Resources for the families of mission workers

When mission workers go abroad, they leave family behind in their home country.  Typically these will be parents and siblings, but sometimes they will also be adult children.  We occasionally blog about POMs (Parents of Missionaries) and YANGs (Young Adults Not Going), and we’ve put together some resources here that may help families understand the journey of those who are left behind.

 

BOOKS

Families on the Move (Marion Knell), Monarch 2003, ISBN: 978-0825460180.  A book for every European family to read before moving overseas, which also helps churches and family members appreciate what it means for their family to move overseas.

Foreign to Familiar (Sarah Lanier), McDougal 2000, ISBN: 978-1581580228.  A very simple way of helping understand why different cultures behave differently.

How to be a Global Grandparent (Peter Gosling & Anne Huscroft), Zodiac 2009, ISBN: 978-1904566847.  A secular book with some good sections on factors to consider when visiting family overseas.

Looming Transitions (Amy Young), CreateSpace 2016, ISBN: 978-151962234.  A great book full of ideas, filled with warnings and strategies for those making transitions and their family members.

Parents of Missionaries (Diana Storz & Cheryl Savageau), Authentic 2008, ISBN: 978-0830857302.  The authors combine a counsellor’s professional insight and a parent’s personal journey with ideas and stories from dozens of mission workers and POMs.

Swirly (Sarah Saunders), Review & Herald 2012, ISBN: 978-0828026819.  A children’s book explaining how growing up abroad brings swirls of colour.  Helpful for adults too.

Third Culture Kids (David Pollock & Ruth van Reken), Nicholas Brealey 2017 (3rd edition), ISBN: 978-1473657663.  The classic book which helped us understand the ‘third culture’ which mission kids grow up in.

 

WEBSITES

http://www.astorybeforebed.com/.  You can record a story online for grandchildren abroad to listen to.

http://www.pomnet.org/.  An online network in the US for POMs.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA

Facetime, Instagram, Skype, Snapchat, WhatsApp and Zoom are all social media apps helping you connect with family abroad easily.

TCKs can also connect online via groups such as MuKappa, SynK, Third Culture Kids Everywhere,

 

FORUMS, CONFERENCES AND CAMPS

Global Connections TCK Forum discusses issue of concern with those supporting TCKs.

Penhurst Retreat Centre offers family debriefing for whole families.  Email info@penhurst.org.uk for more info.

Rekonnect Camps for kids and teens operate in July/August each year and are great for supporting TCKs on home assignment.  Find out more from rekonnect@globalconnections.org.uk.

 

GENERAL TIPS

In the UK:

  • If you buy a game for grandchildren in the UK, buy the same game for grandchildren abroad so that when the kids abroad visit the UK they have something in common with their cousins.
  • When your family visit the UK, try to meet with them and other family for a holiday away, as otherwise they may not have enough time for you in all their other busyness.
  • Read bedtime stories to your grandchildren using social media.
  • Your family member has been through a big transition but will get support from their church and agency.  You probably won’t!  So make sure you try to find others who’ve been in a similar position who can help you.
  • Remember their experience overseas will have changed your family – for better or worse – and they’re not going to be the same when you see them.
  • Remember that even if you’ve seen them online, your grandchildren may still think of you as a stranger
  • You might have to explain new technology, terminology and culture to your children.
  • Be prepared for grandchildren coming back to the UK to be mildly traumatised by the sexuality, profanity and disobedience of their peers in UK schools.
  • Remember if your family are in a Creative Access Nation, be careful what words you use on social media (see our guide on finer aspect of communication).
  • If your single adult mission worker child moves back in with you while on Home Assignment, remember that living with mum and dad can feel like a real failure to them, and they may be tempted to revert to childish behaviour.

 

Abroad:

  • When visiting your family abroad, be prepared to pack your case with things they need (and other people give you) for them.
  • Make sure roaming is switched on if you want to use your UK SIM, and that the phone is unlocked if you want to use an overseas one.
  • Get your visa well in advance, and don’t book your flight till you’ve got it.
  • Remember security issues are very different in some countries.  Don’t photograph the police!

 

 

This briefing paper was compiled with help from Janet Chapman and Sarah Charles of OMF International.

And the winner is…

A month ago we invited our readers to take part in fundraising for a new Syzygy car by means of an innovative competition – giving money to determine whether or not Tim shaves off or keeps his beard.

The competition is now over and the winner is, of course, the dozens of missionary families who will benefit from us being able to buy a more modern car to move them around the country when they’re on their Home Assignment.  The one we have at the moment is greatly loved and has provided excellent service, but it’s harder to get parts for it so we need to get something newer.

The £1,101 our generous supporters have donated for this purpose will go a long way towards us getting something really special to support our mission partners.  Thanks to everyone who has contributed, and if you would like to have donated but missed this window of opportunity, the accounts with Stewardship are still open.

You can read more about the Syzygy car ministry here.  And Tim did indeed shave off his beard.

Match report: Malaria scores twice!

Image courtesy of Gabor Bibor on www.freeimages.com

In the latest phase of the close-fought match between world champions Malaria and the tenacious challengers Researchers, the champs showed their style by putting two quick goals past the over-confident Researchers defence.

