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Africa Inland Mission
September 13, 2017 3:11 pm
Published in: Uncategorized

Tumaini

You may have heard on the news that recent Kenyan elections were declared void and people will be going back to the polls in mid-October. We thank God that the process has mainly been peaceful so far. Please pray that the results of the new election will be received peacefully.

Buiding at Tumaini - Aug 2017

Buiding at Tumaini – Aug 2017

In our blog last December I mentioned that we were about to start building some staff apartments on the Tumaini compound. Well, the start was delayed by some local politics, and we didn’t want to forge ahead without having everyone on board. But we are delighted that we were able to start in June and the work is now progressing fast. Here is a picture from this week.

We have over $70,000 of the $300,000 needed to complete the work (~£52k of £230k), but we carry on building in faith that the rest of the funds will come in from donations. (Please see http://tumainicounselling.net/about-us/give/ if you, or anyone you know, might be able to help.)

When our staff live near central Nairobi, their commute can be 90 minutes to 2 hours each way, even though this is only 5 – 7 miles away; having apartments on the compound will help enormously.   Ultimately our work is supporting those in the front line of mission work in Africa – but sometimes the success of our work comes down to bricks and mortar.

Praise God that next week we have a psychologist coming from the US to work with us for the next 6 months or so. To move continents, settle into a very different situation and to quickly pick up therapeutic work in a brief time is a big ask! Pray that she will be led and equipped by God to do just this.

Personal news

Mark & Barbara at home

Mark & Barbara at home

Some exciting news is that we are living back in our own home, though we were quite sad to leave the little barn and the family who graciously hosted us for more than a year. During the second week of August, we moved our belongings to our house.

We continue to praise God for all his answers to prayer, and for his giving us back the home he first gave us in 1996.

As we had sold or given away much of our furniture before we left for Kenya, we have another opportunity to live more simply. Pray that we will have God’s wisdom in what we buy, so that we do not again end up with too much stuff! Similarly, as we need to do some renovations – new carpets etc. – we need wisdom in planning just what to do.

Roses from the garden

Roses from the garden

Anyway, here are pictures of us outside our home and some roses from the garden.

Barbara’s health is rather up and down, so we put this back into God’s hands, trusting that he will enable us to do what he calls us to.

Barbara’s mother

I think Mum is beginning to accept being in the nursing home, though I doubt she’ll ever really like it. She is well cared for, and we go and see her regularly. We are now in a position to go ahead and put her house on the market. Initial tidying, sufficient to make the house presentable for sale, has been done, but the main clearance will come later.

Our church, Christ Church South Cambs (CCSC)

Following the summer break, it’s now time to take up leading a church Home Group again. This coming term, we are studying John’s gospel, which we haven’t done before as a church, and we are looking forward to doing this together.

Before we went to Kenya, we were on the church Mission Group, and we have been asked to take up that role once more. We are happy to do that as mission is very much on our hearts!

Please praise God with us for:

  • the psychologist who is joining the Tumaini team this month, and for her to make the transition smoothly
  • the progress of the building project at Tumaini, and for funds to complete the work.
  • the opportunity to lead a Bible study and the mission group at our church, and that we would do these faithfully for God’s glory
  • that we can be back in our own home, and for wisdom in doing some renovations

And pray with us for the following:

  • further professional staff to join the Tumaini team
  • Barbara’s health, particularly as she has further medical tests in the coming weeks
  • for the sale of Barbara’s mother’s house
  • our granddaughter (4) who has just started school and our grandson (nearly 2) as he adjusts to that, and for us as we look after them from time to time.
Swarm of bees

Swarm of bees

And finally

Here is our ‘bug of the month’ – a swarm of bees that took up residence outside the barn where we were living until recently. (They were safely collected by a local bee-keeper!)

 

 

July 16, 2017 2:10 pm
Published in: Uncategorized

Tumaini

Tumaini from the gardens

Tumaini from the gardens

The Tumaini team has been very busy preparing for and running the two-week Restore intensive counselling programme for missionaries who were struggling to keep going for one reason or another.

I was struck by the reports of the programme just after it finished. Roger Brown, a long-standing psychiatrist on the team who was responsible for much of the organisation, wrote:

Praise God for his work accomplished in the lives of the participants and their families and for His grace in sustaining us through: long days, short nights; lost luggage … arriving before the end of the retreat; stolen and broken computers yet other provisions working out; flight delay & rerouting & cancelations yet everyone arriving; the rush of getting the kitchen addition completed; repainting of mongoose stained walls; the mystery huge water leak which required bucket flushing and pitchers for hand washing …; breaking in new kitchen support staff and incredible challenges the first day, yet (our team) managing to put on great meals 3 times a day throughout the retreat; monkey invasions, power circuit overloads, various food shortages in the shops, car breakdowns, … yet God enabled us to carry on and work well together, trusting Him even in the midst of those challenges.  What a reminder that it isn’t our work but His and we need to keep our eyes on Him even when Satan wants to discourage or distract us.

