So what is it? 42% of the world’s people groups are classified by the Joshua Project as unreached. This is a disturbing statistic. It means that in these groups, there is little or no history of Christianity and there are millions who do not know who Jesus is. There may be a handful of evangelical Christians but they make up less than 2% of the population. Many of the groups have no known Christians at all.
One unreached group in Bangladesh has more than twice as many people as the UK. Japan with so few Christians has almost twice our population. Some colleagues who recently returned to the UK from Japan commented that Britain seemed to be full of Christians, compared to the situation they had come from.
So what can we do? It’s too big for each one of us and despairing about it won’t help. Neither will dismissing it and finding a distraction. It is one which should challenge us deeply and drive us to our knees, and there is something we can do……we can ask God to give us a burden for one, single unreached group, and make them part of our daily time with God. Or we can pray for a different group each day using an app from the Joshua Project at https://joshuaproject.net/
It may only take 2 minutes of our day, and let’s face it, we are on our phones anyway. You can even see how many others are praying alongside you, so you are not alone.
Phew! That’s OK then. Sorted. But be prepared! As you ask God to open your eyes and give you a burden for unreached peoples, there may be more……..
This letter comes with our love and greetings.
For a change, we are starting with family news.
We had a wonderful joy-filled day on 10th
November, when our youngest son, Peter, married
Miriam at Cornerstone Church in Nottingham.
Bethany and Michael will be
going to Liberia at the end of
January to serve at the ELWA
hospital run by Serving in Mission
(SIM). This hospital just outside
Monrovia hosted two of the
largest Ebola Treatment Units
during the epidemic that swept
through Liberia in 2014-2016.
We have just enjoyed a lovely Christmas spending
time with all of the family over the holiday period.
David lives locally and continues with his gardening
business. He still has plenty of winter work as the
weather is so mild at the moment.
Gill turned 60 in August and to celebrate we had
a special holiday in September, staying in a
cottage on the Norfolk coast. One of the
highlights was seeing seals playing in the sea
along a beautiful deserted golden beach.
This photo was taken in front of a seventeen
arch bridge near the home of some friends that
we visited on our way back from Norfolk. We
like this picture because of the ideas
represented by the bridge. More of this below….
We joined WEC in 1989 and went to serve at Bourofaye Christian School (BCS) in Senegal, to help provide education and support for the children of missionaries. The parents’ goal is to use all possible means of sharing the Good News of Jesus, the One who is the bridge to God. Since returning to the UK in 2001 we have served as WEC’s International Missionary Kids
(MK) Consultants, seeking to help our MKs and their families as they cross the many bridges of transition in their lives, caused by living in more than one culture, changing schools frequently and facing lots of goodbyes. In October Steve helped to organise a day conference on family debriefing, a training day designed to help missions to support their families as they go through changes. Some transitions are planned or gradual, whereas others are traumatic and sudden, perhaps involving deportation or evacuation. Our goal in WEC is to support our families as much as we can, conveying Christ’s love to all of our workers and helping them towards maximum effectiveness. A summary of the training from the conference will be published in the January edition of our Educare magazine, which Gill has been working on.
MK Staff Training
In our last letter we asked for prayer for our summer training course for new MK workers. Thank you to those who prayed! We had 12 adults and one little girl on the course this year, heading for BCS and two other locations. Once again our church, Corsham Baptist, did a wonderful job in hosting our participants, catering and providing all kinds of support from child care to transport to tea and cakes. We are so grateful for the efforts of our wonderful church members and leaders, without whom it would be really difficult to run the course at an affordable cost. For 2019, it is scheduled once more to take place at Corsham Baptist Church from 21st July to 1st August, so we would appreciate your prayers again.
Travel in 2019
There are several overseas visits scheduled for 2019. Steve is still finalising a major trip, and it is likely that he will travel to East Asia for a couple of weeks in March. In May Steve will be attending the Child Safety and Protection Network conference and refresher training in the
US, to upgrade his own safeguarding knowledge in the international context. This is essential for him in his role as WEC’s International Safeguarding Officer. Both of us will go to Eurotck in Germany in May – an excellent opportunity for networking and mutual learning for agencies based in Europe. Steve has been invited to give some safeguarding training at two WEC conferences later in the year, Eurocon in Spain in September (regional conference for European team leaders), and the WEC France conference in October.
