Category: Overseas Mission

Life in Texas and Guinea

Life in Texas and Guinea

This post by Matthew Little was originally published at Diary of a Deckie: My experience volunteering on a hospital ship.

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.

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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

Airmail emvelope

This post by Stuart & Lynne Little was originally published at A Little Odyssey

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

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

Texas flag on corrugated iron sheet

This post by Stuart & Lynne Little was originally published at A Little Odyssey

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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Still getting ready

This post by Matthew Little was originally published at Diary of a Deckie: My experience volunteering on a hospital ship.

Still getting ready

 and I leave (with my parents, Stuart and Lynne) in three weeks, to fly to Texas for the confusedly named  ‘On Boarding’, as we don’t actually get aboard the ship until we fly from Texas  to Conakry, Guinea in November.

We are all still getting ready, which, for me, means tidying-up my bedroom by throwing away useless tat (as my dad would probably call it) that are no longer useful to me or have been left on my desk or shelves for years underneath piles of slightly more useful stuff. Somewhat related, this has also meant buying more stuff. Stuff that I am going to take, that is. However, I both know what I want to take, but at the same time,  I don’t. For the things that I do know what I want to take with me is clothes. (Obviously. Clothes are essential, Clothes are basically the priority), and my few technological devices, which are, my Laptop, my Samsung Galaxy Tab A and my PS Vita (the Xbox is staying at home, but all four of my devices I am taking have the capability to play games. The fourth item being my phone) There are some books that I am yet to read, both fiction and not fiction. Or books that I want to restart, those being The Hobbit, which I think I have restarted twice, but never finished, and a biography on the Knights Templar. (The REAL Templars, not the fictitious Templars from Assassin’s Creed. They are vastly different).

As for the things I don’t know what I want to take are what clothes I want to bring. I have finally started practising packing, which has made my mother happy, which has given me some idea of what of my clothes I will bring. What makes it difficult is thinking about the climate that I will be living in for 10 months, and what will be suitable clothing items. Especially since my two favourite t-shirts are black.

Other things that I have done to get ready are: Put a bunch of movies onto an external hard drive,  set up this blog, set up my YouTube channel to upload vlogs, (Check it out, I have put up a short film I made!) and shifted my payment methods for Playstation and Microsoft from my parents too me. And verified that I am adult with Microsoft. I am starting to think that these things probably shouldn’t have been my priority, but the only time I could really start packing is this week and next week, otherwise I would have been living out of a suitcase for a few weeks.

I guess all I can do now is to actually pack, wait till Friday (21st September) and leave.

(Note the time difference, this one post took three weeks to complete)

Countdown

This post by Stuart & Lynne Little was originally published at A Little Odyssey

Umm – this is our first blog post – ever!  We hope it is okay.

Well, in two weeks time we, and Matthew our 18 year old son, will be in Dallas about to start our training before heading to Guinea on 28th October.

It has been four and half years coming and six months since we were officially accepted and our ‘to-do lists’ are nearly done!  We’ve had a myriad of vaccinations, completed and signed many forms and policies, completed personality profiles, rationalised our bank accounts, sorted out mobiles, got our International Driving Permits, cleared and de-cluttered our house, revamped our garden to hopefully stop future flooding(!), bought luggage that will fit in our cabin (we hope!), checked our wardrobe complies with the Guinea dress code (very strict), spent £340 on Malarone (anti-malarials) for a three months supply for the three of us, booked our flights to Dallas, nearly booked a shuttle from Dallas to Mercy Ships HQ (must actually do that!), sold two cars, bought a new laptop, set up a VPN (what on earth is that?!), had a couple of short camping breaks on the Gower, a quick trip to Pembroke, had a fundraising tea and cakes afternoon, spoke at our church on a few occasions, went to the Mercy Ships End of Field Service celebration, set up a blog (what?), told people about Mercy Ships, had some get-togethers and tried to keep in touch with friends and family.  


Intertwined with all this we have had some significant family life events:   


Hannah’s graduation



Hannah (our oldest) graduated with a Masters in Civil Engineering after five years at Cardiff University







Matthew (our youngest who is also going to serving on Mercy Ships) passed his A Levels (hooray!) Matthew is on the left of the picture above looking very smart.  (He has set up his own blog: matthewswestafricanadventure.blogspot.com )


Zoe and Seth

and Zoë (the middle child, as she keeps telling us) married Seth on 25th August.  


Some fabulous family days!






Due to these events, our household has doubled in size recently with six of us now living in our house and the contents of two, or maybe three, university accommodations and wedding presents coming into the house too!



Oh, and we both finished our (paid) work – Lynne at the end of June (she had a party) and Stuart’s self employment in July (couldn’t have a party as he had no colleagues so he had one later with some previous work colleagues from his MOD days.)

  


Haven’t quite mastered the art of positioning pictures! Hmm!

Three Cliffs Bay

Slade Bay

The parents selfie attempt

Sunset at Rhossili


So, what’s left to do?


We have our commissioning service tomorrow at Corsham Baptist Church and a final leaving party next Saturday.  The realisation of goodbye is getting harder!  

And, of course, we have to pack.  Lynne really doesn’t like packing and tends to keep packing until there is no more room!  However, we have to make sure the cases fit in the car that Zoë will drive to take us to the airport.  Had a test run this afternoon and we think six large bags, cabin luggage, Stuart’s guitar and Matthew’s ukulele will (just about) fit in Zoë’s Honda Jazz!   Oh, and final hair cuts as we don’t know when we will get the next one!

We are looking forward to this new chapter in our lives with excitement and some nervous anticipation as we really are stepping into the unknown.  How will we react to living on a ship with 400 other people from many different nationalities and living in a country so unlike England and where poverty is an everyday reality for so many and access to surgery that we would take for granted is non existent?  We go with determination and a motivation to serve the people of Guinea as we believe we are going to where God wants us at this time.  We so appreciate, and will continue to need, the love, support, encouragement and prayers of our family, church family and friends.

We will finish with the bible verse that has inspired us:  ‘And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’ Micah 6:8

Thank you for reading.



Everything communicated here strictly reflects our personal opinions and is neither reviewed nor endorsed by Mercy Ships. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships.


Challenges and Distractions; Dancing with Masai and Opening the ‘Oak Hall’

This post by Steve and Ruth Lancaster was originally published at Life in the Lancs Lane

Three down, three to go! In our last newsletter we used this map to indicate where our six regional pastors’ conferences would be taking place. We’re now able to put three giant ticks alongside three of those locations, and the fourth one will be taking place this coming week when we head off to the backwaters of Ifakara. Thank you to those who have prayed for me during these seminars. Each conference and venue has its own distinctive flavour but one constant is that folks here just don’t seem to get fazed by distractions! During the first conference in Babati we had children peering through the windows and the sound of a nearby band-saw cutting wood! In the Kilwa conference the unfinished floor of the church was as level as the Uluguru mountains, with clods of clay-soil increasing the risk of much ankle-twisting! It didn’t seem to matter to them! Nor did it matter greatly, during the last session of the last day, when someone spotted a venomous snake curled up in a crack in the wall, high above my head! It was ironic that the topic we had been looking at was that of Satan and his scheming! Peter talks about Satan prowling “around like a lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8), but we also know that Satan slithers around as a serpent looking for people to deceive, even within the walls of the church! One of the pastors grabbed a stick and quickly ‘dealt with it’! “Resist him, standing firm in the faith” (1 Pet 5:9)!

A harmless grass snake seen on safari – not the one at
the Kilwa seminar!

