Archive for the 'Member care' Category
Posted by Tim on 20th May 2013
Many mission workers slowly lose the capacity to perform well over time. The reasons for this are many but can include:
- the cumulative effects of living in a foreign culture
- long-term workplace stress
- toxic relationships with colleagues
- sense of isolation and lack of support
- the physical demands of living in a different climate
- spiritual stagnation resulting from years of giving out while not receiving.
These issues, like the proverbial frog in a pan of boiling water, can sneak up on us unawares and drain our vitality, our joy and our ability to serve God. We soldier on, not realising there’s a problem until one day we wake up and realise we just can’t go on any more. The result can be physical illness, long-term fatigue or burnout.
Sadly, Syzygy meets with too many people in this situation. If these issues remain untreated, they can even lead to psychological damage and loss of faith. The resulting attrition is toxic to individual servants of God and prejudicial to effective mission. We aim to prevent this happening.
Syzygy exists to help mission workers maintain themselves in peak condition to serve, and as part of this we have developed a one-day workshop designed to be delivered in-field to mission workers as a routine checkup. Staying Healthy for the Long Haul will look at core issues like our identity in Christ, and help us to understand what makes us tick. We will examine our motivations – which may in fact not be the ones we think they are! Equipped with a better understanding of ourselves, we will then consider the steps we can take to help us cope with stress more effectively, learn how to take care of ourselves better and make suitable changes to our lifestyle so that we become more resilient and able to continue serving effectively.
The first of these workshops will be delivered in central Mozambique on 8th June 2013 and is available free of charge to anyone working in overseas missions, whether they are serving as an independent mission worker or with an agency. If you would like to attend, and are able to get to Centro Tariro, which is 13km east of Gondola on the Beira Corridor, you are welcome to participate. It will run from 10:00 till 16:00 and a light lunch will be provided. We only ask that you register so that we know how many people to prepare for. To register, just click here and complete a simple form.
We hope to make this workshop available in other countries in the coming years. If you would like to host one, please get in touch with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The workshop is also suitable for delivery in the UK as part of home assignment retreats or briefings for new mission workers.
Tags: attrition, culture, Mozambique, stress
Posted in Africa, cross-cultural, Member care, missions support, stress and burnout, Syzygy | No Comments »
Posted by Tim on 29th April 2013
You’re probably already aware that the Genesis account of creation tells us that God rested on the seventh day, but have you realised that God actually blessed it, and made it ‘holy’ (Genesis 2:3)? God blessed humanity, and some of the animals too, but didn’t call us holy. So the seventh day is clearly something important.
Holy doesn’t necessarily mean sombre or sacred, it can also mean separate or special. The first thing God called special was a day off! That says something about the significance of taking a regular day off. You may know of the importance that the Jewish people have historically attached to their Sabbath, and while it has become somewhat rule-encrusted (as you will find if you ever go to Israel and get in a lift on the Sabbath – it stops on every floor so you don’t have to ‘work’ by pressing the button!) the traditional Jewish celebration of God, the Word and family is a good way to focus on what is really important in our lives. Many Christians who have followed their example and tried to avoid work, shopping, DIY and other leisure activities on the Sabbath have discovered the blessing of a complete day of rest.
Of course, many Christians in ministry are not able to take their Sabbath on Friday/Saturday/Sunday as they are often ministering in church. They may try to take a day off in lieu during the week, but this doesn’t always work so well as children are in school, colleagues who are still at work make phone calls, church members have needs and the general temptation to shop, catch up on emails or do the housework can eat away at that precious time with God and family.
Many of us, of course, believe that every day is Sabbath, in the sense that it is a day dedicated for serving God, but while it is true, this understanding has helped to undermine the sense of setting aside a day for stopping and restoring the soul. But this one day off a week, whenever we take it, is part of God’s plan to help us avoid becoming workaholics and burning out with constant striving. It is important to get rest. Recently I was involved in preparing the job description for my church’s new minister, and I wrote into it ‘You will take one complete day off each week’ because I believe that without stopping and recharging the batteries regularly, we can quickly run them down.
God, of course, did not need to recuperate from creating the entire universe. The Hebrew word Shabbat from which we get ‘Sabbath’ implies sitting, being still, or stopping. We might easily in modern language say ‘chill’. I can just imagine God and Adam, lying on recliners by a pond somewhere, having a drink together and chatting. Some gentle hanging out together. We should remember that Adam was created on the sixth day of the week, and on the seventh, like God, he chilled. Adam’s first day on the job was a day off! The result was that he started his work rested and refreshed. He didn’t need the Sabbath to recuperate from the previous week; he had it to prepare for the coming one.
Which is why our ministry works best if it flows from our place of rest rather than drives us to it.
Tags: Sabbath, stress
Posted in Devotional, Member care, stress and burnout | No Comments »
Posted by Tim on 22nd April 2013
In his book Being Single (2005, Darton, Longman & Todd), Philip B Wilson makes the following statement based on his research:
For many Christians who are single, church is not a welcoming or a comforting place to be.
The same could be said of many sending agencies as well. Failure to nurture single mission workers can result in a cohort of lonely, unfulfilled and spiritually stagnating people who feel marginalised and who often believe the only answer to their unhappiness is to find the right life partner.
Given that many single people are destined to remain single for the rest of their lives (particularly women, who in most agencies and churches significantly outnumber the single men), any community which fails to affirm and accept singles risks hurting, stressing, alienating and possibly even rejecting a substantial part of its membership.
On behalf of single people everywhere, Syzygy has come up with a few suggestions to help both church and agency consider how they can promote wholeness for singles and avoid inadvertently creating a culture which assumes marriage is good and anything else is therefore bad. Here is our list of the top five dos and don’ts.
- Use the word ‘family’ indiscriminately, as in “We are a family church” or “We want to attract more families”. While church should be family in the widest possible sense (Luke 8:21), using the word too loosely can repel those who are not a happy part of a nuclear family. It is good to affirm families, but in doing take care so not to denigrate the rest of the church.
- Expect marriage to be the answer to every problem that single people have. It isn’t the answer to the problems of married people!
- Marginalise single people so that they are kept on the fringes of the community. They have as much right to belong as everyone else. Affirming them creates an environment in which all people can be valued.
- Assume that single people are lonely and unfulfilled until they ‘settle down’. Many of them have a vibrant relationship with God, a fulfilling career and ministry, a good social life and they are very happy in their singleness (Matthew 19:12).
- Matchmake without permission. Single people can be offended by the assumption that they must be in want of a partner, even if they’re not in possession of a good fortune. While matchmaking can be done out of care and compassion, it can communicate that you assume there is a deficiency in the life of a single person.
