With summer holidays just around the corner, can you imagine heading to your destination with 18 suitcases in tow? But that was the case for SIM UK’s Matt and Lisa Wallis, serving in Nigeria!
After weeks of sorting, packing boxes, moving out, and saying goodbye to family and friends, the couple arrived at their new home in Jos, with their children Joshua, seven, Charis, four, and Lydia, three.
“The time before we left was precious, so we wanted to make the most of that,” recalls Lisa, “but it was hard to say goodbye to so many friends and family we love and also to know we were leaving so much support behind.
“But it was also exciting that our years of planning and preparation were finally becoming a reality,” adds Matt. “Taking 18 pieces of baggage, we expected at least some of them wouldn’t make it with us straight away, so were pleased it was only one bag that got lost and it wasn’t for long!”
And despite a long, hot and bumpy journey from Abuja to Jos, the children coped well despite car sickness, and no service stations, says Lisa. “Tiredness and new sights were a blessing as we were either sleeping or taking in our new world.”
Matt adds: “The children enjoyed seeing the different sights, including people skilfully carrying bananas on their head and cars and trucks overflowing with their loads, but Lydia’s stomach didn’t enjoy the swerving and bumping caused by the many potholes on the roads!”
The couple have always wanted to return overseas since they both served in Nigeria with SIM from 2008 to 2010. Sent by Avenue Community Church, Leicester, they plan to be in Nigeria for at least two years, but hope it will be much longer.
“We’ve always wanted to return overseas ever since we got married and it feels like our life has been pointing to this point for the past decade as we studied for two to three years, to do this,” says Matt, who hopes to use his physiotherapy skills with Nigerian healthcare organisations and share the gospel with those in need.
The couple are investigating different ministry options, but Lisa hopes to work with vulnerable women and children, using her discipleship, education and trauma-healing skills, alongside looking after Lydia and Charis whilst they’re too young to go to school.
“We want to use our gifts and skills in whatever way we can to enable those who haven’t heard the good news of the gospel to hear it for the first time and for those who have heard it, to come to know Christ and grow in their faith in him,” explains Matt.
Although the couple admit they had some concerns about moving to Nigeria, they take comfort knowing they have support from afar.
“Both our family and church family were so helpful through the process of preparing to leave and we wouldn’t have managed to get everything done without them,” says Matt.
“Knowing there are people back home in Leicester and around the world praying for us and continuing to support us financially is such a great encouragement.
“It’s great to know that we have people we can call on to lift us up in prayer when things are difficult and also to help in other ways if needed.”
The couple’s experience of serving cross-culturally will stand them in good stead, but as Lisa admits: “It’s early days and no doubt there will be a time when we wonder if we’ve done the right thing, but we trust God that he has us in the right place.
“We’re thankful that having lived here before will help with the transition, but it’s been a little harder for the children with less structure to their day.
“Some of the early highlights have been making friends on the compound, climbing trees and trying new sports with friends and seeing a different culture. One of the potential challenges is getting settled in a church as a family as the services are long and provision for children is very different to what they’re used to!”
And as the family gradually settle into their new life in Nigeria, they’re grateful for the wisdom shared by other mission workers who’ve been through similar experiences.
“However, each person or family comes from a unique situation, so it’s also important we think carefully about what’s best for our family without worrying if it’s the same as others,” explains Lisa.
“Since arriving we’ve been full of different emotions; excitement and relief to be here, sadness in missing people and some frustration in trying to move forward.
“But we expect hard times and want to be prepared for them. We know ministry is important, but it’s also important to invest in our personal time with God as well as our family relationships if we are to weather the storms as he is our constant rock in all of this.
“This verse from 2 Corinthians is always an encouragement when things are difficult and encourages us to hold onto the hope we have: ‘For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.’“
By Kerry Allan
- The couple will make good progress with their Hausa language learning.
- For wisdom and guidance as they explore potential ministry opportunities.
- They continue to settle more into life in Nigeria as a family and find a good routine and activities to do during the long school break.
Thinking about serving with your family?
Why not work with us to find the best fit for you? Email [email protected] or call 01223 788288 to find out more.