The Last Words!

  Filed under: Mission and Ministries, Overseas Mission 

Picture of Steve and Ruth
Mission partners with AIM

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

2nd January: High Pike in the Lakes

The very last words of Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ novel are a tad underwhelming considering what has gone before.  Samwise Gamgee, the ever-faithful travelling companion, arrives back in the Shire after completing his quest to help Frodo deposit the magical ring in the fires of Mount Doom.  He has fought off giant spiders, battled with orcs and trolls, trudged over mire and mountain, and finally arrived back at his Hobbiton home.  He slumps into a chair in his cosy hobbit-hole and says to his wife in a rather understated manner, “Well, I’m back.”

Well, we’re back!  And this is where our AIM journey comes to an end.  We haven’t had to fight any trolls, at least not in the physical realm!  Who knows how many spiritual trolls have been encountered during our journey?!  We have encountered a few big spiders and scorpions, but not on the scale that Sam and Frodo had to deal with.  We haven’t had to trudge over mire and mountain, unlike many of the early AIM missionaries, but we did clock up a lot of miles on the potholed roles of Tanzania as we ministered to pastors and missionaries across the country.  We didn’t have a magical ring to deal with, although, just as Tolkien’s ring had the power to destroy all evil, our mission was to teach God’s Word, a story that deals with the ultimate battle between good and evil, and the eventual demise of our enemy.  Revelation ch. 20 states that Satan will indeed be thrown into a lake of fire, and on that day, his influence will be no more!  The victory has been won!  Now, I realise that you can take analogies too far (Tolkien might disagree!) but the fact is that Ruth and I have completed our AIM journey and we’re finally able to say with Sam Gamgee, “Well, we’re back.”  It is the end of that story – but if you’d like to watch a summary of our final term ‘adventures’, see the penultimate paragraph for more details! 

Winter Wonderland: It’s now just over four months since we arrived back in the UK.  We enjoyed a quarantined Christmas, staying in a cosy Cumbrian cottage in the village of Baggrow – not ‘Bag End’!  Due to the fact that we couldn’t do any face-to-face deputation and that we hadn’t got a home to go to, we decided to head north to Scotland where Ruth’s sister has a holiday cottage that we could rent for a few months.  We stayed in the town of Nairn, or as one resident referred to it, Nairnia!  It certainly felt like Narnia during January when the snow came down and covered the frozen harbour!  Here’s a strange connection: the actress who played the evil ice queen in the Narnia movie actually lives in Nairn! 

Coming out of the heat of Tanzania, Ruth and I had both wanted to experience a proper cold winter, and up in Nairn we certainly got that!  We were told that Nairn hadn’t seen as cold a winter for at least 10 years, so it seems we were there at the right time!  With mountains on the doorstep, beaches to walk along, forests to wander through and birds to spot, these two months provided a real Rivendell experience for us; a place to rest and relax, to unwind and unravel, to chill and be chilled!  We loved it!  We managed to do a few online presentations and I was also able to preach a couple of times.  In fact, the wonders of modern technology meant that I could be halfway up a mountainous Munro but at the same time preaching in Carlisle!  Whilst preaching a pre-recorded sermon to a laptop does have some advantages, it isn’t quite the same, so I’m looking forward to getting back in a live pulpit sometime soon. 

A wintry Munro in the Highlands of Scotland

Morogoro to Malmesbury: Following our time in Scotland we headed south and began the process of finding somewhere to rent.  To cut a long story short, we’ve ended up in the small Cotswold town of Malmesbury where we have been able to rent a flat in an old workhouse!  Actually, it’s an old silk mill that was built in 1793 to process raw silk from China.  You’ll see from the photo that the building has numerous large windows in it, designed to let lots of natural light into the rooms, thereby avoiding having to use oil lamps and candles.  This was all with safety in mind as the silk material being processed was highly flammable!  We’ve been here just over a month and have settled in really well, and so far haven’t come across any ghostly silk-millers looking for their silk!  We had initially wanted to rent in Corsham itself but found that there was very little on the rental market that was available for just six months, so we opted for this flat in Malmesbury, only a 20-minute drive away. The silk mill will be our home for the next few months whilst we wait for our tenants to move out of our house in Corsham.    

The town of Malmesbury seems to have three notable claims to fame.1 . Athelstan, the first king of England was buried here in the abbey in the year 939. 2. A tower in the abbey was used for an early attempt at human flight way back in 1010.  One of the monks jumped into a hand-made glider and launched himself off the tower.  It flew for 180 metres before crashing to the ground, leaving him with two broken legs!  3. Nowadays it’s home to the Dyson company, an employer of over 4,000 people who design and produce all sorts of household gadgets.