Meanwhile the evaluation feedback from the participants was extremely positive and used phrases like:

  • “Totally awesome; I feel completely refreshed and ready to continue serving”
  • “This has restored hope in my usefulness to God”
  • “I’m really thankful for the Tumaini counselling staff, and the way they listened, empathised, and spoke wisdom into the unique situations I have been facing on the field”
  • “We are SO thankful, this was incredible”
  • “Unable to sustain the current level of stress and demands, we came to Restore looking for clarity and peace. We found so much more.”

Personally, I spend much of my time doing emails and Skype from the UK in support of the Tumaini teams in Nairobi and Kampala, but at times like this I am reminded what it is all for. It is wonderful to see how God uses Tumaini to restore his people who are weary and heavy-laden, and through them to bring the Good News to others in Africa.

Boating holiday

Boating holiday

Personal News

In June we were blessed to be able to have a week’s holiday on a 30ft cruiser on some local rivers. We went with Andrew our son, as he also needed a holiday, and we had a relaxing week with great weather.

Barbara’s mother had a number of falls in mid-June and ended up in hospital. Medics were clear that she needed more care now than could be provided in her own home, and it was fortunate that a room in a home providing nursing care was available – and it isn’t far from her own house.

Barbara and her mother

Barbara and her mother

She recognises that she cannot live at home any longer, but (very understandably!) feels that this new place is not the same as being in her own home, and is finding it hard to accept her new situation. We knew this time would come, and we are again wearing ruts in the road between Cambridge and Reading to visit and help her settle.

We hope to be able to move back into our own home in the coming weeks or months, but we are not sure of the exact timescale due to a complex set of circumstances.

Meanwhile we continue to lead a home-group in our home church, and are looking forward to spending 4 days next week near Nottingham with other members of Africa Inland Mission who are in the UK at present.

Items to pray about

Please give thanks and pray with us for:

  • God’s faithfulness to the Tumaini team and the participants of the recent Restore retreat, and that God would continue to use them to reach many others with his Good News
  • A great holiday
  • A suitable nursing home for Barbara’s mother, and that she would be able to settle there
  • The housing complications to be resolved, so that we can move back to our own home soon
  • To remember that “it isn’t our work but His and we need to keep our eyes on Him even when Satan wants to discourage or distract us”.

 

Bug of the month

Bug of the month

And finally, our bug of the month

Snapped while on holiday, some kind of dragonfly.  (All pictures can be seen larger if you click on them.)

 

 

 

May 9, 2017 12:31 pm
Published in: Uncategorized

When we last wrote this blog we were thinking about when we might go to Kenya for a while. In fact we got as far as booking a 5-week trip, to enable me (Mark) to spend time with the team at Tumaini and also to empty our apartment in Nairobi for use by another missionary. Well, plans come and plans go, but it is the will of the Lord that prevails.

A few days before flying, Barbara was diagnosed with a possible health problem and was advised not to fly, so we had to change our plans. After talking to the doctors and to colleagues in Africa Inland Mission, I decided to go alone, but for just 12 days, knowing that Barbara would have further tests after I returned.

Giving away possessions

Giving away possessions

So, after a brief trip to Nairobi I am now back in the UK, having given away a lot of things, sold others, and brought back the essentials to the UK – with just one excess bag! One of the things that we have learned over the last years is to ‘travel light’, and letting go of our possessions in Nairobi was actually a joy as we saw the delight in the eyes of Kenyan friends to receive, for example, an iron and ironing board, or some saucepans!

Tumaini

It was very good to see the team at Tumaini, but sad not to have longer together. With one colleague just leaving to go on ‘home assignment’ for a year after 5 years in Africa, that leaves just 5 clinical staff in the Nairobi centre – there were 10 in 2015 – and they are very hard pressed.

Celebration meal with Tumaini team

Celebration meal with Tumaini team

We are expecting a psychologist to come and work with us for 6 months from September, but the long-term counsellor who hoped to join us this July is likely to be delayed for a year until mid-2018 while she raises sufficient support. So, please continue praying for these people and for additional professional staff to join the team!

However, celebrate with us that our planned intensive 2-week residential counselling Restore programme in June is nearly fully booked. And also celebrate that the delay in our starting building new missionary housing on the Tumaini compound due to concerns by neighbours, is, we believe, now resolved.

Family news

Barbara’s mother continues to survive in her own home, with lots of support from family and 3 carers coming in each day.

Following recent tests, Barbara’s health concerns now seems to be less serious than first thought. These are showing ‘no significant problem’ so we are both relieved and praying that this is the end of the matter.

We continue to live in the barn belonging to good and kind friends. We expect to be able to move back into our own home in August, and are praying that this transition will be smooth. As we have been back in the UK but ‘squatting’ with friends for nearly a year, we will be very glad to get back into our own home when the time comes!

