‘Woforo dua pa a, na yepia wo’ (When you climb a good tree, you are given a push)
Our second and final term at the International Mission Centre (IMC) is now in full swing and the countdown to leaving the UK for Zimbabwe has commenced. After the newness and busyness of our first term we were glad for a restful Christmas break with family and friends. We returned to IMC in January ready to start the new term with a three-week period of work placement that presented an opportunity to gain more of a practical insight into mission work before heading overseas.
Joe was placed with the Pastor of New Christ Church, which is a Baptist Church in Aston, Birmingham, whilst Lois was able to travel to the East Africa Speech Therapy Conference, which was held in Kampala, Uganda!
When we were first accepted by BMS it appeared unlikely that Lois would be able to work as a Speech and Language Therapist (SLT); it was quite a sacrifice for her to lay aside her profession. However, God has honoured the sacrifice and has been opening doors for Lois to practise. A school for physically disabled children in Bulawayo, in real need of a SLT, has declared an interest in taking Lois on and sponsoring our visa application. In light of this, the opportunity for Lois to attend the conference – falling perfectly in our placement time – was an amazing and unexpected encouragement to us.
Lois hugely enjoyed the conference in Kampala and God provided awesomely as the cost of flights was covered by a perfectly timed and unexpected gift from a couple at our home church. The conference was just what Lois needed to motivate and inspire her for Speech Therapy in Africa. Day-after-day she made great connections (including a lady who spent four years as a SLT in Bulawayo!) and now has access to resources that she otherwise wouldn’t have known existed.
The whole experience was incredibly uplifting for Lois as she felt God encouraging her to pursue Speech and Language Therapy in a new way. The conference was truly excellent, as was the opportunity to be with BMS workers in Uganda – giving us an insight into what life will be like in just a few months time. A highlight for Lois was also being able to spend some time with Annet Ttendo, a Ugandan lawyer who trained alongside us at IMC last term.
Joe was hugely blessed by his time at New Christ Church. He was hosted by Pastor Patrick Owusu-Agyemang, a wonderful Ghanaian Pastor who leads a predominantly West Indian congregation in the north of Birmingham. The placement offered an invaluable insight for Joe into some of the joys and challenges that we will face in cross-cultural mission, as well as a fantastic opportunity to encounter at first-hand the values and perspectives of an African minister.
A memorable snippet of wisdom that Pastor Patrick shared was that which opened this prayer letter – ‘Woforo dua pa a, na yepia wo’ (When you climb a good tree, you are given a push). This Ghanaian proverb, in reference to the gathering of fruit from trees, encourages those who have found a fruitful tree to be given a helping hand so that everyone can share in the riches! Pastor Patrick explained that the proverb illustrates the role of Christian community in supporting each other in pursuing that which God has in store for each of us. It has been our experience that, as we have heard God’s call and pursued what He has for us, we have been mightily blessed by the people of God giving us that helping ‘push’.
We have been overwhelmingly blessed by the abundance of God’s blessing through friends and family supporting us in prayer, finances, practical help, gifts, encouraging words, and in many other ways. This proverb also resonates very strongly with our experiences of studying at IMC; it truly has been a time of preparation and encouragement. Leaving behind the busyness of our life together in Sheffield, we have greatly welcomed the opportunity to prepare ourselves emotionally, spiritually, intellectually and practically for what God has in store for us – BMS have also been giving us that helping ‘push’.
Another opportunity presented to us during our time at IMC has been in volunteering for local charities. We have both had the immense privilege of becoming ‘befrienders’ with Restore, a Christian charity that matches local residents with refugees and asylum seekers who are newly arrived in Birmingham. Restore were able to match us both with Ndebele speaking Zimbabweans, Ndebele being the language predominantly spoken in Bulawayo! We have hugely enjoyed getting to know our respective ‘befriendees’, hopefully being an encouragement to them and offering a chance to temporarily escape the challenging circumstances that they currently face. But we have also been massively blessed in return by such a unique opportunity to gain invaluable insights into Zimbabwean life, culture and language.
Alongside the news of the likelihood that Lois is likely to be able to practise Speech Therapy, we have also recently learnt that the make-up of the team of BMS Mission Workers in Zimbabwe will be changing significantly. Kevin and Gill (experienced Mission Workers who have been with BMS for a number of years) are heading back to the UK, whilst Brad and Ruth, who moved out to Zimbabwe last summer, have so far been unsuccessful in gaining work permits and are currently in Mozambique. This means that, following a brief handover period in June; we may be BMS’ sole representatives in Zimbabwe. We continue to pray that Brad and Ruth are granted their visa soon.
Our expectations of what life might look like in Zimbabwe have therefore changed a great deal. We are even more assured of the role that God has for us there, especially in maintaining a sense of continuity in the work that has been so diligently established. But, once we arrive, we know that we will face an even steeper learning curve than we otherwise might have expected!
Our preparations to leave move forward in earnest, with our flights booked for Monday 11 June and our visa application currently in process. As there are no SLTs being trained in Zimbabwe, and as Lois will be invited by the state-funded school to work in the country, we are hopeful that our application will be successful. However, there are never guarantees in such matters, particularly at the moment as the country reportedly heads towards a general election. We hold to the truth that God is able and we would truly value your prayerful petition that our visa would be granted.
With assignments still to complete and so many practical tasks to be done before leaving the country, the to-do list is somewhat daunting and at the moment feels like it is growing rather than shrinking. But we know that God is trustworthy; that He has called us; has provided for us every step of the way; and that He promises to be with us whatever the future holds. Philippians 3:12b — “…I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me”— has resonated strongly with us throughout our time of preparation here at IMC as we continue to discover more and more of what Jesus has in store for us. Knowing that Christ is with us, we eagerly anticipate the journey ahead and look forward to sharing it with you!
With love and blessings in Christ,
Joe & Lois
Thank God for…
> this time of training and preparation at IMC;
> hugely rewarding placement experiences;
> blessing us with wonderful Zimbabwean befriendees;
> His provision and strength through financial gifts, prayer support, encouraging words and in many other ways.
Ask God to…
> have His hand over our visa application;
> strengthen us through all the practicalities that are still to be seen to;
> bring our families peace and comfort as we prepare to leave.