Well, remarkable for me. Lois, Becca and I were taking the long way around back to the US from Asia this past July. The journey is six days by rail from Beijing to Moscow and our overland travel adventure required that I take the twenty minutes stops at major stations, usually around five hours apart, to find food.
Zima represented a particular challenge for me. First of all, I saw a most interesting building beside the tracks as we pulled into the station. I had to have a photo of it. We were also low on our food stocks. Our diet consisted of sausages and bread with the rare cucumber or piece of fruit thrown in. However, I was low on rubles and few people out in Siberia are willing to change dollars for you. But I had read that there are ATMs in the Russian train stations. So I set my goals for the next twenty minutes: dash over to the building and snap a shot, race into the station and see if the rumour of the ATMs was true, and, if so, then capture a meal for our family from the stalls lining the platform. But, I think that God had other plans for me that day.
You can see here the photo of the building that caught my interest. And yes, there is an ATM at the Zima, Siberia station and it does dispense rubles using my bankcard. I was two for two with ten minutes left. Now, over to the kiosks for provisions. “Two sausages,” I said in English pointing to the treasured sustenance with one hand while holding up two fingers with the other. Back in our train cabin I spread our meal out before the adoring faces of my loved ones.
“I did it,” I said to myself walking back into the train corridor to look out upon Zima. But as I gazed upon the field of battle on which I had been so victorious, my eyes fell down upon a bedraggled man in his mid-thirties and what I took to be his young son beside him. The boy’s hands were full. He was clutching two halves of a watermelon. His father was gazing up at me with a beseeching look, that universal expression of piteous appeal beggars use was etched across his face. As he began his spiel I was astounded. I understood him. He was speaking Persian.
It never ceases to amaze me that when I meet people in these exotic places and we begin to speak in a minority language like Persian, they fail to think it strange that a foreigner can speak, with limited capacity in my case, their native tongue. He was a Persian speaking Tajik, a veteran of the Soviet Union’s Afghanistan war, from whence the deployable condition of his life ensued. Did I not have a few rubles to spare? Well, I did. In fact, my pockets were literally brimming with rubles.
I could be magnanimous. Had I not just accomplished a most remarkable feat: providing fine fare for my family for the next five hours? I stepped back into our cabin and picked up one of the sausages. “There’s a Tajik out here begging who fought in the Afghan war,” I announced. I reached down with my offering. He reached up with his outstretched hand. A Siberian sausage passed between us.
That should have been it. In fact, if I were writing the story, that is how it would have ended. I wanted the train to move. “Certainly it’s been twenty minutes by now,” I thought. The man tucked the sausage into his coat pocket with thanks and continued beseeching for more, more food, and maybe some rubles too. “Why couldn’t he be happy with my sausage?” I thought. “It’s like the Afghans say, ‘there are two things that are never full – the beggar’s bowl and the mullah’s stomach.’”
I met myself on the train platform in Zima, Siberia. I wanted my giving to be easy. Out of my abundance had I not been so generous? I wanted him to be satisfied – satisfied with my small talk in Persian, satisfied with my compliments about his son, satisfied with the gift from my table. And still the train did not move. But I did. I came back into our cabin and sulked, turning over the uncomfortable occurrence in my mind. “Why can I not feel satisfied through this giving?” I mused.
The train jerked and began to move forward. I looked past our cabin door into the corridor and saw the veteran from the Afghanistan war jumping up to catch a final look at me through the window. His face was smiling. The begging was over. I ran to the window to bid him and his son farewell. Looking back at them on the Zima platform I waved as I watched them diminish in size while the Trans-Siberian Railway took us onward to another adventure.
Back in the States in the Interserve office, Lois and I met with our finance director. “You’ll need to raise more support to meet your budget,” he said. Lois’ modest salary from the school in Thailand was finished and we now need to make up the shortfall. With eighteen months before us in both the States and New Zealand, we face the unenviable task of finding funds from donors who support our ministry.
At the same time, these donors are not some random travellers passing through our lives. They are partners with us in our work, some of them showing interest in us for over fifteen years. I’ve been pleased to find how many folk back home really have been keeping up with us, reading our newsletters, praying for us, and supporting our ministry.
Yet even with all that, despite the “noble cause”, I often feel like a beggar at a train station. I guess that’s my challenge during this season of life: how to give and how to receive. And it all rose to the surface when I met myself on the train platform in Zima, Siberia.
