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.
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
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.
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’s cooking up a storm
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 http://grindrods.simplesite.com/437951784.
Also, let me underline the request for prayer support for the Christmas event planned for this Friday afternoon.
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