Researchers hoped that their two new star players Artemisinine and Piperaquine, working well together, would soon put the result beyond doubt, but one should never underestimate the resilience which has helped Malaria stay at the top of the game for so long.

First, Malaria quickly got the measure of the expensive new attackers, finding their way around first one and then the other. Then while the Researcher’s defence was still reeling from the sudden riposte, Malaria broke out of the Cambodian midfield to threaten on both wings.

This is a worrying setback for Researchers who have poured so much money into developing their team.  Their manager Mozzie Spray told our reporter “I’m as sick as a parrot.  But it’s a game of two halves”

While much of the play is taking place in S E Asia at the moment, it should be remembered that no how well Researchers develop, they still have to get the ball past Malaria’s massive African goalkeeper, whose sheer size means that any tactical wins in other parts of the pitch could seem relatively insignificant in the chase for the global title.  This game is a long way from over.

 

[Very loosely based on two articles in Lancet Infectious Diseases.  For a simple summary go to the BBC]

Syzygy cars fundraiser!

Tim is raising money for Syzygy in a unique way!  He writes:

“I am very much aware that many of my friends absolutely detest my beard and moustache and would love for me to get rid of it.  So now is your chance to see it banished!

Syzygy is in need of a new car and so I thought I’d do a sponsored shave to raise some much needed funds.  All you have to do is donate sufficient money to my campaign and as if by magic a clean-shaven Tim will appear – and guarantee to keep shaving for at least a year!  Just go to https://my.give.net/banishTimsbeard to see the end of the hairiness.

‘But wait!’ I hear some of you cry.  ‘We love your beard!  We don’t want to see it go.’  So if you want me to keep the luxuriant facial hair, you too have an opportunity to donate.  Just go to https://my.give.net/maintainTimsmoustache to preserve the hirsute status quo.”

Whichever fund has more money in it at 6pm (UK time) on 31st July 2019 will be declared the winner and the result will be announced the following morning.  Whichever your preference, the more you donate to Syzygy, the bigger the chance of seeing your preferred version of Tim!

 

Another win against malaria

Image courtesy of Gabor Bibor on www.freeimages.com

The fight against malaria took an interesting turn recently with an article in the journal Science explaining that a way has been found to kill mosquitos without the use of chemicals.

Although deaths from malaria have declined globally in the last decade, it still kills more than 400,000 people a year and debilitates many more.

And while global infections are falling, in Africa (which accounts for more than 80% of cases) deaths are rising again in the most affected countries.  Added to that, concerns have been raised that new strains of malaria are emerging which are resistant to most medical treatments, so news of another breakthrough is welcome.

Scientists in the United States have succeeded in genetically modifying a fungus that occurs naturally in mosquitos to produce the same toxin as a funnel-web spider.  In tests, this naturally killed off 99% of mosquitos.  The objective of any live exercise would be to kill sufficient numbers of mosquitos to break the cycle of reinfection – by the time the mosquito population had recovered there would be no malaria-infected people for them to become recontaminated from, and malaria would die out.

While the prospect of this is exciting, there are still some challenges.  The use of GM products is still in its infancy and there are ongoing concerns about side-effects, and bio-security needs to be considered.  Although the fungus being used apparently does not affect other insects, there may well be other unforeseen impacts.

Help mission workers while you shop online!

The festive season is fast approaching and here’s a quick reminder to get your shopping done in good time, if you haven’t done it already.  In doing your shopping online you have two wonderful opportunities to help Syzygy.

First, you can shop with Amazon Smile.  With Syzygy listed as your registered charity, we will get 0.5% of what you spend buying through Amazon*.  In effect, it’s money for nothing.  And if, like many of our friends, you use Amazon a lot, we could be in line to benefit significantly.

All you have to do is register by going to https://smile.amazon.co.uk/ and selecting charity number 1115354.  Then shopping in your normal way.  But remember to use the smile.amazon portal every time, because if you just go to the regular Amazon website it won’t pick up your link to Syzygy.

Secondly, if you use Everyclick as your search engine and choose Syzygy as your nominated charity we’ll also pick up some donations for every search you make and a percentage of your spending on any website you access through their website.

Happy Christmas Shopping!

 

  • Other online retailers are also available

GDPR

Source: www.freeimages.com

If you’re anything like me, you’ve recently had loads of emails or letters from charities asking you to sign up for their communications.  You might be wondering what the fuss is about, and just ignoring them.  It’s certainly tempting!

The reason for the flurry of activity is that new laws (succinctly known as The General Data Protection Regulations or GDPR) make it illegal for organisations to contact you unless they have your specific permission to do so.  This of course gives you a wonderful opportunity to get off all those annoying mailing lists you have somehow ended up on, but also means that organisations you care about won’t be able to tell you what they are doing.

This also may apply to your friends who are mission workers.  They too may be caught by this legislation if they give you updates on the work they do in association with a church or agency – so don’t assume you don’t need to reply to them when they ask you to sign up again.

The reason for this legislation is to prevent people getting lots of begging letters, which in itself is a good thing.  Previously, some people have been driving themselves into poverty because they responded to so many good causes.  But for mission sending agencies, the bad news (apart from the sheer effort and cost of complying with GDPR) is that they will not be able to send begging letters (sorry, ‘requests for funding’) to so many people, although at least they’ll save on the postage of all the unwanted letters they’ve previously been posting.