- Promote discipleship. The closer we all grow to God, the more we realise that our real fulfilment is found in loving and serving God, and not in finding the right partner.
- Pray that single people might be fulfilled in their singleness. We frequently pray for God’s blessing on couples and families, so why leave out the singles?
- Foster a caring, sharing community in which all people can develop meaningful relationships with others and nobody feels left out or uninvolved. Encourage people to look out for one another’s needs (Philippians 2:4).
- At significant seasonal events (e.g. Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving) and on Sunday lunchtimes, encourage the community to open its doors to others rather than exclude them. Single people often find it really hard to go home after the joy of church fellowship to eat a ham sandwich by themselves.
- Welcome single people into leadership. Because singles are often thoughtlessly lumped in together with young people due to their assumed ‘interim’ state , their giftings and abilities can be overlooked and they are often used simply as drones who are there to provide a labour force.
Syzygy continues to blog about the needs of single people, not because their needs are greater than those of people in relationships, but because their needs are more likely to be overlooked and unmet. Syzygy is in the process of writing a book together with Dr Debbie Hawker which hopes to address these needs, and Tim is leading a retreat for single mission workers at Penhurst Retreat Centre in September. Click here for more details.
Tags: Church, Debbie Hawker, prayer, stress
Posted in For Your Information, Member care, Singles, stress and burnout | 1 Comment »
Posted by Tim on 25th March 2013
One of the ongoing challenges for mission workers is the need to ensure spiritual input. One of the major reasons for burnout is that we continually give out at a faster rate than we take in. So we need to make sure we have ample access to good quality teaching.
There is an extent to which, due to isolation or security needs, some mission workers can’t meet together easily for Bible study, and the local churches in which we minister are not always geared to meeting our needs. But the internet makes good resources much more accessible than the days when our churches used to post us cassettes of the sermons. One such benefit is the podcast, which can vary in length from five minutes to over an hour, and is an easily accessible resource that can be used in a variety of contexts: while setting aside time for study, or travelling, jogging – even on a flight.
Many churches now put their sermons out as podcasts, and even if the quality is not always consistent, it does have the benefit of keeping you in touch with what’s going on in your sending church. But you can get them from other churches as well. You might like to try, for example, Holy Trinity Brompton, Mars Hill, Gold Hill Baptist Church, Saddleback Church, St Helen’s Bishopsgate, or Willow Creek.
Some famous speakers podcast regularly, sometimes even daily, though the quality of these can be variable. Try out Mark Driscoll, Joyce Meyer, N T Wright, Max Lucado, David Pawson or (from beyond the grave!) Derek Prince. Even classics such as My Utmost for his Highest and The Practice of the Presence of God are available as a podcast.
Other organisations such as the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, Premier Christian Radio’s Unbelievable programme and Christianity magazine also have regular and thought-provoking podcasts, and Member Care Media, which we have highlighted before, issues daily podcasts aimed specifically at the mental, physical and emotional wellbeing of overseas mission workers.
Individual podcasts can be downloaded from the website appropriate to your preferred church or speaker (as linked above), but it’s a lot easier to subscribe to them through iTunes, or go to One Place, a Christian resource for bringing lots of Christian teaching resources together online. You can download podcasts to your computer or phone, and though for some people download speeds at home are often a challenge, you can get round this by going to an internet café or office where they may have a better service. If you’re in a country where you need to think about security, make sure you regularly alternate between different cafés.
There are of course many more online resources such as Bibles, commentaries and guides, sermon resources, audio books and devotionals, and Oscar has a full list of these.
Tags: CANs, mobile phone, podcast, social media, technical
Posted in Devotional, Member care, Tech notes | No Comments »
Posted by Tim on 18th February 2013
I once heard a story about a colonial expedition into the African interior. On the first day, they made excellent progress through the forest. By the end of the second day, they had travelled much further than they had expected. But when the third day dawned, the African porters steadfastly refused to move. No amount of cajoling or beating from the European leaders could change their minds. “We have travelled a long way from home,” they explained. “And we are waiting for our souls to catch up with our bodies.”
Whether this story is true or not, it deserves to be. It is true that our souls cannot travel as fast as our bodies do, and we ignore this truth at our peril. One of the reasons so many mission workers suffer from fatigue, burnout and breakdown is that we don’t plan in regular times to stop and wait for our souls to catch up. Tony Horsfall, himself a veteran mission worker who is now a celebrated author and speaker, learned this the hard way, as have many of us who have suffered burnout in one way or another.
Tony uses his own experience to encourage us to slow down and wait for our souls to catch up. Using the story of Jesus sitting alone by a Samaritan well, he points out the importance of regular rest in our lives, as exemplified by our Lord, whose frequent breaks from ministry for rest and prayer enabled him to cope with extraordinary demands on him. Tony invites us to
Come and sit by the well for a while. Take some time out to reflect on how you are living and working. Watch Jesus and see how he does it. Listen to what the Spirit may be saying to you deep within, at the centre of your being; and maybe, just maybe, God will give you some insights that will change your life and sustain your ministry over the long haul.
Working from a place of rest is well-written and easy to read, with short chapters that don’t weigh you down. But the content is not light, as Tony covers such issues as The Discipline of Stopping, Remember the Sabbath and Drinking from the Well. This book can help us discern what God wants us to say “yes” to, and when to say “no”; it can help us learn to build margin into our lives so that we work from a place of rest.
I wish I had been familiar with the concepts in this book before my health broke down and took me out of my overseas ministry early. This book is a must-read for all mission workers who think they are too busy to stop and rest, and particularly for those who don’t think they need to.
Working from a place of rest is available online from its publisher BRF for just £6.99, as well as Christian bookshops and online retailers.
Tags: stress, Tony Horsfall
Posted in Book review, Devotional, Member care, stress and burnout | No Comments »
Posted by Tim on 21st January 2013
The latest issue of Vista was released earlier this month and for those of you with an interest in mission in Europe, this is a helpful and informative resource. Produced by Darrell Jackson, Jim Memory and Jo Appleton, this quarterly online journal features research-based information and analysis of life and mission in Europe. The latest issue of Vista features an exclusive interview with Mike Frost which involves a discussion of his new coinage ‘Excarnation’. It also features the results of useful research into what Generation Y Christians understand by the word ‘missional’ and an analysis of how we can identify and measure what ‘missional’ is.
