A faithful God

We come to the end of our active time with Africa Inland Mission, and the last of these blog posts.  We want to give testimony to God’s great faithfulness.

We look back with wonder and gratitude for our years of being involved in Africa, a wonderful and beautiful continent, with many kind and faithful people.  We first visited Kenya in 2010, spent a month there in 2011, and soon after became full-time members of Africa Inland Mission (AIM).  We lived in Nairobi during 2014, 2015 and some of 2016, and were based back in the UK from mid-2016, though I (Mark) have made a number of trips back to Nairobi since then.

We are very grateful to each person who has been interested in sharing this journey with us, through reading this blog, or being in touch, or praying along with us.

Mark & Barbara with friends outside our apartment in Nairobi

We felt well prepared by Africa Inland Mission, and the ongoing support – from AIM, Tumaini colleagues, our home church, and from many others – was tangible.  We loved living in the small apartment we were allocated, despite the unreliable electricity and water – and having ‘just enough’ was, indeed, enough!

Teaching English

While Mark was working at Tumaini, I (Barbara) had the opportunity to teach English to pastors and wives on the campus of Africa International University (AIU). English is the language of education in Kenya, so students needed English not only for their studies but also for cross-cultural communication. I worked alongside a missionary from the U.S.A., and it was such a privilege to get to share in the lives of these Africans who had come to AIU from many African nations – Tanzania, South Sudan, Ethiopia, DRC and Burundi – not only in our English lessons, but in a Ladies’ Bible Study that we led in their homes.  

Barbara with her English class in our apartment

Tumaini 

I (Mark) loved the mix of Western & African staff at Tumaini, and even the fact that the ‘westerners’ came from 6 different countries and three continents; they were a fantastically professional and supportive team, united in heart around the work God had given us to do.

A Tumaini brochure for a conference in the USA

During these six years, the team at Tumaini has worked with many hundreds of individual missionaries, couples or families, and undertaken many thousands of counselling sessions of one kind or another.  But counting numbers is not what matters; behind each of these is a person or family who faced difficult times serving as missionaries in Africa, and who came to Tumaini for help.  And each of these people was working in Africa, believing they had been called to share the good news of Jesus’ free forgiveness for sin with any who would listen.

Many of these people who came to Tumaini were in such difficulty that their work was threatened, and were considering returning to their home countries prematurely.  We cannot tell how many missionaries Tumaini helped sufficiently that they have continued to serve in Africa rather than return to their home country, but we know that is the case for very many.

Tumaini gardens
Tumaini gardens – which path to take?

The teams working at Tumaini are skilled professionals – counsellors, psychologists or psychiatrists – but each of them knows that their skill is insufficient for the task we face, for the issues faced are not just practical and psychological, but spiritual, and it is the work of God alone who heals, restores and sustains each person, including the members of our team.  We were just tools in His hands.

Together we have faced ongoing struggles of being short staffed, and we have wrestled in prayer repeatedly, for example about whether we could maintain the work of the Kampala centre which opened in 2016. But through it all God has been faithful, and two new staff are coming to Kampala later this year.

I handed over my responsibilities as Clinical Team Leader last November, and have just passed on the recruitment work to another colleague from Tumaini who is now in the US.  So, at this point my responsibilities have come to an end, though I continue to mentor the new Clinical Team Leader.

God’s faithfulness

We have personally been through difficult times, though they were not primarily events in Africa.  Rather, unexpected and very difficult family circumstances brought us back to the UK earlier than we expected in mid-2016.  Yet we look back and see the many great kindnesses shown us – people who housed us for 15 months while we had nowhere to live, and many people who supported us and prayed with us, and we found that God did not let us down.

Stained glass in Tumaini waiting room

Back in the UK in 2016, it took quite a while to discover that I could still be useful at Tumaini and, with Barbara supporting me, even continue to lead the Nairobi and Kampala teams, despite being 4,500 miles away. Over the last three years I have made 4 trips back to Kenya and one to Kampala, Uganda.  

Now, we have done our best to ‘end well’ and leave things in others’ hands to continue to the work.

We have learned more of trust, reliance on God through prayer, leaving things in God’s hands, and learnt more of patience.  We have learnt to be content with what we have and to trust God for his provision.  And we have found God to be faithful in all our circumstances.

For the future

We have learned that Jesus is our Shepherd-King, as the Bible teaches.  As King, he commanded us to “Go!”, and as Shepherd he said “I will go with you!”.  And he led us in unexpected directions, but always went with us.  Now he says, “Retire!”, but gently adds, “I will go with you!”, so we are not concerned.

We are adjusting to this change, and suddenly feel very tired.  And we are not rushing to fill up the time.  We are taking six months to think and pray, in order to discern what comes next – although continuing to support family remains a priority.  We are unsure what the future holds, but we know that it is not ‘ours’ to do with just as we want, but rather we seek what God has in mind for us – and his ways are perfect – far more satisfying than anything we could think of!  

It’s quite exciting…

Prayer requests 

  • Please continue to pray for the staff and work of Tumaini; more information can be found at: https://tumainicounselling.net
  • Please continue to pray for more staff for both the Nairobi and Kampala centres.  As new people join, others go on Home Assignment, or (like me) retire.  The need is ongoing!
  • Please continue to pray for the work of African Inland Mission; more information can be found at: https://aimint.org
  • And we would value your continuing prayers for us, as we end one ‘season’ of life and start another.

