For some, responding to God’s call means putting down roots in one place for several years. For others, it means packing up and moving every few years, or even every few months!
IRENE AND MALCOLM
Long-term short-termers Irene and Malcolm Crawford see their role as coming alongside long-term partners, “helping and supporting them in any way we can”. In practice, this means short stints of between six months and two years in each location, where they plug personnel gaps and clear work backlogs before moving on to their next location. As an accountant, Malcolm’s finance skills are in high demand – many mission partners around the world would welcome a finance person for any length of time. Irene calls herself “a Jill of all trades”, happy to try her hand at whatever needs doing, making the couple a highly versatile and valuable duo.
Irene and Malcolm initially headed out to serve in East Africa after finding themselves surprisingly free of responsibilities. Malcolm had moved to a new job, which suddenly disappeared in what they describe as “bizarre circumstances”, and they had sold their house and not yet bought another one. Malcolm decided to take early retirement, and as they didn’t quite know what to do next, they decided to pursue an idea that had been on the back burner since before they were married: working abroad.
Unbeknown to them, CMS mission partners connected with Irene and Malcolm’s church had just started praying for an accountant to join them in Tanzania. When Irene and Malcolm’s vicar wrote to them out of the blue asking if they’d be interested in a visit from an accountant and an extra pair of hands, the mission partners responded eagerly, inviting the Crawfords to come for six months.
Malcolm and Irene packed their bags and set off to get stuck in alongside mission partners in Tanzania. Six months later they came back to the UK, but Malcolm didn’t feel he’d finished the work.
They returned to Tanzania for another six months, and during that time started to consider further short-term mission service.
After all, their children were grown up, they no longer owned a house in the UK; Irene and Malcolm weren’t tied down. Willing and able to serve, they signed on for two years in one area of Uganda and then a third year in another area of Uganda. Then, after three years back in the UK, they were off on yet another assignment.
Although Irene commented, “when we finished in Uganda we didn’t think we’d go out again”, they continue that “it just sort of grew”. As they continue to support people in mission, they have found a calling to go “a few months at a time where it’s helpful”.
CAROLINE AND DICK
Another couple whose calling has taken them to more than one location is Caroline and Dick Seed. Caroline and Dick, both highly qualified and experienced teachers of theology, are called to help equip the church in Africa by training lecturers in theological institutions, so they in turn can teach the next generation of pastors and teachers in a way that is effective, contextual and relevant. Caroline and Dick didn’t start out planning to go to more than one location, but following this call has taken them across Africa.
Their initial engagement with Church Mission Society took them to Northern Nigeria and then to theological colleges in Rwanda, Ghana and university departments of theology in Kenya. In Kenya, Dick set up Theological Education Development Services (TEDS) to train lecturers and provide consultation on curriculum in Kenya, Tanzania and South Sudan.
In order to extend the reach of TEDS to train as many people as possible across the continent it was clear TEDS needed to be better resourced. A partnership was set up with Overseas Council Australia (OCA) to work with the Africa Mile Deep Strategy, a movement seeking to deepen capacity for theological education across Africa by equipping lecturers and upgrading resources in six key hub institutions. A resource centre is being set up at George Whitefield College in Cape Town to support the work of TEDS and OCA across the continent. In August last year, after six years in Kenya, Caroline and Dick moved to Cape Town to be based there. They write:
“In our Bible readings during our time of transition, we were working through Acts. We were struck by the itinerant nature of the ministry of Paul and his mission team and by the focus on teaching the churches. In Corinth, Paul remained teaching the word of God for 18 months (Acts 18:11) and in Ephesus, he taught daily for two years in the lecture hall of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9). And yet he always moved on. Sometimes he moved as a result of the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:9) and at other times, he was forced out by opposition (such as at Berea, Acts 17:10–15). Nonetheless, the work of mission, the preaching and teaching of the gospel, continued wherever he went.
“Looking back over our 18 years in theological education in Africa, we can see a similar pattern of teaching in one place for a while and then being called to move on and teach others in different places. It does not make a lot of sense to some people for us to be continually moving, but it is the nature of the call into mission.
“We must always respond to the calling of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of events in discerning the will of God. Our new calling to Cape Town is to train others across Africa to teach, so that the word of God is proclaimed faithfully and missionally to and by the next generation.”
The Call in Action: REFLECT
Is God calling you to put down deeper roots where you are, or to be willing to move on to something new?