Steve Auld, who is now serving as a pastor, reflects on how his experience on a TIMO team shapes his current ministry in Belfast.
When I take a few moments to reflect on the experience of our TIMO team my heart just fills with thankfulness. We spent from 2009-2011 in northern Madagascar and those years have had a profound and shaping impact on the ministry I am engaged in today. Back in Madagascar if you’d asked me, ‘Where could you see yourself in ten years?’ I’m nearly certain my answer would not have been ‘in Belfast city centre as a pastor’. Yet in the providence of God here I am serving as the pastor of Great Victoria Street Baptist Church with a thankful heart for the impact that TIMO has had upon me.
My time in Madagascar shaped my ministry in several ways but here are perhaps three of the most significant:
1. It has engraved the needs of unreached peoples on my heart
As a local church pastor, it can be easy to let your vision shrink down to just your own little corner of the vineyard. We can easily forget that we are part of something huge! The shockwaves of Christ’s death and resurrection are still moving outwards to all peoples and we still need people to cross cultures to take that good news to the unreached peoples of this world. One of our defining values as a church is summarised as
‘going to our city and the world with the gospel’ and I am so thankful for how our time among the unreached has indelibly left its mark.
2. It has taught me to trust the raw power of the gospel, not in the power of my ability to communicate it
I remember about ten months into our time in Madagascar having some wonderful opportunities to share the gospel with the unreached people group we were living among. The problem was my language ability in this new place was still so basic. I’m someone who loves communication; I enjoy well crafted sentences and appreciate well chosen words. In Madagascar I had none of that to draw on, my powers of articulation and persuasion were no more! I did my best in my broken, stilted new language but my gospel presentation was very basic. I remember thinking to myself, ‘This is ridiculous, how is anyone ever going to get saved through this seemingly foolish message I’m trying to communicate?’ And at that time God encouraged me through the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:21, ‘It pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.’ It is the power inherent in the gospel that saves, not the power of my presentation of it. This has been an important lesson as now I preach every week and hope in that power.
3. It has taught me to depend on and trust in God when I’m totally out of my depth
Time and time again in Madagascar we felt so out of our depth. Dropped into the middle of an unknown village, trying to learn an unknown language and culture, faced with new challenges almost every day. All of this was used to cultivate a confidence in God that he can be trusted even when we feel so weak and so inadequate for what he calls us to. The lessons forged through some of those challenges have never left me and I am thankful to God for what he built in us during those days.
So if you were to ask me would I recommend a TIMO team to someone in my congregation? The answer is yes, yes and yes, because of all the above reasons and many more that I could have listed. I have already commended this path to members of our congregation and will continue to do so in the future.