Bug of the month

I know very little about bugs, but I like noticing and photographing them! And it became traditional to include a bug picture or two at the end of these blog posts.

When J.B.S. Haldane, a British naturalist of the early 20th century, was asked if there were anything that could be concluded about God from the study of natural history, he reputedly replied that, “God must have an inordinate fondness for beetles”. I have read that there are 380,000 catalogued species of beetle, making them the most species-rich group of insects—and insects are the most species-rich group of animals.

I don’t know if Haldane was right, but I do know that God has an unbounded love for all kinds of people.  

Now I will have to get used again to looking for UK bugs; but here are two last Kenyan ‘bugs’ I came across.

Tiny leaf-cutting bug
Locust at our apartment

Passing the baton

I (Mark) am recently back from three weeks in Nairobi and Kampala.  The trip was primarily to hand over the Clinical Team Leader role to Gunilla, a colleague at Tumaini in Nairobi, but was in many ways a ‘farewell trip’.  It was a time of great blessing and joy for me, mixed with the sadness of goodbyes.  I enjoyed safe travel and the friendship of wonderful colleagues; both are blessings!

The Tumaini Kampala team
The Tumaini Kampala team

Despite having been centrally involved in setting up the Tumaini Counselling Centre in Kampala in 2016, I had never been there in person.  So, it was a special treat to visit and meet face to face with the team working there – people who I know very well and ‘meet’ with frequently via the computer screen.  But being there in person was special!  Kampala is different to Nairobi; no big surprise, there. Kampala is beautiful, more tropical and with wonderful flora and fauna, and with the same friendly people, yet the level of spiritual opposition to the work of the gospel seemed much more marked. I was reminded again of the importance of the work that Tumaini does in supporting missionaries who carry the gospel, despite being subjected to significant and sustained spiritual attack.  

It happened to be my birthday during my time in Kampala, and I was treated to a wonderful meal on the shore of Lake Victoria. Definitely special!

The Tumaini Nairobi team
The Tumaini Nairobi team, with Gunilla front right

Officially speaking, Barbara and I retire at the end of December, but I continue to be involved in mentoring Gunilla as she takes up the Clinical Team Leader role, and also in recruitment matters for Tumaini.  So, work is a lot quieter, but I am glad to still be involved.

I am not sure what retirement holds, but I’m not anxious about it.  We expect to continue supporting family, old and young, and there will be time for new adventures, as yet unknown. In fact, it’s rather exciting!

It is now December, and I write this on a dark and frosty afternoon where we live, and I can hear Barbara practising Christmas carols on the violin for the coming church carol service.  Already the warmth of Kenya and Uganda seem far away, but the light of Christ is needed as much here as in Kenya and Uganda.

I plan to write another blog in a few months, which will bring my part in this particular story to an end – though the work will continue, of course.

Prayer requests

Please praise God with me:

  • For his faithfulness in all things, including through my recent trip to Kenya and Uganda

And please pray with me for:

  • Gunilla, as she steps into her new role as Clinical Team Leader for the Tumaini Counselling Centres
  • The ongoing work of Tumaini, as the team seek to serve and support many missionaries working throughout Africa
  • And for the work of the small team in Kampala – for their protection, and for the powerful work of Jesus to be evident in and through them.

And, finally, here is a bumper crop of ‘bugs of the month’ – though not all actually ‘bugs’ – a very smart bug of some kind and a butterfly seen in Kampala, and a chameleon in Nairobi!

Chameleon

Times of change

The time is approaching when we will retire as missionaries with Africa Inland Mission.  It is a time of mixed feelings for us, as we have been associated with AIM since February 2010.  However, as this season draws to a close, we wonder what the Lord has in store for us; after all, we don’t retire as Christians!  

After 6 years, Mark passes on the Clinical Team Leader role for the Tumaini Nairobi and Kampala Counselling Centres at the start of November, but will continue with the handover until the end of the year.  In fact, Mark has also been handling recruitment enquiries for Tumaini and will continue with this into 2020, until a colleague who has recently returned to the US can take that on.  So, we are in a period of gradually bowing out.

But for now, everything remains very busy! 

New and visiting clinicians at Tumaini

Kay, a psychologist from the US, has joined us at Tumaini Nairobi and is settling in well.  Is it great to have her back in the team after she was in the US for about 2 years following her previous 6-months with us in 2016-17.

Moreover, we have 3 visiting psychiatrists about to spend time with us, just for a few weeks each.  They have different specialisms, a child psychiatrist and an adult psychiatrist who will be coming to Nairobi.  The third is a general psychiatrist who will be returning to work at the Kampala office.

[If you are reading this in the UK, you might wonder just how many missionaries need to see a psychiatrist!  Well, in a context where there is no NHS, and where most doctors don’t prescribe many commonly used medications, the answer is ‘quite a lot’.  Although in western countries we think we have a common understanding of mental health and its treatment, the whole topic is in fact much more culturally dependent than most people realise: there are differences in the understanding and treatment of mental health between the UK and the US, and that is before you begin to think about norms in South Korea or Germany, not to mention the understandings in Kenya, Chad or Madagascar!  So, to have experienced psychiatrists working with us who are sensitive to such cultural issues is a real blessing – literally a Godsend!]

We also have a lovely couple coming for a month from Australia to run marriage retreats.  As I write they have just arrived in Kenya, and we look forward to them leading three retreats – two near Nairobi, and one in Jinja, Uganda.

