Chris and Sarah served in Mayotte from 2010-2019, the first few years of which were on a TIMO team. Last year they, and their four children, moved from Mayotte to Nairobi to work in AIM’s Southern Region office. We asked Chris and Sarah how their experience on a TIMO team shaped their future ministry.
Ten years ago, we landed on the tiny island of Mayotte. With two exhausted toddlers in our arms and newbie enthusiasm to learn and serve, we embarked on our TIMO adventure. Of course, it didn’t feel like an adventure for the duration of the two years. Yes, there were highlights, like realising my neighbour was sharing her secret fears with me, laughing at jokes in another language, or sitting alone in a sea of women and being mocked but being confident that the Spirit was with me. But then there were the mundane days; dripping with sweat, mopping floors, trying not to snap at each other, reviewing language cards and wishing we could do something ‘useful’ in the community. Those days didn’t often feel exciting or noteworthy. It was a slow struggle of forging our identity in an alien culture, figuring out how to share real truth in a way that would be relevant and navigating inter-personal tension on our team, while raising little ones without home comforts or a familiar support network. Though we didn’t realise it at the time, it was through the slow and discouraging days that God equipped us for a lifetime of ministry.
Benefits of TIMO
TIMO provided us with not just mere exposure to the challenges of ministry in an unreached and widely apathetic culture, but a journey through them. In the years since, we have repeatedly commented on the value of certain elements of the programme. Because of the push to keep persevering and throw ourselves wholeheartedly into language learning, our relationships with our island friends have gone deeper. We have an affinity with them that wouldn’t exist if we weren’t chatting in their heart language. Because of the requirement to do a homestay, we learnt that it’s often when you get to the end of yourself and feel helpless that God meets you. Our homestay family also became some of our dearest friends and one of them grew to love stories of Jesus. Because of the encouragement to always do things in a contextualised way, we are more aware of how our own cultural baggage can hinder our witness. And, because of teammates who walked through difficulties with us and shared their hearts with us, we appreciate the importance of close community.
Our new positions with the Southern Region office feel like a world away from village life in Mayotte. Yet, while the region is diverse and each member’s context has its own unique challenges, we feel we are better equipped to put ourselves in their shoes because of our years on the island. In our Regional Administrative Officer and Member Care roles, supporting workers so that they can thrive and their work can continue is our primary goal.