Prayer requests

Please thank God and celebrate with us:

  • That there are two new professionals who want to work at Tumaini, and pray that they will be able to come at just the right time
  • That the Restore programme in June is nearly fully-booked, and praying that it will be a time of healing and restoration for those attending
  • That Mark was able to spend a couple of weeks in Nairobi and spend time with the team, as well as empty our apartment there for another missionary to use
  • That Barbara’s health concern is less serious than first thought

And please pray with us:

  • For the existing staff at Tumaini who are hard-pressed, and for additional professional staff to be called to work with us
  • For patience as we wait to return to our own house
Joseph and a locust!

Joseph and a locust!

Bug of the month

And finally, a pic of our friend Joseph, with one of the bugs – a locust of some kind – that we rather miss in the UK!

 

 

February 23, 2017 12:29 pm
Published in: Uncategorized

Winter sceneWe are settling into a ‘new normal’ – being in the UK while working part-time for Africa Inland Mission. We look out of the little barn where we are staying and see beautiful winter scenes.

Being the Tumaini Clinical Team Leader from a distance

Mark continues to work as the Clinical Team Leader for Tumaini Counselling Centre in Nairobi – whilst sitting in a barn near Cambridge UK!

There was a scramble to agree the budget for 2017 by the end of last year. Given that there are fewer counsellors, psychiatrists and psychologists in the team at present, this affects the projected income of the counselling centres for 2017, and thus the number of Kenyan and Ugandan staff we can afford to employ. This was a difficult circle to square, but we praise God for his past faithfulness, and trust that this will also work out in the coming year.

As well as the normal oversight and administration, I am directly supervising the work at Tumaini Kampala for five weeks at the moment while the Lead Counsellor there is back in Germany.

We are delighted to have interviewed two new clinical staff who are interested in joining Tumaini, and we would be very happy for them both to join us. However, there are various steps along the way before this is confirmed. One of these counsellors will be visiting Tumaini for a week in March with her family; please pray that she will be clear about her calling. Another is already working in a ‘creative access’ situation, so there is much to consider about how she might become part of the Tumaini team from where she is currently living and working. And there is also a psychologist who is able to join us short-term, probably 6-months. Praise God with us for each of these people, and pray that the way forward will be made clear to all of us.

In our last blog we wrote about the building project on the Tumaini compound. The start of the building work has been slightly delayed while we address our neighbours’ concerns. Schedules for building work are always somewhat provisional, but we pray this will soon be resolved and the building work can begin.

Family news

Barbara’s mother is doing better than we expected; she has not fallen again and has adjusted well to living back in her own home with three carers coming each day to help her with personal tasks and household chores. This situation won’t work forever, but we are grateful that it is for now.

The other difficult family situation that has kept us in the UK is starting to improve ‘slowly by slowly’ (as the Kenyans would say) but we need to remain on hand to support and encourage.

[In fact the Kenyan phrase ‘slowly by slowly’ not only implies ‘gradual’, but also ‘better’: the best way forward is to take one’s time and make steady, gradual progress; far better than a rushed job. So, as we are Westerners who are inclined to rush, this phrase is a useful reminder.  It also matches our experience over the last year, that God does all things well, and does them in His own time, and often slowly by slowly.]

I was preaching at our home church a week ago when our grandson Jonathan came up to me at the front, so I picked him up and carried on. As I had just been talking about the true descendants of Abraham being those who follow Jesus (Romans 9), to have a descendant of mine arrive just then was rather fitting!

Now that there is some improvement for our family, we are starting to plan how we can come out to Kenya to wrap up our apartment there and to see what we can do in the future – one or two visits per year maybe.

Prayer requests

Please praise God with us for:

  • Being able to set the 2017 Tumaini budget in difficult financial circumstances
  • The new clinical staff who are interested in joining Tumaini

And please pray for:

  • Confirmation for us all over the right direction for these new therapists
  • Good relationships with Tumaini’s neighbours over the building project
  • Wisdom over the timing of our visit to Nairobi

 

And finally here is our bug of the month (though not actually this month, as it was snapped last June): a dragonfly of some kind.

 

 

December 6, 2016 4:08 pm
Published in: Uncategorized

Another couple of months have slipped by and now we are looking forward to Christmas.

The barn

The barn

We continue to be very blessed living in our friends’ barn near Cambridge in the UK. It is a very warm and cosy home, which we appreciate as the colder weather has arrived. Mark is settled into working around two days per week for Tumaini doing planning and admin, and keeping in contact by emails and Skype (when the internet allows).

Family news

Barbara’s mother decided to leave the care home and return to her house with a private care company providing her with 3 visits per day. This began just over two weeks ago, and she has already fallen at least 4 times, with neighbours and family having to intervene. It remains to be seen how long this arrangement will last, but we doubt it will be stable.

Moreover, it has become clear that other members of our family still need considerable help as their situation is far from resolved. So we remain on hand, offering support as we are able, through the most difficult of times for them.

Tumaini

Meanwhile, I (Mark) have continued to work part-time for Tumaini from afar, although I am not doing any counselling. The internet links enable me to be in daily contact by email, and to have regular voice calls with key people there; sometimes the link is good enough to enable a video call, but this is the exception, not the norm!

During this year we have been able to open a new counselling centre in Kampala, Uganda, and are delighted that this is going well.