I, Mark, will be travelling to Nairobi for 3-weeks, including 4 days in Kampala, in late October to mid-November.  As well as providing an opportunity to see the whole team, it will also be a time for handover to Gunilla, who is taking over from me as the Clinical Team Leader.  Gunilla has been the Clinical Lead in Nairobi for the last two years, and I am delighted that she is willing to take on this role.

But, before I travel to Kenya I will be leading a session at a team day for Africa Inland Mission EU staff, talking about ‘What do Godly teams look like?’.

Personal

Lunch in the Lincolnshire Wolds

Barbara and I attended the AIM EU ‘Home Assignment Conference’ in July in Swanwick, Derbyshire.  It was a lovely opportunity to catch up with UK missionaries who are spending time in the UK, some of whom we knew and others we didn’t previously.  We also heard some excellent teaching on what makes for good gospel partnerships.  As we are retiring soon, it was also an opportunity to say some early goodbyes.

After the conference we gave ourselves a short break and spent a couple of days in Lincoln visiting the castle and the cathedral and a quick look at the Lincolnshire Wolds.

Lincoln Cathedral

Mark’s mother has been living at home without carers for a couple of months now.  It has been working precariously up until recently, since when she has had a minor fall.   She is taking care of herself for the moment, but needs more help than she will admit.

Change of blog web address

The sharp-eyed among you may notice that our blog address has changed from https://stepsalongtheway.aimsites.org to https://stepsalongtheway.org, though the old address will redirect you to the new one.  We have tried to keep the new site much alike the previous one, which still contains all the old posts.

For prayer

Please praise God with us for

  • The psychiatrists who are visiting Tumaini in the coming weeks, and for the Australian couple coming to lead marriage retreats
  • Kay coming to work long-term with the team in Nairobi

And please pray with us for

  • Missionaries and their families, who can benefit from these visiting staff, will be able to come during this time
  • Mark’s upcoming trip to Nairobi and Kampala, and the handover of the leadership role to Gunilla
  • The Lord’s leading in our lives in retirement.

PS This is not the end; we will be writing again!

And here is our ‘bug of the month’ – actually a common garden spider; maybe our next blog will have something more exotic!

Common Garden Spider

Round and round?

Tumaini

There have been a number of staff changes in the clinical team at Tumaini.

Yih Jia, our Chinese-American psychologist returned to the US when she retired in April, which has left us without a psychologist for now.  However, another psychologist from the US, Kay, is coming to work with us later this month after raising her financial and prayer support.  Kay worked with us at Tumaini for 6 months in 2017-18, and has wanted to return since then.  So, we praise God that he has now made this possible.

Roger and Shirley Brown

Roger and Shirley Brown

Roger and Shirley Brown, founding members of Tumaini 28 years ago will also be returning to the US in August.  It is difficult to imagine the centre without them being present, for they have ‘always been there’!  You can read their inspiring story about the founding of Tumaini at: http://aimstories.com/blog/2019/05/breaking-barriers-through-obedience/

Roger and Shirley will continue to provide administrative and recruitment support for Tumaini from a distance once they are settled back in the strange and foreign country called America – for Kenya has been their home for nearly 30 years!  Please pray for their transition.  (We tend to think more about the ‘culture shock’ of moving to Africa, than the culture shock of moving back, but many people feel that the return is more difficult.)

Karen, the counsellor who joined us last September has confirmed that she is moving to work at Africa Inland Mission’s International Office, which is based in Bristol, UK.  This location will offer suitable schooling for her daughter, and there is a very suitable role for her there.  I am very sad to be losing Karen from our team, but, as a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, I am quite excited about the notion of ‘having a counsellor on the bridge’.  (To those few of you who aren’t Star Trek: TNG fans, please excuse the obscure reference…)

Meanwhile, Elisabeth, the German psychiatrist we accepted recently, fell and broke her ankle a little while before being due to make her first visit to work with us, so coming to Tumaini has been delayed, probably until the autumn.

In case any of you do not believe that mission work is in the forefront of spiritual warfare, I can tell you, it is real and ongoing!

Mark, Barbara and Judith

Mark, Barbara and Judith

We greatly enjoyed a visit by Judith, the German therapist who leads the Tumaini centre in Kampala, Uganda, while she was visiting the UK in May.  This gave a wonderful opportunity to talk through the potential ways forward for that centre.

We have several times wondered whether it would be possible to keep the centre going in Kampala, as the staffing there is so small.  But each time, so far, the Lord has provided.  Yet here we are again wondering about the future from 2020.  Judith returns to Kampala in September after her home assignment in Germany, but we are all clear that we need a team there for it to be sustainable; for a single therapist working alone, it really cannot be done.  So, again, we find ourselves thinking and praying…

I am still intending to hand over the Clinical Team Leader role by end of 2019, and am delighted that God recently made clear the way forward.  Gunilla, who has overseen the day-to-day running of the Tumaini Nairobi centre will take over this role late this year.  We are beginning to think about how a staged handover will work.

The Tumaini clinical team

The Tumaini clinical team, Sep 2018 – Gunilla on the left

We look forward to attending an Africa Inland Mission Europe conference in Nottingham later this month, but as we expect this to be the last of these we will attend, there is sadness mixed in.  Likewise, I am hoping to return to visit the Tumaini team in both Nairobi and Kampala during October, God willing, which may be my last visit.

