Warm greetings! Here is our latest prayer letter, being sent to you during a week of lovely sunny weather with spring flowers and blossom out everywhere.
Steve’s visits to Thailand and Senegal
Back in October Steve visited Thailand, where he attended a large WEC regional conference, Asiacon, and was able to deliver training on safeguarding to the team leaders there. He also spent time at WEC’s boarding hostel, a ‘home away from home’ for young people attending Grace International School. The teenagers living there are the children of missionaries working in several of the surrounding countries, in areas where education for their children is not easily available. Steve and other WEC staff members were able to work with the boarding home parents to ensure that the hostel’s policies and procedures were up-to-date, as part of the overall care plan for the young people there.
A taste of Thailand as Steve visits Grace International School, Chiang Mai
At the end of January Steve went to Senegal, escaping the British winter for almost three weeks. First he spent time at Bourofaye Christian School. The school for missionaries’ children is an integral part of evangelism and church planting in Senegal, Gambia and Guinea Bissau and supports around 30 families in that work. Please pray for the school not only to have the staff they need, but also to consistently model Christian living to the children and to know God’s power at work in and through their lives and ministry. There is an urgent need for long-term committed staff members who can fulfill leadership roles. While there Steve was able to talk through many issues facing the school such as the minimum age of boarding, English as an Additional Language (EAL) teaching, recruitment and the transfer of children to other school systems. EAL is a huge challenge as many of the children are not native speakers. More and more often, missionaries are coming from places like Brazil, Nigeria, Latin American countries, and Korea. In addition to this the EAL teacher is due to retire in July, making this one of the school’s most obvious staff needs.
After leaving BCS Steve travelled 350 miles south-east from Dakar to Vélingara, where he spent time working with national churches on safeguarding. The WEC-related church, although still very small, has grown since our first arrival back in 1990 when there were just four congregations. Now there are more than 15 churches across Senegal which are growing numerically and seeking to spread the gospel and plant new churches. Part of the church outreach in the Vélingara area involves school and nursery ministry and there are now around 650 children enrolled at their schools. This kind of ministry is crucial, bearing in mind that 50% of the population are aged 16 or under. The children are being taught the full curriculum from a Christian perspective. The classes have around 40 students, but are very well organised and disciplined and it is clear that the teachers love teaching and the children enjoy being at school. All of them, both from Muslim and Christianised backgrounds, value the school’s commitment to learning and its supportive and child-friendly Christian ethos.
Shukran, Gamsa Hae, Gracias, Asante!
These words for ‘thank you’ in many languages were sung as part of the worship at WEC’s International Leaders’ Conference, known as Intercon, which we attended in April. It was a great privilege to be there with brothers and sisters of 26 nationalities, many serving the Lord in very difficult places. During this
time we worshipped God, studied and discussed the scriptures, and shared and prayed with one another in small ‘community groups’. We reviewed the progress of WEC’s outreach goals throughout the world and were encouraged to see what God has done in the last few years. There is inadequate space here to share all of the stories that we heard, but if you would like more information please contact us.
It is challenging to note that some of the people groups that we wanted to reach have not yet been engaged due to lack of workers.
Our contribution to the conference included presenting seminars on family life, educational planning and internet safety, and sharing about our resources with 19 different small groups. In addition we had a lot of individual conversations about training or individual family needs. This was very valuable, especially for Gill who has met fewer of our workers face to face than Steve.
Staff Training Course
In our last letter we included a photo of the participants at last year’s training course for staff working with missionaries’ children which was held at our church. We are delighted that the church has agreed to host the course again this year, and preparations are well underway.
Points for praise
- We have had quite a few offers of accommodation and some offers of help with catering.
- Eight adults and two children are registered, all heading for Bourofaye Christian School.
Points for prayer
- Some more people have applied but they have hurdles to overcome. Pray them through.
- More participants are needed, to fill the vacancies in schools across the world where
missionaries’ children are studying.
- God’s provision for the working out of logistics as Gill seeks to arrange accommodation, catering
- A good way of caring for the children whose parents will be on the course.