Many charities rely on a regular mailshot to give supporters updates on their work and invite funding to keep that work going.  This often reminds people to make a donation, and forms a core part of any fundraising strategy.  So it’s quite possible that agency incomes will fall.

Unfortunately , with every newsletter that arrives, supporters can face a very real dilemma.  Do they give or don’t they?  And when you are looking at a photo of a starving orphan it can be very hard to refuse to give the £50 you need this month for your gas bill.

So for us, the recipients of these newsletters, it will help to have a clear policy on giving.  So, for example, if you make a decision to:

  • give £50 each month to good causes
  • give to each agency only once a year
  • have a list of agencies you are willing to support in order of priority

you are far more likely to give consistently and generously to causes you really care about.  Of course, the amount, frequency and number of recipients  will vary according to your own circumstances, but the point is to be more structured and less ad hoc about giving, and so reduce the risk of overspending which gave rise to GDPR in the first place.

GDPR is not in itself bad.  Unfortunately, like other recent legislation (on non-EU spouses or access to free NHS treatment for non-residents) it unintentionally catches up people involved in mission.  So if you want to receive Syzygy’s regular updates, please sign up for them here!

Supermalaria

Image courtesy of Gabor Bibor on www.freeimages.com

Get any two mission workers from the Tropics together, and it’s only a short time before they start talking about malaria.  But now this is something we need to take even more seriously as evidence emerges of a ‘supermalaria’ which has developed resistance to the main drugs used for treating the illness.

We have blogged about malaria before, but this development needs to be brought to everyone’s attention.  In a letter to the British medical journal The Lancet a team of researcher from the Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit in Bangkok report what they call “a sinister development” and say that the new strain of malaria has

outcompeted the other resistant malaria parasites, and subsequently acquired resistance to piperaquine.

You can read the full text of their letter here.

Originating in Cambodia and currently spreading across south-east Asia, there is now a race against time to eliminate this problem before it spreads to major population centres.  The renewed risk is a timely reminder to mission workers, short-term teams and the people we work alongside to take malaria seriously.  While continuing to take the appropriate chemoprophylaxis recommended by medical advisors, but more attention needs to be given to avoiding being bitten in the first place – here are our top tips:

  • Make sure there is no standing water near your home, school or office for mosquitos to breed in. If you can’t eliminate standing water, pour a small amount of paraffin into it to break the surface tension and drown mosquito eggs.
  • Ensure there is no lawn within 100 metres of your home, school or office. Mosquitos feed on the grass sap so are attracted to green lawns.
  • Fit mosquito netting to windows and doors and check it regularly for damage.
  • Spray bedrooms with a pyrethoid-based spray before dusk.
  • Sleep with air conditioning or an electric fan as the cool and turbulence deters mosquitos.
  • Always sleep under an insecticide-impregnated mozzie net. Replace nets periodically and re-impregnate them every 6-12 months, depending on how frequently you wash them.
  • Cover up arms and legs with loose-fitting clothing, particularly if sitting outdoors in the evening.
  • Always use mozzie repellent spray on any remaining exposed skin – ones containing DEET are generally considered to be the most effective.
  • There is no evidence that insect electrocution devices or sonic repellants work, although many people continue to use them.
  • Eating raw garlic, chilli or Marmite are often believed to deter mosquitos although there is no evidence proving this!

And finally, take symptoms of malaria seriously, particularly if you’re in south-east Asia.  Many experienced mission workers shrug malaria off as if it is no worse than a case of flu, but this time it may be much harder to treat.

Education, education, education

Hebron School, India, many years ago

It’s not just Tony Blair*.  Parents everywhere make the education of their children one of their top priorities, and mission workers are no different.  One of the major obstacles to people going in mission is the fear that their children’s education might be compromised as a result of their time overseas, and one of the major causes of attrition is mission workers returning home to get their children into their home country’s education system.

While many parents fall into the simple trap of assuming that education overseas cannot possibly be as good as the state education in their country of origin, the truth is often very different, and here are some of the possibilities you can investigate abroad:

Local schools.  Believe it or not, some countries have excellent schools!  Advantages: it is often cheap or even free, children engage with the language, history and culture of their country of residence, and make local friends.  Disadvantages: the final qualification may not be internationally recognised.

British schools abroad.  There are many schools overseas which follow the English curriculum.  Advantages: children stay within the English curriculum, facilitating UK schooling during home assignment and entry into the UK university system.  They make friends from within their home culture (though some of them may have a much higher socio-economic status than mission kids, leading to potential discontent).  Disadvantages: high fees, though many schools can be persuaded to grant bursaries as mission kids broaden the social profile of their school.

Find a list at http://www.expatandoffshore.com/british-schools-abroad/

International schools.  Most large cities have a number of private schools teaching in English, and some of them achieve very high standards.  Advantages: children engage with the language, history and culture of their country of residence while learning in English, and make international friends (though some of them may have a much higher socio-economic status than mission kids, leading to potential discontent).  Disadvantages: high fees, though many schools can be persuaded to grant bursaries as mission kids broaden the social profile of their school.