A new chapter of my life started shortly after my husband died in 1992. I was in my late forties, with a married daughter and two grandchildren… and learning to cope with being a widow instead of a farmer’s wife. The chapter started with just one word – “available.” Something just went ‘ping’ in me when I heard it (in a prayer by an Interserve partner headed to Mongolia) and I began to explore what this could mean for me in the context of overseas mission.
At a Mission Expo I realised that Mongolia and Interserve were the right choices for me: no need to shop around. So I studied Mongolia’s history, and learned about the fall of communism, and the depressing religious and economic situation the state had fallen into. The people no longer knew what to believe – they were a people without hope. It was God’s timing for mission there; the Bible was already translated and ready to be shipped in. It coincided with God’s timing for my new beginning, new adventure: I wanted to walk and work with God in Mongolia.
My first visit was for three months in 1996 on a tourist visa. I went as a ‘gap-filler, gopher and granny,’ and I was based in the capital city of Ulaan Baatar. My tasks included ironing, reading books to children, listening, child-minding, teaching (English lessons and drug and alcohol awareness) and writing. I hired a tutor and enjoyed learning the language, I regularly attended six different churches and would ask everyone lots of questions all the time.
I returned to Mongolia at the beginning of 1999, to take up a twelve-month position teaching conversational English in a school run by Korean Christians. It was my first ever full-time salaried job and I loved it! I taught both children and adults, Mongolians and Koreans. The highlight for me was the day I discovered two small boys in the classroom, joking and playing together in English; one was Korean and the other Mongolian, and when they first started my class they had been unable to communicate with each other. God taught me that my role in Mongolia was that of encouragement (Romans 12:8), and it was equally valid whether it was directed toward Mongolians or Koreans.
In early 2000, after being accepted as a full mission partner by Interserve, I returned once again to Mongolia. I had volunteered to move from Ulaan Baatar to the smaller centre of Darhan, confident in my ability to live without the benefits of a big international city. I was involved with further language study, helped an Interserve family teach their three girls in a small international school setting and then, with my newly acquired TEFL Certificate (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) taught in a university.
Then, in 2003, I volunteered to go live in a rural area to become the community development manager for a project focused on improving the food security of families through livestock herding, vegetable growing and small business loans. My sector was vegetables but my farming background was useful for livestock too! So many of the skills acquired through my farming years were needed, and I saw how God’s hand had been on my life, preparing me for this role; my life skills, honed as a farmer’s wife, were exactly what was needed for this project. New skills were added in as well – my language increased with everyday use and I was challenged to improve my computer skills.
Living a very rural life I had to haul my own water, use fires for heating and cooking, use ‘longdrops,’ ride my bicycle on rough dirt roads, and deal with dogs and drunks. My boss and I were the only foreigners in the area for some time which meant we were very visible! I didn’t adjust well when it came to the ‘correct’ Mongolian dress code for a teacher – my wardrobe was rather too casual and comfortable. As an older lady on my own, wearing jeans and boots, I was certainly ‘a curiosity for Christ’! But I did occasionally wear the traditional del (a long coat-like garment) which the locals appreciated.
I went to a local church and, like the others I had attended, saw it grow fast in numbers and more gradually in depth. My church participation was a joy and I was happy to host a home group. I feel particularly strongly about continuity and have endeavoured to keep up friendships made in my early years in Mongolia. I continued to go to all my churches in Ulaan Baatar whenever I had an opportunity to visit.
Faith, evangelism, seed planting, prayer for healing, and teaching where all areas I stepped out in, and I learned to depend on God far more for many things, especially physical safety. But mostly I had many opportunities to be a helper for those in need and out of that saw people become believers and go on to serve in the church.
Because of increasing back problems I had retired from physically helping my husband on the farm, but before my first trip in 1996 I put it to God that if He wanted me in Mongolia He would have to keep my back in good shape – which He did.
If you have a desire to serve God, if something is going ‘ping’ in your life but you feel there are too many obstacles – don’t give up! I am living proof that if God is leading you into service for Him, no matter your age, occupation or marital status, there’s no barrier that can stop you.
Lindsay King has recently returned to NZ to spend more time with family and grandchildren – but is already plotting plans for short trips back to the country she now loves.