Most of the above has been about people leaving or retiring, but we praise God that Brian and Mary, both psychiatrists, who are currently in the US following the birth of their first child, have confirmed that they will return to work with us from February 2020. We are unclear at the moment whether it is best for them to be based in Kampala or in Nairobi; the former desperately needs people in the team, the latter desperately needs psychiatric cover…

There are some others who are enquiring about working with us, but nothing else is yet confirmed.

Personal news

The seasons go round and round.  But sometimes it seems that aspects of life do too.

At home we have recently had a ‘garden makeover’.  This has turned our scrubby lawn and weedy patch into a beautiful garden with new plants and shrubs taking root.  As I prepare to hand over my counsellor lead role, and draw towards the end of 40 years of ‘tending people’ working professionally as a counsellor and therapist, I will have a go at tending plants.

In our last blog we mentioned my mother moving into a care home following some falls.  What she anticipated as being a stay of a week or two became a three-month stay as her legs very gradually healed.  She has just returned to her own home with a ‘care package’, that is, a number of carers visiting each day.  For someone who is fiercely independent, this arrangement with carers is being resisted, but it reminds me of my own sinful desire to live independently of God’s ‘care package’, which I need just as much!

Walking in the Norfolk Broads

Walking in the Norfolk Broads

Just after Easter we had a holiday for 5 days beside the Norfolk Broads – a beautiful area of rivers and lakes.  I’m ashamed to say that watching tourists trying to moor their hire boats offered hours of endless interest and amusement…

Prayer requests

Please praise God with us for

  • Roger and Shirley, having worked faithfully at Tumaini for 28 years
  • Kay joining the team this month, and Brian and Mary planning to come in Feb 2020
  • For plans for the Clinical Team Leader role to be handed over, which are shaping up well

And pray with us for

  • New clinical staff to join us so that we can meet more of the requests for support that we receive from missionaries each week
  • For the many in our team making significant transitions – either returning ‘home’ or arriving in Kenya
  • Healing for Elisabeth’s ankle, the psychiatrist wanting to join us short-term in Nairobi

Orange-tip butterfly

Orange-tip butterfly

And finally our ‘bug of the month’

Despite enjoying taking pictures of various bugs, I know very little about them.  However, I do know that this butterfly is an ‘Orange Tip’!

A season for every activity under heaven

We can hardly believe it’s early March, and we are later than intended in posting this update. The days seem to fly by even more quickly as we get older. We have both turned 65 since we last wrote, are now proud owners of bus passes. Mark became virtually the last person in the UK to start getting his state pension at that age.

Teaching the essential skill of rolling out chapatis!

Teaching the essential skill of rolling out chapatis!

After excruciating stomach pains at the end of December, I, Barbara, ended up in hospital on my 65th birthday having emergency bowel surgery! I have been making a good recovery from that. We praise God for excellent (and free!) health care.

We love seeing our grandchildren frequently, but that has needed to be cut back a bit recently because of my health.

This has been a particularly busy time for Mark. On top of the regular work for Tumaini, he has spent a lot of time supporting me, and his mother is becoming noticeably frailer. Following two recent falls, we have just helped her move into a care home for respite care. The hope is that she will be able to return home with a suitable package of care.

And we continue with leading a church home group, and the church mission group too.

Tumaini

A lot has been happening at Tumaini. Members of the team attended and were fully booked offering counselling at four Africa Inland Mission conferences or similar gatherings in Kenya and nearby countries. And our daily work continues at full capacity, though we still need to turn away a majority of those seeking help due to having few clinical staff (though we always prioritise AIM missionaries).

In the National History Museum, London

In the National History Museum, London. Not quite the same as Nairobi National Park!

The couple who are both psychiatrists who have been working at Tumaini Kampala have now been there for two months, and have just returned to the US for the birth of their first child. They have indicated their hope to return to work with us after their baby is born, at least for a while. And one of our long-standing psychiatrists has very kindly moved from Nairobi to staff the Kampala centre until August.

We have accepted a German psychiatrist to join our team; she is able to come to Nairobi for three short visits each year, starting this April. We also have enquiries from a number of other specialist mental health personnel, but it is too early to know whether they will join us.

However, one of the new full-time therapists who joined us last September may need to leave this summer, as her daughter is not settling at all well in Kenya. We pray for clear direction for her and her family, confident that God will both meet their needs and ours. This is a reminder that we too face the same difficulties as other missionaries, and the cost of serving can be considerable – even while the blessings of following God’s call are multiplied.

This would leave just 3 full-time clinical staff working in Nairobi and 1 in Kampala, so the need for more committed long-term staff remains acute.

For the last couple of years, I have held two roles for Tumaini: I am both the Clinical Team Leader (CTL), overseeing the work of the Nairobi and Kampala centres and much of the administration, and I also handle the recruitment enquiries from people interested in finding out more about Tumaini or the possibility of working with us. This latter takes more time than it sounds, as many people enquire, but few see it through to actually come and work with us.

Mark & Barbara

Mark & Barbara –  on our 45th Wedding Anniversary

I have told the team that I would like to be released from the Clinical Team Leader role by the end of this year, though I will continue with the recruitment role until another member of the team who is returning to the US can take this over in 2020. At present it is not clear who will take over as CTL, but nonetheless I feel it is right to signal that it is time to hand this over in due course; I will have had the role for 6 years since I retired from my previous position at the University of Cambridge.