Christian schools.  In order to facilitate mission, there are Christian schools in many countries, often with boarding facilities.  Advantages: children are educated within a Christian environment and make international friends.  Disadvantages: many of these schools follow a US –style curriculum which may not be relevant to other nationalities.  If your child is a boarder you have the pain of waving goodbye to them at the start of every term.  More information about locations of Christian schools is available by emailing info@syzygy.org.uk.

Home education.  There are a wide variety of options for home education including online schools and written curricula, many of them Christian.  Advantages: children can stay at home while continuing their education, which may follow the curriculum of their passport country.  Disadvantages: discipline can be a problem, due to confusion between the role of parent and teacher, and one parent may in effect work full-time as a teacher.  Children can also be isolated from others their same age and not develop social skills through interaction.

We realise that educational choices are a minefield, full of pressure, doubt and ‘what ifs’.  Many agencies have a TCK advisor who can help you explore the options more fully.  But for us the key question is: if you can trust God for your ministry, can you trust God for your children’s future?  In conventional thinking, we are very much aware that university, job, security, and income all depend on how well we do at school.  However as Christians we have a different mindset: while we want the best possible education for our children we are very much aware that which doors are opened to them in life depends far more on the grace of God than on their exam results.  And a good education consists not only of grades but in walking closely with God, in the development of character, and in the ability to mix easily with people of different cultures.

*  “Our top priority was, is and always will be education, education, education” Tony Blair in a speech at Southampton University, 23rd May 2001

Pray for us!

I have often spoken in these blogs about prayer, because IMHO it is the number one need of mission workers, being the key to resolving other issues like housing, transportation, visas, cross-cultural stress, lack of funding, issues with co-workers, children’s educational needs and other headline issues.

But I have seldom asked for prayer for Syzygy itself.  Now things are changing; Syzygy is getting bigger and I’m getting busier.  We are on the verge of forming partnerships with other member care providers to help us meet the needs of agencies and churches as they support their mission partners.  We need money to fund this expansion and will possibly take on some part time staff or more volunteers.

So I am now specifically asking for prayer support to help us thrive as an organisation so that we can be even more effective in supporting world mission.  Every day we publish prayer requests on  the PrayerMate app which you can access via your phone.  If that doesn’t work for you, there is a prayer diary on our website which you can either access daily from your computer or print out and keep with your Bible.

Please commit to pray for us daily.  We need your help so that we can help others.

 

Who will lend?

to letNot so long ago Syzygy was contacted by a mission worker who had spent several decades overseas in ministry.  With little remaining support from his ageing friends, and a regular contribution from a church he had been part of a long time previously, he had been able to survive in the field on his small income.  But now forced by ill health to return to the UK, he found himself homeless.  He couldn’t afford the rent on a flat until he qualified for benefits, and had no remaining money to buy somewhere.

There are many people in similar situations, whose time serving abroad has cost them everything, and with no remaining support are unable to find a home once they come ‘home’.  So somebody (probably Myles Wilson but I can’t find the quote in writing) has observed that:

The single best thing a mission worker can do to plan for their retirement is to buy a house before they go abroad.

Simple!  Buy a property, let it out, and use the rent to pay off the mortgage.  If you stay abroad for the 25 year life of the mortgage, you have a free home when you get back.  If you come back sooner, at least you have somewhere to stay while you get settled.

But letting is not without its challenges, and anyone considering it should read our Briefing Paper which looks at the pitfalls as well as the benefits.  One of the greatest challenges is actually getting a mortgage.  These days, banks are so risk averse that overseas mission workers, with no regular salary and no fixed UK abode, may find it hard to qualify for one.

So we’re delighted to be able to tell you about Kingdom Bank, run by Christians who understand the situation of mission workers.  Because of their knowledge of the missions world, they’re willing to be a little more flexible than other banks in considering how they secure the value of their investment in your property.  And they are actually keen to support you in your ministry by helping you get the right buy-to-let mortgage terms that work for you.

If you are interested in exploring this option, you can contact Kingdom Bank on 0115 921 7250, visit their website or email them at info@kingdombank.co.uk

Please remember the value of your investment can go down as well as up!

Disclaimer: please note that Syzygy is not recommending Kingdom Bank, merely pointing our readers in the direction of this service which may or may not be right for them.  Please take financial advice from a qualified advisor.

Blocking meetings

Source: www.freeimages.com

Source: www.freeimages.com

We are all familiar with the concept of blocking.  Many of us grapple frequently with roadblocks.  Occasionally we have blocked drains.  Some of us suffer from blocked arteries.  A block stops something happening, and is generally considered a bad thing.  Particularly when they show up in our meetings, where sadly they are far too common.

I was on a course recently when the subject turned to people who block progress in meetings.  Much laughter ensued as we all regaled each other with stories of the different types of uncooperative individuals who, whether intentionally or simply as a by-product of their character, stop all progress at meetings.  And then this awful thought dawned on me – which one am I?

If so many of the meetings I’ve been chairing have been disrupted by someone, how often have I disrupted somebody else’s meeting?  How often have you?  And once you’ve realised which one you are, what can you do to make sure you avoid blocking behaviour?  In the missions world our meetings are often complicated enough – possibly led by people with no training or aptitude for chairing, many of the participants not speaking in their heart language, different cultures expressing themselves in different ways – that it can be hard enough to be effective without us bringing the unhelpful aspects of our personalities into the room too.