Vista is a free publication produced by Redcliffe College and previous editions include a discussion of the increasing urbanisation of Europe, a review of the Atlas of European Values, a discussion of the demographic changes facing Europe and reflections on migration within and into Europe. Vista also invites contributions from informed missional practitioners working within the European contexts. It can be downloaded from the Vista blog, and you can also follow Vista on Facebook and Twitter.
You may also be interested to hear about a new resource called The Missional Network. This is a global partnership of missional thinkers and practitioners whose British partners are Springdale College: Together in Mission. Their useful website provides you with articles, resources, links, information and videos from a wide range of excellent presenters, which are encouraging, informative and challenging. The Missional Network is also launching a brand-new academic resource: The Journal of Missional Practice. The introductory issue is already available and features articles by Juan Martinez, Stefan Paas, Martin Robinson and Alan Roxburgh. The first full issue is due in February 2013 and contributors will include Bishop Graham Cray, Craig Van Gelder, Babatunde Adedibu and Dominic Erdozain.
Other online resources for mission include our old friends at Oscar, which is a veritable mine of useful information containing over 1000 pages of links, advice, information, blogs and access to the accumulated experience of hundreds of mission workers. People engaged in mission in Europe may also like to connect with Eurochurch.net, who facilitate a missional conversation between church-planters and academics, and also have regular challenging updates on Facebook. Those interested in member care will also find a wide range of resources listed at the Member Care Europe website, where member care practitioners can submit their own resources and events for listing. And churches looking for inspiration and support on becoming more focussed on global mission will find Passion for Mission very useful – it contains advice, testimonies and a wide range of resources to help your church become more missional.
Tags: academic, communication, Redcliffe, resources, Vista
Posted in Book review, Europe, Member care, missions support, Tech notes | No Comments »
Posted by Tim on 14th January 2013
SEX is written in large letters throughout western society. In a reaction to the buttoned-up days of yore when the whole issue was swept under the carpet resulting in a lot of repression, the ‘sexual revolution’ of the 1960s got everything out in the open (often literally!) where it has remained ever since. Many churches today shy away from even discussing these issues, for fear of seeming old-fashioned or intolerant. This by default allows the secular world to set the church’s priorities and values concerning sexuality. So Christians can easily find themselves in situations where they are sexually compromised, due to lack of clear teaching and adequate support.
This is a challenging issue for mission workers, and particularly for single ones, who may have to grapple with issues of loneliness, isolation and lack of emotional intimacy in a world which makes sex sound like it’s the answer to everything. So single mission workers can become vulnerable to inappropriate relationships, use of pornography or fantasy, and confusion about their sexuality. Many of us resent the lack of opportunity to engage in sexual activity and to have children, which leaves us feeling guilty, weak and demoralised.
So how do we, together as a Christian community, work towards a healthy sexuality for all?
First, we need to recognise that although many of us have strong unfulfilled desires to be spouses and parents, our primary identity is not in our family (or lack thereof) but in Christ. While family in its broadest sense is a huge part of our relational existence, our identity as children of God is even more significant. This is what Jesus modelled. He does not appear to have had any problem with his singleness despite the fact that it was even more counter-cultural in his day than it is in ours. If our awareness of our identity in Christ is not giving us a strong sense of self-worth and positive self-esteem despite our circumstances, we need to discuss this with a friend, pastor or counsellor. When Jesus said that he came so that we could have overflowing life (John 10:10) he was not speaking only to those in ideal domestic situations.
Secondly, we need to expose the lie that we are sexual beings. Believing this Darwinist half-truth makes us vulnerable to all sorts of sexual influences and makes us feel somehow incomplete if we are not having a fulfilling sex life. The truth is that God created us to be relational beings, and sex is only one of the capacities we have for relating. If we concentrate too much on this one, it downplays the other valuable ways we have of relating to others. We need to have healthy, open, honest, safe, accountable relationships with others – single and married, same sex and opposite, young and old – if we are to maintain a strong social community which leaves us feeling valued and esteemed. If we can achieve this, sex ceases to be so significant as a short-term bolster for our self-esteem.
Third, we need to be emotionally intelligent. When we become aware of urges which we can’t control, we need to ask ourselves where they are coming from. Some might be purely physical impulses which need to be mastered, but these can be complicated by a raft of self-esteem issues. When we are tired, unwell, lonely or fatigued, we often want a ‘shot in the arm’ to raise our spirits. This can take a variety of forms: alcohol, chocolate, retail therapy, recreational drugs and sexual activity. These are short-term fixes which may leave us feeling better for a bit, but don’t resolve deeper issues which affect our behaviour. We need to be aware of what we are feeling and what positive things we can do about it.
In practical terms, what does this all look like? Here are some suggestions for ways in which we can work towards a healthy sexuality:
- Maintain a healthy spiritual life. It’s harder to give in to sexual temptation if you’re walking with God.
- Learn Bible verses which promote self-esteem. Write them on post-it notes and leave them in handy places.
- Be accountable. Find a friend who you can confess to and pray with.
- If you feel you need a safety valve like masturbation, ask yourself whether you control it, or it controls you.
- Install an internet accountability monitor on your computer.
- Be an active part of community. Even if you’re an introvert, you need friends.
- Avoid unhelpful locations like red-light districts.
- Don’t mistake strong, supportive same-sex friendships for romance.
- Be physically active. A tired body will be more likely to want to sleep than find sexual fulfilment.
- Find resources. Our friends at Member Care Media have some excellent podcasts about healthy sexuality (www.membercaremedia.com, click on Emotional Health and then Addictions and Dependencies). Every Single Man’s Battle by Fred Stoeker and Stephen Arterburn is a good book for men to read.
Syzygy is willing to talk confidentially to anyone who needs advice on this, and can recommend a number of experienced counsellors if necessary. For more information email email@example.com
Tags: Member Care Media, sexuality, stress
Posted in Member care, Singles | No Comments »
Posted by Tim on 3rd December 2012
This question might seem to many of us to have a perfectly clear answer, but it is evident from the number of mission workers who are (or feel) unsupported, particularly by their home church, that there is a significant problem.
Paradoxically, the problem often results from the success of local mission. Many churches are active in their surrounding communities with a whole range of outreach and care programmes about which they are so enthusiastic that they genuinely can’t see why people would want to go off and ‘do their own thing’ while there is so much work to do here.
Add to that situation the success in recent years of getting people to understand that we are all mission workers, that everyone in the church has a part to play in reaching out to their family, friends and workmates, and you create a context in which overseas mission workers are not different or special (which is true), they’re just doing the same work as everyone else, but in a different context. My friend Terry was quite rightly aggrieved when his church got him up the front to pray for him when he went off to do short-term mission in Thailand, but completely ignored him when he got a job at a spare-parts shop which he saw as an opportunity to reach out to non-Christians.