Please praise God with us for

  • For the work of the couple who were with us for a while in Kampala. Please pray too for the safe arrival of their baby due in April, and guidance for them about their future direction – whether to return to work with us or elsewhere
  • The new short-term psychiatrist joining our Nairobi team
  • Answers to prayer for professional staff cover in Kampala until August; but also for the provision of staff beyond that time.

And pray with us for

  • For clear direction and wisdom for our counsellor whose daughter is not doing well in Kenya
  • Further new staff to join us so that we can meet more of the requests for support that we receive from missionaries each week
  • Clarity about the timing and nature of the handover of the Clinical Team Leader role towards the end of this year.

And finally our ‘bug of the month’

Spotted at the Kenya coast, Sept 2018

(Well, we spotted it last September at the Kenya coast, actually)

Back in Africa – for a month!

Looking for the 'Ladies'

Looking for the ‘Ladies’

Here in the UK, the hot summer enabled us to have a seamless transition as we travelled to Kenya on the 5thSeptember at the start of their warmer season.  This also led to less ‘thermal shock’ on our return at the end of September!

We stayed on the campus of Africa International University, very near to where we had lived in 2014 and 2015.  As this was my first trip back to Kenya, this gave me, Barbara, the great joy of being reunited with several of the people I knew there, from people who were my English students, some from Ladies’ Bible Study and workers on the campus. I saw this amusing sight as I wandered round! 🙂

Tumaini

The Tumaini clinical team

The Tumaini clinical team

It was very good to have time to catch up with the Team at Tumaini – both clinical and office staff. We had timed our visit to coincide with two new counsellors joining the team in Nairobi, so were there to welcome them to the ‘family’ of Tumaini; a great joy!

I want to praise God for an answer to many prayers about being able to keep our Kampala centre open while its sole member of staff will be back in her home country for much of 2019. While we were in Nairobi, a young couple, who are both psychiatrists, came to work with us briefly at short notice, as they had to leave another African country due to its political instability.  When they heard about our need, they offered to work in our Kampala centre from January to March 2019.  And one of our psychiatrists from Nairobi offered to move to Kampala to cover the rest of that gap.  So, the staffing for that centre looks secure until September 2019; after that God alone knows, though we are confident he will provide!

But mission life in Africa always seems to be ‘living on the edge’.  Since our return to the UK, our excellent Kenyan receptionist resigned unexpectedly and at short notice, and our Kampala centre suffered a burglary, taking the centre’s laptop and money, as well as a laptop that was in transition to another Christian mission in Uganda.  These trials leave our finances even more precarious than before, and as our counsellor there was due to lead a debriefing the next day to a mission team who had just been robbed, this brought an additional level of empathy…

We desperately need more professional staff still; we are currently turning away about two-thirds of the requests that we receive for help due to insufficient staff – though we always prioritise members of AIM, and are able to see them.

And our team member who had to leave a ‘creative-access’ country at short notice is in the process of praying through what their future direction should be.

I am currently struggling with setting the budget for 2019 – struggling because we do not have enough money to cover the costs of employing our national staff who run our centres.

During our visit we were also able to get in a short holiday at the Kenya coast; which we’d not seen before. It was a wonderful time of relaxation, and also enabled me to stock up on ‘bug’ pictures.  This spider was about 5 inches across and was hanging in a tree just above where we were relaxing.  (We kept one eye on it, and think it was keeping one eye on us!)

Family news

We missed the grandchildren during our month back in Africa, but we were very touched at their joyful reunion with us on our return, and we have been able to tell them about our visit and showed them many photos and videos.

Barbara has been laid up with the ‘flu since mid-October, and is making a slow recovery.  So she hasn’t done as much to promote mission within our church as she would have liked.

Church

We receive much prayer support from our church family here in the UK for which we are very grateful. And for our trip to Kenya in September, faithful friends and supporters took us to the airport and collected us on our return.

As part of leading our church mission group, in recent months we have been distributing copies of an AIM magazine ‘Connect Junior’ to young people in the church to tell them about mission, what it is and what it might involve, and Barbara spoke to one of young peoples’ groups about mission with the hope of sowing seeds into young lives.

Please praise God with us for

  • New counsellors joining the Tumaini team
  • Answers to prayer for professional staff cover in Kampala next year
  • And wonderful holiday at the Kenya coast

And pray with us for:

  • Recovery for our Kampala team following the burglary
  • Sufficient income to meet our expenses in the coming year
  • Further new staff to join us so that we can meet more of the requests for support that come to us from missionaries each week.

And finally, a couple of the many ‘bugs’ we saw at the Kenya coast.  The butterfly was beautiful, but we were particularly impressed by the 6-inch millipede with the ‘red-leg upgrade’!  (All pictures can be viewed full-size by clicking on them.)

Butterfly

Butterfly

Millipede

Millipede

 

 

Answers to prayer – received, and still needed!

Mark & Barbara – attending a friend’s wedding

We can hardly believe that three glorious months of summer here in the UK have passed since writing our last blog.  It was warm, even hot, here from the second week in June until the second week in August, weather more typical of Nairobi than Cambridge.  We’ve been enjoying every minute, though we know that not everyone feels the same about the heat.

Tumaini

Meanwhile I, Mark, have been occupied with work for Africa Inland Mission’s Tumaini Counselling Centre.

