Keeping watch

“The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.” Proverbs 15:3

This verse recently caught my attention. I had always thought of God keeping an eye on good but absent when evil is present. I remember being taught that God can’t look on evil. Now I am not so sure. This verse points out that God is in every place and he is not inattentive to evil. It describes him as “keeping watch on the evil” as well as the good. In the phrase, “keeping watch”, I think of a military officer whose job it is to be alert and give constant, disciplined attention to a situation. I like the idea that God is alert, not disinterested or neutral. He is taking a good long look at evil.

We are hearing about a lot of negative things at the moment. The COVID-19 pandemic, the plight of refugees, economic crises, land border tensions, floods, earthquakes, locust plagues, racism, sparring world leaders and people careless with the resources of God’s world. God is alert and watching all these things.

A Christian friend recently told me that, “God has given Satan control over our world.” That statement has some truth but it made me cringe a little, for it leaves me with the hopelessness of deism – that God has walked away to let the world run itself under Satan’s control. This made me rethink how I would describe the current situation. Satan is indeed busily bringing harm. But God is not absent, and evil will not stay active forever. God is unchanged by evil but not unmoved.

God sees all of this – separated and distressed families, unexpected funerals, loss of salary, sickness and death – and because he sees it, he sent Jesus. God is keeping watch over the evil and the good. It is a privilege to show through our words and deeds that he so loved the world that he sent Jesus.

Amelia has served in South Asia for more than 15 years.
Names have been changed.

Under the Fig Tree

Your tears are not the only outward sign of your deepest pain
Your need is desperate
Your words are filled with horrors
You scramble to fill a bag with warm clothes for your children
For your baby

Your house is cold
Your cupboards are bare
Your plumbing is leaking
Your children are crying, unruly, aching to get out
But this cold room is the only safety you know
How can you start again here?
Your life has been torn apart
Senselessly

Your son is in a different land
Kept apart by distance, money, weather, borders By governments
Those in their warm clothes and heated houses
Those who have a responsibility to care
They have failed their duty to you
They plot and plan, distanced from the horrors
Why is this world so unfair?
Why you?

You live in a land that is barely welcoming
A place that is now your ‘home’
“How can this place be home?”
It doesn’t feel safe

How can you possibly process the death of your child, your son?
You have other children to care for, a family to hold together
Your mother, your sisters, your aunties, your community are not here
You are alone
Isolated
You long for a place to belong in this strange wintery land
For someone to hear you, to see your struggle, to care

“I hear whispers about people who care
who provide warm clothes
who offer a warm drink
where children can fill their bellies
A place where people like me can find community with others who have faced the same horrors
a warm place, a family
Free from discrimination
Who are these people and why do they care?

“There is something different about them. They are defined by love. How can I know this love?
Where is this place?
Could this be a place where I am accepted?
Could I find community here, are there people who will care about me?
Could I find a hot drink, food?
Would they be this generous?
Will I find light from the darkness here?”

My friend you are welcome here
come and meet the one who cares more deeply than any human
to find shelter under the
Fig Tree

Rochelle wrote this poem during her short-term placement with refugees in West Asia.
Name has been changed.

Getting out the gate

One of the pitfalls of living inside the walls of a large Christian facility, surrounded by dedicated Christian brothers and sisters, is the comfort, safety and isolation it affords. It is easy to be consumed with making the things inside the walls run smoothly. The activities of daily life in our Christian bubble can become an end in themselves, and we find ourselves insulated from the “other world” that is just beyond the gate.

This cut-off feeling has been exacerbated by the coronavirus lockdown. All the meaningful face-to-face relationships that were cultivated during our first year in the UK have have slipped slowly into the background. Zoom and WhatsApp just don’t cut it. The culture of the neighbourhood we are living in does not function well via the internet. So, to a large extent, we are indeed stuck behind these walls.

We’ve used the time to strategise. How can we engage more with people in our neighbourhood? What new opportunities have arisen during lockdown that could increase connectedness? Are there other gatherings we can organise that will attract people and encourage deeper friendships? As we contemplated these questions, we realised that many of our ideas are attractional: how we can draw people to us. But we need to remember the lessons we learned during our years in cross-cultural ministry.