Terry saw no difference between his two missional roles, and if that is true, there is no need for different support levels. But the difference in context is crucial: the overseas workers have deliberately moved away from their normal support mechanisms (church, friends, family and familiar culture) into a role which may be emotionally, spiritually and physically challenging, and which probably does not attract a salary. So they have increased need for support, but less access to it. This is a recipe for disaster.
To understand how need for support increases, let’s look at a scale of cross-cultural mission which clearly demonstrates why certain roles require more support. It recognises that all Christians are called to mission, but shows how the context can vary.
1) Christian has normal job in home town and uses existing family and workplace connections missionally
2) Christian deliberately selects a job in a company with little Christian representation, OR moves into a different part of town with a view to being an active witness
3) Christian moves to a completely different part of their home country, OR deliberately changes career in order to be an active witness
4) Christian moves abroad to be an active witness.
It can be seen that in each progressive stage of mission the Christian is intentionally moving away from his/her natural comfort zone and support network, and therefore requires people to support them in the struggles their new home and/or vocation presents. Becoming an overseas mission worker not only means setting up a new home in an alien culture and often using a foreign language, but doing all that together with learning a new vocation and being far away from the comforts of friends, family and familiar surroundings. They may be experiencing significant stress when they are farthest away from those able to alleviate it. That is why they need more support. Failure to deliver it can lead to stress, burnout and attrition.
Churches, family and friends need to provide this support in the following ways:
Emotional – caring about the loneliness and isolation of living in a foreign country and taking active steps to help mitigate it and provide comfort
Spiritual – supporting mission workers in prayer, and particularly being aware that they may lack access to books, teaching and worship in their own language
Financial – mission workers may not only be forgoing a salary, they may have increased financial needs which they need help with
Practical – leaving elderly parents behind, renting out property and managing their practical affairs are all simple tasks mission workers need help with.
By ensuring good quality support for overseas mission workers, we are investing in the effectiveness and longevity of their mission. With our coordinated and focussed help, they will achieve more and be less liable to burnout, which in the long-term is also making life easier for those church leaders who would otherwise have to pick up the pieces.
Tags: attrition, Church, culture, Finance, outreach, prayer, Short Term Mission, stress
Posted in Member care, missions support, short-term missions, strategy | No Comments »
Posted by Tim on 5th November 2012
Many mission agencies benefit hugely from the input of single mission personnel. Their flexibility, focus and availability are a huge blessing. Many of our new recruits are young single people seeking to serve God in mission, and they throw themselves wholeheartedly into their work. Over the years, many will get married, but there is still a sizeable minority who don’t. Irrespective of the unique personal needs arising from being a single person in mission, which can be very demanding, sending agencies can often inadvertently contribute to crushing the feelings of single mission workers. By making assumptions about the flexibility of singles, they can unintentionally contribute to stress and burnout. Sometimes they can take advantage of singles to such an extent that, in a different context, it could be seen as discrimination or even abuse.
For example, it is often taken for granted that single people should share accommodation, while married people are entitled to their own homes. While this is logical in terms of finance – and perhaps single people find it hard to raise sufficient support to pay for solo accommodation – it can also be very demoralising in the long term. Imagine how it might feel to be an introverted 45-year old single woman in this position. While couples much younger than her are given their own home as a right, she is expected to share with a succession of randomly allocated strangers with whom she may not actually get along, and so never has a place called ‘home’ that she can retreat to?
Here are some other areas where your agency may need to reconsider how it treats single mission workers:
Up country – send the singles?
Deployment – when considering deployment issues, does your agency make decisions about who to send up country on the basis of whether they have children who would have no access to good education there? It may be sensible to ask the single people to go, but is it fair on them to ask them to make sacrifices you wouldn’t ask of mission workers with families? Next time you find yourself saying ‘It wouldn’t be fair to ask so-and-so because he’s married/got children’, ask yourself whether it’s fair to ask others just because they haven’t. Is that manipulative?
Status – How does your agency consider the status of single workers? Are they perceived sub-consciously as short-termers because they haven’t ‘settled’, and therefore are not consulted, trained or promoted? How many single mission workers are represented in your leadership? Are there tasks you think they can’t do just because they’re single, as I was once told by an agency director? Single people have many godly gifts and professional skills, which coupled with a deeper exposure to the local culture which married people may not be able to achieve, can mean they are an extremely valuable resource in leadership and shouldn’t be overlooked.
Workload – do you, perhaps subconsciously, assume that because single mission workers don’t have to go home to their families they can absorb a heavier workload? Do you deliberately give them more work so that they don’t have to go home and be lonely? Perhaps it’s better to have a conversation with them about what is a sustainable workload which allows them to make the decision on what they do with their out of hours time.
I am certain that there are no mission agencies out there which actively and knowingly discriminate against single people. Yet in our prioritising of practical, economic and achievable targets we may inadvertently be taking advantage of the numerous single mission workers who feel overlooked and undervalued by their agencies. This can add to stress that they have to deal with and can indirectly lead to burnout and attrition.
It would be a good practice to open a discussion with them and find out how they feel, and to regularly ask ourselves the question of how we might plan to be more inclusive and empowering in the way we treat them. Sending agencies have come a long way in recent decades towards being more inclusive to women and non-Europeans, and now need to become more inclusive to singles.
Tags: discrimination, stress
Posted in Member care, Singles, strategy, stress and burnout | No Comments »
Posted by Tim on 15th October 2012
We have mentioned in several blogs the importance of retreat – to get away from it all, recharge the batteries, and seek God in prayer. This is an important part of maintaining our emotional and spiritual health – to withdraw for a while from the busyness of our lives and responsibilities and to stand and stare:
What is this life if, full of care,
we have no time to stand and stare?
W H Davies’ whimsical poem Leisure cuts straight to the heart of our busy responsibility-laden lives: – if we don’t create time to re-connect with God, the natural world around us, our own emotions and the natural rhythms of our lives, can we really said to be living? How come the very people Jesus has given abundant life to are running around like headless chickens offering abundant life to others but somehow failing to enjoy it themselves?
Saint Aidan and his seventh century co-workers (see our blog from July 2010) set up their monastery on a remote island, whose only access was via a causeway which was submerged at high tide. Accordingly they developed a rhythm to life which was governed by the tides: time on the island which they spent in prayer and contemplation, and time on the mainland when they engaged in mission. Many contemporary mission workers have forgotten the importance of this rhythm, and enthusiastically do mission work without making time to restore their spiritual resources. Small wonder that they struggle with exhaustion and burnout!