During the recent Pwani conference, which was held in the relative peace and quiet of our Sanga HQ, a couple of dogs and a bleating goat made an appearance in our un-walled thatched banda – but again, it didn’t seem to distract the listeners! As for me, it often seems like an uphill battle trying to ignore these various distractions, whilst also trying not to lose my train of Swahili speak! Oh the joys of preaching in Africa! There is one exception that I can think of, where mobile phone distractions obviously grated with a certain pastor! On the wall of his church there is a notice quoting a verse from Habakkuk that says, “the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him”, along with the accompanying words: “please switch off your phone”! Anyway, distractions aside, the teaching on 1 Peter seems to have been well-received, and about 70 pastors/evangelists now have enough material to craft at least 20 sermons for their congregations! All part of AIM’s goal to see “Christ-centred churches amongst all African peoples”. Onwards to Ifakara, Magambua and Mbeya!

Changamoto Kubwa! One of the most challenging verses that we look at in 1 Peter comes towards the end of ch 2: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply from the heart” (2:22). In Swahili I would say to the pastors: “Hii ni changamoto kubwa sana.” Roughly translated it means “This is a big challenge”! And don’t we know it!? Loving one another can be tough and we can only do it effectively in the power of the Holy Spirit and not in our own strength. Leading on from this verse I then head towards John 13:34-35 where Jesus instructs his disciples (and us!) to love one another, stating that if they do this, outsiders will realise that they are followers of Christ. Love is indeed the key to the gospel isn’t it? Paul says to the Corinthians that if we lack love in our lives, our witness amounts to nothing.

I recently heard a great story that highlights the importance of love within the Christian community; love for each other and love for those who do not know Christ. We have an AIM team living out in the Tanzanian bush that I sometimes visit and they’re seeking to live out the gospel to an Islamic people group. This is what one of the team said: “One day I happened to be sitting in the market with some of the local men who didn’t know that I was part of the team. Two of my team members happened to be passing by and, as always happens when they go to market, kids came flocking! I heard one of the elders from the mosque comment: ‘Do you see that? Before long, this area is going to become Christian.’ The team member sitting in the market asked the elder what he meant and the elder replied: ‘Those Christians really love our people. They care for people when they are sick and they visit their neighbours every day. They really love and pay attention to the kids, and they’re even learning our language. That kind of thing is so different from how we are… it’s irresistible. That’s why I say this area is going to become Christian.’” Wow! What an encouragement that was to that particular team, and what a reminder to us of how important agape love is as a witness to those who don’t know Christ. Father, fill us with your love; strengthen and equip us to love each other, so that a watching world may be drawn to your irresistible love.

Dressed up for the Opening Day  –
Steve didn’t want to wear a
matching outfit!

Conference Centre Opening: Following hard on the heels of our Pwani conference in July was the long-awaited opening of the conference centre, three years after the project began. Ribbons were cut, plaques were unveiled, and cameras clicked as we gathered to give thanks to God for the people who had helped to make it possible. When Solomon had finished building the temple in Jerusalem all those years ago, his prayer of dedication was recorded for us in 1 Kings 8. In response, the Lord said to Solomon: “I have consecrated this building which you have built by putting my name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.” (1 Kings 9:3b) We’ve had that reference inscribed on a stone tablet near the main entrance and, having dedicated the building to God, we trust that He will indeed always be there and that His powerful presence will be felt by those who use it. The Centre will be used by the AICT, various other churches, kids camps and other organisations and our hope is that God’s name will be glorified in what takes place there. We also want to thank the various people and churches that have contributed to this project, and especially to Oak Hall for their generous support; hence the reason for the naming of the main hall!

