Category: Mission and Ministries

Mission Training at CBC July/August 2018

Steve and Gill Bryant,
WEC logo

“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 15:20

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. 

Who came?

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.”

Rom 15:24

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: 

Angela’s 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.

Next Year?

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. 

Steve and Gill Bryant December 2018 

A Little Odyssey: All aboard the Africa Mercy and all is well

Stuart & Lynne Little,

We climbed the gangway Friday 9th November for the first time, quite a moment for us all as this has been four and a half years in the planning. A tad emotional after spending two weeks living in the middle of Conakry, Guinea as part of the Mercy Ships On Boarding programme intended to give us the experience of living alongside the culture in which the AFM (Africa Mercy) is operating in.  During  this time Lynne helped out in a youth centre offering English language lessons to Guineans whilst Matthew and Stuart built some kitchen units in one of the accommodation units the workers are housed in.

One of the English language classes where
Lynne was based …
Matthew and Stuart built this…
…like this

As for our work, Matthew has the hardest job as he is outside on the deck in the heat of the day, he has been brilliant and we are so proud of him as he just gets on with chipping rust, painting and storing ship.  Lynne is learning the role of ward administrator.  My carpenters role is great, I have built special tool boxes, fixed locks and made coat racks and storage shelving for the academy.  Our commute to work is a matter of minutes.  Each flight of stairs are only 16 steps, however, with nine decks we have no idea how many ‘stair steps’ we take each day (particularly Stuart and Matthew) – and our legs sometimes really feel it!

Our ‘On Boarding’ group
… one of the walls cabin on board the AFM…..
We have a couples cabin whilst Matthew is sharing
with 5 others.. not quite so roomy!
Matthew walking past the carpentry shop
(the grey steps were made to help patients
in and out of the vehicles)

We have been out and about in Conakry a little and have grown quickly accustomed to the poverty and chaotic traffic.  We will venture further afield in the coming months and hopefully have access to one of the ship’s vehicles.  

A December update

… as we didn’t publish when we thought we would.  Matthew had just published a brilliant blog and we wanted people to see that first.

We are now into December and the AFM certainly has a full calendar of events leading up to Christmas embracing the many cultures and traditions of the crew volunteering here – actually it started  late November!

African Gala evening
Sinterklaas on the gangway

British crew had a surprise gift of chocolate Advent calendars, courtesy of Mercy Ships UK office (thank you!!) and on 30th November this year the AFM had their first ever classical evening. Lynne accompanied a duet for ‘Panis Angelicus’, there was Spanish folk guitar, an opera singer and piano solos.  Good fun and an opportunity to dress up.  (We’re honestly not on a cruise!)  On 1st December, we helped decorate the ship for Christmas and in the evening there was a brilliant ‘African Gala’, hosted by African crew who were fundraising for their ‘On Boarding’ fees which they will be doing on the ship (the same as we did in Texas).  On Wednesday 5th December we celebrated the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas – the calendar says ‘Sinterlaas’ so not really sure how it’s spelt – however he came to the ship (on a boat we think!) and gave presents to the children.  We went out for ice cream afterward! 

Ice cream at Le Special

Ice cream in the evening seems to be a favourite pastime for many Mercy Shippers. Thursday evenings are community evenings with some worship and a message.  This week’s was very special as the children from our Academy led this and also it was a ‘Global Gathering’ where we have a live link with the ISC in Texas and national offices and remote workers can also listen in too!  The MCs in both Africa and Texas were superb!  Friday 7th December was a British crew Christmas which involved mainly eating British Christmas snacks – and Christmas pudding – sent from the UK and chatting with other British crew members of which there are quite a few!  
Yesterday, Saturday 8th we ventured out with a few others in a minibus to Dubreka waterfalls (we wanted to get there before they dry up in January as the rainy season is now over). 

Dubreka falls
Dubreka falls

 They were well worth going to and a swim in the pools was just lovely.  It made up for the 3 1/2 journey back in chocka- block roads, fumes, lane closures & generally chaotic roads. Our driver took good care of us – and certainly knew some side road (?track!) diversions!  

Matthew ‘karaoking’

When we got back we went to the Deck and Engineering BBQ and karaoke and another amazing sunset on the upper deck. (Deck 8)


Had a quick shower (two minutes only here on board!) before going to Winter Wonderland – another AFM tradition – where some hugely talented crew make all sorts of things to sell to other crew as fundraising for their crew fees.  (Some crew work so hard raising money to be here.) Today, Sunday, is a rest day for us before the start of another working week!

Work continues as normal – all day, every day as we are a hospital ship! Our commute to work is a matter of minutes.  Each flight of stairs are only 16 steps, however, with nine decks we have no idea how many ‘stair steps’ we take each day (particularly Stuart and Matthew) – and our legs sometimes really feel it!

Sunset over Kassa island

The children’s orthopaedic ward is pretty much constantly full and will continue to be during the six weeks of orthopaedic surgery which continues until Christmas.  Lynne sees, and hears, every day, the painstaking and hard work involved in learning to walk following surgery.  Teams of nurses, doctors, rehab specialists are all on hand.  Maxillofacial surgery also continues as well as some other general surgeries.  The work here is truly inspiring and humbling.  A screening team have recently been upcountry in the last couple of weeks (a good day or so travelling just to get there!) and already patients are starting to arrive in preparation for surgery.

