Category: Overseas Mission

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

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

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!”

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

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!

Give thanks to the just judge

Oasis team, preparing Christmas gift bags for refugees

Thanksgiving celebrations at Oasis this week, as many other places. It sounds like the team had a great time of bonding together amongst their preparations for the Christmas events that will follow shortly. Witness the culmination of the ladies gift and updates on several of the people Lesley and Neal have introduced us to over previous weeks.

As you read, please also pray for these folks, for the perseverance spoken about in the parable of the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8) and for them to experience the power of God, the just judge:

Every part has it’s role

View across Salzburg old town towards the snowcapped Alps.

Reading Lesley’s blog this week it seemed to me a real-life illustration of Paul’s insight about how God manages things so we each bring our specific gifts and talents to build the church:

But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 1 Corinthians 12:18

I hope it inspires you to praise and intercession:

And sorry, this is the unexpected bonus from week 9:

Similar but different

river side view

This week Neal & Lesley have been reflecting on different rhythms to life in Austria. As you read through their news of this week please pray not only for ‘F’, ‘M’ and family but also that Neal and Lesley will be refreshed by a little time out and return with renewed energy for their work:

Oakies in Tanzania!

Oak Hall visitors and painting project

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

One of highlights of life here in Morogoro is the Book Club that I (Ruth) attend every month.  Half a dozen Christian ladies get together to discuss whatever book we are currently studying.  Right now we are reading through Sally Breedlove’s book ‘Choosing Rest’.  It’s subheading is, “Cultivating a Sunday heart in a Monday world.”

Rest is an interesting concept for missionaries when there can be many demands on our time.  We can often feel the pressure to ‘redeem the time’ for the sake of those who are supporting us financially.  And, frankly, sometimes there is just so much to do.  But rest is vital if we are to be here for the long haul.  It’s sometimes difficult to get the balance right.  2017 has been an exceptionally busy year for us and we are looking forward to a rest.  But first, what have we been doing since we last wrote….?

August—Oak Hall in Tanzania!

Steve and I have been connected with Oak Hall Expeditions for over 10 years and Oak Hall has also been a generous supporter of Sanga Sanga Retreat Centre.  So it was a real pleasure to host the first Oak Hall trip to Tanzania!  Twenty-four intrepid souls came for a taste of mission and culture.  The trip started with a hiccup as fog in Amsterdam meant the group missed its connection and ended up coming on 2 separate flights much later than expected.  Good job our Oak Hall training and experiences in Africa have taught us to be flexible!

The group was based at Sanga Sanga Retreat Centre for 10 days.  They threw themselves gladly into some practical work on 2 of those days, painting the outside of the conference centre and working on the hydroponics project.  Evenings were special times, spent around the campfire as we gathered for worship and Bible study, gazing at the stars above.  We took them to visit a nearby Maasai village where they tried some Maasai dancing; we visited a local NGO which trains ‘hero’ rats to sniff out landmines and TB (fascinating—visit; we enjoyed a mountain hike in the Ulugurus and we had a day on safari where we saw everything including lion!

Worshipping at AICT Kiloka

But the real highlights for the group were the visits we made to  AICT Dakawa and AICT Kiloka, small village churches.  At Dakawa, as soon as the choir began to sing and dance our group jumped up to join in too!  It was amazing and surprisingly emotional—two sets of people, different in language, culture, appearance and economic status, but united in enjoying praising God.  The British aren’t so stiff-upper lipped after all!  At Kiloka we sang a couple of songs to the church (with actions!) and received a very warm welcome and gifts of rice and bananas.  It was fascinating to watch our group’s reactions and see it all through their eyes, as if for the first time.

Ruth’s birthday coincided with the visit to AICT Dakawa and she was presented with a kanga

We ended the trip on the coast for a couple of days, including a day on a tropical island enjoying the golden sands and warm waters of the Indian Ocean—and all getting completely soaked on choppy seas on the way back!  All in all, it was a successful trip, tiring but rewarding, and we look forward, God willing, to hosting another group next year!  If you’re interested contact Oak Hall!


AICT Magambua

We travelled deep into rural Tanzania in September for a pastors’ seminar.  Magambua is in an area where the people group are classed as ‘unreached’.  Steve was again teaching on the subject of leadership with moral integrity.  We stayed with an AIM missionary couple , fellow birding enthusiasts!  Numbers attending the conference were lower than expected but they still enjoyed some lively discussion on the topic!  At the end of the conference we took an extra day in Magambua to rest and enjoy some bird watching.  I saw 21 new birds!

October—AIM Tanzania Conference & Iringa

Bob Hunt, Steve’s former All Nations tutor

AIM has quite a number of missionaries in different parts of Tanzania and our annual conference is the opportunity to get together and catch up.  Steve, myself and Cath were responsible for organising this year’s conference but in spite of that it all went very smoothly!  Bob Hunt, Steve’s former tutor at All Nations, came to do the Bible teaching, leading us through the Gospel of John on some of the journeys of Jesus.  After conference Bob came back to Morogoro with us for a couple of days and it was good to be able to show him a little of our lives here and, of course, Sanga Sanga.

Steve has just retuned from Iringa where he has been teaching at the last of this year’s regional seminars.  If this were Steve writing you would now get a series of stats—numbers of kilometres driven, hours on the road, numbers of sessions taught etc!  Suffice to say, however, that 138 pastors, evangelists and their wives have received teaching on godly leadership this year.  Let’s pray that God will use them to shape His church into a model for the world to follow.

Thanks, as always, for your support and prayers for us.  Every blessing,

Steve & Ruth

Diary Dates & Prayer Requests:

  • 5 Nov             Steve preaching at AICT Dumila
  • 14-17 Nov      Evangelists’ plenary seminar at Sanga Sanga
  • 19 Nov           Steve preaching at AICT Mbezi Beach, Dar
  • 20-24 Nov      Ruth teaching English course for Intermediates
  • 15 Dec           Travel to Dar/UK for Christmas break

– Praise God for the completion of this year’s regional pastors’ seminars and pray that God will raise up humble leaders.  We are thankful for the many kilometers driven safely and for the people who have received this year’s teaching.

– Praise God for a successful Oak Hall trip, after months of planning.  Pray that those who came will be open to God’s calling on their lives to serve him however he chooses.

– Pray for Steve in his Unit Leader duties—he will be travelling to visit various members of the unit over the next few weeks.

– We are planning a short break in the UK over Christmas and New Year.  It will be Ruth’s parents’ diamond wedding anniversary on Boxing Day.  Pray for safe travels and for a good time with family in Carlisle, Bicester, Newark, Nairn and Elgin!  We return to Tanzania via Kenya on 8th January.

One of our Oak Hall guests has a close encounter with a ‘hero’ rat!

Ever heard the parable of the toy boat?

Neal and Lesley Grindrod

This week may have seen the monthly ‘stock-take’ closure of the Oasis clothing room and a public holiday in Austria but was not, I think, any less busy for all that.

As you catch up on Neal and Lesley’s diary please do continue to pray that they have wisdom and stamina for their work and consolation at being away from home and loved ones.

Oh and the boat? Read on at: