Developing lasting two-way relationships with link churches is very important for our CMS mission partners. At best, there is a genuine exchange of learning and participation in mission enabling the advancement of God’s kingdom.
In our Autumn issue of the Call newspaper Sarah Yanez wrote about how, as mission partners based in Spain, staying longer when they visit their link churches has enabled them to deepen their relationships.
We thought it would be good to investigate, and hear what CMS advocates from four of these churches (St John’s Sparkhill, St James’ Meltham, St Mary of Bethany Woking and St Stephen’s with St Aidan’s Acomb) had to say about their experience of link visits with Felipe, Sarah and their boys.
Mi casa su casa
“It’s been really inspiring to hear about Felipe and Sarah’s work, relationships, struggles and successes,” says Joy Holt. She and her husband Geoff are long-term friends with the Yanez family and CMS advocates at St John’s Sparkhill.
It was at St John’s where Felipe and Sarah met and married, and Felipe was staying with the Holts at that time. The Yanez family often stay with the Holts for around a week when they visit.
“We’ve really enjoyed seeing the boys growing up,” comments Sue Priestley. She and her husband Nigel are the CMS advocates at St James Meltham. They love to share their house with the Yanez family, “The boys especially like the games room with pool tables. It’s a good place for them to relax.”
Hospitality is shown by the churches too. All three churches have parish lunches where people can hang out with the Yanez and hear about their work. St John’s Sparkhill is multi-cultural, so their bring and share meal has lots of variety, including Sri Lankan Chicken Buriyani!
Part of deepening friendships is having fun together: “A member of our church is in the magic circle,” remembers Joy, “so everyone was really engaged when we had an evening of conjuring tricks – with great hilarity!”
“We invited the family for tea, and our neighbours came, who have a daughter and family serving in Madagascar, as well as another neighbour who is Spanish, and our lodger who is also bilingual,” says Rachel Parker, CMS advocate at St Stephen’s with St Aidan’s in Acomb near York.
Joining in mission
“We love Jesus and reach out to others in the same way as Felipe and Sarah,” comments Rachel Parker, “Our circumstances and our opportunities vary, but it is our joy to share him whenever we can.”
“A group went from our church to Spain to visit the Yanez,” remembers Claire Mall, from St Mary of Bethany church in Woking, “We can see parallels between our focus in local mission as a church and the Yanez’s situation in Spain.”
Both St John’s and St James’ are engaged in community outreach similar to Felipe and Sarah’s mission work in Spain. Food banks, clothes banks, a refugee/asylum centre and an advice centre are all supported by volunteers from these churches. When Meltham parish was planning to set up a food bank, Felipe offered them advice based on his experience in Spain.
So mission is being encouraged in both directions. By nurturing deeper relationships with their mission partners, the churches are not only offering prayer and financial support to the Yanez family, but are actually journeying alongside them, doing similar mission work to reach and support their local communities.
Sharing a vision
Sarah recently wrote to us about their dreams for the work in Spain. These dreams were all about relationship: building trust and authenticity, enabling people to start or continue their faith journey and be discipled.
She has a vision that local churches will be engaged in reaching out into the community in practical ways and build intentional genuine relationships with those outside the church.
How wonderful then that as the Yanez family seeks to deepen their relationship with their CMS advocates and people in their link churches, these very churches are actually fulfilling Sarah and Felipe’s dreams – in the UK!