The following are a couple of patient stories which our communications department have cleared for crew to share in blogs, newsletters, etc

Thanks to all who are supporting the work of Mercy Ships with financial help for Matthew and we are pleased to say all finances are in place for our first year of service. 
Just a a reminder that if you want to follow this blog and have it appear in you email inbox please put your email address in the box at the foot of this page.

Prayer points for us…– for physical strength for Matthew and Stuart working in the African sun and for endurance and compassion for us all as we work alongside Mercy Ships medical crew to deliver healing and hope to the forgotten poor.
– as we celebrate Christmas here in Guinea and for our family and friends back home that we will all know the true meaning of Christmas.

‘For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; and the government is upon His shoulder, And His name will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.’

Isaiah 9:6

Times of Transition, Successful Seminars and Confused Cockerels!

Picture of Steve and Ruth

“So much effort measuring speed but we’re still overwhelmed with accidents.”

Our last update began with the words “three down, three to go”. Four months later, in terms of our IBM regional conferences, it’s now “six down, none to go”! Project Peter is now complete and we have much to be thankful for! All six conferences went to plan and I was able to teach all of my allotted sessions: 46 in total. Despite travelling 3,000 miles on the dicey roads of Tanzania, we didn’t experience any hold-ups, punctures or accidents along the way, just numerous police checkpoints which continue to suck the joy out of driving! Oh that these large figures dressed in white uniforms were angels! Alas, they are not! In terms of attendance at these events, we had a combined total of 160 pastors, evangelists and wives turn up, the largest number we’ve had for a few years. All seemed to be very happy with our focus on the book of 1 Peter, and of particular relevance to the pastors was chapter 5, where Peter urges elders in the church to be shepherds of God’s flock, serving as humble overseers, and being examples to those they lead.

It’s been encouraging to read the feedback from the pastors, although one did question why we were studying 1 Peter when Paul had written many other letters! Another pastor commented that the letter had been brought to life for him, and at the Kilwa seminar, it was great to hear that, as a group of churches in the area, the pastors had decided to use my notes to teach their congregations. It was a timely reminder for me that those hours of labour spent in the study have not been in vain and that the audience is wider than just those who attend the conferences. The teaching material has now been put into book form so that the pastors can have something more permanent for future reference and study. You’re welcome to a copy – if you can read Swahili!

Our August conference took place in the dead-end town of Ifakara! It’s a one-street African town with many dusty side-roads leading off it, and a real sense of run-down-ness. Yet despite its location and its last century feel, we had 43 pastors/evangelists/wives travel in for the event. Guesthouse prices ranged from £3.20-£8.50 and all of the cooking was done right outside the church under the shade of a mustard tree! On the menu for the three days was typical Tanzanian fare: rice, beans, ugali, spinach, and watermelon, although I was concerned that some super-sized catfish might make it onto our plates at one point! A random guy on a bike turned up one afternoon trying to sell five of the large slimy wrigglers for £3 each! At the end of the conference it was a real encouragement to see that the pastors had collected £30 towards the work of IBM – and this wasn’t the only conference where this happened. This year we’ve found that there is a growing sense amongst the pastors that they appreciate what IBM is all about, and want to step up and help with costs.

Our conferences in September and October (Magambua and Mbeya) also went well. The beauty of the Magambua event is that it’s way out in the bush with the nearest tarmac road being 100 miles away! That means few noisy distractions to contend with for the teacher, just the occasional herd of cows or goats trotting past the church door! The other benefit for Ruth and I was that we were able to stay with some fellow missionaries, who supplemented our rice and beans diet and ensured we didn’t have to stay in a spartan pastor’s house which had only two working lightbulbs! As we wrap up this conference season, we’re able to say that God’s Word has indeed been taught, and we pray that these church leaders will grow in their faith and lead their congregations into a closer relationship with Jesus – because that’s what this is all about. I’m thankful to God that he’s enabled me to teach again this year. Teaching in Swahili is still far out of my comfort zone but the bottom line is that it is He who has empowered me to do so! I’m very much aware of Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 3: 5 & 6: “For we are not competent in ourselves, but our competence comes from God.” In other words, as the Good News version says, “There is nothing in us that allows us to claim that we are capable of doing this work, for the capacity we have comes from God alone.”

Oak Hall Returns: In August Ruth and I hosted an Oak Hall group at Sanga for two weeks, with 22 guests coming to experience the sights of Tanzania and a taste of mission. They worked hard on various projects at Sanga, helped to paint a dormitory at Agape Children’s Village (an orphanage), went on safari and climbed into the Uluguru mountains, but one of the highlights was visiting a small AIC church out in the rurals, set in the midst of a Muslim village. The eye-opening moment for the group came during the service when they were ceremoniously presented with a confused-looking cockerel and a tonne of bananas as a gift! The welcome and the generosity the church showed towards us in the midst of their humble surroundings was overwhelming. The intrepid Oakies returned home with some precious memories and, for one guest in particular, the African adventure looks set to continue as she’s since applied to teach with AIM somewhere in Africa! A taste of mission seems to have developed into wanting more!