Tumaini Nairobi clinical staff

Tumaini Nairobi clinical staff

Two key members of staff left/retired from the Nairobi team recently, and we praise God that two new people have joined, one in Nairobi, the other in Kampala. But more professional staff are needed; we are talking with a number of people who have expressed interest. Please pray that God would call who he wants! The Nairobi clinical team is pictured here as we say goodbye to two and welcome one!

Tumaini building project

One exciting piece of news is that we are starting to build four 2-bedroom apartments on the Tumaini compound, because housing in Nairobi is becoming unaffordable for missionaries, and the Nairobi traffic often means a 3-hour round trip for our staff to commute just 8 miles to work each day.

Proposed apartments at Tumaini

Proposed apartments at Tumaini

We have wanted to do this for quite a while, and during the year have been through the process of getting the needed planning permissions from the Nairobi authorities. Now we have builders lined up and they are ready to start in January. We have the land, the plans are drawn, and we start with $45,000 towards the needed $300,000 (~£35,000 out of £235,000).

Please see http://tumainicounselling.net/about-us/give/ for more information about the project; please consider whether you could contribute. We are moving forward in faith that the money will be there.

Our future role with Africa Inland Mission and Tumaini

It is currently planned that we remain working part-time for Africa Inland Mission from the UK, and make one or two trips out to Kenya per year at times when this would be most useful, and to maintain face-to-face links with the team at Tumaini. The details are still being worked out, but we look forward to serving in this way while it remains helpful.

God is present & faithful

So, what have we been learning through this year? That life takes unexpected directions, and all our plans are in God’s hands; that prayers are not always answered in the way we expect, but nonetheless God is good and faithful! We have been amazingly well supported by colleagues in Africa Inland Mission, by friends in our home church in Sawston and by others in our family.

It doesn’t come naturally to us to rely so much on friends’ kindness; we confess that the independent streak in us clearly runs deep. And yet we have seen God’s goodness through so many of these small and large kindnesses, which have gone well beyond mere words and have shown us sacrificial service. So, we have felt ‘held’ and ‘lifted up’ on the prayers of God’s people. (A non-Christian friend said ‘we’ll keep fingers crossed for your situation’. While we appreciated their thought, we wondered how people who lack the knowledge of the power of prayer and of God’s practical love manage in this life.)

This powerfully reminds us that the message of Christmas is that God is not content to be ‘God at a distance’, but rather sent Jesus, his Son, into the world to be right alongside us in a messed-up world. And we can certainly join in celebrating that knowledge of ‘God with us’ though all the ups and downs of this year.

Please celebrate with us

  • That’s God’s plan are better than our plans!
  • God’s presence in the midst of all the ups and downs of life

Please also pray for:

  • New clinical staff for Tumaini in Nairobi and Kampala
  • Funding for the Tumaini building project
  • For our family who continue to go through difficult times

 

Slug

Slug

Bug of the month

Here is a slug (OK, it’s not a ‘bug’!) that we snapped in Nairobi in May – at least 8 inches / 20cm long. See what we are missing by having to be in the UK!

October 30, 2016 12:11 pm
Published in: Uncategorized
Barbara

Barbara – on holiday in Norfolk

It was a beautiful summer here in the UK, but we are now well into the season of Autumn, and enjoying the rich reds, oranges, yellows and browns of the falling leaves. We continue to live in ‘the barn’ and are very grateful to God for His provision here (via some wonderful church friends!). And we did have a nice break in Norfolk for a week at the end of September – some pictures attached. However, life continues to be very difficult for members of our family, and they need ongoing support.

A lot has happened over the last few weeks, as you will see as you read on.

Mark - blackberrying

Mark – blackberrying

Barbara’s mother decided to go into a care home towards the end of August, and we helped her move into an excellent care home.  We had hoped that she might be happy to stay there, but unfortunately, she has consistently said that she wants to go back to her own home, even though all the family think that she has become rather too frail to live there safely, even with carers coming in. Her ability to live back at home with carers has been assessed by Social Services, and it looks as if she’ll be returning home once a care package is in place. We would value your prayers for the best outcome for her wellbeing. If she does indeed go home, it will involve us preparing the house for her to live there as safely as possible, and we worry that she will fall again and end up back in hospital, as happened three times before she moved to the care home.

Enjoying a walk with our grandchildren

Enjoying a walk with our grandchildren

The circumstances surrounding other members of our family continue to unfold and be difficult. However, we are still trusting in God to accomplish what cannot be done in human strength and to continue to bring good out of these troubles. By God’s grace, we continue to offer them our support.

Tumaini

Mark has been able to continue working part-time for Tumaini, and remains the Clinical Team Leader, albeit from a distance. There are certainly tasks that cannot be done from the UK, but some of the administration, budgeting and planning can be done from here. We have gone a long way to clarifying the roles that Mark can fulfil, and those that do need to be done in Nairobi and Kampala.

With reasonable internet connections, we are able to not just communicate frequently by email, but to regularly ‘meet’ and talk online.

