Dear lovely family and friends,
I hope you have all had a wonderful Easter celebrating our Risen Lord! It has been a busy and exciting few months for me since I last wrote to you all.
The first piece of news I would like to share is that my location has been confirmed and I am thrilled to tell you all that later this year I will be moving to Guatemala! As you can imagine, the discernment process was long and not without tears, but when I visited last November I knew almost instantly that Guatemala was where God wanted me. It is a real encouragement to me to be able to look back and see God’s guiding hand over my life as I have explored overseas mission and ministry, and more recently in the decision surrounding my long term placement. I would like to say that it has always been a gentle guiding hand but gentle maybe isn’t the right word as I’ve definitely had a few elbow digs too!
Before I share a bit more about what I will be doing in Guatemala, I will fill you in on my past few months in Oxford. I moved there in January and started my training with CMS. We have covered a wide range of topics and learnt many useful practical skills. From inter-cultural mission theology to how to take good photos, it has been great. I have really enjoyed all the various aspects of training and it has been a lot of fun living in the community house too. A couple of highlights for me were meeting people in the office, finally putting faces to names/emails, and having the opportunity to openly ask questions and explore what it means to be a “mission partner” more fully. It is a privilege to now belong to the big CMS family.
As part of my training last week I went on an intense security training course with International Location Safety (ILS). Intense is definitely the word to describe it! We spent three days doing a mix of classroom taught sessions, including learning first aid, and outdoor simulations of “real” high-risk scenarios. The whole course was extremely well taught and I really enjoyed it, even though it took me a few days to recover afterwards. I hope I never have to put any of my new skills into action, but feel a lot more confident about doing so if I ever find myself in a situation of high risk or trauma emergency.
Just to give you a taste of what it was like, I think it is fair for me to say I would have been killed several times over if the scenarios were real life, but on the plus side I would have also saved a few lives, so swings and roundabouts! I am being purposefully aloof because the training requires an element of surprise and I don’t wish to spoil it for anyone who may wish to undergo it at some point, but all I will say is that it is well worth it.
I have also had the pleasure of visiting some of my new link churches over the past few months. It has been lovely to be warmly welcomed into church families and to be able to share my story with so many brothers and sisters in Christ. I have found it incredibly humbling and encouraging and am looking forward to the visits I still have to come. My fundraising is steadily increasing and I am constantly blessed and amazed by God’s provision through his people.
Now, back to Guatemala. I am hoping to partner with a charity called Street Kids Direct, which in turn partners with local organisations and projects working with at-risk children and young people. As I mentioned in my last link letter, I spent a week with a project called Mi-Arca in Guatemala City last year and was extremely moved by the work they do there.
As I have been doing my training, I have also been doing a piece of project work looking at the implications for a child who is not registered at birth and the difficulties facing such children. I was surprised at how difficult I have found this project. I quickly recognised my own inadequacy in understanding such things and my lack of knowledge and felt emotionally drained as I found it harder to find any hope in what I was exploring. I was finding that the more I looked into what life can be like for an unregistered child, either on the streets or at risk of ending up on the streets, in countries like Guatemala, the more my heart ached for these children. I remember feeling a deep sense of helplessness and sadness as I become overwhelmed with the thought of so many children left alone and isolated, living in situations that many of us cannot even imagine. I was desperately asking God why? Why is life so cruel? Where is the hope? Father, where are you?
God took me back to Guatemala City, back to a day I will never forget. I was on a trip to a museum with a group of the teenage boys, being mentored through the Mi-Arca project, and with us was a young girl, about 11 years old. She was slowly being introduced into the project and today instead of spending the whole day alone, locked in her one roomed house (for her own safety), she was out with us at a museum. She was surrounded by new friends and she was safe. I watched her as she came out of her inner isolation and I saw her curiously stopping and reading every sign and looking at every statue. She was taking it all in, reading about the history of her country and absorbing information like a sponge to water. Her eyes were wide with wonder and joy. I saw all her potential – maybe she will be a historian one day or a teacher, perhaps a doctor or a lawyer. She can be anything that she wants to be. Doesn’t every child deserve a chance to grow up in a safe environment where they can learn and dream? I found hope again. I found hope as projects like Mi-Arca reach out and change lives, one child at a time. I was reminded of why I do what I do, why I will soon leave England and my family and friends and move over 5,400 miles away. I will move to follow God’s call on my life and to help reveal hope to children who deserve to dream.
So with the training, the link church visits and the exciting news about my pending move to Guatemala, the last few months have been busy in all the best ways. I now shift my focus to the remaining church visits I have to look forward to and quite a lot of practical things to sort out over the next few months.
Thank you all for your love, prayers and support.