We are preparing to welcome two new counsellors to Tumaini – one who was accepted back in 2016 and has taken two years to raise the needed financial support etc., and the other who applied in May this year and was already working as a counsellor in Africa for another mission, but has had to leave her location due to visa problems.  Their loss is definitely our gain!

We have also just had confirmation that a German psychiatrist and therapist, who is retiring from his practice in Germany, will be able to make repeated short-term visits to Tumaini from next year.

But we are also beginning to think ahead about losing two long-term members of our team during 2019 when they return to the US.  Their departure will be a very great loss, for they have worked at Tumaini a long time – one for 5 years, and the other was a founder of Tumaini and has worked there for 30 years!

However, after a very long period with virtually no interest from psychiatrists, psychologists or counsellors to come to work at Tumaini, we have had numerous enquiries over this last few months.  What this will actually lead to, we don’t yet know, but we leave this in God’s hands, confident that he will provide us the staff we need at the necessary time.

In our last blog I let you know that we had a colleague based in N Africa who would be working with us.   In the very week that we referred our first mission client to her, she was told by the authorities – quite out of the blue – that she and her family would have to leave the country where they had lived for 5 years.  This was in no way linked to her impending work for Tumaini; yet we see the hand of our spiritual enemy.  While we are all very disappointed, yet we are confident in God – who is the Master of using apparent defeat for his good purposes!

Talking of difficulties, please continue to pray for our little centre in Kampala.  With just two professional staff, one is leaving and returning to the US at the end of this month, and the other will be on ‘home assignment’ in Germany for 8 months from this coming December.  Despite the counsellors joining us, and the interest being shown, we do not yet have anyone who can staff that centre from the beginning of 2019.

Tumaini team for Restore

Once a year, Tumaini in Nairobi runs an intensive 2-week residential counselling retreat, called ‘Restore’. This took place last month, and 8 missionaries attended.  We are privileged to see people moving from a position of burn-out and thinking of leaving the mission field, coming away from this time reequipped and committed to further service.  Here is a picture of the Tumaini team who worked together on Restore.

Home Assignment Conference and upcoming trip to Nairobi

In July we enjoyed a week of refreshment and relaxation with some good Bible teaching at the AIM Home Assignment conference at Swanwick.  Mark was asked to lead a session on the subject of ‘Transitions’, which was very well received (– of course! (B) 😉 )

[Several times in the past I have been asked to speak on some topic of other, and soon after found that the material was of most use in my own life, as some development made it relevant to ourselves.  So, I wonder why God wanted me to be thinking about transitions at this point in time!]

We will be in Kenya for most of September, and we are very much looking forward to seeing colleagues and friends again, and catching up on work face to face.  We are also excited to be able to spend a week at the coast with two colleagues from Tumaini.

Family news

The joys of being Grandpa!

Life with our grandchildren has continued as before, though we are aware of them growing up before our very eyes.  Our granddaughter has completed one year of school already, and is just turning 5 years old.  Our grandson is a delightful boy who loves buses and snakes – probably typical for a 2-year-old!  They are both adventurous children, and have a go on any equipment at the local park – “look at me upside down!”.  We are looking after them more than usual over the summer holidays, so we are happily enjoying grandparenthood!

Other family news – Mark’s mother, now in her 90s, is beginning to feel her age, and we are keeping in touch with her and going to visit more often these days, and thinking what extra care she is going to need.

Please praise God with us for:

  • The ability to work for Tumaini from a distance, and the opportunity to actually be with the team in person in September
  • The new counsellors starting in September and the interest being shown by others

And pray with us:

  • For the ongoing need for professional staff, particularly in our Kampala centre
  • For the member of our team, and her family, having to leave her home in N Africa at very short notice
  • For energy and wisdom as we support our grandchildren and Mark’s mother.

 

Bug of the month!

And here is our ‘bug of the month’ – a cheat this time, I’m afraid, seen in a children’s playground! Where else??

Moving forward in faith

I, Mark, continue to work more than half-time with the Tumaini Counselling Centres in Nairobi and Kampala as their Clinical Team Leader, albeit from 4,300 miles away sitting in my room near Cambridge – moving in and out of time zones as I climb the stairs!  Barbara continues to support me by supplying me with cups of coffee and food, and by reminding him to adjust to BST after he has been liaising with colleagues in Kenya!

When we last wrote, three months ago, the team was feeling under considerable pressure. In many ways that is still the case, but we have some exciting developments to tell you about.

First, after a long period of getting no applications from people wanting to work with us long-term, we have just received three within a week – two to join us long-term and one from a psychiatrist offering repeated month-long visits each year. There have also been some other enquiries, but it is too early to say what will come of these. Please pray for each of these people, that God’s will be done, both regarding their future and our needs.

Completed staff housing at Tumaini

Completed staff housing at Tumaini

The second piece of good news is that our new staff accommodation was completed and opened on time, and the first of the four units is already occupied. Another is reserved for a counsellor who will be joining us in August; one is being kept for short-term visitors and has already been in use. The final unit is not yet allocated but we think it will be soon. The picture shows the completed building. However, we still need to pay off a sizeable loan – please see the Tumaini website for more pictures or if you can help with funding.

Counselling

As well as working on the administration for the Tumaini centre, I have been doing an amount of distance counselling and supervision. It is a joy to be able to continue to support missionaries directly, in this case people working in Ethiopia and Kenya. For some people, with some issues, distance counselling offers a suitable and convenient support. But the main basis of the work of Tumaini is to be able to support missionaries face to face on the field, and distance work will not be suitable for the majority.