As the circumstances surrounding our family have unfolded, we have become clear that we need to remain based in the UK for the future.  So, we are now in discussions with Africa Inland Mission about whether Mark can continue to work for Tumaini from a distance, and how this might work in practice.  We hope to be able to formalise this within the next couple of months.

We had originally intended to be in Kenya from May 2016 until August 2017, but as far as we are concerned, this new arrangement could continue as long as it is useful.

Please pray for the Tumaini team and ourselves as we adjust to these changed plans, and for clarity over my continued involvement.

New clinical staff!

The Tumaini team

The Tumaini team

Great news!  A new Swedish counsellor has just joined the team in Nairobi, and a recently licensed counsellor from the US has just flown to Kampala with his family to start work at Tumaini Kampala in the New Year. Please pray for both these new counsellors as they settle into living in Africa and begin to join the team.

Moreover, a therapist who currently works in a ‘creative access’ situation in Africa is interested in offering some time to Tumaini from her current location. This is exciting, but presents numerous logistical challenges to protect her security.  Please pray that a way forward can be found, if this is God’s will.

Please continue to pray for God to send new people to join the team – they are losing two other counsellors at the moment, in addition to myself, so even with these new-comers starting, they are still short staffed and the need is great!

The residential counselling programme run at Tumaini in August went very well, and we were blessed by two therapists from the US who joined us short-term to help with leading the programme. The feedback we received from the participants was good, and we hope to run this programme again in 2017.

 

In connection with our changed plans, it looks very likely that we will continue to live in ‘the barn’ until August 2017 when we were originally due to finally return from Kenya and can return to our own home. We are so grateful for God’s provision of a place to stay.

 

Please pray with us

For praise:

  • That Mark has been able to continue working part-time for Tumaini from the UK
  • For the two new counsellors joining the Tumaini team
  • That God has been faithful in providing us with a place to live

For prayer:

  • For the discussions with Africa Inland Mission over Mark’s future role with Tumaini
  • Further staff to be called to work at Tumaini, both in Nairobi and Kampala
  • For discussions with the therapist working in a creative access situation, to see if this is feasible – for her, for Tumaini, and for potential missionary clients.
  • For us as we continue to support family as they go through very difficult times.

 

Comma butterfly

Comma butterfly

And finally, our bug of the month, a beautiful comma butterfly, snapped in the local countryside a month or two ago.

August 15, 2016 4:23 pm
Published in: Uncategorized

We have been back in the UK for over two months now and it has become clear that we will be here for at least the rest of the year. Whether we can return to Nairobi in 2017 we do not currently know, but we hope and pray…

Wildflower meadow

A nearby wildflower meadow

We returned to the UK to support family who were, and still are, going through very difficult times. Barbara’s mother had fallen and found herself in hospital. After a few weeks back home, she fell again and is currently back in hospital, and is waiting for a ‘care package’ to be put in place. She is also now thinking about whether to move to a care home. This probably makes sense, though her views keep changing; there is a lot to find out and decide. So we are frequently in Reading spending time with her and researching the needed information.

Meanwhile, the situation engulfing other members of our family has become very difficult, and this takes a lot of our time, thought and prayer. This is a time of trusting in God to accomplish what cannot be done in human strength. In fact, we realise that nothing of good can be achieved when people stray from Biblical truth; we have to rely on God if anything good is going to come out of this.

In the middle of these difficulties, we have found God to be faithful. So very frequently what we have read in the Bible has spoken straight into our hearts, and Christians around us – often without knowing the details of what has been going on in the family – have been wonderfully supportive, kind in so many small and large ways, and amazingly generous.

Where is home?

Barbara hard at work preparing dinner

Barbara hard at work preparing dinner

After spending two months living with a couple of the saints from All Saints Church, Little Shelford, we have moved to a beautifully converted barn (we understand that it used to be a piggery) in the grounds of the home of a family from our own church. Moreover, this is in our own village. Such kindness! Isn’t God good?!

But this moving around leaves us feeling something like nomads wandering from place to place and looking for our home – and often looking for various possessions that must be somewhere: are they in the loft at our house, in a suitcase somewhere, or are they still in Nairobi?  We presume they will turn up sometime!

Living day by day and waiting patiently

…well, if we are honest, not always patiently!

During our two years in Nairobi we got somewhat used to planning loosely, for every day contained something unexpected, and we never knew for certain what was going to happen. Being back in the UK, we rather expected life to be more ordered and planned, but that is not how it is at present. We are rarely clear more than a day or so ahead of time whether we need to be in Cambridge or Reading. But we praise God that so far we have never needed to be in both places at once!

Meanwhile, we trust that at some point this season of uncertainty and travel will come to an end!

The prosperity gospel

I (Mark) have been doing some reading on this topic recently. I was doing this because it is very relevant in many churches in Africa, but as I read, I’m beginning to wonder if it’s also an issue for UK churches too.

