Buy us a car as a birthday present!


We don’t often blog about the Syzygy cars but many mission partners worldwide will know about them.  Our four cars are always busy on the British roads supporting them in their deputation, helping them visit family, friends and supporting churches while on home assignment in the UK

The reason for today’s blog is to launch our appeal to buy a new car to replace one of our older cars, which is still going well but approaching the age when a lot of work is needing to be done on it.  We like to keep our cars in good condition so they don’t break down on our mission partners.

This year, in conjunction with Tim’s 60th birthday on Monday, we’re hoping to raise £1000 from our supporters to get our fundraising for this year off to a good start.  Please give generously at

You can read more about the Syzygy cars here.

Is it better?

This photo shows the quote on the board outside a church near my home last week.  Once I had overcome my initial shock that a church would prefer to run with a common misquote rather than the real biblical text, I wondered if it was actually true.  Is it really better?

At this time of year, many of us are in the habit of giving presents to express our love and generosity for our nearest and dearest.  Some of us give charitably to the needy.  This is a custom that has its roots in the Roman midwinter festival of Saturnalia and only has tenuous links with the Christmas story.  Yes, the wise men brought ‘gifts’ to Jesus – but they weren’t presents for the baby shower!   More about that later…

From a financial point of view, it’s unlikely that it is better to give than to receive.  After all, you would be worse off, unless your lavish generosity inspired an even greater reciprocation.  You’d also have spent a lot of your time shopping for presents, and most of us have too little time to do everything we’d like to, particularly at Christmas.  You might have expended a lot of emotional energy on thinking about what presents to get people.  Granted, these last two problems would have been overcome if you decided simply to give money, but then you’d have the guilt of not giving people a ‘proper’ present, and possibly their resentment that you didn’t care enough to give one.  Given all these dilemmas, perhaps it really is better not to bother giving anything at all.

So back to the misquote.  The original quote is from Acts 20:35 where Luke records Paul quoting Jesus: “It is more blessed…”  ‘Blessed’ is not the same as better.  ‘Blessed’ (in this case, the Greek word makarios) can mean happy, fulfilled, spiritually wealthy, joyful, in God’s favour).  ‘Blessed’ may be applied to unenviable situations – like the poor, the persecuted and the grieving in the Beatitudes.  Even if it is better, it probably doesn’t feel better at the time.

The greatest gift of all, which we celebrate at this time of year, is God’s gift to humanity of Jesus.  Our response to his incredible generosity is to give back to him all that we have in worship.  And we bless God.  And in our giving, we too are blessed.

The gifts brought by the magi were presented to Jesus in the context of their worship of him, the word ‘gift’ being  used in the Septuagint of Levitical sacrifices, and also by Jesus in the same context (Matthew 5:23).  So really, if we do want to give Christmas presents, we should really be giving them to God!  But in fact giving them to one another in the name of God may be as good – but only if we expect nothing in return.

May you and all your loved ones be truly blessed this Christmas!


Photo by Ayhan YILDIZ from FreeImages

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!

Please give generously!

Giving is not unique to Christmas.  Many other cultures give generously to others at the times of their major festivals, but of course what is unique for Christians is our message that God gave first – “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son…” (John 3:16).

Just as people give reciprocal gifts at Christmas, God’s generosity inspires us to give back to him – not out of obligation, or a misplaced desire to repay the debt, but out of sheer gratitude for the exuberance of his own generosity.  We can never repay this generosity and one popular prayer acknowledges this: “All things come from you, and of your own we do give you”, referencing 1 Chronicles 29:14.

At this time of year much of this generosity rightly overflows to those who have little: the residents of refugee camps; the homeless and destitute in our major urban centres; those fleeing from natural disasters; the elderly who may often be alone.  This year there is another group joining them – the overseas mission worker.

Not that they’re actually homeless (yet), but financial challenges in major donor countries over the last decade have reduced giving to mission workers significantly.  Rising unemployment has cut giving.  Financial uncertainty has cut giving.  Lower returns on pension yields have cut giving.  People in the west feel that they are not as wealthy as they were, and are worried about their future, so there is a tendency for them to cut back on giving, rather than “giving beyond their ability, despite their [perceived] deep poverty” (2 Corinthians 8:2-3).

This year the situation has worsened because of the fall in the value of the pound since the Brexit referendum.  Since this affects every penny sent by UK churches to mission workers overseas, each mission worker might have seen their income fall by over 10% in six months, depending on where they live.  This could be the difference between continuing in mission and returning home.  For a mission worker on an allowance, say, of £18,000 a year, that’s £150/month wiped out.

“Where is their faith?” you may ask.  It’s in your pockets (see our blog Was Hudson Taylor Wrong?)  So please give generously this Christmas to mission workers – and keep on giving generously throughout the year.


Giving sacrificially to world mission

Some years ago, when I was accepted to be a member of a major UK sending agency, a number of people within that agency commented that I would have significant difficulty raising my support funding for homeside service in the middle of an economic crisis. Although their logic was impeccable, I thought it ironic that the successors of the great man of faith who had founded the mission should focus on the practical challenge rather than the greatness of the God for whom we work. Surely, I reasoned, if God wants me to serve him in this way, he will provide the funding. Surely a mere economic crisis is nothing to our God, or to those who serve him in faith.

