang on to God and refuse to give up on faith in him. You can, like Job, cry out to God and express your anguish – even outrage – at him. But this is an act of faith, not doubt, if you express your pain to God.
You can ask God to give you supernatural strength so that you keep seeking to serve others; you can ask him to help you grow in the realisation that the only thing that matters is faith. To keep serving and to keep believing in such circumstances might make no sense whatsoever, but it will bring God glory. This is what he made you for.
Amidst all the unknowns, there is one thing we do know with absolute certainty, about God’s purposes in suffering. It provides us with an opportunity to grow in Christlikeness. Can we bring ourselves to see the coronavirus pandemic as ‘a severe mercy’?
This is, after all, our eternal destination – to share in the glory of Christ, to reflect his character. This is how we bring God glory now – by being transformed moment by moment into the likeness of his son.
And this transformation happens in front of a watching world.
Because of instantaneous global communications, the effectiveness of various cultures to equip their populations to cope with severe suffering and life-threatening situations is evident to all. Many cultures with no Christian heritage are far less panicked by this epidemic than the secular west. Why is this so?
Pastor Tim Keller observes that karmic cultures allow their adherents to detach from suffering and so cope with it; stoic cultures consider it a virtue for people to stand firm in the midst of suffering; and honour cultures see adversity as an opportunity to display courage and dignity, with death even being welcomed because it allows such qualities to be displayed.
Some in the secular west, on the other hand, are reacting as though the world is about to end and there is no tomorrow.
That’s because, for the secular mind, death does end the world, and death removes the prospect of there being a tomorrow. All other world views value something greater than the here-and-now; everything the secular world view offers can be destroyed by one’s own death and by worldwide devastation. No wonder the West is in a panic.
Western Christians should be humble enough to acknowledge the superiority of non-western cultures in this respect. But the Christian gospel transcends all cultures. It can equip individual Christians and believing communities to face this pandemic with even greater engagement, peace and courage than karmic, stoic or honour cultures do.
The coronavirus crisis is a backdrop against which Christians’ love for others, faith in God, and hope for the future can be seen.
Far from repelling people, Christian communities’ responses in the midst of despair should attract at least some people to God.
While certainly severe, can we bring ourselves to see the coronavirus pandemic as ‘a severe mercy’? To see it as a global opportunity for the watching world to see faith in Christ at work – loving service, steadfast peace, and humble strength wrought in the lives of communities of God’s people?
Can we give a reason for the hope we have?
Is it wrong to hope that what people see and hear will cause at least some to turn to Jesus and be saved? God will save people in and through and after this pandemic, if Christ’s people live steadfastly with faith, hope and love.
The backdrop of world cultures that cannot offer faith, hope and love in the face of despair will mean Christ’s light is seen to burn all the more brightly through his people.
By Tim McMahon
For our mission workers to know God’s peace and maintain hope in uncertain times.
For Christian communities to be united as they respond to the coronavirus crisis with increased love and commitment to serve.
For non-believers to come to Christ because of his love, shown through his people during this global pandemic.
To support SIM’s COVID-19 Immediate Response project, please click here. (Project 99753)
Revelation 7:9 gives us the amazing picture of a host of people before the throne of the Lamb, people from every nation and tribe and tongue. Now, after almost two decades of painstaking work, another people group in Malawi has a full version of the Bible in their own language, and will be able to join that throng.
The Yawo people are one of the main peoplegroups in Malawi. On 25 October 2014 the first Bible in their language, Ciyawo, was published. Printed over in 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
#HowWillTheyHear is a Serving In Mission campaign between many international Christian charities, aimed at proclaiming Christ’s sacrificial love to migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers across Europe.
In the countdown to Easter, we are asking Christians to join us in regularly praying for these people, by signing up to our weekly email or checking out daily updates on our social media page https://buff.ly/2V5nZSL
The weekly prayer email will not only provide the next set of prayer items, but also a variety of challenges and activities to help us consider the needs of those who are struggling in strange lands.
The challenges include trying recipes from different countries; watching a film in another language; and inviting refugees and migrants into your house.