The Kampala Centre

Jesus calms the storm (sculpture in the Cathedral grounds at Bury St Edmunds)

Jesus calms the storm (sculpture in the Cathedral grounds at Bury St Edmunds)

The leader of our Kampala centre has had to be back in Germany in order to get medical treatment, but I’m glad that she will be back in Kampala in June after four months away. We have also heard that our other counsellor in Kampala will be leaving us to move to other member case work at the end of August. This little centre, with its faithful team, has been through considerable difficulty – under spiritual attack we would say – since it opened in 2016. But the need amongst missionaries working in some difficult areas – including South Sudan, Chad, Central African Republic and DR Congo – is considerable. Having talked and prayed with our team and other leaders in Africa Inland Mission, we are convinced the Centre should remain open. So please pray with us for God to release the needed staff!

Support in North Africa

For quite some while we have been quietly working towards having a Tumaini presence in North Africa. There are many people working across N Africa. Gospel work in these countries is not welcomed and those working there can have a tough time. Recently the necessary preparations have been completed, and a new member of our team based in N Africa is about to start offering counselling. For obvious reasons there will not be a ‘Tumaini N Africa’ building, so we are finding ways for our services to be accessible to those who need this kind of support.

Nairobi in September?

Barbara and I hope to visit Nairobi in September. I have been asked to give a presentation to an AIM conference at the end of that month, and it would be a good opportunity to touch base with colleagues in person, including the one new member of the team due to arrive at the end of August. Moreover, Barbara has not had the opportunity to return since we left our Nairobi home in a hurry in mid-2016. So this would enable her to see and say proper goodbyes to former colleagues and students with whom she was working.

Family news

Canary in Bury St Edmunds

Canary in Bury St Edmunds

We continue to support family and have our grandchildren to stay over weekends. They are 4 and 2, and it’s wonderful to see them growing and developing so fast, with the energy and excitement typical of children that age.

We have had time for a few days of relaxation, where this picture was taken at an aviary in the lovely town of Bury St Edmunds.

Please pray with us, praising God for:

  • recent applications to Tumaini
  • the opportunity to support people working in N Africa
  • good health and a settled time at home

And please pray with us for

  • God to sustain the counselling team in Nairobi and Kampala while they are so few, and for wisdom as they receive more requests for help than they can respond to
  • For the future staffing and work of the Kampala Centre
  • For the application process for those interested in joining us to be straightforward, as they trust God to make clear and provide for each step

Butterfly in Nairobi

Butterfly in Nairobi

And finally … the bug of the month

Here is a butterfly spotted in Nairobi last February.

Hard pressed on every side, but not crushed

I (Mark) am recently back from a trip to Nairobi, so apologies for being late in posting this update – most of this was written while there.

Tumaini

Tumaini team

Tumaini clinical team

I am writing this during a 3-week visit to Nairobi. So far I’ve spent a week with the Tumaini teams, a week attending the Africa Inland Mission (AIM) Health Forum for all members working in various areas of health ministry, and am just starting the AIM Leadership conference – 150 people who have any kind of leadership responsibilities in Africa Inland Mission.

During the first week the whole Tumaini clinical team – from Nairobi, Kampala and myself – met up to take stock, consider the future, to pray and to have fun together. They are a wonderful team – and two of our members who were currently in the US joined us via the internet for discussions in the middle of their night.  As we usually need to relate to each other via computer screens, it was special for me to have this time face-to-face!

However, we are also a team under real pressure: some others have had significant family pressures; a parent of one team member died recently while they were thousands of miles away; one has a significant health challenge which necessitates a trip back to their home country; the spouse of another has just had to cope with the death of their boss in a tragic accident. Is this just normal missionary life, or are we under sustained spiritual attack? I’m not sure, but either way, it is hard!

Our little centre in Kampala – a small ‘seedling’, which has not yet had time to put down deep roots – faces some uncertainties over future staffing. Should we ‘pull it up’, or beseech God to sustain and water it? We are doing the latter!

And from March until at least May, we will have just 3 clinical staff working in Nairobi; there used to be 10 in 2014-15.

Zebra

Zebra

Nonetheless, the team is full of faith, even if tired and stretched, and together we seek God’s will and direction for this work. It is easy for me to say that it is ‘obvious’ that this work needs to continue – for to me it certainly seems so! Yet we also know that God is always moving on, and so it is time for us to see what new things we need to be moving towards, or what old areas of work it is time to bring to a close, even if they have served well in the past. We trust that God has us in his hands and will show us the way forward.  So, please pray with us for clarity over God’s leading, and a willingness to follow with gladness.

Other things are developing very well: the psychologist who joined us short-term in October, is hoping to return to work with us for a longer period of time. She will be going back to the USA in March and intends to seek funding for her return longer-term. Please pray.

New staff housing units

New staff housing units

The new staff housing at the Tumaini Nairobi compound is in the finishing stages, and we expect to take possession of it by mid-March as promised – no small miracle in this place where ‘everything’ takes much longer than expected! (That is not to say that we have all the funding needed; far from it, for we have mainly done this with loans from within the mission that still need repaying.)

And it was wonderful to attend the church in Nairobi to which we had belonged, and to see friends who have not forgotten us. It also happened to be the day on which their new church centre was being opened, with a special service (8.45 to 1.00!) followed by ‘nyoma choma’ for everyone – a special meal of rice and roast goat meat – very tasty!