The simplest version of the prosperity gospel in effect says, ‘Come to Jesus and he will make you rich’. In a continent where poverty is endemic this message is alluring, even though it is clearly not Biblical! In the UK, where life-and-death poverty is less of an issue, the message may be refined to become, ‘Come to Jesus and he will give you the desires of your heart’ – be that a partner, a different house, a better car, etc. This is not so very different from the blatant ‘riches’ version, for we live in a very materialistic culture.

Of course, this is not the gospel at all, and sets people’s eyes on such lowly goals, and overlooks the real riches on offer through Jesus: a new life set free from sin, healing for hurts, peace with God!

Tumaini

Africa Inland Mission has been incredibly supportive during this time. We are technically on ‘Leave of Absence’, but I retain some role at Tumaini, albeit at a distance. The team there has been wonderful, and we have together begun thinking through what is feasible for me to do from the UK, and what would be most useful.

Tumaini from the gardens

Tumaini from the gardens

Life at Tumaini continues very busy, and rather understaffed!

This week and next, the centre is running a two week intensive residential counselling programme for missionaries, giving focused teaching on spiritually healthy emotions and relationships, as well as a healing group time to process whatever difficulties those attending have experienced.

We have been planning this programme for 8 months, and have been very grateful for the help of the Alongside Counselling Centre in the US, who run such programmes regularly. However, this will be the first time that we have done this at Tumaini, and we believe the first on the African continent!

Meanwhile, in the UK, I will be speaking about the work of Tumaini at an AIM Fellowship Conference which is taking place not too far from us in September.

Please give thanks to God with us:
• for God’s goodness, and his faithfulness in times of difficulty
• for the many people who have come alongside us and our family in difficult times

and please pray:
• for the Tumaini team as they lead the residential counselling programme this week and next; and for the dozen people who are taking part
• that we and our family would rely just on God to resolve and restore the difficulties we face.

Bug of the month

Bug of the month

Keeping up traditions is important, perhaps all the more so in times of transition, so here is a British ‘bug of the month’.  Sorry, I don’t know what it is, but I particularly liked its waistcoat!

June 20, 2016 1:06 pm
Published in: Uncategorized

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)

Flying over the coast of North Africa

Flying over the coast of North Africa

Some steps along our way have required a leap of faith, others have been straightforward, but recently we have faced steps that have been very hard, and have involved – at least for now – a change of direction.

When we last wrote our blog we were preparing to return to Nairobi at the end of 4 months in the UK on ‘home assignment’ – a time to catch up with our home church, our wonderful supporters and our family.

However, after just a month in Nairobi, we find ourselves unexpectedly back in the UK due to two family crises.

Returning to Nairobi

We did return to Nairobi as planned at the end of April and were welcomed warmly by friends and colleagues. It was very good to be back in our apartment at Africa International University, and feel at home looking out on avocado trees.

On the road to Nakuru

On the road to Nakuru

Following a couple of days of unpacking and getting our apartment straight, we were both straight into work. Mark set out with a colleague from Tumaini to Nakuru, several hours drive north of Nairobi, to join the AIM Personnel Officers Forum, where we were reconnecting with AIM recruiters from around the globe and giving a presentation. There is always more that we want to do than there is time! (However, maybe this means that we were attempting to do more than God actually called us to do…)

Meanwhile Barbara set about 2 weeks of teaching English to African Bible translators working with Wycliffe Bible Translators from various countries around the continent.

Life intrudes

Before these things even started, after just a couple of days back in Africa, we heard that Barbara’s mother had fallen and fractured her pelvis. She was in hospital for a few days followed by a move to a rehabilitation unit. Wondering whether she would be able to return to independent living, we recognised that at least one of us would need to return to offer her support when she was ready to be discharged.

Then on 12th May we heard about another family crisis which quickly went from bad to worse, and we realised that we would both need to return to the UK, at least for 2 months and possibly for an extended period.

We flew back home at the start of June, once it became clear how we could best help, and after just one month back in Kenya.

Lessons in prayer

When life turns difficult we learn things: who are friends are, what really matters, and above all whether God is faithful. Actually, it’s not God that is put to the test; rather the test is how much we really trust Him; it is not a test of God’s faithfulness, but of our faithfulness!

We are not at the centre of this storm; we are merely family who love, and so hurt with those in the middle of the difficulties. Yet there are so many layers: the consequences of practical actions, the personal and emotional pain, the relationships involved and the spiritual battle which rages, seeking to divide and destroy.

Through many tears we can bear witness to the compassion of many brothers and sisters in Christ who have come round us and our family, to pray and to stand with us and to offer practical support in so many ways that have gone much deeper than simple kindness. Through them we have been reassured of God’s love, presence and faithfulness.

It is going to take weeks – or more likely months – for this situation to play out and come to some kind of resolution. Our prayer is that we would all remain holding fast to our heavenly Father, who is a Master at bringing redemption and healing to the broken, and whose whole nature is to bring new life into what feels like an impossible situation.

An aside on comfort

Of course, there are practical aspects to such difficulties, as well as relational aspects, but there is also a spiritual dimension. We know that being a Christian does not promise anyone a comfortable life! Despite our God being full of love and compassion, we repeatedly see Him using difficult times in order to bring His people – in the Bible, and those we know personally – to greater maturity.