At the start of our cross-cultural experience, we read dozens of books about mission strategies; we went to conferences that inspire vision and build faith; we studied history, anthropology, culture and language: all important pursuits. However, none of it was meaningful until we started meeting people face-to-face. Only then were cultural barriers broken down, misunderstandings and hesitations overcome, and new friendships formed. We made a point of going outside the gate as much as possible: going to the market, frequenting the same shops, stopping for cups of tea, home visits at times of sickness and loss, attending celebrations and invitations for meals. There is no substitute for face-to-face time with people.

It’s the same strategy that Jesus taught his disciples. When he was sending the twelve out to spread his Kingdom message, he prepped them by saying, “Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave” (Matt 10:11). He repeated this strategy almost word for word to the seventy-two in Luke 10. “Get out among the people,” is basically what Jesus was saying. God’s business is the people business!

Jesus’ strategy can be summed up in three tiny words: “As you go…” (Matt 10:7). No options. No negotiation. “As you go,” is what he said… and there were no arguments from the disciples! Jesus literally dispatched them… he pushed them out the door and into the community. Now, I’m sure they had the same apprehensions you and I have when we’re pushed out of our comfort zones. They would have felt comfortable inside the gate with Jesus—learning from him, watching him perform miracles, organising the crowds, doing whatever he said—just a long as Jesus was the front man. But this time Jesus shoved them out the gate all alone, “like sheep among wolves,” to encounter people on their own.

A few months ago, before this lockdown happened, we were out walking in our area looking for a God-opportunity. We had no plan but had committed our time to Jesus and were praying as we went. We came across a rag-n-bone yard, a very unlikely looking place, and were prompted to go inside. We met the guy in charge, a man with deep emotional needs. He invited us in, we drank tea, and eventually prayed with him. We returned a second time and met the others who lived at the yard: a motley crew, yet very friendly and open. On our third visit we started a Bible study in their little shack.

Another day we were called on to help a neighbour assemble her Ikea bookshelves: not a task anybody relishes but it increased our connectedness! At a later date, we organised a community meal and the same woman came with her children, her grandchildren, her sisters and their families. We ended up with 17 guests from one extended family! Fast forward a few months, and she and Liz walk together every day in the park. Often other ladies spontaneously join them. A walking group has started simply because we pushed ourselves outside the gate and got face-to-face with neighbours.

Jesus challenges us to get out the gate! We are convinced that ninety percent of fruitful ministry happens outside the front gate. Other pressing tasks and important activities will always jostle for attention and we can strategise behind the walls until the cows come home. However, when we follow Jesus’ way and get out among the people, there’s no telling what will happen. His business is the people business.

Allen & Liz live at a community house, in a major city of the UK.

Full hearts

It’s amazing how a small act that seems insignificant in our eyes can spark something huge in God’s Kingdom.

We’ve had a small box of bilingual scripture cards in our home since we’ve been married. They’re in English and Japanese. They sat on the kitchen counter in our first home but after a number of house moves they lay forgotten in a box. After our recent move they resurfaced again and I took them out to give to my best friend, Anh, who I’ve known for the past six years. I met her the day she decided to follow Jesus and I still remember telling her that it’s the best decision she would ever make! Since then we’ve become close friends and we’ve been journeying together through the ebbs and flows of life. Since first meeting her, she’s given birth to her own startup education centre where she holds English and Japanese classes for the local community in our South East Asian city.

Thursday mornings are my favourite weekday mornings. Anh and I meet at 7am and walk to the lakes, grab a bowl of sticky rice and a glass of ice-cold tea, chatting about what God has been showing us and usually discussing a book we choose to read together. This past Thursday, I remembered to take the scripture cards to give to her. She thanked me and I jokingly challenged her to put one verse each week on the notice board of her education centre and call it “Wisdom of the Week”. She could even suggest to her colleagues that they should memorize it and try to do what it says during the week. We didn’t talk too much about it as we continued to our usual breakfast spot for our weekly catch up

About 3 hours later a string of messages flooded my phone. It was Anh. “Thanks for the cards. You know what? Today during the Q&A part of our Japanese class they asked me, ‘When you don’t have money, where do you go to borrow some?’ I took a chance and told them that, as a Christian, I would ask God to guide me. They seemed interested in my faith and after sharing some of the cards I ended up talking for two hours, starting with the Garden of Eden!”

Anh went on to share how the people in her class asked to know more about Jesus and two of them now want to follow him! My heart wanted to erupt with joy! Heaven is rejoicing! Later that day she wrote an email to our international church pastor to share her story. My eyes welled up with tears as I read it. I felt so thankful and humbled to be reading her story – His story!