“The times they are a changin”!
For our team here in Morogoro there is plenty of change ahead, although it seems as though missionaries serving overseas live within a revolving-door environment where people are constantly coming and going. Our team mates Tony and Cath Swanson are in the process of saying their goodbyes and packing their bags after being in Tanzania for 20 years. In a weeks’ time, they’ll head to the UK for six months before continuing their consultancy roles with AIM, based in Uganda. Tony became the Co-ordinator of IBM way back in 2004 and he’s been at the forefront of developments at Sanga over the last 14 years. He’s lived and breathed all things Sanga, and I’m sure if you were to cut him in half you’d find Sanga blood flowing out! Both Tony and Cath have been an enormous support to us and we’ll miss their wisdom and maturity as well as their friendship and support. On a more playful note, I’ll particularly miss my battles with Tony on the ‘browns’ of Morogoro golf course, and to hearing Cath recall her latest missionary mishap during the course of her many travels!

To mark the end of this era, we headed to the wilds of Mikumi National Park a few weeks ago and enjoyed a team day on safari. The highlights of our day in the bush included watching over 200 buffalo jostling for position at a waterhole, and a lone leopard out on the plains. The lowlight, however, was receiving a phone call telling us that there was a fire in the upper room of the newly-built conference centre! One of the free-standing halogen lamps had been placed too near the curtains and it hadn’t taken long for the fire to spread up into the ceiling boards and roofing sheets. The alarm was raised quickly and our amazingly brave Sanga team were able to put out the fire with the use of ladders and buckets of water! It could have been so much worse, but thankfully our guys were able to deal with it before it caused too much damage, and the repair work was completed within a week. A footnote to the story is that the local fire brigade (think Trumpton!) turned up once the fire had been put out!

All that remains for us to say as we approach the end of another year, is an enormous THANK YOU for your prayers and support and, although it feels way too early to be sending festive greetings, once it arrives, have a wonderful Christmas and a blessed New Year!

Diary Dates:

8-13 Dec:       Unit leader meetings in Dar and Lindi (south Tanzania)
16 Dec:          Preaching at Emmanuel Church, Morogoro
18 Dec:         Amani School Board meeting in Dar (Unit)
23-27 Dec:    Christmas hols
6-10 Jan:       Unit Leader meetings in Nairobi
8 March:       Term 2 complete! Return to UK for six months!

Prayer Points:

  • You might remember that we were looking to recruit an accountant for 12 months for IBM. The AIC has actually appointed someone on a part time basis to cover Ruth’s absence during our home assignment (March-Sept 2019), so that’s an answer to prayer, at least in the short term. Ideally Ruth would like this person to continue managing the accounts when we return to Morogoro next year.
  • Please pray for the Morogoro AIM team as we enter this time of transition. Whilst Tony and Cath will leave on 9th Dec, we’re hoping to have a new family (Wildasins) joining the team in February, depending on the issuing of work permits! Please pray for this to happen soon! Ruth and I will then be heading back to UK on home assignment in early March, and the Dixons will then also be leaving Tanzania in July! Please pray for Pastor Yohana Batano as he picks up the baton passed on by Tony as the Co-ordinator of IBM!
  • Please pray that we would finish our second term well! In many ways this has been a hard year with an on-going sinusitis battle for me, increased responsibilities for Ruth at Sanga, discouraging pastoral situations within the AIC church, growing cultural fatigue, and a seemingly growing police presence on the roads! I’ll admit that my levels of patience and grace are running low as we enter the final three months of this term. It makes me more aware of just what a fragile clay vessel I am! Thankfully, “we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Cor. 4:7)

Friends of Sanga Sanga
We invite you to become a Friend of Sanga Sanga. What does that mean? It means that we keep you updated with news and prayer requests of the ministry at Sanga Sanga via WhatsApp or email. You will receive a newsletter (written by Ruth!) via email twice a year. You can ask for a speaker to come to your church or mission event. And you will receive invitations to come and see what we do and perhaps help with some practical work. If you would like to become a Friend of Sanga Sanga please let us know or click here to sign up!

Easter Sunday in Jerusalem?! If you’re looking for something to do over Easter next year, then how about heading to Israel and Palestine with Oak Hall? I’m leading another trip (trip code IS19) from 16th-26th April, and it would be great to see some familiar faces on the trip. For a detailed itinerary and more details please see the following link:

