Housing for Home Assignment

to letHousing for home assignment is frequently a huge headache for mission workers.  In fact, it’s probably the single biggest challenge, though for many mission workers, their family and church may not even recognise this.  So for starters, here’s a summary of the challenges:

If you’re single – You may end up moving in with your parents.  While this is potentially demeaning for any adult, it may also put pressure on your relationships (particularly if your mum keeps asking when she’s going to need to go shopping for a hat).  Or you may end up in a spare room at a friend’s house.  This can be great fun when it works, but you may be acutely aware that it’s not your home and you need to work around somebody else’s space.  At other times singles can end up in a succession of different places, often staying with strangers, which can be emotionally demanding no matter how hospitable they are.

If you’re a couple – People take couples’ needs more seriously than singles, recognising that you need your own space.  You’re more likely to get a home of your own, but it’s still not always easy.

Sharing accommodation isn't always easy

Sharing accommodation isn’t always easy

If you’re a family – The bigger your family, the bigger the challenge.  It can be very hard to stay with friends due to the lack of space, but the rising cost of renting in the UK means you may not be able to afford somewhere large enough, and lack of space can put pressure on your family relationships.  Families sometimes find themselves living far from friends, church and family, because they have to take what accommodation they can get.  It doesn’t help the children form a positive impression of their parents’ home country.

Syzygy recommends that mission workers get a place of your own if this is at all possible.  It gives you the private space you need to process all that’s gone on in your life on the field, and to deal with the pressures of adjusting to life in the UK (see Reverse Culture Shock).  But renting is expensive, and it can be very hard to get a rental contract for less than a year, so there are a number of different solutions:

Multi-generational occupancy can be fun

Multi-generational occupancy can be fun

Live in your own house – If you own a house, ask your tenants to move out so that you can live in it.  It can help with a settling back into your ‘home’ but the challenge with this option is that your income drops though you still have to pay the mortgage.  You also run the risk of not being able to let it again when you leave, although you can take the opportunity to do routine repairs which may help you get a better rent.

Save up money while you are overseas to set aside to pay rent when you return.  Living back in your sending country may be significantly more expensive than being in the field, so setting aside a little every month (yes, I know it’s hard!) can help with this.

Ask your family/church/agency to help pay for the rent.  Don’t be shy!  They may not even have realised it’s a problem and could be happy to help.  Churches in particular may need to be reminded of your needs.

Time-share a rental with other mission workers from the same church or town.  You might be able to find other people sent from the same town as you who can synchronise their home assignment with yours, so that you can get a year’s rental agreement and take six months of it each.

Borrow a home from someone going overseas.  Agencies can help arrange this, even if you’re not a member, as their short term mission workers will need to fill their homes while they’re abroad.  Do some networking with other agencies in your field before you leave.  Christian Home Exchange Fellowship may also be able to help.

Ask Syzygy.  We know of one or two housing options that we can’t publicise, but contact us on info@syzygy.org.uk for more information.

Ask Oscar.  The mission worker’s second favourite website (after this one!) has lists of the various options, including agencies and private lettings.  Just click here.

Other long-term solutions can include forming partnerships with other mission workers to buy a property which can be used like a time-share, or if you know a number of mission workers from related churches in the same area, you may be able to encourage the churches to club together to buy a property for use as a mission home.  One church I know bought a small development of flats and now rents most of them commercially, giving the church an income while they leave one flat permanently available for mission workers.

It’s also really important to gather a team around you, if you don’t have one already, who will prepare your accommodation.  A group of friends, relatives and supporters who can source, rent and clean a home before you return, make sure it’s furnished and has food in the fridge, is a real blessing.  Some churches collect and store everything from sofas to cutlery so that it can be used to kit out a rented house.

One thing that is important to stress is that having the right accommodation for your home assignment is a crucial element in managing the stress involved in returning to the UK, and it is well worth investing the time, energy and finance in finding the best solution.

Helping your church become more mission-minded

empty church

Can an empty church afford an investment in world mission?

