One mission partner reflects on his journey into mission, and how God has used Church Mission Society walking alongside him in remote and challenging contexts.
By M in Africa
Crying out for guidance
As a teenager I was disillusioned with a school that pushed me towards academic success and money-oriented careers. I moved to an agricultural college as I loved the outdoors, but this didn’t satisfy me either.
I was crying out for guidance and had a profound experience of knowing God’s presence with me for myself. As I began seeking my way in life, someone lent me a book called Bruchko, about a teenager who followed God’s call to work with tribal people in the jungle. He went alone, got attacked and shot with an arrow by the very tribe he was looking for, and then eventually was adopted as one of them. Once he had learned their language, he was able to reinterpret their mythology in the light of Jesus, and many followed the Good News. I’d never heard the term “mission”, but I remember a strong sense of God telling me, “Go and live like this.” I was ready to get on a plane the very next day!
Jesus loves all people
I began doing short-term trips with my church to run summer camps in the former Soviet Union. Then I began to travel to remote lands such as Siberia, Mongolia, even Timbuktu! I wanted to find out how the gospel is applicable to nomadic and remote peoples, and to learn from those who were trying to reach them. Traditional models of church buildings and weekly services simply don’t work when the people are nomadic, but I knew that Jesus loves all people.
Africa didn’t particularly interest me because of the heat and mosquitoes, but at the invitation of an African friend (who grew up as a nomad in the Sahara) I went to visit. I ended up working in West Africa among a nomadic desert tribe for over 12 years. I loved sitting around the campfire as the stars came out, telling stories from the Bible in their language. My heart is still there, but terrorism and kidnapping threats make it impossible to visit my friends in those nomad camps.
Walking a fine line
Now my wife and I work with a tribe of mountain people in another part of Africa. It’s a very restricted country so we have to be creative in how we live. We have a company taking tourists into the mountains.
This gives us the freedom to be in villages, to share God’s love with locals and especially to pray for them. No one from this region has ever refused us praying peace and blessing for them in Jesus’ name.
We are always walking a fine line between being ambassadors of the coming Kingdom and living in a country where open Christian witness is not allowed.
We want to communicate God’s presence and love while avoiding misunderstanding. We strive to be peacemakers, bringing the gift of peace and forgiveness Jesus offers.
It’s hard sometimes to see much fruit, as society is such a strong influence. People don’t have the freedom to think beyond what family and community require them to be. We have found that prayer opens the door and enables people to discover God working in their own lives, beyond our words or stumbling apologetics!
Sustained for a lifetime
As we enter mid-life, with kids in tow, we face very different challenges. CMS has the experience and capacity to help sustain us on the field for a lifetime of ministry. Through their rigorous selection process and training, we have felt reaffirmed in the call of God on our lives. For me, it’s 20 years since I first began to follow God’s call, so it’s been great to be examined and affirmed in this way.
CMS brings expertise in financial planning and thinking through long-term issues, something I was never very good at on my own. They have been good at raising our profile and at annually reviewing our work so that we can be equipped and thriving.
We appreciate the breadth of experience CMS brings. They have been a huge help in the practicalities of family life on the field. We know they have robust systems of debriefing and counselling, should we need them.
When we left West Africa (before joining CMS), I really struggled during that time of loss and difficulty and went through a “dark night of the soul”.
No longer isolated
I know that CMS has “got my back” to help us survive and thrive. They are very professional and quick to help out with our needs.
Recently I was talking with my field leader about the challenges of balancing family life, working from home and ministry. He quickly found someone with similar experience, who was willing to talk with me and counsel me through these issues. I don’t have to feel as isolated as I used to.
CMS has also put us in touch with more churches and networks of praying people, which makes us feel upheld during the difficulties we go through.
God is at work in remote parts of the earth and it’s a privilege to be a part of what he is doing. I am grateful to CMS for the partnership that enables me and my family to be sustained and effective here!