Penny Minney, with her husband Robin, has been part of the Church Mission Society family for nearly 60 years. Their mission call took them to Russia with CMS in the aftermath of communism.
Back in the UK, Penny and Robin continue to advocate passionately for both global and local mission. And they want to see the call to God’s mission continue. So Penny has decided to include CMS in her will. Here she tells her story:
“My journey with God has been a long one. I’m one of those people who grew up with God from childhood. I can remember an overwhelming sense of awe and gratitude, as a two or three year old, for the raindrops sparkling like diamonds on a spider-web in early-morning sunlight - and was frustrated when I couldn’t go to church. Perhaps the seeds of mission were sown early in my life beacuse I was resourceful and adventurous from childhood: as children we were responsible for taking a boat across the local estuary to buy supplies for the family.
I first came across CMS when I married Robin, a keen supporter. Together, we have been praying for Church Mission Society for nearly 60 years! I also served as a CMS trustee for four years – an enriching experience.
In the mid-1990s, when we were nearing retirement, Robin read a request for funds to support new CMS work beginning in Russia. With perestroika, Russia was suddenly opening up to foreigners. Robin suggested to me that we applied to be mission partners in Russia, and to our great surprise we were accepted – even though, as prospective mission partners going off to Russia, we had to pass an ‘optimism test’!
We then travelled to Moscow to be interviewed at the Orthodox University of St John the Divine. Robin, as a specialist in Religious Education and in World Religions, was employed in the Department for Catechesis, and, even though I was barely qualified, I was taken on to teach English literature.
The university lacked a library. I applied for a grant to pay for essential books and a computerised borrowing system. The grant was successful, but somehow ended up in a hate campaign and a mini student rebellion against us as people contested how the money should be spent. We even considered leaving Russia but, by God’s grace, the campaign vanished overnight and the library began to be established. I trained up student volunteers to work in the library and was pleased when our visiting CMS supervisor congratulated me on my ‘leadership training’.
Meanwhile, Robin was building networks among self-taught Sunday school teachers, and encouraging and affirming them in their work. He took part in an amazing event at Christmas when hundreds of teachers converged on Moscow for a week of lectures, but politely turned down an invitation to visit a participant based more than 1,500 miles east of Moscow.
We set off to Moscow originally for a two year stint but stayed six years. Returning to our home on the hillsides above the village of Witton Gilbert in County Durham was a culture-shock. England seemed so consumer-oriented, Russians by comparison more compassionate and aware of people’s suffering and needs.
Once a missionary always a missionary – it gets into your blood. I became involved in the local church in Witton Gilbert, fundraising for structural changes in the church to allow its doors to be opened to marginal local groups during the week: including the homeless and people with mental health difficulties. We also continue, with a small group of local people, to support a missionary couple serving in DR Congo.
CMS has been part of my life since my twenties – it is like family to me. We are impressed again and again by the courage and enterprise of the CMS mission partners we pray for, in the Holy Land, in South America, as well as in Africa. Leaving money to CMS in my will is a very small way to say thank you to some courageous people.
Tha Call in Action
Will you join Penny and other members of the CMS family and remember us in your will?
To play a key part in the future of God’s mission through legacy giving, email Hannah Caroe or call her on 01865 787521.