In the Bible, Romans 5v3-5 remind us: “we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (We make no claim to ‘glory in our sufferings’, merely to clinging on by our fingertips.)

And 2 Chronicles 20v12 is a passage we can relate to at present: “We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

What about Tumaini and Barbara’s teaching?

We had to suddenly pull out of most of our commitments such as teaching English and leading a Ladies Bible Study, for Barbara, and working at Tumaini for Mark. Africa Inland Mission has graciously released us from our roles for the time being and we are on Compassionate Leave. But our absence clearly leaves gaps back in Nairobi, where there are real needs.

At the moment we don’t understand God’s purposes; we know that there is work there for us both to do with Africa Inland Mission and that the need is considerable. Yet we also know and believe that it is right to be with and support our family at this time. Although we don’t see or understand the bigger picture, we are trusting God our Father to meet the many needs in each sphere.

And things at home?

Barbara & her mother, Phyllis

Barbara & her mother, Phyllis

We have just spent time with Barbara’s mother, who is now back in her own home with carers coming in each day, and – so far – doing better than we expected. We wait, praying, to see whether her living independently, as she wishes, is sustainable.

However, the other family crisis is almost certainly going to take quite some while to reach a conclusion. The future looks very uncertain, and its implications for us are unclear. We would certainly like to return to Nairobi to the roles we have there, but this is in God’s hands.

At one level we are confused and hurting; at another, we still trust that God is at work even through these difficult circumstances. And we go on trusting that He will continue to make the way forward clear one step at a time.

For prayer

Please praise God with us for:

  • the many ways in which family and faithful friends have stood with us all in these difficult times, demonstrating Jesus’ love through their prayers and actions
  • the opportunity to serve and support our family by being with them in the UK
  • that Barbara’s mother is settling well back at home

And please pray for:

  • the team at Tumaini who have been so gracious in releasing us for now, but face a sudden increase in their workload through my absence
  • for our family who are distressed at this time, and that we will all look to Jesus, who is a firm foundation
  • that we will continue to rely on the Lord who is our refuge and strength.
God is not fickle

God is not fickle!

Finally, a picture in lieu of our ‘bug of the month’

This holder for ‘stick-its’ is on our table in Nairobi.  It says: “God is not fickle; He will not be fickle towards you“.  (Chameleons are often regarded with some distrust by Kenyans, because they change colour!)

April 15, 2016 1:14 pm
Published in: Uncategorized

After about a month back home, living in the UK just seemed fairly normal again, though Mark’s dreams have remained of life in Nairobi. This has led to a strange sense of dislocation and some surprise on waking up in the ‘wrong’ place.

I (Barbara) have had more of a sense akin to amnesia while back in the UK, wondering why on earth I have forgotten the last two years in the UK, while I was actually in Kenya!

Jonathan

Jonathan

We have been blessed by living in our home with family. I hadn’t really understood others’ excitement at having grandchildren until this time. They are a delight, though the younger – being a baby – certainly takes up more than his share of time and space! Here is a recent picture.

After two very busy months meeting with people and speaking, we spent much of March being unwell – just coughs, flu and bronchitis – but going on long enough to test our patience. Nonetheless, we have coughed and spluttered our way through a variety of talks and presentations, though fortunately our diaries were somewhat quieter.

We had put aside a week at the start of April to have a holiday, but had dithered over booking anything.

Mark

Mark

However, God surprised and blessed us when friends in our church said that we could house-sit at their home while they were away. This is within the same village where we live, so we ended up really enjoying a quiet week in another house less than a mile away. We were able to rest and enter into the spirit of ‘being on holiday’ albeit on very familiar territory!

Talks and presentations

We have continued to be surprised and blessed by the level of interest in and support for the work we are doing, so have continued to meet with people and speak to groups.

Mark was also asked to lead a number of sessions at the AIM European Based Orientation for new AIM missionaries about to go out to various parts of Africa. Two sessions were on ‘Transitions and Adjustment’ – a very familiar topic, but it was good to remind ourselves that God’s aim is to have us rely more on Him, and not simply to grow in self-confidence. The other sessions were on Suffering, and again, it was good to remember that in this world God uses suffering to mature his followers – which is very different to the common notion in the world that all suffering is bad and must be avoided if possible (…not that Christians seek out suffering!)

Tumaini

Judith and Kampala staff

Imelda, Judith and Faith

I am delighted that the new Tumaini Counselling Centre in Kampala opened in March. Here is a picture of Judith, the Lead Clinician, and our Ugandan staff, Faith and Imelda. There is a second counsellor preparing to come from the USA to Kampala to join this small team, starting in September, God willing. We look forward to his arrival.

Staffing remains a matter for urgent prayer for both Nairobi and Kampala – as we know of plans for some of the current staff to leave later this year or next, but no-one with firm plans to come, apart from the one mentioned above to Kampala. Please pray.