If only Nepal – and especially the poor of Nepal – could harness this environmentally friendly and renewable energy for their own development and benefit! Developing hydropower, in today’s world, is better than drilling for oil in Saudi Arabia!
It was in trying to answer this question that a team of us from United Mission to Nepal (UMN) and People Energy & Environment Development Association (PEEDA) came up with the Pro-poor Hydropower (PPHP) concept. We were very aware that much of the commercial hydropower development in Nepal to date has benefited the rich. Wealthy businessmen from Kathmandu and overseas have invested in very profitable projects. Little of the profits from these projects has reached the local poor, even though the projects are built on their rivers.
Yet how do the poor people living high in the mountains of Nepal provide a living for themselves? Most scratch out a living farming on little terraced fields clinging to the steep slopes. At such high altitude, this type of farming produces very little for all its backbreaking work. How can such poor people afford the costs of buying food, health care, education and all the other services we take for granted.
The Pro-poor Hydropower Concept
Pro-Poor Hydropower is a concept by which the rural poor of Nepal are facilitated into the profitable ownership of their water resources. This is achieved through development of commercially profitable1 and socio-ecologically acceptable hydropower projects with the local poor gaining the majority of the benefits of the projects.
But how can the rural poor attain majority ownership?
The mechanism by which the local poor attain majority ownership is by building on the labour component of the project’s construction and operation. Generally, the local poor have nothing to invest except their own labour. In PPHP, opportunities for the local poor to be employed on the project are maximised. Their labour is paid for in both cash and equity (shares) – see the figure. The labourer earns shares by sacrificing part of their wage. This wage sacrifice is then multiplied through a grant and soft loan facility. For each share that is earned through labour contribution, a number of shares are purchased through a grant (from donors). Another few shares are purchased through a soft loan facility.
Currently, we are in the first phase of a trial project which is looking at the feasibility aspects and putting all the project components together. Phase 2 will see the project move into implementation. Should the trial project prove to be successful, we are looking to role out the project to many more areas of Nepal. Our aim is that poor communities will be able to receive a regular cash income through dividends, many years into the future.
I’ve always enjoyed newborn babies. I love the smell of them, their soft skin, and the sound of their tiny cry. I don’t even mind feeding schedules and mounds of baby laundry. I guess you could say it’s in my blood. Over the past thirty-five years my parents have fostered 129 infants and toddlers in their home, and before moving overseas, my husband and I carried on the tradition by caring for a few little ones ourselves. So when my friend who is a mid-wife at the international hospital in our city told me about the tiny infant, it was an easy decision for me.
The first time I saw little Marefat, I gasped. I had never seen such a tiny child and I was almost afraid to touch her. Her legs and arms were sticks that appeared too long for her body. Her ribs protruded and her eyes looked too big for her head. There were wires connected to her chest and hands and feet, and a feeding tube in her nose.
Marefat was the thirteenth child of her mother and father. The first one lived until three years old and then died from a burn accident. All the other children died in pregnancy or delivery. When Marefat’s mother was pregnant with her, as with her other pregnancies, she developed preeclampsia, a condition that hinders the growth of the developing foetus and endangers the mother’s life as well. When Marefat was born it was discovered that she had an RH negative blood type, another life threatening condition which, in the West, is easily remedied with a blood transfusion. Both of these problems probably caused the deaths of the eleven other siblings. But Marefat’s mum was in the hospital and near death herself at just the time when two doctors from the international hospital were visiting her village. A stroke caused by her condition had paralyzed her and she could not walk, talk, or even eat on her own. The doctors were deeply concerned for both mother and baby and arranged for them to be transported to our city. Although they thought it was likely the baby could not survive at that stage of development, they knew they had to deliver the baby to save the mother’s life. But the baby was a fighter and God had a better plan.
CURE International establishes and operates teaching hospitals in the developing world for the medical and spiritual healing of disabled children and their families. Marefat’s mum delivered her at the CURE Hospital in our city and stayed ten days longer to recuperate. By the time Marefat’s father decided it was necessary for him to return to his village to plant his fields, her mother had regained the use of her legs, but was still very ill and could not take care of her own needs, let alone the baby’s, so she also returned home to recuperate while the baby remained in the hospital.