Every blessing,

Steve & Ruth

Life in Texas and Guinea

Matthew Little,
Life in Texas and Guinea
First things first…
I’ll address the elephant in the room; the sudden change in blog name. I didn’t like it. ‘African Adventure’ just didn’t seem to fit what I am doing on the Africa Mercy, let alone in Africa, but it wasn’t until the 5 weeks On Boarding in Texas, that I found a much better name. On the Africa Mercy, I am serving as a Deck Hand, or a ‘Deckie’ I guess. Slang, probably. And this is a diary of sorts, so Diary of a Deckie was a much more accurate name. Got it? 
Good. Now onto the post.
As I write this, it is my first full day on the Africa Mercy (10th of November). I arrived on the ship on the ship yesterday, but I arrived in Guinea two weeks ago. I shall now give an account of what I have been doing for a month of almost radio silence. Besides from various WhatsApp or brief Messenger conversations and one Facebook post with a Thor Ragnarok reference.
So, I have since took a flight to Texas, where we stayed for a month, at the Mercy Ships International Support Centre. The first week in Texas, from the 23rd to 29th of September, I experienced the joyous fun torture of Basic Training, which was recommended for most crew going long-term. I met Jennifer, the Crew Nurse, Ian, a general supply assistant (both returning to the ship. It’s always helpful to be friends with helpful crew like the Crew Nurse. At least that’s what I think) and Liz and Barney, and their two young boys Noah and Judah (Like me, first timers and Brits. Barney is the Finance Director) We were also joined by Andrew, A YWAM (Youth With A Mission) worker. So, the Basic Training. We did First Aid training. I already achieved Level 1 Basic First Aid with St John Ambulance Cadets, but I had to do it again as part of the U.S. Coast Guard Basic Safety Training Certificate, so nothing was new to me there. Apart from bandages with the pad and wrap as two separate things instead of one thing that I am used too. (I have accumulated so many certificates this last month) We also had to do Personal Sea Survival. That was fun. Learned how to drop a life boat. I don’t think it is ‘dropping a life boat’, but it’s a fairly accurate description. As a deck hand, I most certainly could be put on one of the teams responsible for operating the ropes for releasing the life boats, so that was essential. Also learned how to upturn a capsized inflatable life boat, and wore a ‘Gumby’ suit (Sorry, Americans, if it’s spelt wrong) Apparently Gumby is a green claymation character in the States. American equivalent of British Morph. Last but not least (We actually did it first, and there was another section that I forgot) Fire Fighting! Oh Boy! That wasn’t terrifying at all! It was all interesting, and useful to know all the uses of the different Fire extinguishers (The one feature, I meant what fires the different extinguishers are used against). We also had to put out a fire and rescue a dummy in a burning container (two different activities, but in the same container) Stressful stuff, and I don’t wan’t to do that again, but I guess I will see if I am put onto a fire team, because I am a deckhand, then I will probably have to do that stuff.

Choosing fire fighting clothes.
After surviving all that, it was time to start the On Boarding. We were also joined by Merryl, an Aussie returning to the ship as an Operating Room Clinical Supervisor. And our crew On Boarding group was assembled. Everyone else at OnBoarding were International Support Centre Workers, and they are all very cool. (Shout out to our On Boarding class International Support Centre classmates!) The On Boarding was actually very useful and interesting, if a bit complex and hard to get my head at times, but I would recommend it. I learned about ways that God communicates to us, how best to dedicate a time to spend time with Him. On one Saturday morning during the On Boarding to practice this after that week, which was good to put that into practice. It honestly feels so good and amazing to feel that you get a divine response. One week is dedicated to learning about yourself. Because you learn something new everyday. Even about yourself. This was your DISC profile Whilst I was working on a poster with Crystal (ISC worker and On Boarding classmate) and Rachel (One of the On Boarding Teachers/Lecturer/staff member) about our common profile, I tried to joke about how the DISC profile is the adult equivalent of your Hogwarts house. No-one laughed. The poster was about how I, as a Steady Confident person (SC in DISC) like to interact with others. Basically I’m an Introvert. Nothing new there. We also discussed different worldviews, and working with those we serve from other cultures. Important to know when serving in Africa. These are few of the ‘highlights’ or what I most wanted to share about the On Boarding.

Add caption

Living in Texas. That was a very interesting and eye opening experience (Everything we learned was also both of those things) living in America.  Most Texans (if not all of them) and most other Americans (if not all of them) would say that Texas is basically its own nation. I was expecting culture shock going into Texas, but honestly, I knew quite a bit about  of the culture from research on the Internet. By research, I mean mindlessly watching YouTube videos or American comedies with no intention to learn anything, so I was like “OMG! There’s an American thing that I know about from the Internet!” and my parents were like “What?”. An example was seeing a 7-Eleven in Fort Worth airport, and they had no idea what I was talking about. The surprising thing about Texas was how big everything was (I know the saying) in terms of the space. There was so much space between two buildings, unlike the UK, where you would immediately see building-after-building with no space in between . But guns in a Wal-mart was no surprise to me (thanks, Internet) However, cowboy churches were a surprise. No explanation, because I don’t know why anyone thought that cowboys and churches needed to be put together, but there you go. Especially a church with a functioning Rodeo arena. Then came the first experience of a Texas storm. Set the scene. Me and my parents had just finished another episode of the new series of Doctor Who, thanks to a VPN. This makes me very happy, if you know how much I love Doctor Who. Also, Jodie Whittaker is great as the Doctor, loving the new series. I was not staying where my parents were staying, so I had to walk back. Then I saw the lightning and heard the thunder. Because Texas lightning was amazing and was nothing like I had ever seen before, I waited around and watched for a while, before I went back to my accommodation. I wasn’t too far from my accommodation, when “CRASH!” followed by a very bright flash of lightning. Then I ran faster than I ever had in my life. We also visited Tyler Zoo.

Stream from bridge after rain.