Preparing to return to Nairobi

It’s only two weeks until we fly back to Nairobi, so our minds are already full of returning and preparations are well in hand. Soon it will be time to say ‘goodbye again’ to family and friends, which we anticipate will be hard.

We fly on 28th April and start work again on 2nd May with a ‘bang’. On the 2nd I will be going to Nakuru (a 4-hour drive north of Nairobi) with a Tumaini colleague for us to lead a session with AIM Personnel Officers from every continent that sends missionaries to Africa. Also on that day Barbara starts 2 weeks of teaching with Bible translators from around Africa who work with Wycliffe. Please pray that we will be prepared for these important tasks.

Towards the end of May I will be going to Tanzania for a week to lead some sessions for leaders in the AIM ‘Training in Missionary Outreach’ (TIMO) programme.

It will be good to get back into the roles to which we have been called for this time.

We expect to remain in Nairobi until about July 2017 and then return to the UK.

If you are the praying kind…

Please give God praise:

  • For our time in the UK
  • That the new Kampala centre is now open and working

For prayer

  • For renewed health, strength and energy as we are still recovering from recent illness
  • Our goodbyes and return to Nairobi on 28th April
  • Preparations for the work we are involved in straight after arriving
  • The staffing needs at Tumaini in both Nairobi and Kampala

 

LadybirdAnd finally, here is our bug of the month – a ‘simple’ UK ladybird, but no less exotic despite its familiarity here.

February 24, 2016 11:44 am
Published in: Uncategorized

First impressions

We are back in the UK for our ‘home assignment’, so what were our first impressions on arriving back?

  • The sun is in the wrong place in the sky
  • There are lights and signs everywhere and everyone is rushing
  • People drink water straight out of the tap and go out in the evening without even thinking about their safety
  • People drive very fast, and generally keep the rules of the road but they don’t let you in at junctions. (In Nairobi it is the other way around.)
  • And England isn’t always grey and drizzling; it is more beautiful than we remember!
  • But simple living is not so easy here.
Bedtime stories

Bedtime stories

It has been great to see our families, of course, to meet our grandson for the first time, and to see our granddaughter, who was just 4 months old when we left. She was understandably slightly cautious to start with, but within 10 minutes asked for “a big hug”, which we were very happy to give! They are 3 months and 2½ now and change in some way every day.

We are living in our own home, where our son and his family are also currently living, so it took a while to learn how to live in our house with them, their furniture and belongings. We were initially disorientated trying to find things, when nothing is where it used to be.

Meeting supporters

Home assignment is not just a time to reconnect with family, but also with those who support us with prayer and finance.

It has been a surprise to us how many people want to meet with us, and we have been invited to 3 or 4 such get-togethers each week. We have also given talks at churches, prayer meetings and I have preached at our home church.

Recently, we went to the AIM-Europe headquarters in Nottingham to talk over our two years in Kenya and also to think ahead. We greatly appreciate all they do behind the scenes to support us and other AIM missionaries.

Houses of Parliament & Big Ben

Houses of Parliament & Big Ben

We expect to return to Nairobi at the end of April, so we are already half-way through our home assignment. Despite warnings from missionary friends in Nairobi before coming back not to do too much at the start, we have, and now feel tired, sometimes overwhelmed and rather unsettled, living in a ‘no man’s land’. Where is our home?

It’s hard to find time for quiet reflection and to think, so we have just taken a short retreat – to have some space to relax, think and pray – and then a few days being tourists in London.

Support

We receive no salary for our time in Nairobi; it is funded by individuals and churches who support us, as well as by my work pension and income from renting our home. Our supporters pay for our flights to & from Africa, our housing costs (rent, water, security), and all the support we receive from AIM. We are able to pay for all our day-to-day living costs.

We need to raise about £200 per month in additional financial support for the coming 18 months or so. If you can help us in this way please either contact us direct, or go to: http://eu.aimint.org/thephippens/

Nairobi news

Tumaini Kampala

Tumaini Kampala (the bottom left apartment)

We expect to be back in Nairobi from May until about July 2017.

Meanwhile, others in the Tumaini team are working hard to prepare the new Kampala counselling centre for opening soon. The preparations are coming on well and an Open House event is planned for Saturday 5th March.

We will also need to do a fair amount of preparation before we return, as we both expect to bounce straight into long-standing work commitments from our first day back – teaching English to Bible translators, and talks representing Tumaini.

Please give thanks with us for:

  • Safe travels back to the UK and reconnections with family and friends
  • The opportunity to connect with so many supporters and others interested in mission

And please pray with us:

  • For energy to organise and use our time well while in the UK
  • To represent the work of AIM well to the people we meet
  • For the preparations and opening of Tumaini Kampala in March
  • The needed funding for the coming 18 months

We expect to post our next blog in mid-April, shortly before we return to Kenya.

 

Bug of the month

And finally, here is our bug of the month

As it’s cold and we have mostly been indoors, we haven’t seen any interesting UK bugs, but here is one we saw in Nairobi to remind us of what we are missing!

 

 

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