The importance of retreat

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.

Syzyzy’s new publication: The Book of Blogs

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 info@syzygy.org.uk

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:

  1. Donate in multiples of £6 and we’ll work out how many books you want.
  2. Leave your name in the ‘name’ box (it won’t appear if you’re logged into your account)
  3. Leave your address in the ‘comments’ box so we can post your purchase to you.
  4. 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 info@syzygy.org.uk 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.

Featured Ministry: Passion for Mission

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:

Go surf!

Update from Asia, part 2

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.

Syzygy’s grand tour of Asia

Today sees the start of Syzygy’s first ever multi-national mission support trip, taking in 4 countries in as many weeks.  As this blog is published Tim is already in the air en route to India, where he will visit the Studley family Frishta Children’s Village, which aims to combat homelessness among India’s many millions of orphans.  From there Tim will travel to Singapore, where he will meet up with old friends, including some who work with OMF, and then on to Thailand where he will be part of the Global Member Care Conference (Member Care is what those engaged in pastoral support for mission workers call their role).

While there he will meet with Janene from Eagles Rest, and then visit two projects, The Well and The Juniper Tree, both of which provide pastoral support and counselling for mission workers, before visiting friends in another part of Thailand.  Tim will then continue to Cambodia where he will spend time with mission workers before returning to Bangkok to visit Urban Neighbours of Hope and then fly home – hopefully not too exhausted.

This is not just a good excuse for a Christian holiday, despite the alluring locations.  While providing pastoral support to all the mission workers he will meet, Tim is also seeking out other unsupported mission workers who may need Syzygy’s services.  The Member Care conference will provide unparalleled networking opportunities, and meetings with other agencies may well result in future collaboration.

Please pray daily for Tim while he is travelling.  Obviously there are the usual possibilities of getting ill and missing flights, as well as some minor security risks common to such journeys.  Additionally it will be tiring meeting so many people and possibly becoming involved in some fairly in-depth discussions.

Please pray that:

  • he will be able to help and encourage mission workers
  • he will meet with new mission workers to support
  • the conference in Thailand will yield good results
  • God’s hand will guide Tim in whatever situation he finds himself

We will provide brief updates here as and when time and internet access allow!

Dates:

April
16th – Fly to India
19th – Fly to Singapore
22nd – Fly to Chiang Mai
23rd – Global Member Care Conference
27th – Day of resting at the Juniper Tree
28th – By road to Lopburi, Thailand

May
1st – Fly from Bankok to Phnom Penh
8th – Return to Bangkok
9th – Fly to UK
10th – Get home

The fifth emergency service

(with respectful acknowledgements to the AA)

Earlier this year I was at a conference where the speaker tried an icebreaker.  ‘If your organisation were an animal’, he asked, ‘what would sort of animal would it be?’ Everyone around my table was studiously avoiding eye contact, trying hard not to go first.  I was muttering to myself ‘I hate things like this.  I’m just not creative enough for this’ when he asked his second icebreaker: ‘If your organisation were a car, what sort of car would it be?’

And it instantly hit me – Syzygy is an AA van*.  We help broken down mission workers.  We fix the problem.  We get you where you’re going.  And though you might only see one person when you deal with Syzygy, there’s a whole team of experts behind him.

Within a matter of minutes I had refined this image further, to detail the types of services we provide:

Roadside assistance: We’re there for you when you break down.  Advice on stress, debriefing, mentoring and hospitality can help get you back on the road.

Relay: Wherever you’re going, we’ll help get you there!  We provide practical  support, from lending you a car to advice on preparing for re-entry, with online guides to missions on our website.

Homestart: When things start going wrong in the field, we can help by providing pastoral visits, problem solving, crisis management and relief staffing.

As a result of that revelation, we are changing our image.  We think that this imagery fully encapsulates our ethos of help, support and practical problem solving.  In future we’ll be using a photo of a flashing orange light as our logo, and we’ve adopted a new tagline:

THE SUPPORT SERVICE FOR MISSION WORKERS

I did think that ‘rescue service’ or ‘emergency service’ sounded more punchy, but on reflection we decided that this doesn’t accurately reflect the fact that much of what we do is not done in a crisis, but is about preventing a crisis happening.

A new image, but the same service – striving to keep mission workers in good physical, emotional and spiritual condition so that they are able to at carrying out their God-given mandate.  Our new flyer is out this week.  Click on the image to the left to read it.  If you’d like some copies to display at church or in your workplace, please email tim@syzygy.org.uk

*Other breakdown services are available.  Actually I should have chosen RAC because at least they’re orange like Syzygy.

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:

 

 

Your chance to have your say!

Source: www.freeimages.com

Source: www.freeimages.com

It’s coming up for a year since Syzygy relaunched it’s website.   We’ve already had a lot of feedback and there are some things I’ve been encouraged by, and others which I’ve found a bit disappointing.