Like everything else in Texas, spiders are big.
Obligatory photo in front of the gun rack in a Wal-mart


Cowboy church.
Gecko on bathroom window

 Then, it was time to leave for Guinea. Lead by our leaders Stefan from Germany, and Dutchie lady Remy, we all  drove to Fort Worth airport (Most of us. Ian and Merryl got their own way there), but not before a a visit to an In-an-Out. In-an-Out is good, because it is literally In-an-Out, with limited menu options, so  there is no “Can I get uhhhhhh…….?” Besides from the wait time. We got on the planes to Atlanta, Atlanta to Paris and Paris to Conakry, with a fuel stop (I think?) in Noukachott, Mauritania. It was very strange just looking out the plane window in both airports, as Noukachott was desert, and Conakry was city. After being allowed to skip the queues in Conakry airport, getting ALL of our luggage (Huzzah!) we separated from the Goodalls, who went straight to the ship and drove to our field practice accommodation: a missionary compound. Those two weeks of field practice, we worked with that community. The men: Myself, my father and Ian worked on some DIY, including organising and cleaning the workshop on the site, and a kitchen island and sink unit in the flat for one of the workers there. And Stefan went elsewhere. He usually said grocery shopping, but most of the time, we didn’t know where he was going. The ladies: My mother, Jennifer, Merryl and Remy helped out at La Zone, A youth centre, where the Guineans can come to learn English. Also, on Friday mornings, they do ‘Conversation Classes’ where a theme is discussed. We took part in special Conversation Classes the first week of field practice, where the men and women are separated. The ladies had a lesson and discussion about women’s health,  where as the men were discussing what it means to be a man. I enjoyed that, and it was a really special moment for me, because it was very interesting to hear very different cultural opinions about masculinity and being a man. It also interesting to hear different opinions about being a man IN THE SAME COUNTRY, because of the different ethnic groups in Guinea, such as the Fulani, the most widespread  Muslim ethnic group in Sahel and West Africa and majority group in Guinea, the Madinka and the Sousou.

Very cool network of spiderwebs between two trees

After a final meal out at La Special, it was finally time to join the ship! At the end of the OnBoarding in Texas, I  just wanted to get to the ship so bad, and walking up that gangway for the first time is as special as others will tell you. As I write this NOW, it is Saturday and I have finished my first week of work, and being a deckhand is so fun. Asides from working in the blazing sun of Africa in a boiler suit. So far, I have done painting and chipping, cutting rags, and started on my own project assigned by my boss, Femi, the bosun. Haven’t finished that yet, but from what I have been told from a fellow deck hand that quite often, we will be given a task and it may or may not be finished. I also spent this morning on the dock helping to unload one of the containers from Rotterdam. It was one of the cold containers, though, so I was grateful to be working in there that morning. After a coffee break, though, I was sweeping Deck 7 to clear all the dead/dying in agony bugs as Pest Control had been working on the ship this week.

Me (in blue boiler suit) helping to unload a container. 
Guinean sunset. With three volcanic island. That sun went down fast.
What I was upto on the field practice
(Almost) Finished breakfast bar on the last day of work
My parents and me on our first evening on the ship.

I plan to a monthly blog post, if anyone is wondering. I just decided to do one blog post about my experience of Texas and the field practice.

Sorry for the bad photo placement. At least I have finally finished this post.

See you soon!

Sending Mail

Stuart & Lynne Little,
Airmail emvelope

A few people have asked how to send things to us so thought we would publish a separate blog post.  

There are two ways to send things to us on the Africa Mercy depending on the size of the item.  If you have any questions, please message us.

Cards/letters only

Crew mail is sent out weekly from the Holland warehouse. Items weighing 43g or less are free for us to receive but please note that we will be charged c50p per 28.4g for anything above that.

A size limit of 55 cm exists for such items and delivery to ship will take about 3-5 days once it departs Holland.

Please address items as follows:

Stuart Little – Deck or Lynne Little – Ward or Matthew Little – Deck
Mercy Ships – AFM – Crew Mail
Ridderkerkstraat 20
3076 JW Rotterdam
The Netherlands

Larger items

Containers depart monthly from Holland and there is no additional cost for us to receive items sent via container. 

Please address items to be sent via container as follows:

Stuart Little – Deck or Lynne Little – Ward or Matthew Little – Deck
Mercy Ships – AFM – CONTAINER
Ridderkerkstraat 20
3076 JW Rotterdam
The Netherlands

Benjamin Francis – prayer letter, October 2018

Tim Stephenson,
Benjamin Francis head shot

Benjamin continues to live life in the fast lane and is currently on a trip in Europe, of which I will write more later.
BMS Kolkata has been a centre of BMS activity for many years stretching back to the beginnings of BMS presence in India. Where once this was a centre for mission personnel, now the face of BMS in India is very different with a staff of local people running the centre. Over recent years Ben has been leading the transition of BMS Kolkata from solely being a guest house for folk visiting to engage in mission locally, to now also being a centre for leadership development and mission in the region.
Ben needs real wisdom as he deals with many responsibilities that he carries in leading BMS work in India from the centre in Kolkata. There is a Board of Trustees led by Anjan Singh that oversees the work and they had significant meetings in the summer that included Peter Dunn and Val Stevens from BMS in the UK. All the Trustees are excited about the potential for BMS to engage in mission in new and exciting ways.