Studies have proven that if a baby’s physical needs are met but she is never held, or touched, or lovingly spoken to, she can actually die. So ten days after her birth I found myself in the neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) of the hospital caring for the tiniest baby ever to be born at CURE. Every morning I visited her and spent an hour and a half stroking Marefat’s head, massaging her hands and arms, feeding and bathing her, singing to her, and praying for her and her family. I saw her first smile and watched the weak grip of her fingers grow stronger every day. I rejoiced with her every time the nurses told me she gained a few more grams, and watched her ribs slowly disappear behind the baby fat now growing on her body.
One day, a month after I began visiting Marefat, the NICU nurses told me they thought she would progress more quickly if she were cared for in someone’s home. She was completely healthy by this time, and just needed to grow a little bigger. By that evening I had made a little bed for Marefat on a living room chair and once again I began the routine of waking every three hours round the clock to care for a very special little child.
Three weeks later, Marefat’s father returned to our city to be reunited with his now almost “plump” five pound baby girl. The reunion was sweet, and one couldn’t have found a happier or prouder father. A resident doctor accompanied Marefat and her daddy to their home and later reported that Marefat’s mother was overwhelmed with joy and emotion. He said the entire village was touched by the care of the foreigners for this family.
The mother and infant mortality rate in this south central Asian country is second only to that of the country of Liberia. Marefat’s family lives in a remote village where the mother and infant mortality rate is higher than has ever been recorded anywhere in the world. Tradition, superstition, and lack of education in basic health care result in the deaths of thousands of women and children in that province each year. One of the most common causes of death is caused by girls marrying and having children at such a young age that their own bodies are not yet fully developed and ready to bear a child. In delivery the baby becomes ‘stuck’ in the birth canal, and because there is no proper medical care nearby, mother and baby both die.
Marefat’s story is a wonderful tale of miracles and divine intervention. The kind of story we all cherish, and one we expect to finish with the fairytale ending, ‘and they all lived happily ever after’. But three weeks after writing Marefat’s story I was heartbroken to learn that she has died of diarrhoea and dehydration. My spirit groaned within me as I grieved for her, but my grief seemed like nothing as I remembered her dear parents and the agony they must be experiencing with the pain of losing all 13 of their children. Sometimes, intermingled with my feelings of pity and compassion for them, I feel a confused sense of anger: “how can anyone be so stupid as to let a baby die of diarrhoea”! I repent and cry out to God in desperation for these precious, needy people. “How can so few of us make a difference in a country whose basic needs are immeasurable? What difference can my presence be among 28 and a half million people, some of whom hang their women upside down by their feet, or bounce them in the air on a sheet during delivery, or tie off the baby’s umbilical cord using thread made of cow dung, causing tetanus! I feel so small and overwhelmed.”
And then a still, small Voice gently reminds me that He is the God who fed thousands with the five loaves and two fish of an obedient child. He is the God of hope. He is the hope of the nations.
In recent months, the lives of homeless people with whom I work have borne witness to these words. And through their experiences I have been reminded that it is not me who opens the door to hope and a better future but the Lord himself in answer to their cry.
Mira's story Mira came from a comfortable background. She told me she started drinking vodka because that was what everyone else was doing at work and she wanted to join in the fun. But the drinking had taken over her life and at the age of 47 she was living a hopeless life. Abandoned by her well-to-do brother, shunned by her sister and mother and deserted by her embarrassed children, she sat all day and slept all night against a wall in 'Drunken Alley'.
Mira had been homeless for about five months. About eight months ago she had been drinking heavily and was then knocked down by a car. She sustained serious injuries and in the end required a below-knee amputation. After discharge from hospital, she found herself on the street.
Stories varied. She said her sister and mother rejected her and refused to have her home; Mira's sister Marina told me, with obvious disgust, that Mira had not needed an amputation, but had asked the doctor to do it so that she could claim disability pension. She and her mother had not wanted to have Mira home after this as she had already made life so difficult for them.
When I introduced myself to Mira, I bought her something to eat. 'Do you know Jesus?' I asked.
'Yes,' she said, 'I used to go to the church of Jesus Christ.'
When I asked her whether she could still pray, she looked at me as if I was asking her to approach an estranged friend. 'Mira,' I said, 'you only need to come to Jesus and ask him to forgive you and he will.'
Lord, it's getting colder. Mira will die unless we get her somewhere.
'Alright, would you please pray for me?' When I took her hand, she cried pitifully. 'Please come tomorrow,' she said.