Once again we want to thank you for your support, prayers and interest in our work. We look forward to hearing your news too, especially at this time of the year when so many of us enjoy catching up.
As Paul wrote to the church in Rome, ‘preaching the gospel where Christ was not known’ remains at the heart of the vision of many missions. Sending workers to preach that gospel among people groups in West and North Africa, the Middle East and beyond who do not know Christ demands commitment and determination, both from those who go and the organisations and churches that send them out. Good sending involves adequate training, which is where our course fits in.
We had 12 adults and one little girl representing 7 nationalities – Germany, Netherlands, the UK, Belgium, South Korea, Brazil and South Africa. Someone from another mission also attended part-time.
Where were they going?
The biggest group went to Bourofaye Christian School (BCS) in Senegal, and two others went to North Africa and the Middle East. All of the destination countries have very few believers, which means that long-term cross-cultural mission is essential to reach the people there with the gospel. Without practical support such as teaching and caring for the missionaries’ children, many long-term workers find it almost impossible to stay. Our group members are an essential element in church planting teams. Ten of the staff are now in place, and the Belgian family are engaged in pre-departure training.
How was CBC involved?
CBC kindly agreed to host the course in 2017, following the sale of the WEC property in 2016. Given how well it went, we repeated it this year.
Paul wrote to the Romans:
“I plan to do so [visit the Christians in Rome] when I go to Spain. I hope to see you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while.”
Just as the church members there were encouraged to assist him on his journey to the unreached, so CBC assisted our group members on their journeys with the same purpose.
We had over 50 people directly involved, some giving many hours, in hosting, child care, catering, transport, devotional messages and more. The support and engagement was brilliant and so much appreciated. Without the enthusiastic and committed involvement of so many CBC members the course would not be possible. Thanks too to those who were involved in prayer and encouragement for us and the group.
Our group also contributed to each Sunday morning service and in Junior Church, as well as running a mid-week session where they spoke about their journey into mission and were prayed for.
What was the course about?
The course at CBC has a specialised focus on working with missionaries’ children to help equip teachers, family tutors, administrators, and dorm staff for their roles. It covers safeguarding (including health and safety), looking after boarding children, emotional well-being, teaching skills, the missionary kids’ experience, cross-cultural transition, specific country information and Christian education. There was also input from several visiting speakers.
How are they doing?
The new staff members at BCS have settled in well. Angela sent us this photo, which also includes Philip who attended last year and several others who were unable to come.
Angela talks about her class:
Teaching the youngest year group has many joys. There’s never a dull moment as curiosity is a common trait throughout the day. They love learning new things and my heart is filled every time I see them grasp new concepts. The children don’t usually hold grudges, so each day is a fresh start. You can get to know them quickly because all of them are very open and enjoy sharing their opinions. They can be selfless, thinking about other people, and they often choose to pray for others and their pets. Watching them progress and grow as individuals, as well as a collective group, reveals how much God loves the little children and how important it is to see the world with a loving, child-like vision.
The two ladies who went to other places are also doing well. Keep praying for their adaptation and integration into the culture.
Yes! The course will again be hosted by CBC, and the dates are 21st July – 1st August. The 21st-27th July are for all participants, and the extra few days will focus on additional skills needed for teaching assistants and dorm staff.
Warm greetings! Here is our latest prayer letter, being sent to you during a week of lovely sunny weather with spring flowers and blossom out everywhere.
Steve’s visits to Thailand and Senegal
Back in October Steve visited Thailand, where he attended a large WEC regional conference, Asiacon, and was able to deliver training on safeguarding to the team leaders there. He also spent time at WEC’s boarding hostel, a ‘home away from home’ for young people attending Grace International School. The teenagers living there are the children of missionaries working in several of the surrounding countries, in areas where education for their children is not easily available. Steve and other WEC staff members were able to work with the boarding home parents to ensure that the hostel’s policies and procedures were up-to-date, as part of the overall care plan for the young people there.
