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Elaine Hutchison recently returned to the UK from service overseas to support her elderly parents. After 19 years serving in a range of support roles for AIM, we asked her about her administration and support work and how this formed a vital part of reaching the unreached.
For a long time mission work could not have been further from my mind. I worked as a chartered management accountant in the UK and then for Action Aid in Mozambique, but through these experiences God was gradually calling me to himself, and growing in me a heart for his church in Africa.
More than a job
Wycliffe started working for AIM’s Eastern Region office in Nairobi, Kenya in 2000. One day his wife called him on his way home from work, asking him to get meat for their guests. Entering the butchers, he realised that a robbery was underway. Before fleeing the scene, one of the thieves looked Wycliffe in the eye and shot him in the stomach. “There was no assistance at all,” Wycliffe remembered. “When people heard the gunshots, everyone fled, so there was no one to help.”
Wycliffe managed to stop a matatu (a taxi van). The driver’s wife asked Wycliffe if there was someone they could call. Wycliffe told her the one number he could remember, that of Tim Carol, a missionary who also worked at AIM. Tim told the lady to go to a different hospital, where Wycliffe had insurance and where his coworkers from AIM would be ready to receive him.
During surgery, the doctor discovered that the only injured organ was Wycliffe’s liver, which can grow back after it has been damaged. “AIM was there the whole time,” Wycliffe smiled. “I don’t even know of any other family that would have stuck with me and my family like AIM did. I found a new dimension on how you can live, because you can’t just live on money alone. I found a family that can pray for you, that you can share your needs with. I found that in AIM.”
Joining my first ever small group Bible study whilst in Mozambique led to me ask, “How can I use my professional skills to support the church in Africa?” With this question, I returned to the UK and went to All Nations Christian college to explore mission further.
My uncle and aunt, Bill & Myra Hutchison, had served with AIM, so after All Nations it made sense to me to begin conversations with Peter Maclure, AIM’s Personnel Director at that time. Initially I began a six week placement in northern Uganda, a placement that I didn’t enjoy. But God made it clear that he had a place and a work for me there, supporting the local church. I was involved in teaching and training church leaders in stewardship and finance, from book keeping to complex accountancy. It was a joy to be a part of equipping God’s church.
Following this term of service, I completed a Masters in Development Finance before returning to Uganda, serving in the offices of the Church of Uganda. In this ministry I discovered a dishonest treasurer and had the stress of dealing with that, alongside many other difficult conversations with church leaders, as I challenged them to be accountable for resources without causing too much offence!
Passing on the baton
With nationals equipped and ready to take over my work there, I moved to Nairobi, Kenya to act as AIM’s internal auditor. Again I was privileged to be a part of training others and had the opportunity to streamline some of AIM’s accountancy practices. After three years it was clear I had got to a point where I could move on from this role, and I began serving in AIM’s Southern Region office in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Working in the Southern Region office, I was managing the finances and part of the leadership team. In this context I was able to support missionaries not just in financial terms, but in accountability too, giving guidance, support and member care. Through my ministry it has been clear to me that missionaries are able to be more effective in their ministries if they feel supported.
To support missionaries well we need professionals in a wide range of fields to provide the information and systems that will allow missionaries to thrive. Churches in Africa also increasingly need professional support, as they seek to be efficient and wise in the use of their resources. There are so many ways that accountants or business people from any field can add value and serve God’s work in Africa.