There are probably an endless number of the different types of blockers but here are a few you might recognise:

  • Diplomat – a person who’s so keen to avoid upsetting anybody that they end up talking a lot but not really going anywhere with it. Solution: You have an opinion, it does no harm to share it!
  • Reluctant participant – if we don’t really want to be in a meeting, we let people know. We may not be paying attention, using social media, or answering emails.  Solution: Pay attention and it will be over quicker!
  • Butterfly – this sort of mind happily touches down on the matter in hand for a few moments, before fluttering off to somewhere else. They continually throw out random suggestions which may take the meeting off on a completely different trajectory.  Solution: Concentrate!
  • Unprepared participant – these people come to the meeting without having bothered to read the sheaf of briefing notes. Solution: Respect others by not wasting their time explaining things to you.
  • NIMBY (“Not In My Back Yard”!) Nimbys are very defensive of their own territory, and will block developments that are of value to the agency if they adversely affect the Nimby’s ministry/team/personal opportunities.  Solution: Learn to see the bigger picture!
  • Campaigner – sometimes we have a fixation that there is only one thing that needs to be done to put the world to rights, and we bring it up at every opportunity even if everyone’s heard it before. Solution: Get over it!
  • Joker – some people can’t resist using humour, and the right amount in the right place can be just what is needed to lighten the atmosphere. But too much simply becomes a distraction.  Solution: Keep quiet!
  • Show off – some people love an audience, and a captive one is even better. But this may not be the right place to grandstand all your achievements.  Solution: Stay humble!
  • Bully – belittling and demeaning others in order to get your own way is not negotiating – it is bullying. If other people leave a meeting hurt by what you’ve said about them, you’re a bully.  Solution: Deal with your personal inadequacies somewhere else!

I am finding that asking myself a few simple questions before opening my big mouth can help contribute to a better meeting experience for everyone.  Asking myself questions like: “Is what I’m about to say going to move the meeting on?”,  “Have I already had my share of time?”, “Am I going to unnecessarily exasperate people?” can lead to me talking less, but saying more.

Those of you who know me will be looking down this list saying to yourselves “That’s him, that’s him….”  But let me ask you a more important question: which one are you?

Inheritance Tax – the elephant in the room?

Inheritance Tax - not pleasant to bump into on the road.

Inheritance Tax – not pleasant to bump into on the road.

Mission workers may not often think about Inheritance Tax, as few of us own vast fortunes.  But we may well be liable to pay it if we inherit a reasonably-sized house from a parent (or even a small one if it’s in London!).  With this in mind we are reproducing this article from our resident tax adviser, Martin Rimmer, to raise attention to this potentially expensive issue which, if not properly addressed, could see family funds going to the UK government instead of supporting mission workers.

 

In April we received the sad news of Ronnie Corbett’s passing. It was reported at the time that prior to his death, Corbett sold his £1.3 million family home in a bid to save his children a ‘six figure’ tax bill. Shortly after Ronnie Corbett’s death a painting by the artist Lucian Freud went on display at the National Gallery in London. It had been donated to the nation in lieu of death duties on the artist’s death.

Both are high profile illustrations of the intricacies of Inheritance Tax. Both Freud and Corbett were legitimately attempting to mitigate the potential tax implications on their estate to their heirs.

Inheritance Tax or IHT is a tax on an individual’s estate that can reach a whopping 40% of everything that is left behind over a threshold of £325,000. It can be arcane and complex to navigate. Expats who think they are not eligible for IHT could be in for a rude surprise, indeed with moves afoot to expand the definition of UK domicile in 2017, Inheritance Tax planning should be on everyone’s agenda.

As is often the case with these things the best tax planning solutions are often the simple ones. There is a raft of straightforward and accepted means by which IHT can be reduced and each will depend on individual circumstances.

The first consideration in planning for IHT is the ‘nil rate band’. If that person was married or had a civil partner the relevant provision allows claims for all or part of an unused nil rate band, up to £325,000 on the death of a spouse or a civil partner to be transferred to a surviving spouse.

From 2017, an additional nil-rate band of £100,000 will be available when a home is passed on death to a direct descendant.   From 2018, the additional nil-rate band will increase by £25,000 per year, up to £175,000 in the year 2020. The main residence nil-rate band will be transferable where the second spouse or civil partner of a couple dies on or after 6 April 2017 irrespective of when the first of the couple died.

‘Gifting’ is another popular means of managing inheritance. If during your lifetime you give something to a friend or a family member, who is not your spouse or civil partner, and you no longer enjoy any benefit from it, the value of the gift will fall out of your estate. That is if you survive the gift by seven years. Sadly for Ronnie Corbett this was not the case.

Anything you leave to a UK or EEA charity is also free of Inheritance Tax.  If you leave at least 10% of your estate to charity, it will reduce the rate at which Inheritance Tax is calculated to 36% rather than 40%. And life insurance policies are available to cover future IHT liabilities.  This measure won’t reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax due, but the insurance proceeds will make it easier for the surviving family to pay the bill.