Mark, Gunilla and Judith - Tumaini leaders

Mark, Gunilla and Judith – Tumaini leaders

Well, the AIM Leadership conference has now ended. It was great to hear what God is doing across the organisation, and to catch up with many people. I also had an opportunity to talk about how Tumaini can best support leadership when members are going through difficult times.

Family news

By the end of November much of the work we wanted to do on our home had been completed, and we are pleased with the results. There is still some decorating and a few other things to do, but those can happen whenever there is time, energy and inclination.

When we last wrote, Barbara’s mother had just been admitted to hospital being short of breath. Initially this didn’t seem especially serious, but she was frail and declined very quickly over just a few days, dying in early December. We were blessed to be with her, and to be able to pray with her shortly beforehand. She was ready to let go of this world. The funeral was a week before Christmas, on a bright and very cold day.

It will be strange not to be travelling up and down to Reading to see her.

Please praise God with us for:

  • The wonderful team of clinical and support staff at the Tumaini centres in Nairobi and Kampala
  • That our short-term psychologist feels led to come back longer-term
  • The new staff housing being completed so well and in such a timely manner!

And please pray for:

  • The desperately needed new clinical staff for both Tumaini centres
  • For God’s clear leading as we plan for the future
  • The current team of clinicians, who are hard pressed
  • Funding to pay for the building work
  • Barbara as she grieves the loss of her mother.

Butterfly, Nairobi

Butterfly, Nairobi

And finally, here is a ‘bug of the month’ – a butterfly seen in Nairobi.  (It may be a common or garden something, for all I know, but I’m sure it spoke Swahili!)

Settling into our roles

After a long time of disorientation and disorder, we are now starting to settle into our various God-given roles.

Tumaini

Tumaini clinical team

Tumaini clinical team

I (Mark) continue to work for Tumaini in Nairobi and Kampala from my study at home, typically spending about 6 – 8 hours on Skype per week, plus dealing with a lot of emails and administration.   Here is a picture of our clinical team, where two colleagues in Kampala, and I near Cambridge, appear on a computer screen in Nairobi.

We were looking at some statistics about the work of Tumaini recently. In 2016 we saw 419 missionaries (individuals, couples or families), who were of 27 different nationalities, and who were working with 110 different mission organisations in 24 different African countries! We are very grateful and privileged to be able to further the work of Christian mission in this way!

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation

We are also delighted to have been joined by Kay, a psychologist from the US, who is with us for at least 6 months. She is settling into the team very well and is on the right of the picture here. But our overall staffing level remains very low and we cannot meet all the requests we are receiving for help.  From November one of our psychiatrists went on home assignment in the US for 5 or 6 months, and in March one of our long-term counsellors leaves for at least a year, and is actually unsure what his plans are after that.   Please do earnestly keep praying for more long-term staff to join us so that we can support the front-line missionaries who are requesting help.

The building work on the Tumaini compound is still progressing well; it now has a roof, and work is moving to the internal structures. Praise God.  We build in faith that the money will come in, as we are still spending more than we are receiving.  There is more information at: http://tumainicounselling.net/about-us/give/

I plan to be in Kenya for about 3 weeks from late January to mid-February 2018 in order to reconnect with the team in person, as well as to attend conferences health workers and for leaders in Africa Inland Mission that are taking place in Nairobi.

Personal news

Found treasure!

Found treasure!

It is three months since we returned to live in our own home. We have happily settled back there, and have done an amount of work on the house to replace things that it needed, as well as getting some new furniture. And recently we have been unpacking boxes that were packed nearly 4 years ago, discovering both ‘treasures’ that we have forgotten we had – like some old cassettes (but how do we transfer them to my iPad??) – as well as stuff that we wonder why we kept! So, frequent trips to the local charity shop and dump have been a feature of life in recent weeks. Anyway, it is lovely to be ‘getting things straight’!

Barbara’s mother had been settling much better in her nursing home, but in the last few days has had trouble breathing, and today has been taken to hospital for treatment.  Meanwhile we are acting to sell her house – the same house that Barbara grew up in. Fortunately Barbara’s mother has been quite relaxed about selling, which has made life so much easier for us. There is a buyer wanting to purchase and the process is, so far, progressing well. We pray that this will be straightforward.

Barbara has started a series of sessions at the ‘cardiac rehab’ clinic in the local hospital – a combination of health advice and physical exercise – which she is finding very helpful. Meanwhile, I have done an evening curry-making course in recent weeks – but I’m wondering whether our two ‘pastimes’ are compatible…

In between these other activities, we spend quite a bit of time being grandparents, with the grandchildren often staying over the weekends. We enjoy this – and they seem to as well! – but we do realise why people tend to have children in their 20s and 30s, rather than in their 60s! Here I am imparting important life skills, such as how to fly a kite!

Please praise God with us for: 

  • the privilege of being part of God’s mission work
  • the psychologist who has recently joined the Tumaini team and is settling well
  • the progress of the building project at Tumaini, and for funds to complete the work.
  • that our house is getting straight and feeling like ‘home’ again

And pray with us for the following:

  • further professional staff to join the Tumaini team
  • for continued improvement in Barbara’s health
  • for Barbara’s mother’s health, and the completion of the sale of her house
  • and continued energy as we look after our grandchildren.

[And finally, apart from in my computer, I haven’t spotted any bugs this month; it’s been too cold!]