We recommend that as part of a strategy for maintaining spiritual health, missionary longevity, and human wellbeing, every mission worker should develop a personal rhythm involving daily, weekly, monthly and yearly times of retreat, contemplation, prayer and reflection. To help with this we have provided a page listing some good places (mostly in the UK) where retreats can be organised. These can vary from space to find individual times of prayer to fully-led times of retreat. They can be done silently or not, in groups (better for the extraverts!) or in solitude.
We realise that regular retreat may imply five days away once or twice a year, and for many people, particularly those with families, this is not always practical. However it is possible for one partner to give another a free day once a month to spend time with God, or even for busy parents to grab five minutes of peace and quiet in the bathroom to read a psalm and say a quick prayer. It is not the quantity of retreat that is important, so much as the regularity.
Whichever way of doing retreat works best for you, we strongly recommend that everyone makes sure that in their busyness they don’t squeeze out of their lives the God who longs to have more of our attention. It was Mary who was commended by Jesus, not Martha.
Tags: Bethany, Martha & Mary, Penhurst, retreat, retreat centre, St Aidan, stress, The Juniper Tree, W H Davies
Posted in Europe, Member care, missions support, stress and burnout | No Comments »
Posted by Tim on 1st October 2012
Syzygy is proud to announce the release of our first book – The Book of Blogs. Stylishly presented in black and orange, and small enough to fit into a jacket pocket, we think it looks great. But then, we would, wouldn’t we?
Always keen on recycling, it occurred to us some months ago to wonder what happens to all those old blogs that just sit gathering cobwebs on a server somewhere. We thought it was a shocking waste of an excellent resource so we called them all up again, selected the 40 best ones (which wasn’t easy), and recycled them into a handy little book.
The Book of Blogs includes everything you’ve come to expect from a Syzygy blog: thought-provoking analysis, encouraging Bible studies, technical updates, information about critical developments in the UK and the mission world, and success stories from various missions. Our accumulated pearls of wisdom nestle within waiting for you to discover them! If you’ve ever wondered
What was the Great BlackBerry Showdown?
Why should you treat your password like your toothbrush?
How does it feel when the staircases rearrange themselves?
How can you cope with stress?
What is happening to Christians in China, Egypt and Nigeria?
this is a resource you need! You’ll find the answers to these questions and many more. Paying tribute to its origin as blogspots, each blog is published with its original categories and tags, which in a bizarrely reversion to printed media from electronic also form an index. Feedback from initial distribution has been very positive – one person read it in a weekend!
It is our hope that by making this resource available we will bring an awareness of the Syzygy blogs to a new audience who have not yet discovered us online, and in the process raise some funds to help us improve the services we provide for mission workers worldwide.
Published at a price of JUST £5 (+ £1 P&P), this light and compact book will make an excellent stocking filler for people interested in mission, or whom you hope might become interested in mission. They’ll fit comfortably on an unused corner of a church bookstall. They’re ideal for people preparing to go overseas. They’re cheap enough to give as Christmas present to people you ought to give something, but don’t really want to. For overseas postage, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
To order, you can post a cheque to Syzygy at 46 Wingate Close, Birmingham, B30 1AA, or if you prefer an online solution just make a donation through Everyclick (click here). You don’t need an Everyclick account, but you will need a credit or debit card. Here’s how:
- Donate in multiples of £6 and we’ll work out how many books you want.
- Leave your name in the ‘name’ box (it won’t appear if you’re logged into your account)
- Leave your address in the ‘comments’ box so we can post your purchase to you.
- On the payments page, don’t forget to tick the box marked ‘let this charity see your details’ or we won’t know who you are!
Please email email@example.com if you would like further information. Remember, that all the proceeds go directly to Syzygy, thereby benefiting mission workers worldwide who a directly helped by our ministry. You can also give money to Syzygy without any pain by using Everyclick as your search engine.
Tags: Everyclick, The Book of Blogs
Posted in Book review, For Your Information, Member care, missions support, Syzygy | No Comments »
Posted by Tim on 24th September 2012
As I walked past a hairdresser’s recently and read its tagline – Appearance is Everything – I rejoiced that Christians don’t have to buy into this myth (partly because my own appearance certainly isn’t everything). Christians understand the old maxim that appearance is only skin deep. We know that what’s on the inside is more important than the outside.
So why do we continue to live our lives as if we believed that appearances really are everything?
I’m not talking about dressing to impress or buying showy new stuff so that we can look wealthier than we really are. I’m talking about the tendency we have to over-inflate the significance of our ministries. How many church leaders have not faced the temptation to massage the numbers? How many mission workers haven’t felt the need to overstate the number of converts? Or do we simply drop names into the conversation so that others will know how significant we are: “As the Archbishop said only last week….”
There is an extent to which we all have to face up to the need to perform. If we are going to be accountable, and make sure that we are making the most of the prayer, finance and encouragement we draw from our supporters, we have to find a way of demonstrating that what we are doing is worthwhile. That very easily can revert to just numbers. The church has more members so it must be going well. We hit our targets. But numbers have their limits. How many followers did Jesus have when he died? Probably just 120. Failure?
The need to perform creates a negative cycle in the life of mission workers. Having performed well they receive praise (possibly an unusual experience for them). This motivates them to achieve more, and more, and more, until they become exhausted by trying to achieve too much. And so burn out. Many mission workers I deal with are exhausted by this inner drivenness. David Ellis wrote:
“Driven relentlessly without recognizing the symptoms, we have become infected by the disease of activism. It is easy to hide barrenness behind a charade of busyness. To rely on activity, plans and strategies to cover spiritual bankruptcy.” (quoted by Tony Horsfall in Rhythms of Grace).
This drivenness and emptiness in many mission workers needs to be exposed (lovingly and supportively) and addressed. It leads to stress and, ultimately, attrition. Each of us needs to address the issues of who we are trying to impress, each mission agency needs to create a context in which it helps promote the ongoing spiritual development of its members alongside evaluating their performance, and each church needs to support, encourage and be committed to mission workers who don’t deliver obvious results.
There are many intangibles involved in our work: community impact, increasing knowledge of God among our members, growing Christlikeness in us, increasing influence of the church in society, and many more. We need to devise ways of showing this in our feedback and appraisal systems in order to encourage one another to rise above counting heads. Not long ago I had to do a ‘performance appraisal’ and took the opportunity to reinforce my view that I wanted to appraise who my colleague is, not what she does. It was very hard, particularly when faced with statistical targets. But with careful preparation I was able to say things like ‘I liked your attitude in this situation’ and ‘You dealt with that difficult issue with grace and humility’. I affirmed who she was rather than what she did. And now she knows that I care more about her than the results that she delivers.