A taste of Thailand as Steve visits Grace International School, Chiang Mai
At the end of January Steve went to Senegal, escaping the British winter for almost three weeks. First he spent time at Bourofaye Christian School. The school for missionaries’ children is an integral part of evangelism and church planting in Senegal, Gambia and Guinea Bissau and supports around 30 families in that work. Please pray for the school not only to have the staff they need, but also to consistently model Christian living to the children and to know God’s power at work in and through their lives and ministry. There is an urgent need for long-term committed staff members who can fulfill leadership roles. While there Steve was able to talk through many issues facing the school such as the minimum age of boarding, English as an Additional Language (EAL) teaching, recruitment and the transfer of children to other school systems. EAL is a huge challenge as many of the children are not native speakers. More and more often, missionaries are coming from places like Brazil, Nigeria, Latin American countries, and Korea. In addition to this the EAL teacher is due to retire in July, making this one of the school’s most obvious staff needs.
After leaving BCS Steve travelled 350 miles south-east from Dakar to Vélingara, where he spent time working with national churches on safeguarding. The WEC-related church, although still very small, has grown since our first arrival back in 1990 when there were just four congregations. Now there are more than 15 churches across Senegal which are growing numerically and seeking to spread the gospel and plant new churches. Part of the church outreach in the Vélingara area involves school and nursery ministry and there are now around 650 children enrolled at their schools. This kind of ministry is crucial, bearing in mind that 50% of the population are aged 16 or under. The children are being taught the full curriculum from a Christian perspective. The classes have around 40 students, but are very well organised and disciplined and it is clear that the teachers love teaching and the children enjoy being at school. All of them, both from Muslim and Christianised backgrounds, value the school’s commitment to learning and its supportive and child-friendly Christian ethos.
Shukran, Gamsa Hae, Gracias, Asante!
These words for ‘thank you’ in many languages were sung as part of the worship at WEC’s International Leaders’ Conference, known as Intercon, which we attended in April. It was a great privilege to be there with brothers and sisters of 26 nationalities, many serving the Lord in very difficult places. During this
time we worshipped God, studied and discussed the scriptures, and shared and prayed with one another in small ‘community groups’. We reviewed the progress of WEC’s outreach goals throughout the world and were encouraged to see what God has done in the last few years. There is inadequate space here to share all of the stories that we heard, but if you would like more information please contact us.
It is challenging to note that some of the people groups that we wanted to reach have not yet been engaged due to lack of workers.
Our contribution to the conference included presenting seminars on family life, educational planning and internet safety, and sharing about our resources with 19 different small groups. In addition we had a lot of individual conversations about training or individual family needs. This was very valuable, especially for Gill who has met fewer of our workers face to face than Steve.
Staff Training Course
In our last letter we included a photo of the participants at last year’s training course for staff working with missionaries’ children which was held at our church. We are delighted that the church has agreed to host the course again this year, and preparations are well underway.
Points for praise
We have had quite a few offers of accommodation and some offers of help with catering.
Eight adults and two children are registered, all heading for Bourofaye Christian School.
Points for prayer
Some more people have applied but they have hurdles to overcome. Pray them through.
More participants are needed, to fill the vacancies in schools across the world where
missionaries’ children are studying.
God’s provision for the working out of logistics as Gill seeks to arrange accommodation, catering
A good way of caring for the children whose parents will be on the course.
Michael and Bethany continue to serve at the Adama Martha Community Health Clinic in Kono District, Sierra Leone. We enjoyed seeing them briefly when they visited the UK in April, and they have now extended their term of service to September and possibly beyond. Peter and his girlfriend Miriam will be visiting them very soon, flying out on 20th May and returning on 2nd June. Please pray for safe travel, good health and their cultural adjustment: they hope to be able to help in some way even though they are not medically trained. For Miriam it will be the first trip to Africa and for Peter it is now ten years since he visited Senegal where he lived till the age of 11. Pray that they will be an encouragement to the staff there. See this link for more information about the clinic.
David is very busy with garden work at this time of the year. He is keenly involved in his local church, where he appreciates being part of a Life Group and contributing to church activities in various ways. We are able to spend time with him most Sundays.
It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. (Romans 15v20)
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Romans 10v14)
Preaching the gospel where Christ is not yet known is the central ‘why’ of WEC’s existence – the reason why so many people are willing to make sacrifices to be part of fulfilling Jesus’ commandment to go. Bearing this great truth in our hearts and minds, WEC International held its 4-yearly international conference in Germany during April 2018. Steve and Gill were privileged to be two of the 250+ delegates gathered from over 20 different countries and from every continent around the world. The huge diversity of our mission force reflects global changes in the church with those from traditional sending countries now joined by Asian, African and Latin American co-workers.