For all displaced people to find lasting peace, comfort and stability through the true God who cares.
Ask God for opportunities this Easter to share the gospel message of salvation with refugees and migrants and for them to respond positively.
Pray for God to raise up more Christians to work alongside local churches as part of the #HWTH campaign.
Local churches are pivotal ministry partners for SIM and our workers. And they’ve risen to the occasion, amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, by turning to alternative methods to fulfil the charge of Hebrews 10:24-25: “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.”
Countless churches have leaned on technology to engage with members and extend spiritual guidance and many leaders are taking advantage of online streaming capabilities to share live sermons, worship and prayer.
Before the lockdown, the church of SIM France worker Vincent Wastable had digital resources such as a blog and audio recordings. Now, they’ve moved services to a live YouTube channel. He said: “The vision now is … to enable assembly to live alongside each other in brotherhood.”
Other groups of believers have come together for Bible study over video calling platforms, including ZOOM and Skype. Although these video call Bible studies are new to many, SIM Canada worker Youngdo Kang had set up a group on ZOOM just before the pandemic unfolded.
Many of the participants were spread throughout the Greater Toronto area. Now that social distancing is required, their Bible study has already conquered the learning curve. Youngdo hopes their regular online discussions will inspire neighbourly care in the daily life of the Bible study members.
He said: “I want to move these guys to be about not just meeting on Sundays for fellowship. I want to see how I can move them to be effective in loving their neighbour, to see who around them needs help. I want to let them know this is how you can be equipped to help a relative or a friend. I think Christ calls us all to be a light and a blessing to other people.”
Youngdo, like others, has imagined the promising potential for internet-based fellowship. He said: “I’m kind of hoping it grows. Because we’re online, it could go international.”
Still others have turned to WhatsApp to exhort their spiritual brothers and sisters.
SIM worker Daniela Marx’s church in Peru is using WhatsApp to send short devotionals each day. She said: “Today’s topic was ‘God is always in control.’ The devotional topics have related to the current situation, since people are dealing with fear …”
Daniela’s church has considered how to care for the few elderly members they have, and since WhatsApp is such a widely used form of communication in Peru, they’ve chosen to minister to seniors through the app.
However, many contexts lack the resources to meet virtually.
SIM worker Crystal Rendel’s church in Niger has suspended their services and invited their congregation to respectfully observe the government’s instruction. She said: “They are encouraging people to do a church service at home and fast and pray for the week [of March 19th].”
COVID-19 has also interrupted dearly-loved sacraments, but one church, early on in the pandemic before government guidelines reduced group sizes, held communion with stringent precautions.
Hokushin Calvary Church in Japan, where SIM worker John Houlette attends, made communion as safe as possible. John said: “They decided to have people stand next to the deacons giving out the elements to sanitize people’s hands before they would partake. We lined up and came forward to receive the bread, sat down and partook. Then we lined up again to receive grape juice.”
Hokushin Calvary has been accustomed to risk assessment after weathering enormous misfortune. They meet in Fukushima City, only 50 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor, which imploded in 2011 after the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami.
In light of their experience with disaster, the leaders of Hokushin Calvary cancelled outreach events and communal meals and shortened their worship services. They met in person while it was possible, and now, they’re attempting to set up a live streamed service in order to safely engage and equip their congregation.
John said: “The Lord’s Supper this month was a deeply poignant metaphor of the dynamics of the gospel and how God can replenish a languishing soul. In Japanese, the word for languishing is used for things that wither: flowers and dreams. In Christ, we are satisfied and replenished; our lives can blossom and dreams can be realised … This virus cannot destroy our fellowship with the Lord, his work on the cross and the resurrection.”
Isolation is no match for the Body of Christ, which the Lord has empowered to glorify him in unity. Jesus followers throughout the nations are finding unique and relevant ways to connect and grow in community during this unprecedented time. Still, church families look forward to the day when they can reunite and close the six-foot gap.
For the Lord to put an end to the coronavirus.
For churches to obtain the resources they need to connect and discover creative ways to uplift each other from a safe distance.
For faithful leaders to shepherd their churches with discernment and consideration.