First of all, the highlights.   According to the latest statistics, the site has been viewed by people in 82 different countries!   I’m thrilled that our impact has spread, largely by word of mouth, to so many places.  Over half the people who view us come back again, and on average they look at 3.5 pages and stay on the site for a massive 3:30 minutes, which is an awfully long time in cyberworld.

I’m disappointed that we haven’t generated more discussion online, as I’d like this to be a place for people working out new ideas together.   I’m also disappointed that some two thirds of our viewers are in Britain and the USA.   If that’s you, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t love you, but the prime purpose of this site is to meet the needs of people involved in overseas mission, and I’m guessing that most of you, even if involved in mission, are on the home front.

So we’re going to have a rethink about our objectives and strategies, and we’d like to invite you to participate.  Please visit our (very short) questionnaire at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ZBPVZHT which will ask you some questions and invite your feedback.   It’s anonymous so please feel free to be honest!

This will help us tailor our web presence to your needs more effectively.   You can also keep in touch with us more frequently by following us on Facebook and Twitter.  And please invite your friends and colleagues to follow us as well – the more people who know about our ministry, the more chance we have of making a difference where it really counts!

Join the Syzygy prayer network!

We believe that prayer is the number one need of every mission worker.  A regular feature of St Paul’s letters was a request for prayer that the gospel would spread through his ministry.  If he needed prayer as part of his missionary endeavours, how much more do we!  As J O Fraser observed when he realised that the breakthroughs in his ministry to the Lisu people of China were directly linked to the prayer of his supporters in the UK:

Solid, lasting missionary work is done on our knees.

So we’re committed to praying, and helping others to pray, for our mission partners worldwide.

For this reason, we’ve set up the Syzygy prayer network for mission workers with prayer needs.  If this is you, just email prayerrequests@syzygy.org.uk and your message will be automatically forwarded to everyone who’s in our prayer network.  Please don’t send us your regular prayer letters – just a short paragraph to cover your emergency needs.  Remember that we’ve got no control over what people do with it, so you might need to be discreet in what you say, particularly if you serve in a CAN.

If you’d like to join our prayer network and pray for world mission needs, just email pray@syzygy.org.uk and we’ll add you to the circulation list.  Please don’t forward emails or pin them on noticeboards as there may be security implications for the sender.  You can also find specific prayer needs on our homepage, particularly on the Featured Ministry entries.

For those of you who’d like to pray for particular countries or issues, we recommend the World Prayer Map.  It is updated regularly by a variety of mission partners across the world, and can be accessed by country or by topic.  Click here to access it.

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

Featured ministry: Bethany

Many tired missionaries working in East Asia are delighted to have discovered Bethany.  This is a rest and retreat complex on Cheung Chau Island off Hong Kong. It is specifically funded and staffed to offer member care to those working cross-culturally in Asia and beyond offering good quality, inexpensive accommodation. Bethany is set in gardens of trees and flowers on the quiet, traffic free island of Cheung Chau with good beaches and scenic walks, so is an ideal place to relax and recuperate from a demanding ministry.

Despite feeling remote, it is conveniently accessible from Hong Kong, so it’s not hard to get to despite feeling away from it all.  Set on a hill in attractive grounds overlooking the South China Sea, Bethany’s location is idyllic – five minutes to sandy beaches, peaceful walks around rocky coves and yet the town with its restaurants and shops is just nearby. The Bethany team includes those who have understanding and long experience of the demands on people, for example adjusting to new cultures, difficulties with co-workers, frustrations with sponsors, parenting and educational decision-making, family and marriage needs cross-culturally.

The Bethany mission is to keep people resilient, working in their God-given field for longer. At a basic level, they provide a home from home with familiar food, language and culture allowing people to recover in holiday mode from tiredness and stress. In association with this they have experienced pastoral couples available for prayer and with a listening and sympathetic ear.

More information is available on the Bethany website: www.bethanyministries.com

Welcome!

Welcome to the revamped Syzygy website and blog!  I’m Tim, and I’m one of the directors of Syzygy.  One way or another, I’ve been involved in supporting missionaries for 15 years, since I realised that too many of them are either coming home for entirely avoidable reasons, or heroically labouring on under difficult circumstances.  Syzygy is resolved to do what we can to  support such people, help them continue in their mission, and become more effective.  And more importantly, we hope to encourage their sending churches and organisations to get behind them to do in the long term what Syzygy’s doing in the short term.

I hope that through this blog we will be able to stimulate discussion around various issues concerning cross-cultural workers, and draw more people into our ever-expanding network of volunteer supporters.  Whether you go, pray, encourage, finance, or support, I hope you’ll find something here for you.

Syzygy’s directors all have first-hand missions experience, between us having served short-, medium- and long-term in four continents, and although we’re all now based in England, we all continue to be involved in our own ministries to support missions overseas.  Our mission draws its name from our belief that global mission is a task whose burden should not fall exclusively on those who go, but should be shared by the whole church.  The word Syzygy – Greek for “yoked together” – conveys the image of oxen ploughing together, and the more oxen there are in a team, the easier it gets.

Join us!

For information on how to get involved with us, go to the CONTACT US page.