This is how I got to know Mira. She was always pleased to see me and we always prayed together. I told her that I would try to get her into a home for people with disabilities. Such a task proved to be much more difficult than I had bargained for. First, at Mira's request, I went with one of my local church members to find her sister's house. The sister was friendly to us but adamant that she had had enough of Mira and would not help us get her into a home.
'She doesn't care about herself,' she began. 'She sold the crutches we bought for her for vodka. She does not move from the wall she sits against – even to defecate. She's lost all dignity. My brother bought her a house after she squandered her own to buy vodka, and what did she do? Behind my brother's back, she sold that one also! She has no sense of responsibility, her husband is on the street too – though not with her, and now both her children are on the street.'
What a history! I couldn't condemn Mira's sister. Would I have felt any different in her situation?
When we visited the brother, the response was worse. Mira's sister-inlaw would not even let us see him. She told us they had had more than enough of Mira, they had spent such a lot of money on her.
'Please help,' we persisted. 'The social work department can't do anything for us unless the relatives help and complete these documents.' Unsuccessful in our pleading, we wrapped up warm and ventured back into the cold night.
Mira cried, 'You're lying to me! You are not going to help! I'll die here!' I was so aware we were racing against the falling temperatures. Snow was imminent. But no door opened to us.
As we went from one department to another, we heard again and again 'No, without the relatives' help you can do nothing!'
'Mira, our hands are tied,' I said. 'I believe God wants you to seriously pray for yourself and that then he will open the door. I believe then things will happen.' Mira took on board what I said. She started to cry out to God and put her faith in him alone.
I lay awake praying, 'Lord, it's getting colder. Mira will die unless we get her somewhere.'
Deliverance Then in the night the idea came.
In the morning, two voluntary helpers and I took Mira (with her consent) in a taxi to a friend's apartment, where she bathed, washed her hair and was de-liced. In fresh clothes, she looked like a new person and I hoped that the detox hospital might think twice before rejecting her. Soon after we arrived, however, we were turned away because Mira had a temperature of 38oC. They advised us to take her to the general hospital where she could be treated for probable pneumonia.
But once again we were shunted from department to department and eventually advised to try yet another hospital.
An idea came to mind. I pulled out a little green card given to me by the Director of the hospital days earlier. Thinking 'It's who you know' I ventured, 'This doctor gave me her card two days ago and said if I had any trouble with sick homeless people I could ring her, even at home.'
'Oh really,' the on-duty physician responded with raised eyebrows and sudden enthusiasm. 'We'd better ring her then.'
It worked a treat. Mira was admitted without further argument and she had a complete examination.
After discharge we had Mira admitted to the detox hospital where she remained for ten days until, with the help of a worker from a homeless shelter, we completed all the documents so Mira could be admitted to the home for people with disabilities.
Mira has grown leaps and bounds in her faith. What a changed woman she has become! She is now settled in the home, and her son and Marina, delighted by the outcome of our endeavours, have agreed to go and see her.
Guided by God
At the age of 11 the Lord made it very clear to me that it was his plan for me to go overseas, but he did not lead me there until I was much older. I had not the slightest inkling I would be working with the homeless until a month or two before I left for Central Asia. The Lord began to show me in different ways that my work would be with those in the shadows, his treasures which I would find hidden in dark places.
This work gives me joy, satisfaction, frustration and sadness – and often all in one day. It is not for those who want to see quick results. To make friends and love the homeless is to take risks with your own life. It is not a glamorous position and on many occasions the anger of society at the homeless will also be directed at those that come alongside them, but it is where Jesus loves to be.
Interserve Malaysia chairman Philip Chang reports on the work of Hischild, a nongovernmental organisation (NGO) in South-East Asia, where fellow Partners Johnny and Lucille Lee are helping to bring hope into the lives of many children and youth.
Meet Tam-Tam Tam-Tam is almost six years old. She was born in a town known for its casinos and other vices. Her mother is of an ethnic minority and had fled from her home country. After a run-in with government authorities, she was relocated and now tries to work for survival. Until recently, she did not know the whereabouts of Tam-Tam's father and did not even want to keep her daughter. Furthermore, the nature of her work and her living environment was not conducive to bringing up a young girl. Over a year ago, an agency found Tam-Tam and brought her to Hischild. When she arrived at the organisation's halfway house, she had scabies all over her body. She was uncommunicative and withdrawn. But within two months of staying at Hischild, Tam-Tam's scabies cleared up, and she began talking and smiling and now participates fully in the daily activities with the other children; she likes to talk to herself, role-play and playfully supervise other children. She will be attending a local school next term.