There are still almost 2,000 million people – over 30x more than the population of the UK – in the 100 biggest ethnic groups unreached by the gospel, and over 80% of the world’s Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists don’t personally know a Christian.
Some missionaries are still battling on, sowing the seeds of the gospel in hard places and waiting for some kind of breakthrough beyond a handful of people showing interest. Others struggle to get visas or to retain those that they have, and live knowing that they could be asked to leave their place of service at short notice. Sometimes mission is graft that requires perseverance and determination and it is an ongoing challenge to retain the vision of reaching people who haven’t heard the gospel.
But, there are also many encouragements……..
Conference speakers included the directors of sister missions such as the German DMG and CAPRO from Nigeria. From the very beginning of CAPRO 50 years ago, WEC has enjoyed a close relationship with them forming joint teams and sharing practical support together. CAPRO’s original vision of reaching the Muslim-majority north of Nigeria initially grew to include the rest of unreached Africa, and now has taken on other unreached parts of the world.
The growth of CAPRO represents a rising mission concern in many sub-Saharan African churches in strongly Christian areas. WEC is now working with mission-focused churches in a number of countries to help recruit and send. An exciting new development is coming up soon where new workers from Ethiopia will join WEC. Similar initiatives around the world are seeing NE Indians, Filipinos, and multiple other new nationalities joining us and other similar international missions.
In several countries we are now hearing about much more openness and response than ever before. Long-term missionaries who have been sowing and praying for years have finally begun to see fruit for their labours as people commit to following Jesus.
Our roles at the conference
General Bradley (one of the WW2 Allied commanders) popularised the expression “amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics” Of course he knew that strategy mattered, but he also knew that however good a strategy may have been it was destined to fail with poor logistical support. The same is true in missions where logistics in the form of member care, family support and administration can make the difference between success and failure. A large part of Steve and Gill’s conference was focused on family support in small group meetings and seminars – being part of the logistics that help realise the vision of preaching the gospel where Christ is not yet known.
Steve and Gill will be sharing more about this and about Steve’s visit to Senegal in Jan/Feb at the CBC mission focus day on the 10th June.
Thanks to the many people who prayed for me in Senegal and also prayed for Gill while I was away. The visit went very well with two main purposes.
The first one was to visit our school for missionaries’ children, Bourofaye Christian School (BCS) where 7 of the group who were with us back in July 2017 are now working. Anne-Cathy from France was back there for surgery on a benign growth – David and Anne-Cathy’s early time in BCS has been difficult with Anne-Cathy’s father dying a few months ago and now this surgery. The others in our group last summer – Lydia, Eva, Hannah, Philip and Ivens – are all doing very well with the possibility that one or two of them may stay on for another year. Inevitably the staff there are looking to see who will replace the ones leaving so specific prayer would be appreciated for house parents, teachers and a school counsellor, and in the longer term a new director to replace Michelle who is willingly standing in but has had to leave field ministry to do so.
The school is an integral part of evangelism and church planting in Senegal, Gambia and Guinea Bissau and supports around 30 families in that work. Given this, they would love to have your prayer support to not only have the staff they need, but also to consistently model Christian living to the children and to know God’s power at work in and through their lives and ministry.
While there Steve was able to talk through many issues facing the school such as the minimum age of boarding, English as an Additional Language (EAL) teaching, recruitment and the transfer of children to other school systems.
EAL is a huge challenge as many of the children are not native speakers – coming from places like Brazil, Nigeria, other European countries, and Korea. In addition to this the EAL teacher is due to retire in July making this one of the school’s most obvious staff needs.
Steve also did a seminar on LGBT+ issues which the science and PSHE teachers will use as part of preparation for ‘re-entry’ (the ‘return’ to the passport country for home leave or at the end of overseas service). The context of this is that these are issues which are hardly discussed in West Africa with very few LGB people and non-existent transgender visibility. Children leaving that environment face an enormous cultural adjustment when returning to the West or Latin America where the media are giving huge publicity to these issues.
The school’s main hall and chapel – the photo at the top of this post – was just a brown earth site a few years ago. Since then the school has had anything between 60 and 90 children of missionaries studying there.
After leaving BCS Steve travelled the 560km (350 miles) south-east from Dakar to Vélingara.