Michael and Bethany continue to serve at the Adama Martha Community Health Clinic in Kono District, Sierra Leone. We enjoyed seeing them briefly when they visited the UK in April, and they have now extended their term of service to September and possibly beyond. Peter and his girlfriend Miriam will be visiting them very soon, flying out on 20th May and returning on 2nd June. Please pray for safe travel, good health and their cultural adjustment: they hope to be able to help in some way even though they are not medically trained. For Miriam it will be the first trip to Africa and for Peter it is now ten years since he visited Senegal where he lived till the age of 11. Pray that they will be an encouragement to the staff there. See this link for more information about the clinic.
David is very busy with garden work at this time of the year. He is keenly involved in his local church, where he appreciates being part of a Life Group and contributing to church activities in various ways. We are able to spend time with him most Sundays.
Thank you so much for your interest and prayers
Blessings from Steve and Gill
It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. (Romans 15v20)
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Romans 10v14)
Preaching the gospel where Christ is not yet known is the central ‘why’ of WEC’s existence – the reason why so many people are willing to make sacrifices to be part of fulfilling Jesus’ commandment to go. Bearing this great truth in our hearts and minds, WEC International held its 4-yearly international conference in Germany during April 2018. Steve and Gill were privileged to be two of the 250+ delegates gathered from over 20 different countries and from every continent around the world. The huge diversity of our mission force reflects global changes in the church with those from traditional sending countries now joined by Asian, African and Latin American co-workers.
There are still almost 2,000 million people – over 30x more than the population of the UK – in the 100 biggest ethnic groups unreached by the gospel, and over 80% of the world’s Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists don’t personally know a Christian.
Some missionaries are still battling on, sowing the seeds of the gospel in hard places and waiting for some kind of breakthrough beyond a handful of people showing interest. Others struggle to get visas or to retain those that they have, and live knowing that they could be asked to leave their place of service at short notice. Sometimes mission is graft that requires perseverance and determination and it is an ongoing challenge to retain the vision of reaching people who haven’t heard the gospel.
But, there are also many encouragements……..
Conference speakers included the directors of sister missions such as the German DMG and CAPRO from Nigeria. From the very beginning of CAPRO 50 years ago, WEC has enjoyed a close relationship with them forming joint teams and sharing practical support together. CAPRO’s original vision of reaching the Muslim-majority north of Nigeria initially grew to include the rest of unreached Africa, and now has taken on other unreached parts of the world.
The growth of CAPRO represents a rising mission concern in many sub-Saharan African churches in strongly Christian areas. WEC is now working with mission-focused churches in a number of countries to help recruit and send. An exciting new development is coming up soon where new workers from Ethiopia will join WEC. Similar initiatives around the world are seeing NE Indians, Filipinos, and multiple other new nationalities joining us and other similar international missions.
In several countries we are now hearing about much more openness and response than ever before. Long-term missionaries who have been sowing and praying for years have finally begun to see fruit for their labours as people commit to following Jesus.
Our roles at the conference
General Bradley (one of the WW2 Allied commanders) popularised the expression “amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics” Of course he knew that strategy mattered, but he also knew that however good a strategy may have been it was destined to fail with poor logistical support. The same is true in missions where logistics in the form of member care, family support and administration can make the difference between success and failure. A large part of Steve and Gill’s conference was focused on family support in small group meetings and seminars – being part of the logistics that help realise the vision of preaching the gospel where Christ is not yet known.
Steve and Gill will be sharing more about this and about Steve’s visit to Senegal in Jan/Feb at the CBC mission focus day on the 10th June.
Steve’s visit to Thailand in October went well and he was able to help out with WEC’s boarding home for senior students whose parents work all over South-East Asia but whose children study at Grace International School in Chiang Mai. The boarding parents were in urgent need of extra support and a better structure around them to allow time off. we believe that this all now in place. Steve also attended WEC’s Asia Area conference in Chiang Mai where he spoke on safeguarding and had numerous one to one advisory and support meetings with team leaders. He also sold 45 copies of the new book about missionaries’ children called ‘Serving at the ends of the earth; Family life and TCKs’ which he and Gill completed last May.