View of BMS Kolkata: 2 storey building behind palm trees and lawn in foreground

One of the initiatives mentioned in the last letter was Street Servants, based loosely on a Street Pastors model. Since we last wrote the Street servants car has started night patrols to look out for vulnerable people on the streets if Kolkata and bring something of the light of Christ to the streets. The street school project that happened under the flyovers has been relocated to a safer place following another road collapse in the city. It is great to be able to help some of the neediest people on the streets of Kolkata and see lives transformed.

Street Servants car

Ben serves in the leadership of what has become known as a Disciple Making Movement (DMM) in Asia and it has been fantastic to see this impacting people across the region, including some of BMS’s historic partners. The picture below shows Ben meeting with BMS personnel Peter and Louise Lynch along with Rev Ashim Baroi (General Secretary of Bangladesh Baptists) in Dhaka earlier in the summer.

Ben and friends are helping to provide training for the Baptist family in Bangladesh to help them rethink what it means to make disciples who make disciples in their context. Similar relationships are shooting up across Asia including another historic BMS partner, the Thai Karen Baptist Convention in northern Thailand.

Ben, Peter and Louise Lynch and Rev Ashim Baroi

Currently Ben is travelling in the UK and Eastern Europe seeking to inspire others with the stories of what the Lord is doing in Asia and helping leaders consider the relevance of the DMM approach in their own contexts. This emphasis is in its early days, but there are some encouraging signs of life already with some small discipleship groups beginning to emerge. The approach is to place an emphasis on proactively sharing faith and making disciples who in turn actively seek to make other disciples. The focus is then on the forming of small groups where discipleship happens with an emphasis upon both God’s word and the Holy Spirit.

In all of the busyness Ben has had the blessing of some time away with his wife Gillian and daughter Abigail. With such a busy life, time together is very precious. Gillian and Abigail are also deeply involved with mission. Their home is a place where small discipleship groups meet, and folk are encouraged in faith and mission. Later this month Gillian and Abigail head to Delhi to encourage mission in that area where new groups are also springing up led by BMS supported partner worker Amrit. Gillian leads a specific ministry that seeks to disciple and empower women, called Women of the Word (WOW). Abigail is still at school and working hard. She is a gifted public speaker. It is great to see the whole family serving the Lord together and using their different gifts.

Points for prayer

Pray for Ben, Gillian and Abigail, that the Lord will continue to give then special times together and both bless them and make them a blessing to others
Pray for Ben as he leads the mission of BMS Kolkata. Just as churches in the UK face issues of compliance, so too does BMS in Kolkata. Pray for Ben as he manages a team of about 20 at the centre, for wisdom and love.
Street Servants – Pray for the Lord to bless the ministry of Street Servants as they expand the work into new areas and also put the vehicle on the road to protect vulnerable people.
Disciple making movement – pray that the Lord will continue to bless this work with fruit as lives are transformed by the love of Jesus. Pray for Ben as he provides overall leadership and as he seeks to inspire and train others across the world.
Disciple making in Europe – pray specifically for their to be momentum in the European context where Ben is travelling this autumn, as folk catch the vision and rethink disciple-making in their contexts.

Training in Texas

Stuart & Lynne Little,
Texas flag on corrugated iron sheet

We have been here 5 weeks and its been a whirlwind, (nearly literally,  but more of that later).  We have met our fellow On Boarders and are living closely with them before we leave for Africa on Sunday 28th October.  We are resident at the Mercy ships International Support Centre (ISC) in East Texas.  We have a room in the guest house and Matthew is sharing with Ian who is in his early 20s in another accommodation block on the other side of the campus.  There are two other ladies on our course and a young family from the UK: Barney and Liz with their two boys – Noah who turned 5 last week and Judah (18 months).  So we will be joining 8 others on the ship with Noah….(oh err… its nearly biblical)

The Guest House at the ISC
The ISC has full time staff here looking after the Mercy Ship by recruiting ship volunteers & staff, seeking sponsorship and financial support, procuring stores and engineering & IT support and training.  There are a number of Brits on the staff here who have served aboard the ship in the past and become embedded in the Mercy ship mission. 
Because we have signed up to do more than 10 months aboard the Africa Mercy we are required to do the On Boarding training.  This is because Mercy ships want to ensure they have a core crew who understand the mission to bring hope and healing to the worlds poor following the 2000 year old model of Jesus. 
Our training here consists of three components…

The first week was Basic Training this includes aspects of ships safety such as fire fighting, first aid, life saving at sea and security including pirate awareness.  Matthew and Stuart needed to complete this and all have internationally recognised maritime certificate.  Impressed that Mercy Ships takes the training so seriously.

Yes, its hot in there because its on fire
Matthew works out which way is up.
I actually think we look quite cool
Its what you do team building
in a class room
Then there was a week of classroom based Foundations of Mercy Ships and we were joined buy others mainly from the USA who have expressed an interest in serving in the future.  This week provided the history and mission of mercy ships and the vision looking forward when  
Then three weeks of On Boarding where we have been joined by others new to Mercy Ships who will be working full time here at the ISC. These weeks are a once in a life time opportunity to study the Word and investigate how nation building took place in Old Testament times and what this may look like today.  We are encouraged to take an in depth look at our faith and what it means to follow Jesus and so live the life planned for us before we were so wonderfully knit together in our mothers womb.