Thanks to those who prayed for my journey. I was braced for the usual experience of a seriously cramped ride in a battered old minibus or 7-seater bush taxi, but was pleasantly surprised to travel in a much newer bus shown in the photograph. That got me most of the way there then it was back to normal in a really dilapidated bush-taxi (on the back row of seats intended originally for small children) which made the one in the picture look good – just the last 2 hours thankfully! On the way back it was the new bus for the whole journey….much better.
A typical bush taxi
Once in Vélingara close to the border with Gambia I was able to start on the second purpose of the visit which was to work with national churches on safeguarding. The WEC-related church, although still very small, has grown since our first arrival back in 1990 when there were just 4 congregations. Now there are 15+ churches which are growing numerically and seeking to spread the gospel and plant new churches.
Part of the church outreach involves school and nursery ministry; there are already two centres and clear plans to set up another one, and a vision for more after that. Both schools are in the south-east of the country – one in Vélingara and the other in a village nearby. These schools did not exist when we left Senegal in 2001, but now there are already around 650 children enrolled with huge potential beyond that. This kind of ministry is crucial bearing in mind that 50% of the population is 16 or under which means that the population is doubling every 20-25 years. Church leaders are convinced that they have the right people to staff any new schools as there are many well-educated church members looking for jobs who would welcome working there.
The school ministry is impressive. The children are being taught the full curriculum from a Christian perspective. The classes are around 40, but are very well organised and disciplined and it is clear that the teachers love teaching and the children enjoy being at school. This is already a huge advantage over the extremely stretched state sector. The children come from a mixture of Christianised backgrounds from minority tribes and Muslim ones from the local majority tribe. All of them value the school’s commitment to learning and its supportive and child-friendly Christian ethos.
I was able to deliver a French-language equivalent of the Baptist Union Level 2 training that was adapted to Senegal and covered major local issues such as forced marriage and FGM. Encouragingly, all 30 of the school staff and church leaders who took part were very clear that these are evils to be eliminated. The course ended with the presentation of certificates; it is very important in Senegal to have them as proof of study.
As the photograph above show the school’s resources are minimal with classrooms made of local fence panels or in the quarter-finished building. The building is planned to be 3 storeys with 9 classrooms, not just the one storey already built. This will be done in standard Senegalese style when enough money comes in to continue. There was not a murmur of complaint from any source.
In the one classroom that has been built there is the brightening effect of decoration and murals. There was also time and effort taken for at least a simple celebration of one little girl’s birthday.
On the last day there I spoke with leaders of the overall group of WEC-related churches about safeguarding policies and their concerns and perceived needs. Church members face many huge challenges, mostly related to poverty, that make them vulnerable so any safeguarding policy and training will need to recognise these dangers and how the church at least can be a safe haven.
Steve’s visit to Thailand in October went well and he was able to help out with WEC’s boarding home for senior students whose parents work all over South-East Asia but whose children study at Grace International School in Chiang Mai. The boarding parents were in urgent need of extra support and a better structure around them to allow time off. we believe that this all now in place. Steve also attended WEC’s Asia Area conference in Chiang Mai where he spoke on safeguarding and had numerous one to one advisory and support meetings with team leaders. He also sold 45 copies of the new book about missionaries’ children called ‘Serving at the ends of the earth; Family life and TCKs’ which he and Gill completed last May.
WEC Training Attendees July 17
Steve is now back from Senegal where he visited both Bourofaye Christian School and did safeguarding training for national church leaders. The school is where Steve and Gill served during the 1990s and also where the largest group went from the 2017 course (held at Corsham Baptist last July/August) for staff going to work with missionaries’ children. The school is facing many challenges, not least of which is the never-ending recruitment process for new staff as so many teachers and practical workers only go for one year. They are also working through the implications of raising the minimum boarding age. Steve discussed all of these issues with the school staff as well as presenting a recently produced resource on LGBT+ issues designed to help children (and adults) from Africa and Asia where LGBT+ is rarely discussed prepare for a return to the West where it is one of the hottest subjects on the agenda. He also distributed more copies of their book.
The safeguarding training with national churches is a new departure for Steve, although one or two colleagues within WEC have already been asked to do similar training in other countries. The church, despite being very small and having few resources, now runs schools and nurseries as well as its own Sunday schools, and there is general alarm in the country about a rash of false claims of abuse against teachers in the hope of blackmail money, so the training should be very timely. This training will involve more travel than normal, including down to the south-east of the country.