Yet four years into the economic crisis, the evidence shows that the economic crisis is in fact hitting mission hard. Most mission agencies report reduced general giving, and reduced financial support for mission workers. Nearly all agencies have been forced to reconsider their priorities and reduce their spending commitments. Some have merged, and others have been teetering on the brink of financial collapse. Many potential mission workers are stranded at home, unable to raise the funding they so badly need before they are allowed to go.

So is this economic crisis really bigger than God? Although this situation can easily be understood in financial terms, why should a miracle-working God be limited by the laws of economics?   The problem is not that God’s funding is limited, it is all to do with where God keeps his money. Not in failing banks, or worthless government bonds, but in the pockets and wallets of his people.  he gives us the privilege of partnering with him in his mission, and provides us with the funds to complete the mission.  Yet faced with economic uncertainty, and for many of us redundancy, unemployment or reductions in state benefits, our natural response has been to curtail our giving in order to maintain our own standards of living, or at least to put some funding aside for the future. This might have a small financial benefit to us but has huge negative consequences on those whose ministry depends on our generosity.

How might we review our own economic situations in this light? First we need to remind ourselves that God is in control, and cares for us. God provides, even when we are unemployed. I spent five years living on sickness benefit, and never lacked anything I needed. Needed, not wanted.

And that brings me to my second point: we need to evaluate our own lifestyles and make a distinction between that which is a necessity, and that which isn’t. During the years of prosperity we came to accept certain things which might previously have been luxuries as essential to our standard of living. Perhaps some of those things need to be relegated again to being desirable but not absolutely necessary.

The resulting funds can be released for mission. I recently reviewed my own situation and realised that by doing without certain things that I enjoy, I was able to release several hundred pounds into mission. Yes, it was a sacrifice, but as Neal Pirolo writes in his book Serving as Senders:

Christians with a renewed lifestyle can free up thousands – even millions-

of creative dollars for cross-cultural ministry.

Living more with less is an exciting, viable option.

So, as a new-year resolution, would you join with me in reviewing how much money we really need, and release more to support those working in mission? When we consider how many millions of people have not yet heard the good news of Jesus Christ, surely it is a small sacrifice to help send more workers into the harvest (Matthew 9:37-38).

Giving to world missions

Many people want to give generously to world mission, but aren’t sure how to go about it.  Rumours of financial inefficiency, corruption in foreign countries, and vast extravagances generally put people off.  People want to know where their money’s going, and that it’s being used wisely.  At a time when many mission agencies are struggling financially, it’s important that prospective donors feel they are able to commit their funds, so here are some ideas that hopefully should allay your fears.

Who to support?

Support someone you know.  If you have a friend, or someone in your church who’s involved in world mission, support them, or their organisation.  A direct link fosters accountability and ongoing interest.

If you’re in a denominational church, support that denomination’s work.  So if you’re a Baptist, support BMS, for example.

Support something you’re interested in.  If you have an interest in a particular country or activity, find somebody else who’s already involved and support them.  Just type the appropriate phrase into your favourite search engine and see what comes up, or use Christian Vocations to see which organisations work where and do what.

How do I do it?

Preferred ways of funding will vary between organisations, but one thing they all like is regularity.  If you can give the same amount every month, it will help them budget.  If they can count on money coming in, they can plan to spend it.  If it just turns up periodically, it’s nice to have that extra help, but they would rather know it’s coming.

If you are employed, you can give through your payroll to maximise tax efficiency (talk to your employer about this).  Alternatively you can give by direct debit or standing order (set this up online or talk to your bank).  Many agencies now have a facility on their website to set this up online.

Are you a taxpayer?

If you are a UK taxpayer make sure you sign a Gift Aid form so that the agency can turn your  £10 into £12.50 by getting the tax back from HMRC.  This extra boost to funds is a life-saver for some organisations.  If the organisation you’re giving to doesn’t reclaim tax, you can give through the Christian charity Stewardship, or Charities Aid Foundation, Everyclick, Charity Giving or Just Giving.  They will all pass your donation on to your chosen charity, together with the reclaimed Gift Aid, but beware – they will keep a bit back to cover their expenses!


This is important.  Many people are scared that their money is going into a black hole, or being spent on things they don’t know about.  So ask.  Any organisation worth its salt will publish its accounts in its newsletter.  They should also be able to tell you how much goes on overheads as opposed to the ‘real’ operation.  Up to 10% is ok – you’ve got to let them spend a little on their UK offices, staff and fundraising, but any more than that and you can start wondering how efficient they are at cost control.  If you’re in any doubt, ring up and ask them.  You should also be able to donate for a specific fund, region or person, and by law they must comply with this.

Tough times

We all know that money is tight at the moment, and we’re having to economise.  Discretionary spending is being cut back hard and giving is part of that.  The result is that many mission agencies are having to make deep cuts to programmes and staffing levels.  There is some good in this, in that it forces them to think about their priorities, ensure they are investing in their core vision, and live out their trust in God as it relates to their finances.  But it also means that many of their activities are being axed and many missionary families are suffering.  Some of them have experienced real reductions of income in the last three years of over 30%, and committed mission workers are starting to leave their field of service for no other reason than they can’t afford to stay there.  So please give generously!