The reality is that IHT is complicated but important. The biggest obstacle to discussing IHT can be the embarrassment or perceived intrusion of raising inheritance with family members. But in reality, confronting the elephant in the room and planning now can be the difference between passing wealth to loved ones that will support them in the future and leaving a sizeable chunk of tax affairs to sort out.

This article was reproduced by kind permission of The Fry Group, providers of international tax advice.

Ordinary Residence Tool

NHSThis is just a quick update to alert mission workers to the fact that the ORT has now been published.  The purpose of this is to help UK health authorities to work out whether they should be charging patients who live abroad for the cost of their hospital treatment.  You can read the background to this important issue on our briefing paper on the subject of Accessing NHS Services.

You can access the ORT at the government website and you can see the questions you will be asked if you have been living abroad.  How you answer them will determine whether the hospital thinks you are entitled to free treatment, so we suggest you plan your answers carefully.

 

Security when travelling

Source: www.freeimages.com

Source: www.freeimages.com

The recent case of a friend on a visit to a country in west Africa whose bag was stolen (ironically, inside the Ministry of Justice!) prompts me to write about some simple steps we can all take to enhance our security as we travel.  This particular case was a perfect storm of coincidences which made my friend unusually vulnerable, but taking some precautions will help minimise the risk of serious problems.

Country-specific advice – look on the UK government website for specific information about security and health risks before you go – https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.

Embassy – make sure you know where the nearest embassy/consulate of your country is and have its phone number in your phone.  If there isn’t one, make sure you know which country handles your country’s affairs and have their details.

Phone numbers – memorise or have a handwritten list of the numbers you can’t afford not to have with you, such as your office, the airline, your hotel , the embassy and your mum/husband.

Documentation – keep a photocopy of your passport (the information page and the visa page) and tickets in a safe place in case you lose the originals.  Sometimes people will tell you to leave the originals in a safe but in many countries it’s illegal not to have the original documentation on you at all times.  If your passport is stolen, report it to the embassy immediately and get a police report.  The embassy can issue a replacement, and if there’s no embassy where you are, you can get a permit to travel to get you to the nearest one.

Insurance – take a copy of your insurance certificate with you so you can contact your insurer easily if you need to.

Power of Attorney – make sure somebody in your home country has a power of attorney registered with your bank so that they are authorised to cancel your credit cards and ask for replacements to be issued.

Marriage certificate – If you are a married woman, make sure all your documentation is in the same name, or carry a certified copy of your marriage certificate with you.  A passport has a handy space for an ‘also known as’ name which is worth using.

Expensive jewellery and gadgets – don’t take anything you can’t afford to lose, unless you really need it.

Mobile – don’t take an expensive smartphone unless you need the screen.  If you’re just planning to phone and text, take a simple phone which will be less attractive to thieves.

Medicines – if you have important medication, make sure you know where it is.  Have a copy of a prescription so you can get some more if you need to.

Money – have small amounts of cash in different pockets and bags so that if you lose some, you don’t lose it all.  Carry a dummy wallet with a few notes, an old credit card and some photos so that you can hand it over if necessary without losing everything.  Keep the important things in a money belt.

Laptops – these are particularly vulnerable to theft.  Have a password and some sort of encryption for secure documents.  Keep a full backup on a memory stick in a separate place.

Luggage – it’s a good idea to pack things like money, medicines and data sticks in separate bags, so that if one bag is stolen, you haven’t lost everything.  Keep things in pockets too in case all your luggage goes missing.

Credit cards – have a written note of the card numbers and the phone numbers you need to call to cancel them.  Don’t even take them with you if you don’t have to.  Carry a spare out-of-date credit card to serve as a decoy in a robbery.

Obviously, taking these precautions won’t prevent theft, accident or illness, but they should help you deal with it better!

Sykes-Picot and the ISIS dilemma

NThe ISIS insurgency in Iraq has hit the headlines in the last few weeks as this Islamicist group has rapidly gained control of territory and prompted a mass-movement of refugees by its extreme persecution of minority religious groups, prompting many Christians to show their solidarity with the persecuted church by changing their Facebook photo to the Islamic letter ‘n’, which ISIS have been writing on the doors of the homes of Christians so that they can be easily identified.  It stands for ‘Nasrani’, the Arabic word for Nazarene, the local term for Christian.  Many people will not however have heard of the obscure Sykes-Picot Agreement which ISIS has vowed to overthrow.

ISIS (The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) is the successor to a number of Al-Qaeda-linked organisations which emerged in the aftermath of the Western invasion of Iraq, and which gained ground as an insurgent group in the Syrian civil war.  It has gained sympathy among Iraqi Sunnis marginalised by the pro-Shia regime of the recently-deposed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and it aims to impose a Sharia religious state (or Caliphate) throughout the Levant.

Sir Mark Sykes (left) and François George-Picot

Sir Mark Sykes (left) and François George-Picot

Sir Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot were diplomats, British and French respectively, who in 1916 drew up a secret treaty agreeing how Britain and France would carve up the remains of the Ottoman Empire, which they confidently expected to be defeated in the First World War.  When this happened, The League of Nations gave Britain and France a mandate to run the countries we now know as Syria and Lebanon (France) and Israel-Palestine, Jordan and Iraq (Britain) as part of their Empires while creating independent countries.

