Category: Mission and Ministries

Four go mad in Austria – CBC Support to Oasis ministry to Refugees

Stuart Little,
Outside the Oasis with the van

Traiskirchen Austria – 18th -25th Feb 2018

Whilst Lesley and Neal were serving at the Oasis, Neal wondered if CBC could send a team to help with shower and toilet refurbishment works. In response, four members of CBC congregations, Martin S, Paul G, Chris D & me (Stuart L), took up the challenge and spent a week in Austria.

Setting of at 4am on Sunday 18th we drove to Calais and took the ferry to Dunkirk carrying a boot full of tools. We shared the driving through France, Belgium and Germany arriving at the Oasis centre at half past midnight on Monday the 19th. We were met by Steph and Jeremy, two members of the team, who had stayed up to welcome us and show us our accommodation in the centre. The car had held up, apart from the exhaust that had blown and would need some attention before driving back home.

The objective of the visit was to refresh somewhat dated short term accommodation facilities used in emergency by refugees. [For example some arrive at times when they are not able to register in the neighbouring camp]. In advance of our visit the Oasis team paid to replace the entire hot & cold-water systems in the building as they had suffered from several leaks in recent years due to corroded iron pipes. This work was only possible due to the financial gift CBC had made to the centre at Christmas and the team were very grateful.

Martin fitting the base for the shower tray

Martin fitting the base for the shower tray

After a briefing from Steph and Christoph on Monday morning we were off. Martin took charge of the shower tray and its support frame, Paul filling the holes in floors and walls where the new pipework had been installed. Chris assembled the sink unit and wall cabinet and I stood around and thought. Any instructions leaflets were in German, but Chris had an app on his phone that could translate simply by viewing the instructions via the camera, weird. We developed a plan on a massive piece of cardboard and referred to it a lot. Most days we worked between ten and twelve hours and we always had the support of Christoph and Rick to make many of the decisions.

The Oasis team provided us with some cooked meals and a fridge full of food, so we didn’t have to buy much for ourselves which was a real blessing. In the evenings Chris led us in a time of bible study that focused on our identity in Jesus. On Wednesday evening we took time to join in with one of the sessions attended by the refugees and sat through Bible study translated into German and Farsi. We also glimpsed refugee stories and soon realised that some were on a real journey discovering Jesus hearing the gospel at the Oasis.

Martin, Chris and Stuart enjoying pizza

Pizza never tasted better

On Thursday evening it became clear that we would not complete our task no matter how many hours we worked, so on the Friday we completed as much tiling as time would allow before joining the Oasis team in a meal. This left the local team with a final wall to tile and fit the basin, toilet and shower screen. This they did in a few days after we had left and some photos were sent to show us the completed work.

Paul with large saucepan

Paul’s cooking up a storm

Chris assembling cabinets with instructions in German

Chris assembling cabinets with instructions in German

With the exhaust patched up, we started back for home early Saturday morning and drove through the day arriving at the ferry minutes before our ferry was due to sail at 8pm and were told we had missed boarding and been transferred to the 6:30 am ferry. The gates were shut and red crosses barred our way. We prayed for a miracle and we were waved through at the last minute with the lorries.

On reflection one of the highlights of the week was Chris’s attendance with us. He would be first to admit he doesn’t have many DIY skills, but he helped out and kept the team grounded in building the Kingdom, CBC alongside the Oasis staff, all working together. Without this it would have been easy to think the trip was about a toilet and shower.

It wasn’t, it was about Jesus.

Martin surveys the render drying
Left: toilet room, right: shower room

An update on Anne-Cathy

Steve and Gill Bryant,
Group shot of the WEC Training Attendees July 17

Since writing the original article news has come through that Anne-Cathy has been diagnosed with the early stages of breast cancer which is believed to be treatable.

This also means that David and their two daughters are all back in France with her while she has the treatment. For those who remember them, they would appreciate your prayer.

Steve Bryant’s visit to Senegal Jan/Feb 2018

Steve and Gill Bryant,
School hall

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.

Senegal, Gambia and Guinea Bissau

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.

Dakar to Vélingara bus
Dakar to Vélingara bus

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.

Battered 7 seater Peugeot estate - a typical bush taxi

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.

Existing school room made of three fence panels
New school building ‘Senegalese style’

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.

Vélingara school’s new classroom
Mural in new class room
Vélingara school’s new classroom

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.

Mid-way point on the expedition to Austria

Left to right Stu, Paul, Martin and Chris

A quick update from Austria as we approach the midway point:

Day 3 report from The Oasis. After working two long days well into the evenings we are making good progress and now believe we can complete the task before us. The Oasis team have made us very welcome and send blessings and thanks to all at CBC. Today we start tiling floors and walls before fitting shower toilet and basin. Thanks for all the prayer support.

Martin, Chris, Paul and Stu

Good to see you’ve made time for a quick game of Tetris Chris! 😉

Please keep praying for the CBC team, the Austria team and indeed all the refugees that will be without their regular programme this week.

oasis building trip

clockwise from top: Chris, Martin, Paul and Stuart

Chris,Martin, Paul and Stuart left at 4 this morning to spend the week on some much needed refurbishments at the Oasis’s refugee accommodation.

Please pray for them and the team already in Austria this week.

Also, a reminder that tomorrow (Monday) at 7:45pm is our monthly prayer for mission and persecuted church at Priory Street.

Steve B visiting Senegal

Steve and Gill Bryant,
Logo of Bourafaye Christian School: "Living to love, loving to learn, learning to live arranged in a circle around a tree

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.

Group shot of the WEC Training Attendees July 17

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.

Further news of God moving in Iran

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

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!