It is not yet certain whether Tam- Tam's mother will sign a release form for the authorities to give Hischild custody of Tam-Tam where she will continue being cared for. But many children in this country are even less fortunate. Some may end up being sold into vice or living on the streets, begging or searching for food in rubbish dumps.
Meet Sokha When she was young, Sokha became a resident in the orphanage home run by Hischild. In the 12 years she has lived there, she has managed to complete her schooling and her university studies, obtaining a degree in English. Since then she has received several relatively lucrative job offers because of her good command of English, but she has turned them all down. Instead she has chosen to work at Hischild (accepting a much lower salary than her other offers) where she teaches English, translates, and helps to manage the local staff and children of the homes.
On some days, Sokha joins Johnny and Lucille and other staff workers for the street children ministry. By 4:00am, they are out of their beds, ready to start work. They drive their bus to a different area in the capital city each morning and park near the streets and alleys where children are sleeping. When the children wake up, they are invited into the bus to be bathed and to have their wounds cleaned and scabies treated. Reading and writing lessons follow as well as Bible-story teaching, a video cartoon show, and finally a meal. The programme finishes by mid-morning, and twice a week the bus then travels to another location to run a similar programme in the afternoon. Over 500 children receive care in this way each week.
On Sundays, Sokha teaches and leads worship in the church started by the staff. She is also in charge of the youth. It is a great joy to watch the children worship God, singing and praying with all their hearts, thanks to capable national believers like Sokha who has committed herself to serve her own people with her talents.
Meet Theng Theng started working as a driver with Hischild one year ago. He was not a Christian then. He drives all the vehicles to fetch the children, staff and visitors from everywhere and anywhere. Throughout the year he has attended the church meetings on Sundays and has seen lives being transformed by God through the work of Hischild and through the personal witness of the Christian staff. Recently, during an altar call in one of the meetings, Theng took a step of faith and accepted Jesus as his personal Lord and Saviour.
Meet the needs The success of Hischild is evident in the emerging national leadership represented by Sokha – herself once a child in its care. Every Sunday about 80 children and 50 adults gather for worship. This is a place where the future leaders of the Church in this country are being raised.
Johnny and Lucille are praying that more Partners will join them in their ministry with Hischild. The needs are great as the number of children in their care has continued to grow. For example, the halfway house, which provides short-term accommodation for up to one year, now has 20 children transitioning from the streets to more secure living arrangements. These children will either be reunited with their families or move into the orphanage. The orphanage is home to 52 children and provides healthcare, safe accommodation, daily nutritious meals, and education in an atmosphere of family love and care over the long term.
Some projects are also in the pipeline: for example, a school for trafficked children and a vocational training centre. They need people who can upgrade programmes and train staff and older youth to manage these areas. They also need a mechanic who can take care of two large buses and other vehicles owned by Hischild. Other personnel needs include: an accountant to help manage the accounts and finances; a medical doctor to improve the health programmes; and a child psychologist to diagnose problems, design treatments and train the key staff to administer treatments. Child specialists, English teachers and Bible teachers are also welcomed.
Any Godly person who loves children and likes to work with them will definitely experience a great sense of joy and fulfillment when they serve with Hischild, whether long or short term. Precious lives will be transformed in the process, giving each child a hope and a future.
If you are interested in ministering to children in South-East Asia, please contact our Personnel Director or visit our website (www.interserve.org) to check out the openings.
Meet Johnny and Lucille
Johnny and Lucille are both 60 years of age and have one grandchild. They retired from their jobs a few years ago and felt the strong calling to serve overseas. But how? After praying and making enquiries, a friend introduced them to Hischild where they served for six months. They returned home with the feeling that it was right to serve there long term.
By chance they heard that Interserve were recruiting personnel for South-East Asia. They applied to become Partners and were sent out by their home church, St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Kuala Lumpur. As Partners, they have enjoyed becoming part of a larger fellowship and are assured of member care support both at home and in the field.