Appearance is definitely not everything. There is a lot going on under the surface and if we focus on superficial issues we will not be developing stronger people, we’ll be creating performers. It should not be necessary to exaggerate the numbers if we are secure in our identity and have good supportive relationships with sending agencies and churches who recognise that sometimes God does more in us than he does through us.
So let’s stop counting heads. And we all know that name-dropping is a bad habit. The Archbishop said so only last week…
Tags: attrition, performance, stress, support
Posted in Member care, strategy, stress and burnout, teamwork | No Comments »
Posted by Tim on 3rd September 2012
Mentoring is effective in focussing on God’s activity in the life of the mission worker
Many mission workers do not go to the field expecting to become leaders within their own organisations. They go because they want to plant churches, do student work, or fulfil any of a number of other frontline roles. Yet after a couple of terms they find themselves among the longest-serving people in their team, and are given a team leadership role. Yet they may not have the management skills and leadership gifting to help them in their role as junior management. Their previous life may not have involved any management training, and they might not have had much opportunity to develop any leadership skills they have.
This has negative consequences for them and for their team. Uncomfortable in their role, and somewhat guilty that they’re no longer doing the job they felt they were called to, they can either resort to an authoritarian leadership style, or abdicate their responsibility which leaves their team without direction. The whole team suffers and leaders burn out quickly.
Syzygy’s response to this situation is to start developing a suite of management and leadership training packages for people in just these situations: to help them feel comfortable with their role in leadership, have the necessary management skills to do it well, and to develop the leadership gifting to inspire and lead their team effectively. The first package to be release involves mentoring for leadership. We are happy to have teamed up with Springdale College: Together in Mission to bring the services of experienced leadership mentor Rick Lewis. He writes:
“Leaders in Christian organisations face a particular set of challenges that arise from factors such as high ideals, limited resources, diverse and often irreconcilable demands and relational volatility in teams and personal isolation. Spiritual mentoring brings the focus back to God’s agenda, reminding the leader of God’s wisdom and power and encouraging a faithful response to His grace. Space is created for spiritual discernment out of which the leader plans positive action and agrees to be held accountable by the mentor. Each mentoring relationship is tailor-made to respond to the unique circumstances of the leader and is designed to help the leader be sharper, stronger and more resilient.”
Mentoring is becoming an increasingly popular activity among missions leadership as a development tool, but the challenge to agencies who are recommending it is that it cannot effectively be done by a colleague or manager. The availability of high-quality, independent mentors is severely limited. Syzygy’s involvement in this field provides a significant development. While Rick’s services are not free, we believe they are good value for money as an investment in your future management ability. For further information contact Rick via firstname.lastname@example.org or see his website www.mentoringmatters.org.au. Download the flyer here.
Tags: attrition, long-term, mentoring, Rick Lewis, stress, support, training
Posted in Member care, strategy, stress and burnout, teamwork | No Comments »
Posted by Tim on 6th August 2012
I’ve had occasion in recent months to talk to several people about the stress caused by living in an urban environment. While some of us thrive on the life, energy and dynamism of a city, many of us feel drained and stressed by the challenges of living in a densely populated area. Most of the people I have spoken to about this live in the bustling, booming megacities of the developing world, and find that they cannot cope easily with the combination of heat, pollution, congestion and noise. Cities like Manila, Bangkok and Mumbai teem with life and death, and all the messiness that goes with both.
So in a world where it can take you half the day to get from one side of town to the other, where the heat means that you have to sleep with the windows open for ventilation but the noise of traffic and barking dogs keeps you awake, where the water supply is at best intermittent and the sewerage worse, how can we keep our sanity?
The first thing we need is a sense of calling. If we live in a city and hate it, if just being there lowers our spirits and raises our blood pressure, we need to consider carefully if we’re in the right place. Has God called us to live in a place we loathe? If it’s not a natural fit, we might be better off serving Him somewhere else, say in a smaller town up country. Can the things that took us there be changed? Is there now an acceptable standard of schooling in other towns which wasn’t there when we moved in? Can more of our office work be done remotely? Have road, rail or air connections improved? But if we are convinced that we are where God has called us to be, then we need to develop a strategy to help us cope.
If it’s a struggle for us to live in the place we’re called to, like for everything else we need to receive grace. God knows and understands the challenges. We need daily, maybe even hourly, to ask him to give us the resources we need to help us cope. We need to pray for patience, tranquillity, a forgiving spirit, and the grace to practise the presence of God in the most unexpected situations. God is already in the slums, the traffic jams, the markets and the immigration offices – we just need to meet up with him there.
Practical strategies for coping with the stress of living in a city include:
Find people you enjoy being with. One of the delights of a city is that it is full of people. While they may be the ones we squash up with on the bus or sit next to in traffic jams, there are also many people with whom we can form vibrant and stimulating relationships. Make connections – in churches, shops, offices and clubs – so that you can be glad you have so many good friends around you.
Find places you enjoy going to. These can be malls, restaurants, cinemas, museums or art galleries. They’re usually air-conditioned and often have a sense of calm about them. Nice things happen there. There’s no hustle and bustle in a museum, just silence and beauty. Meditating on a work of art, treating yourself to an ice cream or enjoying a movie can provide a quick getaway from it all.
Find places you can take refuge. Sometimes, to relieve the stress, you just need to get away. This can be as little as just taking an hour out. For example, drop into a smart hotel for a cup of tea in the midst of a busy day at government offices. Break up a hot and tiring bus journey by taking five minutes to enjoy a local park as you change buses. Visit a country club. A round of golf, a dip in a pool or just relaxing in a pleasant environment can help. Or, for a longer getaway, go for a short break. Many mission agencies run holiday homes which are also available to outsiders. In many countries there are Christian retreat centres where you can enjoy peace and quiet for a few days, recharge your batteries and listen to God. If all else fails, find a small guest house or a cheap hotel for a weekend break.
Many of these places that I’ve mentioned may not exist in smaller towns in the country where you’re serving, so don’t take them for granted. Recognise that they’re one of the privileges of living in a city which helps offset the challenges that you face there. However, not all of us can afford them, so we also need to find a strategy for finding a refuge in daily life. Here are some tips:
- Ask friends to give you a really good set of headphones for Christmas. They can completely shut out the noise of daily life, and you can relax by listening to your favourite music on them.
