For nearly 30 years TIMO teams have planted churches and trained missionaries for a lifetime of service as they live amongst Africa’s unreached peoples. But how does AIM actually work with African Christians to set up a TIMO project?
“It’s all about relationship,” said European Director Andrew Chard, himself a former TIMO team leader. First, the people group is identified, usually by recommendation of a local Christian. The staff at TIMO headquarters in Tanzania then send out two survey teams to ensure the group is truly unreached and to evaluate practical issues like water availability and housing. The next step is to secure an invitation into the community. “The villagers are gathered together and the team leader or church leader explains what the TIMO team want to do,” Andrew said.
“We explain that we’re learners. We also offer to help the community in any way we can….It’s an opportunity to be trained in church planting and in building relationships.”
The TIMO contact will explain that a group of visitors will live within the community for at least two years, leaving most western luxuries behind. They’ll commit to learning the people group’s heart language, customs and lifestyle. “At this point, it’s important to point out that we’re Christians,” Andrew commented. “We explain that we’re learners. We also offer to help the community in any way we can, though we often state explicitly that there won’t be large donor funds coming in through the team.” Once an invitation is secured, an international TIMO team is gathered, led by an experienced mission partner or African national and usually with at least one African national couple on the team. Those on the ground in Africa then screen potential team members, praying over applications and deciding which combination of learners God is calling to the specific people group. TIMO staff members prepare the necessary infrastructure, building or renting houses from the local community. Finally, two to three years after the process began, the new TIMO team arrives, after orientations at home and in Africa. AIM supports them as long as they remain members of the mission, including during home assignments. Many will return to Africa, to a new assignment if not to their TIMO location. “It usually takes more than two years to plant churches,” Andrew explained. “Often the team stays on, sometimes a second team is assigned, or earlier members come back and carry on the ministry. It’s an opportunity to be trained in church planting and in building relationships.” By Stephanie Fosnight Regester, Editor