Presently Johnny and Lucille work together with one other expatriate from Korea, Jung Young, and a team of 20 national Christian staff. They are dubbed the 'A-Team' – 'Anything, Anytime, Anywhere' – because they literally have to handle everything that comes their way. Many times they feel illequipped for the challenges they face. For example, children who have been involved in vice activities often have emotional and mental problems that they cannot properly diagnose.
Johnny is finding his skills and experience as a former businessman very useful. Not only does he provide a fatherly figure for the children, but he also uses his knowledge in finance management and office administration. Complementing him is Lucille who provides motherly love and care for the children, helps in administration and gives guidance to the local staff.
In partnering together with their sending church and Interserve in this ministry, Johnny and Lucille feel a great sense of fulfilment and peace that they have obeyed and answered God's calling at the right time and at the right place, and in the process, God is also meeting their personal needs. This whole experience has indeed transformed their lives.
Before leaving England, the team met up; we discussed our motives and our hopes, and stood on the common ground of our faith. We didn't know each other or what was in store for us, but we had to work as a team, and trust God to help us. We prayed about what we could bring to these boys who had one thing in common: an extremely difficult home situation.
And then we were in Lebanon. The guys from the home who met us off the plane were full of energy and expectation: we had come for them. We were glad of a day or two to take things in: terrific driving, extraordinary views, mosquitoes, heat and odd food. Here we were, half-way up a mountainside, accommodated somewhere in the strange mixture of buildings which make up the boys' home, being fed and watered.
We also spent our first days planning the programme: chapel and morning school, Bible club and afternoon activities, with occasional extra chapel meetings in the evening. We had brought with us a 'ready-made' Bible club, which had daily programmes, worksheets, dramas and a CD of resources, but after our first day we quickly realised that we had to drastically simplify the material to meet the needs of incredibly lively boys who mostly had very limited English. We took each day as it came, and as we got into a routine, planning was easier and inspiration was easy when thinking of afternoon activities.
The daily programme We had wondered how the morning chapel would work, as we were not great singers and none of us played an instrument, but the boys didn't seem to notice: they were enthusiastic, and if the singing was not melodious, we did have a good repertoire, in both English and in Arabic (although the team's attempts at the Arabic ones proved comical). Chapel was often refreshingly original, with the boys bringing Bible texts and songs and plays. It was a pleasure to share the time with Arabic speakers and singers; the boys looked forward to these times of worship and fun, and there was never difficulty in getting them to pray.
One of the teachers at morning school had recruited help from her church for us. The experience of working with Lebanese volunteers was very welcome, and of course made a big difference. English and maths were on the agenda – much to the dislike of the boys! It was quite challenging for us all to motivate them: even Lebanese children dislike anything educational in their summer break!
At 11am we had the Bible club. We were following Peter on his way as he got to know Jesus, and all the activities tied in to a theme for the day. We began with a quiet game, where everyone would try to complete a challenge; then a drama about Peter would be performed (in English and Arabic), followed by some questions; then our memory song (each verse based on Peter's adventures that day in the drama); then an energetic game, to tire the boys a little to help them work hard on the worksheets at the end!
On some of the afternoons we could let the boys loose in an expensive water amusement park next door to the home – free to them because the park and the boys' home share a water well. Other afternoons were spent playing games, treasure hunts and races: competition was hot and temperatures ran high – participation can be acceptable, but whoever heard of losing? Water fights were ideal, plenty of action and no rules.
Spiritually refreshed, physically worn out Coming from England, we found it surprising how the boys responded to the Bible activities and chapels. The majority listened and took part in activities; the difficulty was finding the time for everyone to take part. Songs were gladly learnt and text recited. There was genuine interest.
Our time in Lebanon was very rewarding. All of us felt spiritually refreshed – even if we were physically worn out! When we arrived we all felt quite apprehensive as we faced what seemed like a huge task, but God helped us tremendously, providing local help, inspiration, energy and ground prepared for sowing.
Spending time with the boys, you are drawn very quickly into relationship. They had been expecting you to come and be there for them; others like you came last year, and the year before. You don't always feel up to the task, but because you are part of a team, you don't have to do it all on your own. You are part of making this a summer to remember for one or more of the children for perhaps years to come. It may be something you bring in the Bible club, or a game you plan and play in the afternoon, or perhaps even an unexpected quiet word together: something you have brought will stay with them. That is what makes it worth coming.
Article compiled from reports by Jonathan Badcock and Peter Kuriger.