- Keep lots of plants in your home so they humidify the air and create beautiful sights and smells.
- Look for beauty in unexpected places, like market stalls.
- If you can’t afford air conditioning, hang a wet towel in front of a fan so you get moist, cool air.
- Keep a bucket with a lily and a goldfish in it instead of having a garden.
- Buy a cheap drink from a supermarket and go and drink it in an air-conditioned mall.
- Get some earplugs and wear them in bed.
- Visit a local beauty spot and drink in the view.
If the stress of living in a city is getting too much for you, don’t suffer in silence. Talk it over with a friend, colleague or church leader, and work out how many of these solutions are practical for you.
Tags: cities, stress
Posted in Member care, strategy, stress and burnout | No Comments »
Posted by Tim on 30th July 2012
Several people have asked me recently to comment on the issue of being a single mission worker. Singleness, obviously, is not confined to that group of people, but can be significant issue for them because the isolation and stress of having a missional vocation can be compounded by being single. The coping techniques they adopt can be harmful or self-destructive and can lead to emotional damage, so it’s an issue that needs a lot of understanding and support – particularly from mission leadership and married co-workers!
There have always been single people in Christian mission. Saint Paul may have been single – we certainly don’t read in the Bible about his wife, or those of Barnabas, Silas and Timothy. Many of the mission workers in the middle ages were monks or nuns who had taken vows of chastity. I’m not aware that Aidan, Patrick, Boniface, Francis or Ignatius of Loyola were married. In the 19th century many men like Livingstone and Studd left their families behind for long periods, and while they were comforted by letters from home and memories of their family, they were effectively single for long periods. At the same time many courageous and formidable women took the gospel to some of the most inhospitable parts of the world. Some of the 20th century’s most significant mission workers were single women.
Single mission worker Jackie Pullinger
Today, there are many single mission workers worldwide: unmarried, divorced, and widowed. The significant majority of single mission workers are female, some estimates indicating that the proportion may be as high as 80%. This reflects the overall gender imbalance in the church at large and in this context the single males don’t usually stay single for very long.
There are many challenges in being a single mission worker. Finding friends who can take the same week off work to go on holiday with, being asked to share our homes with short-termers (“no pressure, of course”), or generally being expected to be more flexible about our work assignments than families (“It wouldn’t be fair to them; they’ve got the kids to think about”). Conversations can quickly become negative as we focus on such issues, and yet there is much to give thanks for.
Light at the end of the tunnel?
There is a great flexibility which comes with being a single worker. Having more time to devote to work, church and friendships is not the only advantage. There is freedom to travel, and flexibility to manage our lives without the legitimate demands of partner and children. It’s also significantly cheaper. When I worked in Zambia, my colleagues were regularly amazed that I’d fly to Harare or Johannesburg for a long weekend, something that was completely unaffordable for a family of six.
Syzygy is going to do a series of blogs for single mission workers over the next year or so. These will include a theology of singleness, avoiding becoming a workaholic and embracing our sexuality positively. The aim is not to have a pity party, or to help people stop being single, but to encourage single mission workers to concentrate on the One whom they serve, and to embrace the wonderful opportunity he has given them. Most of all we will focus on Jesus, the archetypal single mission worker, who was tempted in every way just as we are, and yet is without sin (Hebrews 4:15). If singleness was good enough for him, why should we complain that it’s unfair on us?
Tags: culture, Jackie Pullinger, St Aidan, support
Posted in Member care, Singles, stress and burnout | No Comments »
Posted by Tim on 23rd July 2012
Many churches are passionately committed to sending, supporting, financing, praying and caring for the mission workers they send abroad. But sadly there are other churches which do not have a tradition of sending people into mission, and although they may want to, they do not really know where to start. Too many mission workers, when asked if their church is supporting them, purse their lips and say ‘Kinda’. These are the sort of people Syzygy spends a lot of time with, helping them deal with the stress of trying to do too much on their own, coping with being inadequately resourced, and feeling isolated.
The ever-expanding list of Syzygy Guides to Doing Mission Well has just acquired a page dedicated to helping churches excel at supporting their mission partners. Through this page we hope to equip churches with new ideas and resources. It’s still in its early stages and will grow over the coming months, but it does already feature a link to this month’s featured ministry – Passion for Mission.
Our friends at Global Connections have put this site together with a view to placing a lot of resources under the same roof. The site as a whole sets out to equip churches to do mission effectively, locally as well as overseas. Presented in a variety of formats – article, blog, videostream, pdf – the site is easy to navigate and contains a lot of useful and relevant information. It features interviews with key experts, and perhaps even more relevant, church leaders who’ve already led their churches into being passionate about mission. The site also incorporates GC’s website and resources available through Christian Vocations.
We particularly like:
Tags: Christian Vocations, Church, Global Connections, Short Term Mission, stress
Posted in Featured ministry, Latin America, Member care, missions support, short-term missions, Syzygy | No Comments »
Posted by Tim on 5th July 2012
Regular readers will be well aware of the two cars which Syzygy lends to mission workers on home assignment in the UK.
We’re delighted to announce that due to the generosity of some friends we have been given a third – a Ford Galaxy. This is a real answer to prayer as we needed to be able to provide a vehicle that was suitable for larger families.
This leaves us with another problem: we can’t afford to insure three vehicles so will need to sell the Passat unless some further funding comes in. We’d love to have three cars, as there is clearly a demand for them – so far this year we have turned down 25 requests to borrow our cars!
So will you please join with us in praying that God will provide (urgently!) the money we need to pay for additional insurance?
Tags: cars, home assignment
Posted in Europe, Member care, re-entry, Syzygy | No Comments »
Posted by Tim on 25th June 2012
We have mentioned before in these pages the extraordinary ministry of Member Care Media, which provides a valuable service to mission workers worldwide. A project of TWR, Member Care by Radio (as it was originally named, was set up to provide a daily radio broadcast aimed specifically at the needs of cross-cultural mission workers in places where they were physically beyond the reach of regular and proactive member care.
With the arrival of the digital age, the project became Member Care Media, though the basic concept remains unchanged. Each recorded ‘broadcast’ is now available to listen to online, with some of them also featuring as transcribed articles, and an entire library is available on the website for you to browse through. They cover a range of subjects including emotional health, family, short term mission, cross-cultural living and working, teamwork, leadership and TCKS, and are all dealt with by professionals working in the relevant field.
While the broadcasts are aimed primarily at people working in a cross-cultural context, there is a wealth of resource available on emotional health, marriage and leadership which will be of use to all Christians in helping them cope with the demands of their life and ministry.