 

Time off and random holiday happenings! In the middle of July my sister and her family came for a ten day holiday and we had an awesome time introducing them to all-things Tanzania. We certainly packed a lot in: swimming in the Indian Ocean, playing tennis in the heat, experiencing the bite of the notorious Tsetse flies whilst on safari, climbing gigantic Baobab trees, walking up the Uluguru mountains, wandering amongst the rickety fruit and veg stalls of Morogoro market, and sitting in a three-hour church service; what more could you want!? In regard to the latter, they coped admirably, and even introduced the congregation to the chorus ‘My God is a great big God’. Not so sure Ruth appreciated trying to translate the words, “He’s higher than a skyscraper and deeper than a submarine’! However, one of my favourite memories was introducing my bro-in-law (Phil) to the game of golf! It turned out to be quite a random game! On the 8th hole, as we prepared to tee-off, we encountered a Masai choir strung out across the fairway filming a DVD! I’m not so sure they had ever seen a golf ball before, but they signalled that we should play on, and so we walloped (not an official golfing term!) our balls down the fairway. From 150 yards my ball sailed over the heads of the dancing Masai, whilst Phil’s ball left a dent in the back of a Masai warrior! However, there didn’t seem to be too much hard feeling, as Phil and the family were then invited to star as guest dancers in their production! My lasting memory will be of Masai warriors dancing with their sticks, alongside Phil dancing with his golf club! Only in Tanzania!

The Caudle clan on safari

Unbelievable scenes!

Dates for the Diary:

31st Jul – 4th Aug:       IBM Pastors’ Conference in Ifakara
18-31st Aug:                Oak Hall group at Sanga
25th-29th Sept:            IBM Pastors’ Conference in Magambua
11th-16th Oct:              AIM Missionary Conference in Dar (Corsham Baptist Team!)
23rd-27th Oct:             IBM Pastors’ Conference in Mbeya.

Prayer Requests:
Please pray for Ruth as she deals with administration and financial ssues, along with managing guest bookings. We’re currently looking to recruit an accountant/book-keeper for 12 months, so if you know of anyone who might be interested, please give them a prod! Please pray for me in the remaining conferences; that I would teach faithfully & biblically, and that the pastors would go away spiritually well-fed and better equipped to feed their congregations.

We currently have a team of 17 people from All Souls, Langham Place, London, staying at Sanga Sanga. They’re here to experience the Tanzanian culture and to help out around the site. In mid-August we’ll also be getting ready to receive 22 guests from Oak Hall. Please pray for Ruth and I as we lead that trip, and that people would be challenged with regard to mission, and what they can do to help build God’s kingdom.


We are sad to report that Sanga Sanga’s cows were recently stolen – by the security guard employed to guard the site! As you can imagine, this has been very disheartening for all the team and workers at Sanga Sanga. The thief is now in custody but the cows haven’t been found yet. Please pray that they would be returned to us. They aren’t just valuable in themselves but also provide a useful source of income through selling their milk.

Please pray for our team here in Morogoro. The Swansons (Tony just recovered from pneumonia) leave in December, although we’re encouraged that a family plan to join us here in January next year. We’d also be grateful for your prayers as we think beyond our next home assignment (Mar-Sept 2019), and ponder the question of whether we should return here for a third term.

Thank you for all your prayers and support!

Challenges and Distractions; Dancing with Masai and Opening the ‘Oak Hall’

This post by Ruth was originally published at Life in the Lancs Lane

Three down, three to go! In our last newsletter we used this map to indicate where our six regional pastors’ conferences would be taking place. We’re now able to put three giant ticks alongside three of those locations, and the fourth one will be taking place this coming week when we head off to the backwaters of Ifakara. Thank you to those who have prayed for me during these seminars. Each conference and venue has its own distinctive flavour but one constant is that folks here just don’t seem to get fazed by distractions! During the first conference in Babati we had children peering through the windows and the sound of a nearby band-saw cutting wood! In the Kilwa conference the unfinished floor of the church was as level as the Uluguru mountains, with clods of clay-soil increasing the risk of much ankle-twisting! It didn’t seem to matter to them! Nor did it matter greatly, during the last session of the last day, when someone spotted a venomous snake curled up in a crack in the wall, high above my head! It was ironic that the topic we had been looking at was that of Satan and his scheming! Peter talks about Satan prowling “around like a lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8), but we also know that Satan slithers around as a serpent looking for people to deceive, even within the walls of the church! One of the pastors grabbed a stick and quickly ‘dealt with it’! “Resist him, standing firm in the faith” (1 Pet 5:9)!