Sunset on the Solway Firth

And so to the ‘what next’ question!  We’ve certainly enjoyed our home assignment months, even though they’ve been a bit different due to Covid restrictions.  Tanzania already seems a world away from where we are now; there are no geckos on our walls here, no ants crawling over the kitchen top, no snakes to be mindful of!  We now drink water from the taps without a second thought and are still amazed by the food choices available in the supermarket!  Despite what people may say, the roads here are a pleasure to drive on, and having my car serviced here only takes a day, rather than week!!  And it still seems strange that it’s not getting dark at 6.30 every night!  I guess that these, and a thousand other differences, add to the variety of life that we’ve experienced during the past 7 years, and it’s going to take a bit more time to fully adjust back into UK culture.  We’re grateful for most of these experiences (!) and thankful to God for a good re-entry!  

Ruth has been actively looking for employment and had hoped to find a job with a Christian ministry.  However, the Lord seems to have another direction in mind for her at this time and on 10th May she will start a new job as the Operations Manager of a small company that specializes in providing training through role play (see www.inspired-act.co.uk for more information).  This opportunity came about through a member of Corsham Baptist Church who runs the company.  Please pray for Ruth as she settles into the role. 

As for me (Steve), there are a few possibilities, but nothing definite to report on.  I’ve found it hard to know exactly what I want to do in this next chapter, and I’m content to wait for the right opportunity, knowing that God will show me the right door to walk through as and when that door appears!  I’d like to continue in Christian ministry through preaching and teaching but working out the right context in which to do that, at this point in time, is the hard part!  Meanwhile, Oak Hall has asked me to lead and speak on a few trips during the summer and, now that travel restrictions are beginning to ease, there is a better chance of them actually happening.  Israel is one country that has just been given a ‘green light’, meaning that there won’t be a requirement to quarantine on return.  The Israel trips I hope to be leading will be 31st July-10th August, and 8th-18th Sept, and I also hope to be doing the Bible teaching on the Oak Hall Alpine Bible week in Austria towards the end of August.  It’s always good to see a few familiar faces on these trips, so if you fancy joining me, please have a look at the Oak Hall website, or click the following links: 

Oak Hall – Israel—trip codes IS34 and IS40 

Pastor Batano & Tony 
at Sanga Sanga

News of Sanga Sanga: Our former team mates Tony & Cath Swanson visited Sanga Sanga in February to run a training course for pastors and reported back to us that the ministry appears to be thriving.  The buildings were spick and span and visitor bookings were growing.  We’re so thankful to hear this news and to know that our Tanzanian colleagues are doing a great job.  Please do continue to pray for Pastor Batano, the accountant John, evangelist Francis Manungu and all the team there.  You can receive occasional updates of Sanga Sanga through the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/aictsangasanga.

Magical Memories and Memorable Moments: Back in March we put together a video presentation of our third term in Tanzania, a summary of our final term and a collection of our memorable moments.  It was done primarily for folks at our home church in Corsham because we couldn’t report back to them face-to-face, but we thought we’d make it available on the blog for anyone to watch.  You might be familiar with some of the photos and stories, as they’ve appeared in various newsletters, but we hope that it gives the full flavour of our final term in Tanzania.  So, if you’d like to see some footage of an elephant up close and personal, some grown-up men and women getting excited over a piece of birthday cake, a Muslim-majority primary school class singing God’s praises, and some Masai dance moves, head to the previous post on the blog entitled “Video – a look back at our last term” and click on the link which says “3rd term video for Corsham Baptist”.  A word of warning to those strapped for time, the presentation lasts for 46 minutes!! 
This is the 41st and final edition of our AIM-related newsletter and, if you’ve read all 41 editions, you deserve a medal!  A note of thanks to Ma and Pa Lancs for printing and distributing those 41 editions!  We hope you’ve enjoyed the journey and have felt a part of what we’ve been doing over these last 7.5 years.  We may well continue to write an occasional blog update (depending on what happens next), so if you would prefer not to be on the blog update list, please let us know.  If we don’t hear from you, we’ll assume you’re happy to hear from us occasionally!  
Our formal service with AIM officially ended on 31st March, although we’ll continue to be inactive members for the time being.  We had good debriefs with our colleagues in the Nottingham office and are grateful for all they’ve done to administer our service and smooth our transitions to and from the field.
To those who have written to us at various times, to those who have encouraged us, to those who have prayed for us, and to those who have supported us and our work at IBM financially, we want to say the biggest THANK YOU possible – asante sana kabisa for your support!  You’ve been a huge blessing!  And I guess all that’s left to say is ‘goodbye’…. for now!   
Every blessing,
Steve & Ruth
Prayer Points
– Praise God for the way in which He has helped us to adjust back to life in the UK and for the provision of accommodation.
– Please pray for Ruth as she starts her new job soon.  Pray too for Steve as he considers the future and waits for God’s direction.
– Please pray for Pastor Batano and his team at Sanga Sanga, that the ministry will continue to bless the pastors and evangelists of the AICT.  Pray for wise management and increasing visitor numbers to sustain the work.
Bird of the month: Long-tailed Duck,
seen at Hopeman, Moray
Steve, his niece Grace and sister
Bev at the end of the unofficial
Nairn half marathon in March!