Sykes and Picot drew lines on a map with little consideration of ethnic, religious and tribal affiliations, rather as the European colonial powers had done in Africa a generation previously.  The two countries subsequently imposed their own rule on these countries, overthrowing local arrangements which had emerged following the collapse of the Ottomans and reneging on previous agreements, particularly those made with local potentates by British soldier T E Lawrence in exchange for their support in fighting the Ottomans.

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Ongoing persecution for the church in Iraq?

This meant that local groupings had no opportunity to work out their own spheres of influence in the region.  In fact, since the arrival of Islam in the mid seventh century, the entire region has been in the hands of large empires (the Abbasid Caliphate, the Mongols, the Mamelukes and the Ottomans) which have artificially kept a lid on this turbulent region.  Centuries-old tensions between Sunni and Shia Muslims are now erupting  in what experienced Middle East observers, including Lord Ashdown, have pointed out could be their equivalent of the Thirty Years’ War, as rival religious/tribal/ethnic groups vie to carve out their own polities.

The challenge for the Western world, which for the last century has continually tried to keep the lid on tensions in the region through a policy of appointing and supporting local strongmen like Bashar al-Assad and Saddam Hussein, is whether we step into this carnage and reimpose order (at what cost to ourselves and the locals?) or let the conflict that might have resolved issues a hundred years ago play itself out – at incredible cost of life and the ongoing persecution of minorities.

The dilemma is whether the Sykes-Picot Agreement should be overthrown, and if so, can we justify the consequences?

Many Christian agencies are working to help our brothers and sisters fleeing from the conflict in Iraq.  Open Doors is one of them.   Christian Today has some very practical suggestions on what individuals can do to help.

Ebola update

Dr.-BrantlyThe news this week that Kent Brantly, a doctor working with Samaritan’s Purse in Liberia, and Nancy Writebol, an SIM mission worker, are both seriously ill with the Ebola virus has resonated round the Christian world as tens of thousands are moved to pray for their recovery.  Both have received emergency care and Dr Brantly has now been evacuated to the United States for ongoing medical attention.  Please pray for their recovery.  They were both involved in treating others at a medical facility and Franklin Graham, President of Samaritan’s Purse, commented: “Their heroic and sacrificial service—along with the entire team there—is a shining example of Christ’s love in this crisis situation.” 

An overview of the Ebola virus outbreak (www.samaritans purse.org)

An overview of the Ebola virus outbreak (www.samaritans purse.org)

Sadly it took the illness of two western development workers to draw the church’s attention to this outbreak which has already killed nearly 1000 Africans since it broke out in February in Guinea before spreading to Sierra Leone and Liberia.  The virulent Ebola virus has been a persistent threat since it was first identified in 1976, yet despite the speed at which it kills its victims, good quality containment has prevented it becoming the global pandemic that is often feared, and the current outbreak is the worst on record.

Ebola spreads easily through exposure to bodily fluids, and since its principal symptoms include diarrhoea and vomiting is is hard for those caring for patients to avoid infection without access to protective clothing, which can be difficult to obtain in the early stages of an outbreak.  Ebola can take two to three weeks to develop, and in its early stages many victims may not be able to distinguish it from malaria, which means it can easily take hold of a community before it is identified.

Ebola-careAs well as the tragedy of the deaths of its victims, Ebola can traumatise survivors.  The need for isolation to contain the outbreak means that relatives cannot touch patients or say proper goodbyes.  Bodies need to be disposed of rapidly and hygienically, which in parts of the region where the culture involves sitting grieving over a body for several days, can lead to a feeling that the victims have not been accorded due respect in their deaths, and may lead to fear of reprisals by the departed spirits.

There is no cure for the Ebola virus, but patients treated with rehydration therapy may fight it off for themselves.  Ironically, for such a virulent virus, it is relatively easy to eliminate outside the body, with regular handwashing with soap and water being sufficient.  The Foreign & Commonwealth Office has updates on the situation in all three affected countries and advises against all non-essential travel to some parts of Liberia.  You can read further health advice on the outbreak here.

Mission workers in the region should:

  • avoid contact with infected people, corpses and bodily fluids wherever possible
  • if the above is not possible, use protective clothing
  • wash hands thoroughly and regularly
  • avoid contact with uncooked meat or wild animals
  • wash and peel fruit and vegetables carefully
  • seek medical advice at the first signs of a fever

Please pray for:

  • the rapid recovery of those who are infected
  • the families of the deceased as they come to terms with the trauma
  • government, medical and development agencies as they struggle to care for those affected
  • the protection of all medical workers from infection
  • churches to be able to demonstrate and proclaim God’s love in the midst of this tragedy

Tariro has a big vacancy!

Workers at Tariro

Workers at Tariro

Regular readers of this blog will know we have spoken before of the excellent work of Tariro a technical college in Mozambique which provides high-quality vocational training.  Click here to read what we’ve said in the past as there’s no point in us repeating it!

Tariro are now in need of a new Commercial and Technical Director and have asked us to publicise this.  While we do not normally provide this as a service as there are other excellent sites that specialise in this such as Oscar and Christian Vocations, we’re happy to make an exception in this case in view of our long-standing relationship with Tariro.

