A missionary couple share the blessings and challenges of working among Africans in the UK.
God opens unexpected doors
We’d assumed we would spend decades in Africa. But the people God had laid on our hearts were inaccessible at that time due to war. So God opened an unexpected door to one of their diaspora communities in Britain. We moved into their neighbourhood – a needy inner-city area with a catalogue of social problems. We had worse culture shock than we’d ever had in Africa.
God calls Christians to witness
In the community we live in, people have often been taught that Christianity is wrong, and they tend to assume Western culture is Christian. Our task was to challenge the negative preconceptions and show by how we lived that Christians are different from mainstream Western culture.
God calls, equips and enables
“What would we do if this was an African village? Which of those things can we try here? How can we become part of the community?” When we began ministry, AIM had not worked among a diaspora people in Britain before, so we sat down to write an action plan. We knew we could teach English, volunteer in a homework club for kids and help with replies to official letters. But God also gave us opportunities to visit people in hospital and at the police station; put plasters on childrens’ grazed knees in the street; listen to problems families kept secret from the community. He enabled us to help neighbours with DIY jobs – even when we didn’t know what we were doing!
God gives love and patience
This kind of ministry depends on trust built up long term through shared lives. But the people group we worked with are often suspicious and notoriously difficult to work among. Only God could have given us the love we still have for them, despite much discouragement and little fruit after many years.
God uses teams
Our wonderful, international Training in Ministry Outreach (TIMO) team – the first outside Africa – witnessed to the reality of God’s global family. Together, we could do things just the two of us would never have tried and multiply our friendships. Discouragements and frustrations of ministry are halved when they are shared.
God entrusts the Church
In this context, half of the workers’ task is to mobilise the local church to take on the long term work. They must reach out with love; welcome inquirers and prepare to nurture and integrate new converts. For us, staying in the right area and church has meant we can continue beyond retirement.
God is building his kingdom
This community is often very resistant to the gospel. Even in the diaspora, converts can face severe persecution and sometimes physical danger. But more are coming to faith in Jesus, largely through the internet. We’ve known one family through it all – their eldest son’s baptism certificate hangs in our study.