Many churches are not interested in global mission.  Sometimes it’s just a lack of exposure to it, or sometimes they’ve got their hands full with keeping Sunday services going and balancing the books, so they think they’ve got no time for what they see as optional extras.

This can be terribly frustrating for mission-minded people who are part of such churches, particularly if they’re not in a position of leadership and have little or no opportunity to speak into the direction of the church.  We’ve met people like this.  But before you jump ship and go off to find a church with a mission vision, ask yourself whether God has put you in that church to help them become more mission minded.  Here are some suggestions for things that the average lay person can do to help their church develop a passion for world mission.

praying handsPray.  While praying for mission workers yourself, pray also for your church to catch the vision.  Seek out key prayer partners in the church and ask them to pray with you.  If intercession is part of your church tradition, supply specific prayer requests for inclusion, so that people get used to praying for mission.  Attend church prayer meetings and always take the opportunity to pray for mission workers.

Make connections.  When mission workers you know are on home assignment, ask them to visit you, and invite friends round for a meal with them.  That way, people will begin to get to know mission workers for themselves.

Use resources.  Many mission agencies publish leaflets or online materials for you to use.  See for example OMF’s page Seven Ways to pray for mission workers.  Get copies and give them to friends.  Share links on your favourite social media platform.

Take people out.  If you’re going to a mission event, and you think it’s not going to be boring, take a couple of friends with you so maybe they can get enthused.  A good example would be GOfest or Passion for Mission but there are many others organised by agencies.  Or go to one of the big conferences as a church group, and invite people to visit the mission seminars or display areas.  Keswick is a great example of doing this well – and you get to enjoy the Lake District at the same time!

Serving as SendersGet some vision trainingOscar runs an excellent course called Serving as Senders.  Your church may not be ready for a full course, but how about organising a fundraising dinner and getting Oscar along to talk about it?  It’s a good way to get the ball rolling.

Tell your own story.  If you’ve had a powerful experience of mission, tell people.  Be careful not to do it, as people will become deaf to it if you’re the person who’s always going on about how great it was in Uganda (or wherever), but when it’s appropriate, take the time to explain what a life-changing experience it was for you.

Link into the church’s vision.  It can be hard trying to get the church interested in something it hasn’t got a vision for, but if they’re already running with something, join in.  So, for example, if they run a food bank, they’ve got a vision for helping the hungry.  Remind them that there are plenty of hungry people in other countries and they could get involved in that too.

Do a short term trip.  Invite people to pray for you while you go, show them photos when you get back.  Take somebody else with you, preferably an opinion-former within the church community.

Sadly, many churches fear that losing some of their best volunteers to global mission, coupled with the need to commit time, money and effort to supporting them is a drain on the church’s limited resources.  We prefer to see it as an investment which will feed back into a vibrant missional life of the church.  Pardoxically, giving people into world mission

You can find more resources for church’s on the Global Connections website.  Syzygy is always willing to work with church’s to help them develop a mission focus.  For more information please email info@syzygy.org.uk.

Being an effective sending church

Who's holding the other end?

Who’s holding the other end?

One of the saddest situations I come across in mission is when I ask a mission worker “Is your church supporting you?”  Too often the answer is a short pause, a wry smile, and “Kinda”.

This response often indicates that the church is happy for them to go, may give them a bit of money occasionally, and remembers to pray for them from time to time.  Unfortunately, many churches do not have a significant vision for global mission and think that this level of support is quite adequate.  Yet it is clear from the response that the mission worker doesn’t feel fully supported.  In fact for some of them it feels like abseiling without being confident that somebody is holding the other end of the rope.  And the only way you find out whether anyone’s holding it, is when it’s too late to do anything about it.

Syzygy and Oscar are joining forces to address this issue.  Both agencies are more than willing to visit churches, talk with their leadership or missions teams, and provide training and encouragement for the entire church.  If you’d like to get a feel for what this might look like, we are running an introductory evening in Birmingham on the evening of 8th October at Rowheath Pavilion at 7.30.