We suggest that you may like to use these broadcasts as part of your regular times of self-maintenance. They are all fairly short, so listening to each daily broadcast might be a bit demanding on your time, but it’s not unfeasible to listen to one a week. Couples could listen together to ones about marriage and family, and work teams could listen to the ones about teamwork and use them as a basis for discussion afterwards. Small groups could use them as part of their devotional times together.
This collection of resources by some of the member care sector’s most prominent practitioners is too good to be kept a secret!
Tags: communication, culture, leadership, Member Care Media, training
Posted in cross-cultural, Featured ministry, Member care, short-term missions, stress and burnout, TCKs, teamwork | 1 Comment »
Posted by Tim on 21st May 2012
The Juniper Tree
Although I got back to England two weeks ago, last week I left you in suspense about the second half of my trip to Asia. This was because I felt it important to inform you about the renewed challenges facing the Eurozone so that you can pray into this situation.
Following the conference in Chiang Mai, I spent a very enjoyable evening at The Juniper Tree, a most pleasant guest house in the suburbs of the city, with beautifully maintained gardens and delightful wooden chalets in traditional Thai style. There is a tangible sense of peace about the place, and one of the reasons is that it is cunningly designed to create a rural feel, despite cramming a number of buildings onto a fairly small plot. They are effectively screened from one another with careful planting. There is also a swimming pool, library and tv lounge. It is an ideal place for tired mission workers to get a pleasant break away from work, or to stay while they use the facilities of the city. It’s also a useful place to stay while accessing the member care facilities of Cornerstone Counseling Foundation and The Well, though you need to be aware that children are welcome so at times, particularly near the pool, there is some ambient noise.
Traffic in Phnom Penh
After that I spent several days with friends in Lopburi and it was good to see the excellent work they are doing there, and to visit a Thai church which I last visited 7 years ago, before flying to Phnom Penh for a week.
Cambodia had changed much since I was last there in 2004. There has been a lot of inward investment and there are now many modern facilities which would make life very pleasant for the wealthy, of whom it seems there are an increasing number. There were a lot more SUVs and fewer bikes, though still a lot of seemingly suicidal moped drivers, who manage hardly ever to collide. I met several people serving with different agencies who gave me a warm welcome, and heard about the significant number of independent mission workers, though sadly I did not manage to meet up with any of them. I had a number of very helpful conversations with those working to help them though.
Klong Toey, Bangkok
After that I returned for one day to Bangkok where I met up with Ash Barker of Urban Neighbours of Hope, whose work I have referred to before. He lives with the urban poor in a very deprived area of the city, and his whole family has a very simple lifestyle which reflects that of their neighbours. This gives integrity to his message to the often wealthy Christians of the world about incarnational Christianity. Ash is coming to the UK to talk about his work next month and I strongly recommend that you get along to his keynote meeting to hear about his amazing ministry. Special guest speaker will be Rev Joel Edwards of Micah Challenge. For more details click here.
Thank you so much for your prayers during this long trip. It was most enjoyable, hard work at times, but also invigorating. These visits generate a lot of publicity for the work of Syzygy, bring opportunities for collaborative relationships, and bring me into contact with people who need our support.
Tags: Cambodia, Cornerstone Counselling Centre, retreat centre, Thailand, The Juniper Tree, The Well, UNOH
Posted in East Asia, Member care, Missions Report, missions support, Syzygy | No Comments »
Posted by Tim on 30th April 2012
Inside the bathroom at Frishta Children's Village
When people ask me if I have children, there’s usually a vague impression of sympathy which crosses their face as they hear my answer – I’m not married and I have no children. You can see they want to say something like ‘Never mind, I’m sure God has someone special for you’ but are not sure how appropriate and affirming that really is. Instead they quickly change the subject. So it was a pleasant relief to meet two Indians whose response was immediately: ‘That’s great! You have more time for your ministry.’
The Indians I met on my brief journey to Punjab seemed very focussed and hard-working. Perhaps their dedication comes from the price they have paid to follow Jesus. I heard several stories about people who had been thrown out of their families when they became Christians. It made me wonder how we in the West would have coped with that. For them, Christ is everything. Literally. They have nothing else.
Frishta Children’s Village in Chandigarh is an ambitious project building brand new homes for orphaned or rejected children to be housed in. I was impressed by the quality of their work, and their commitment to ensuring high quality care and living standards for their children. You can read more about their work at www.frishta.org.uk. Their strapline Till They All Have Homes… says it all.
After two days in India I moved on to Singapore where I stayed at the International Headquarters of OMF. It was good catching up with old friends and meeting some OMF workers for the first time and hearing of their work. The recently refurbished premises are over the road from the Botanical Gardens, a beautifully-maintained large park area. On Sunday morning, having attended the church service at St John’s & St Margaret’s on Saturday evening, I decided that I would spend time in the park with God. I was not disappointed. It was a very refreshing time, apart from the drama of watching a komodo dragon eating a turtle.
In the Botanical Gardens there is a large National Orchid Collection, where they breed, show and maintain a huge variety of these beautiful flowers. In the VIP collection they show orchids named after celebrities and dignitaries whom they have invited to visit. Margaret Thatcher and Princess Diana were honoured, so was Andrea Bocelli. I thought it was rather insensitive of them to invite him to visit an orchid collection.
Then I moved on to Chiang Mai, where I took part in the first ever Global Member Care Conference (organised by the Global Member Care Network), along with colleagues representing numerous organisations from all over the world. It was particularly encouraging to see so many representatives from newer sending nations, and not just the usual Westerners. The teaching was excellent and there were good opportunities to get to know others working in the same sector. There are some major possibilities in this for Syzygy, which I won’t announce yet in case they don’t come to fruition, but please pray that some significant developments would come about.
Then, having spent a night at the lovely Christian guest home The Juniper Tree, I travelled by bus and car across Thailand to Lopburi where OMF has its Language and Orientation Centre for Thailand, and I caught up with friends and former colleagues, enjoying visiting the projects they are working on.
Tomorrow I’ll be flying to Cambodia to stay with friends there, and hopefully meet up with more people who I can help, and then I have another day in Bangkok visiting Urban Neighbours of Hope before I return home.
Please continue to pray for safe travelling, good meetings with friends, opportunities to consult with other agencies, time to provide healing prayer and discussion with those who need it, and for God to use me for his glory.
Tags: Andrea Bocelli, Frishta, India, local believers, OMF, Singapore, Syzygy, Thailand, The Juniper Tree, UNOH
Posted in East Asia, Member care, Missions Report, Syzygy | No Comments »