Unfamiliar paths

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!