1279274_fragile_parcelGet Out More! is a free event for church leaders and others supporting mission workers.  We’ll tell some stories of how bad it can get on the mission field, and how we can help to put it right.  We’ll provide some tips on what you can do to help.  All in an informal atmosphere which may even include a drink in the Pavilion bar afterwards.

Churches which wish to get a bigger vision for supporting their missionaries effectively can also refer to our  Guide to Doing Mission Well.  There are also other resources listed on that page.  We’d particularly like to draw your attention to Neal Pirolo’s two excellent books Serving as Senders and The Re-entry Team, which are ideal resources for helping churches.  And our page 101 things to do to support your mission partners.  Our friends at Oscar also do a particularly effective day course for churches called Serving as Senders.

We hope to see you at the Pavilion!

OSCARactive – an online community for mission workers

Last October we featured OSCAR, an amazingly useful website with all sorts of resources and handy information for mission workers.  Another feature of Oscar which we didn’t discuss on that occasion is the OSCARactive interactive community.  The words ‘interactive community’ might speak dread to those of you who are reluctant users of the internet, but this social media tool is really easy to use and is a good resource for connecting mission workers.  There are over 300 people working all over the world in this community and it’s growing rapidly.  You might even be able to connect with someone you didn’t previously know working in the same town as you.  I have.

On one level it functions a bit like Facebook: you can connect with friends, message them, be prompted when it’s their birthday and send them ‘gifts’, but the added advantage is that the only people in this community are those actively involved in missions, so we’ve all got something in common right away.  Members are spread round the world, although you might easily bump into old friends from Bible college through this community.  There is also a live chat function for those whose work leaves them feeling a bit lonely, and online meetings are arranged.  You can uploads photos and videos too.  I’ve made new friends in missions through this community.

You can post any needs you have and people are able to help each other out with advice.  I often post the availability of the Syzygy car when nobody’s using it, and usually it’s booked out within days.  You can advertise your own events, or look at a comprehensive calendar of what’s on.  There are a large number of groups set up for those with particular interests, and I’m a member of several.   They include finance, mission-minded church leaders, ICT and Mentors for mission.  I’ve made some very strategic links with people through these.  You can also join a discussion – an open forum which gets started when one member asks a question, or makes a statement, and others support/critique/argue.  Recent subjects include Fair Trade: Think Again, Doing Mission With a Disability, Useful Apps, and Measuring the Success of Integral Mission.

I’ve not illustrated this article with screen dumps as the web pages have lots of photos of members on them, just like Facebook, and I don’t want to be responsible for inadvertently compromising anyone’s security.  But give the site a visit, you may make some good connections through it.  Go to http://oscaractive.ning.com/ or just click here:

 

 

Ask OSCAR – the missions partner’s best friend

Oscar websiteOSCAR is an online mission support service which has been in existence for over 10 years. Its broad remit is to provide information, advice and resources for all those involved or interested in world mission. This covers anyone who falls into the following categories:

  • Missionaries and Christian workers on the field
  • Prospective missionaries and Christian workers
  • Missionaries and Christian workers recently returned from the field
  • Christians open to the possibility of working cross-culturally
  • Supporters of missionaries, Christian workers and world mission in general
  • Non-UK Christians coming to the UK as missionaries or Christian workers
  • Anyone responsible for ‘resourcing’ any of the above

OSCAR began when founder Mike Frith returned from the field having served with MAF as a pilot. In his time overseas meeting and serving missionaries, Mike was surprised by the lack of support that so many of them had … not just financial but in so many other different areas. Many of these areas boiled down to either poor information or communication. With the advent of the internet, Mike saw an opportunity to improve this by creating a central service that would encourage both information sharing and communication between all the parties involved in mission. Hence, OSCAR was born.

The OSCAR website has a vast amount of information across a 1000+ page website on almost any area you can think of related to mission. It also has its own mission-focused online social network, which gives the opportunity to interact and discuss with others in the community. Alongside all the activity online, OSCAR also provides mission advice and opportunities at various Christian events, including New Wine.

So … whatever you’re looking for in mission, ask OSCAR! www.oscar.org.uk