Anyone interested in taking up this opportunity can read more about it by accessing this pdf, or reading the formal job description.

Please pray that God will raise up the right person for this key missional role!

More bad news for malaria

Image courtesy of Gabor Bibor on www.freeimages.com

Six months ago we told you about the possibility of a vaccine against malaria, which is now awaiting regulatory approval.  Last week news emerged of another breakthrough discovery which could help prevent people dying from one of the world’s most dangerous diseases.

According to a research article in the journal Science, a team of scientists based in the United States has identified a group of Tanzanian children who have naturally-occurring resistance to malaria.  Normally hard for the human body to combat, malaria parasites enter into the human blood stream by way of a mosquito bite and then invade red blood cells where they multiply, before bursting out in great number, overwhelming the human immune system and heading for new cells.  Their success consists of spending much of their time inside human cells, so the immune system cannot identify them except for brief moments.

Red blood cells infected by malaria

Red blood cells infected by malaria

The children identified in Tanzania produced antibodies which stopped malaria parasites leaving infected red blood cells, thereby limiting their opportunity to continue reproducing before the infected cells are destroyed naturally in the spleen.  The research was confirmed by checking against a survey of 138 Kenyan men and adolescent boys with the antibodies who were found to have a significantly lower number of parasites than those without.

One of the lead researchers explained that “Most vaccine candidates for malaria have worked by trying to prevent parasites from entering red blood cells.  We’ve taken a different approach. We’ve found a way to block it from leaving the cell once it has entered. It can’t go anywhere. It can’t do any further damage.

We’re sort of trapping the parasite in the burning house.

Effective prevention

Effective prevention

The research was tested on laboratory mice which were given a transfusion of blood containing the antibodies, and then infected with malaria.  The result was to cut by nearly 75% the number of malaria parasites infecting the mice, and to double their survival rate.  If these results are reproduced in the next stage of the trials – using monkeys – it is hoped that a vaccine will be ready for trials on humans within 18 months.

If successful, this research could go a long way towards reducing the 600,000 deaths from malaria each year.  But, as we said in our previous blog which also covered preventive measures, the best way to avoid dying of malaria is to avoid being bitten by a mosquito!

When is a coup a good thing?

ThailandThe world woke up yesterday to the news that the three-day-old martial law in Thailand had suddenly given birth to a coup.  Justifiably fearful that yet another democratically-elected government had been been overthrown by a right-wing oppressive regime, and oblivious to the irony that the west has recently enthusiastically endorsed the overthrow of a democratically-elected government in the Ukraine by a popular coup, the ‘pro-democracy’ west is blind to the implications of what this might mean for Thailand.  Paradoxically, many Thai will be enthusiastic that the patriotic and impartial military will be taking steps to restore stability and governance to a political process which has been paralysed by intransigence and vested interests.

Former PM Thaksin Shinawatra

Former PM Thaksin Shinawatra

Our readers will be aware that the problem began some years ago when the populist leader Thaksin Shinawatra came to power in 2001 supported by rural masses lured by the promise of agrarian reform.  The elections were possibly the most open and corruption-free elections in Thai history.

Yet allegations of corruption and abuse of power dogged his administration, which was overthrown five years later in a coup.  Shortly after that, street violence between ‘red shirts’ (Shinawtra supporters) and ‘yellow shirts’ (an alliance of royalist upper and middle class Thai, and citizens of the southern provinces) erupted.  While the violence has died down in recent years, the underlying tension has continued to simmer, and the adverse publicity has had a massive impact on the lucrative tourist industy.

Thaksin’s younger sister Yingluck became Prime Minister in 2011, though widely seen as a puppet for her brother.  Protests against his influence continued and elections took place earlier this year which were boycotted by the yellow shirts who attempted to disrupt it.  Yingluck won, but of course had no popular mandate, and the constitutional court (under the influence of the yellow shirts) first declared the election invalid and then dismissed the Prime Minister for abuse of her power.

Shinawatra performs traditional public obeisance before a portrait of the King

Meanwhile there is little comment on the influence of the severely ill King Bhumipol, the world’s longest-serving monarch.  Highly revered, the King has such moral influence throughout his country that it is inconceivable the military would make a move without at least his tacit agreement.  There is little doubt that he is considering the best interests not of a class or party, but his whole country.

This has all gone on largely over the heads of the Thai church, a small group numbering less than 0.5% of the population, which consists largely of the poor and marginalised ethnic minorities who often have nothing to lose by becoming Christians.  In contrast, the dominant ethnic Thai people are uniformly buddhist and see that as part of their national identity, so it is hard for them to renounce their religion.  Yet the crackdown could have an impact both on church meetings and the activities of the many mission workers in Thailand.

While the issues involved are incredibly complex and difficult to follow, the essence is that the Thai political system is broken.  Instability, street violence and corruption have hampered Thailand’s economic development for years, and many lives have been adversely impacted in the process.  Fifteen years ago Thailand was an Asian tiger which was an example of good governance to its less effective neighbours, but it has stagnated significantly since then.

Let us all pray that this time an enduring and open political process will emerge from the crisis, which will provide a stable environment for the emergent Thai church to thrive.