So today, Friday 26th October, we have completed our training with a final presentation from each of us to highlight a few of the topics that have impacted us during the training.  It was quite moving to hear the diversity of response to going deeper into scripture especially the implications of taking part in missions in Africa today avoiding dependency and paternalism.

We have been here five weeks and experienced some American culture but it is evident this varies across USA and that Texas is quite different;  also they say if you don’t like the weather in Texas wait 15 minutes. We can testify to this having seen extreme heat and humidity and storms one of which had us standing by to take to our storm shelter refuge which is identified in all the buildings.  We also spent an evening with a couple whose house was hit by a tornado whilst they were still inside.

Tomorrow we will be packing ready for departure at 9.30 am Sunday morning to Dallas Fort Worth Airport (our time) to Africa.  We have three flights, via Atlanta and Paris before arriving in Guinea early Monday evening (UK and Guinea time) where we will spend two weeks working on a community project before finally joining the Africa Mercy on the 9th November.

We have been posting more photos on Instagram and Facebook during our time in Texas and will hopefully continue to do so when we get to Guinea.  See panel on right.

Thank you for reading this.

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Further news of God moving in Iran

Tim Stephenson,
Neal preaching his "PAID IN FULL" message at Oasis

I’ve been struck in the last week, and not just in Neal and Lesley’s news from Austria, that something seems to be afoot in Iran. Please pray for this nation and the individuals mentioned as you read

Also, let me underline the request for prayer support for the Christmas event planned for this Friday afternoon.

A triumphant hope

Tim Stephenson,
Ali preaching at the Oasis Wednesday night meeting

This week, in a change of style, Lesley and Neal share a quite extraordinary set of stories of those they have met. In paragraph after paragraph we see people that have endured physical and emotional hardships we can only guess at. Yet joy and hope jump out of the page. I don’t think I can put it any better than Lesley:

As you read, please pray that each person who’s story we’ve shared will find all their needs met and their hopes fulfilled as they learn more about Jesus, and to put their trust in Him and His eternal, incomparable and unconditional love for them heart

Read all about it at:

“Flying home for Christmas!”


As I sat in a well-worn barber’s chair on Saturday morning, my mind began to drift towards our UK Christmas visit. As the scissors and the clippers did their work, it gave me time to ponder on how very different my surroundings would be in just a week’s time. They won’t be singing “snow had fallen, snow on snow” here in Morogoro and there’s no chance of “frosty winds making moan”, just warm and wet winds sweeping off the Uluguru mountains behind us. There won’t be any jingling of bells or the twinkling of fairy lights and, whilst there will be plenty of open fires, there won’t be any chestnuts being roasted – just rice, beans, maize, ugali and possibly some chicken. And as you walk around Morogoro you have to look very hard to find a tinselled tree or a laughing Santa – thankfully!

Christmas is indeed coming but there’s a very different feel to it here, where Christians remember the birth of Christ but in a ‘business as usual’ sort of way. The church services do get a bit longer and, quite possibly, a bit noisier! The AIC church here will be having services on three consecutive days, each one lasting for about three hours. Spare a thought for our team leader Tony Swanson who is preaching at all three and is very much looking forward to watching the choir dancing their way through ‘Hark the herald angels sing’! There might also be a few candlelight services happening on Christmas eve but that’s probably more to do with a regular power cut than wanting to create a cosy stable-like feel (?!) in the service!

By the way, talking of power cuts, what does my Tanzanian/Indian barber do in his psychedelic green shop when the power goes off? He cranks up a noisy generator and carries on with the job, which by this point is very nearly done. Out comes a razor for the finishing touch and out comes a rather large brush (the type that goes with a regular dustpan and brush!) to sweep away the cuttings from my head and shoulders. Finally a dab of un-manly fragrant talc is applied to the neck and the job is done. And all for just £2!

Back to the Christmas musings! Whilst there are many differences between Christmas in Tanzania and the UK, the real focus is still the same – it’s a ‘holyday’ to remember the birth of Christ. It’s a time to reflect on an occasion when God began to put his plan of salvation into action; a time when God chose to ‘put on skin’ and come to live on this earth as a human; a time when he chose to use a young peasant girl to bring into the world the Son of the Almighty God, who somehow was also there when the world began! What an outrageous story! And all for the benefit of humanity! Amidst the froth of Christmas let’s find the time to ponder afresh the astounding truths of what it meant for God to become man. And then let’s pour out our hearts in gratitude by giving our lives in service to Him. “What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a Shepherd I would bring a lamb. If I were a wise Man I would do my part. Yet what I can I give Him, I give my heart.”

A Tale of Two Churches
The IBM conference season has now finished for the year; Ruth is working on the year-end reports and I’m beginning to ponder the subject for next year’s teaching. We’re thankful to God that the conferences this year have all gone to plan, and that the subject of godly leadership seems to have had an impact.

Bearing in mind Ruth’s comment about statistics in our last update, I’ll refrain from going into detail about miles travelled, litres of fuel consumed (by the car!), sermons preached, and the number of times I’ve been stopped by the police! Suffice to say, whilst it’s been a busy year, it’s been a good one, and we’re finishing the year with a sense of satisfaction at what God has done through us as a team. I’ll round up the year by giving you a glimpse of what life can be like on the preaching road here in Tanzania, in the form of a few diary entries.