A harmless grass snake seen on safari – not the one at the Kilwa seminar!

During the recent Pwani conference, which was held in the relative peace and quiet of our Sanga HQ, a couple of dogs and a bleating goat made an appearance in our un-walled thatched banda – but again, it didn’t seem to distract the listeners! As for me, it often seems like an uphill battle trying to ignore these various distractions, whilst also trying not to lose my train of Swahili speak! Oh the joys of preaching in Africa! There is one exception that I can think of, where mobile phone distractions obviously grated with a certain pastor! On the wall of his church there is a notice quoting a verse from Habakkuk that says, “the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him”, along with the accompanying words: “please switch off your phone”! Anyway, distractions aside, the teaching on 1 Peter seems to have been well-received, and about 70 pastors/evangelists now have enough material to craft at least 20 sermons for their congregations! All part of AIM’s goal to see “Christ-centred churches amongst all African peoples”. Onwards to Ifakara, Magambua and Mbeya!

Changamoto Kubwa! One of the most challenging verses that we look at in 1 Peter comes towards the end of ch 2: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply from the heart” (2:22). In Swahili I would say to the pastors: “Hii ni changamoto kubwa sana.” Roughly translated it means “This is a big challenge”! And don’t we know it!? Loving one another can be tough and we can only do it effectively in the power of the Holy Spirit and not in our own strength. Leading on from this verse I then head towards John 13:34-35 where Jesus instructs his disciples (and us!) to love one another, stating that if they do this, outsiders will realise that they are followers of Christ. Love is indeed the key to the gospel isn’t it? Paul says to the Corinthians that if we lack love in our lives, our witness amounts to nothing.

I recently heard a great story that highlights the importance of love within the Christian community; love for each other and love for those who do not know Christ. We have an AIM team living out in the Tanzanian bush that I sometimes visit and they’re seeking to live out the gospel to an Islamic people group. This is what one of the team said: “One day I happened to be sitting in the market with some of the local men who didn’t know that I was part of the team. Two of my team members happened to be passing by and, as always happens when they go to market, kids came flocking! I heard one of the elders from the mosque comment: ‘Do you see that? Before long, this area is going to become Christian.’ The team member sitting in the market asked the elder what he meant and the elder replied: ‘Those Christians really love our people. They care for people when they are sick and they visit their neighbours every day. They really love and pay attention to the kids, and they’re even learning our language. That kind of thing is so different from how we are… it’s irresistible. That’s why I say this area is going to become Christian.’” Wow! What an encouragement that was to that particular team, and what a reminder to us of how important agape love is as a witness to those who don’t know Christ. Father, fill us with your love; strengthen and equip us to love each other, so that a watching world may be drawn to your irresistible love.

Dressed up for the Opening Day – Steve didn’t want to wear a matching outfit!