WEC Training Attendees July 17
Steve is now back from Senegal where he visited both Bourofaye Christian School and did safeguarding training for national church leaders. The school is where Steve and Gill served during the 1990s and also where the largest group went from the 2017 course (held at Corsham Baptist last July/August) for staff going to work with missionaries’ children. The school is facing many challenges, not least of which is the never-ending recruitment process for new staff as so many teachers and practical workers only go for one year. They are also working through the implications of raising the minimum boarding age. Steve discussed all of these issues with the school staff as well as presenting a recently produced resource on LGBT+ issues designed to help children (and adults) from Africa and Asia where LGBT+ is rarely discussed prepare for a return to the West where it is one of the hottest subjects on the agenda. He also distributed more copies of their book.
The safeguarding training with national churches is a new departure for Steve, although one or two colleagues within WEC have already been asked to do similar training in other countries. The church, despite being very small and having few resources, now runs schools and nurseries as well as its own Sunday schools, and there is general alarm in the country about a rash of false claims of abuse against teachers in the hope of blackmail money, so the training should be very timely. This training will involve more travel than normal, including down to the south-east of the country.
From Sunday 8th to Friday 27th October Steve is visiting Chiang Mai in Thailand. There are two main purposes:
- spend time at the WEC boarding home where some of WEC’s MKs (missionaries children) live. They attend Grace International School while their parents serve the Lord either in Thailand or another country. Steve’s role is to give pastoral support and practical encouragement to the couple running the home. He will be there from 10th – 17th and from 22nd – 26th October.
- attend Asiacon, a large conference for leaders from four areas in Asia. From 17th – 22nd he will give presentations on safeguarding and talk with individuals.
Please pray for Steve to be able to minister effectively in both of these situations.
To learn more about Steve and Gill’s work download their biannual prayer letter here
Sorry for the terrible alliteration in the title, it just seemed irresistible ;-).
You will have seen in the church notices that Gill and Steve Bryant are holding an open evening with the WEC course participants this evening and we (the wider congregation) have been invited to join them.
So why not take this opportunity to find out more about both Steve and Gill’s work and that of the participants? Perhaps God is calling you to support this work in prayer, financially or some other way?
7.45pm at Priory Street
Our summer course is filling up with participants from around the world! They will be helping to reach the world for Jesus by looking after and teaching the children of missionaries. We appreciate all the offers of accommodation that we have received so far. We need some more spaces, so if you are able to host a single person or a couple between 23rd and 29th July/3rd August, please see or call Steve or Gill Bryant (not email).
UPDATE 12 Jun 17: Many thanks for your responses, Steve and Gill think they have enough accommodation now.
Steve’s most recent visit was to two very different countries in Central Asia, both blessed with spectacular mountain scenery. After some difficulties with travel on past visits to this region, everything went very smoothly with all flights on time and travel to and from the airports and between cities working to plan.
The challenges faced by all of our workers there are renewing and keeping visas to allow them to stay, rising prosperity making many people more materialistic and less open to talk about spiritual issues, and suspicion of anything that isn’t Islam or the Russian Orthodox Church.
For our families there is the additional challenge of the children’s education. Away from the main cities with their international schools, the only realistic options are home-based education or the Russian-language schools with a strong emphasis on rote learning and heavy use of public shaming as a discipline method; shaming that extends to the parents of under-performing children
There were several seminars with both parents and older children on internet safety and positive internet use. In one town he taught a series on returning to the passport country to a group of senior children who will all be facing that experience soon to study at college or university. For almost all children growing up in another culture this “return” is one of the biggest challenges they face as it is much more like moving to a foreign country. He led other sessions during an education conference on living in restrictive societies, and including local Central Asian studies in the curriculum. Added to that were school visits and many discussions with parents and older students about their higher education study plans.
Many thanks to those who prayed while he was away.