AIC Dumila: This was a long and painful day! Left home at 8am, and drove 75 kms to the church. On arrival I was given a dried chapatti and some tea; in hindsight, a mistake! Before I got up to preach, I had to visit the cob-webbed toilet shed three times, although it did give me the opportunity to escape the distorted noise of the generator-powered sound system for a few minutes! When the time came to preach, I then had to battle against the sound of an Islamic wedding party happening nearby. The hypnotic trance-like music seemed to have an effect on the congregation – or was that my preaching!?

There were about 70 people crammed into this small mud-brick church. The notices lasted 20 mins, and there were three collections; one of them a general one, another for some building work, and the other for the choir! For the last one, the guy on the microphone was on hand to call out the amount that each person put into the basket! Meanwhile, sitting rather awkwardly at the front of the church and being able to see through the hole in the wall where a window should have been, I tried to keep a close eye on my car which was in danger of being swamped by Sunday School children! They found it amusing to look at their reflections in the mirrors and to run their hands down the not-so-glistening paintwork! Once the service was finished, I sold 15 Bibles at a knock-down price and was later given a lunch of rice and beans. I finally arrived home at 5:30pm with a pounding headache and the need for a paracetamol!

AIC Kinzudi Dar: Due to the fact this church was off the beaten track, I had asked the pastor to meet me at the main road. On the way to the church he asked me to stop at the butchers so that he could buy lunch! With a quick glance towards the hanging lumps of meat in the shop window, I assured him that my favourite meal was indeed rice and beans, and that he needn’t go to the expense of buying meat just for me! Off we drove with me inwardly cheering! As we approached the church the track got rather more ‘off-road’ and somehow I managed to arrive without ripping the sump from the bottom of the car! Yet again, mine was the only car outside the church; there were a few bicycles but the other 40 people had walked there. We started 25 minutes late and people continued to arrive as the service progressed. In a number of churches I’ve even seen people arrive with five mins of the sermon to go!

What a pleasant surprise! There were no microphones or speakers to shake the internal organs, which meant that I wouldn’t need the wax earplugs that I’d put in my pocket! There was only one collection, one song from a four-woman choir, and lots of congregational singing, much of which I couldn’t really understand, but nevertheless it proved to be a tonic to the soul! The tin-roofed church provided oven-like conditions in the humid heat of Dar, and I noticed that the pastor’s shirt was somewhat damp with only a few minutes gone! I’ve learnt that when preaching in Tanzania, it’s always wise to carry a flannel with you, and indeed, it proved useful as the service went on! I preached from John 13 – the section where Jesus washed the feet of his disciples just hours before the cross. We’re urged to stoop and serve as Jesus did, and that includes ‘washing the feet’ of those we don’t get on with, and those who may have wronged us in the past. I don’t recall reading that Jesus refused to wash the feet of the man who was planning to betray him – such a challenge to us all. As the service drew to a close, we filed out whilst singing the closing song and stood in a long line having shaken each other’s hands. And then……time for some more rice and beans!

Diary Dates:

16th Dec – 4th Jan:           Christmas & New Year with family in England & Scotland!
5th- 7th Jan:                      Unit Leader meetings in Kenya
8th Jan:                             Return to Tanzania
19th Jan:                           Our 10th wedding anniversary!
Jan – dates tbc:                Ruth teaching Intermediates English course
Jan/Feb/March:                Steve preparing seminar teaching material

Progress at Sanga. Forget the view – look at those new window frames!

Prayer & Praise:

  • We’re thanking God for the past year and for all the plans that have come to fruition; for safety on the roads and in the home; for the opportunity to teach from God’s Word; for the progress made at Sanga Sanga. We’re also praising God for you! We’re thankful for the fact that many of you are journeying with us and providing finance and prayer. Thank you so much for being such a blessing!
  • Please pray for Ruth as she continues to provide administrative support to IBM & Sanga, and as she balances the books, handles bookings and manages the housekeeping staff there. The site is certainly being used more and more, with groups coming on a regular basis to use the facilities, but with that growth comes busyness!
  • Please pray for Steve as he spends the bulk of Jan/Feb/March preparing teaching material for the IBM seminars which begin in May. Please also pray for the Swansons as 2018 will be their last year in Morogoro! They’ll be leaving in December 2018 and heading to a new assignment in Uganda. It raises all sorts of questions as to ‘what next’ for the team, for IBM and the work at Sanga. We would value your prayers as we try to discern the best way forward, and seek to recruit new personnel to cover Tony’s roles.

Further ahead: I’ll be leading another Oak Hall Israel trip from 30th Mar–9th April and it would be great to have some familiar faces on the trip! If you’re interested in seeing the sights of Israel & Palestine with your Bibles open, please see this link for further details:

In our last update Ruth reported on Oak Hall’s first Tanzania trip which took place back in August. Well, there’s another trip planned for next year (18 Aug-1 Sep), so if you want an idea of what the trip looks like, or maybe even fancy the idea of staying at Sanga yourself, have a look at the online brochure:

We wish you every blessing for Christmas and the New Year.

Steve & Ruth

There’s a push-bike in there somewhere!