Conference Centre Opening: Following hard on the heels of our Pwani conference in July was the long-awaited opening of the conference centre, three years after the project began. Ribbons were cut, plaques were unveiled, and cameras clicked as we gathered to give thanks to God for the people who had helped to make it possible. When Solomon had finished building the temple in Jerusalem all those years ago, his prayer of dedication was recorded for us in 1 Kings 8. In response, the Lord said to Solomon: “I have consecrated this building which you have built by putting my name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.” (1 Kings 9:3b) We’ve had that reference inscribed on a stone tablet near the main entrance and, having dedicated the building to God, we trust that He will indeed always be there and that His powerful presence will be felt by those who use it. The Centre will be used by the AICT, various other churches, kids camps and other organisations and our hope is that God’s name will be glorified in what takes place there. We also want to thank the various people and churches that have contributed to this project, and especially to Oak Hall for their generous support; hence the reason for the naming of the main hall!
Click to view slideshow.
Time off and random holiday happenings! In the middle of July my sister and her family came for a ten day holiday and we had an awesome time introducing them to all-things Tanzania. We certainly packed a lot in: swimming in the Indian Ocean, playing tennis in the heat, experiencing the bite of the notorious Tsetse flies whilst on safari, climbing gigantic Baobab trees, walking up the Uluguru mountains, wandering amongst the rickety fruit and veg stalls of Morogoro market, and sitting in a three-hour church service; what more could you want!? In regard to the latter, they coped admirably, and even introduced the congregation to the chorus ‘My God is a great big God’. Not so sure Ruth appreciated trying to translate the words, “He’s higher than a skyscraper and deeper than a submarine’! However, one of my favourite memories was introducing my bro-in-law (Phil) to the game of golf! It turned out to be quite a random game! On the 8th hole, as we prepared to tee-off, we encountered a Masai choir strung out across the fairway filming a DVD! I’m not so sure they had ever seen a golf ball before, but they signalled that we should play on, and so we walloped (not an official golfing term!) our balls down the fairway. From 150 yards my ball sailed over the heads of the dancing Masai, whilst Phil’s ball left a dent in the back of a Masai warrior! However, there didn’t seem to be too much hard feeling, as Phil and the family were then invited to star as guest dancers in their production! My lasting memory will be of Masai warriors dancing with their sticks, alongside Phil dancing with his golf club! Only in Tanzania!
Click to view slideshow.
Dates for the Diary:

31st Jul – 4th Aug:       IBM Pastors’ Conference in Ifakara
18-31st Aug:                Oak Hall group at Sanga
25th-29th Sept:            IBM Pastors’ Conference in Magambua
11th-16th Oct:              AIM Missionary Conference in Dar (Corsham Baptist Team!)
23rd-27th Oct:             IBM Pastors’ Conference in Mbeya.

Prayer Requests:
Please pray for Ruth as she deals with administration and financial ssues, along with managing guest bookings. We’re currently looking to recruit an accountant/book-keeper for 12 months, so if you know of anyone who might be interested, please give them a prod! Please pray for me in the remaining conferences; that I would teach faithfully & biblically, and that the pastors would go away spiritually well-fed and better equipped to feed their congregations.

We currently have a team of 17 people from All Souls, Langham Place, London, staying at Sanga Sanga. They’re here to experience the Tanzanian culture and to help out around the site. In mid-August we’ll also be getting ready to receive 22 guests from Oak Hall. Please pray for Ruth and I as we lead that trip, and that people would be challenged with regard to mission, and what they can do to help build God’s kingdom.

We are sad to report that Sanga Sanga’s cows were recently stolen – by the security guard employed to guard the site! As you can imagine, this has been very disheartening for all the team and workers at Sanga Sanga. The thief is now in custody but the cows haven’t been found yet. Please pray that they would be returned to us. They aren’t just valuable in themselves but also provide a useful source of income through selling their milk.

Please pray for our team here in Morogoro. The Swansons (Tony just recovered from pneumonia) leave in December, although we’re encouraged that a family plan to join us here in January next year. We’d also be grateful for your prayers as we think beyond our next home assignment (Mar-Sept 2019), and ponder the question of whether we should return here for a third term.

Thank you for all your prayers and support!

Steve and Gill Bryant’s Prayer News May 2018

WEC logo

Dear friends

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.

Clockwise from top left – Conference centre, Thailand’s love of colour and flowers; Flooding in the streets of Chiang Mai

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.

Church school buildings in Vélingara, Senegal – temporary (left) and part finished (right)

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
    and transport.
  • A good way of caring for the children whose parents will be on the course.

Family news

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.

Thank you so much for your interest and prayers

Blessings from Steve and Gill

Bryants at WEC’s international conference, Schönblick in Germany, April 2018

Schönblick Conference Centre

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.

The Challenges

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……..

The 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.