It is amazing how one small act can lead to something so huge! Never underestimate the power of one small act! Step out, share what you have and watch what God can do with the little you have to offer.

Andrea and her family live and work in South East Asia.
All names have been changed.

You came back

“What? WHAT? Wow! Wow! WOW!!” Silence followed; a deep, intentional silence from my friend, Mawar. “I’m crying!” she eventually said.

I had texted Mawar earlier to let her know we were back in the country after four months in Australia due to COVID-19 border closures, and she was now in disbelief. “You came back, from your safe country to this scary situation?” she asked. She told me that she had not worked out in the community for this time, keeping herself safe at home.

Chickens squawked in the background, and I remembered when she and her husband moved into their house last year and transformed it from a clothing factory to a self-sufficient oasis in the capital city of this country. If I close my eyes I can still vividly see the lush plants and taste the bountiful mangos from their front tree served from a bottomless plate. Mawar is vegetarian and we ate lavishly from the fruit and vegetables that grew in her garden.

I have known her for fifteen years, having met on a medical team after a natural disaster. She is a well-known researcher, advising the government and World Bank on micro-finance projects and is much sought after for her research skills. For years she has travelled to remote regions of the country advocating for the needs of the poor.

Our journey from Australia back to Asia began with that deep call to be back alongside those who are suffering after thinking we had retired from field work. We began to ask ourselves, often prompted by other people’s questions, “while we can do good remotely, what can older people who are willing to leave the safety of life in Australia do to serve others overseas?” We knew from experience that walking alongside others in their pain is much more powerful than what we can do from a distance. Isn’t this what Jesus did, after all?

While Australian authorities were working hard to keep us all safe and near to home, the deep call back to Asia grew in us. Just before retiring to Australia, we had been working with our national friends to teach and model what good member care and self-care could look like for local Christian workers who laboured tirelessly in remote areas away from their support systems for long periods. We felt that ‘still, small voice’ calling us out of retirement to take this work further to the remaining provinces.

It was so encouraging to find that our act of obedience motivated Mawar to in turn take the risk to return to field work. She was acutely aware of the increased suffering of her fellow citizens from the pandemic. She had been writing a paper to publish on this topic and my first job was to proofread it for her. “We are not called to be safe,” she wrote. “We are called to be whatever God wants us to be to help others.”

What we had been able to do as older Australians is mere loaves and fishes compared to what our local friends become inspired and encouraged to do through our commitment to take risks to serve others. It’s been such a joy and honour to see workers who face isolation and burnout becoming healthy again and able to continue to do good in these communities. Praise God! We are more convinced than ever that ‘doing life together’ with local people is such a powerful way to show that God loves the world, and we do too.

Sharon and Len recently returned to the South East Asian country where they lived and served in member care for many years.
Names have been changed.

Archaeology is my love language

When we think about how God’s love motivates us to love others, it can sometimes be hard to imagine how we can do this. How do we love our neighbours? Even harder: how can we love people scattered across the world? For me, doing my job as an archaeologist is a way to love Central Asians – by helping them understand the story of Christianity in their own countries.

Why does history matter?

The Bible is a history of the people of God. God is always reminding Israel of where they came from and where they are going. It reminds them of who they are:

Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we travelled. And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God.” (Joshua 24:16-18)

The history of God’s love and salvation for Israel is what makes them want to serve him. And for Christians, the story of how God loved and saved us through Jesus is what gives us our new identity in Him! This history of faith is central to our knowledge of who are.

History is our story too

History is often only seen as the stories of important people or events. But archaeology and history also have the potential to uncover the stories of the everyday lives of ordinary people. We already know the power of personal stories: we share the testimonies of God at work in our lives and the stories of others who have gone before us. For the Christians of Central Asia, archaeological research on the church in this region helps them appreciate the history they can own for themselves. Making a decision to follow Christ is usually seen as a betrayal of family and heritage. Yet archaeology has the power to show that Christians have been there for hundreds of years and Christianity has a legitimate place in contemporary society as it has had in the past. Being a Christian does not conflict with being Central Asian.

Archaeology sounds romantic and full of adventure. In reality, it is hard outdoor work, long research hours, and getting very sunburnt! If that stills sounds fun to you, a career change could be in order! Each day I begin excavating around 5am. We set up to shelter ourselves from the sun and throughout the day we shift our shelters to make sure we keep enough shade to protect us. I spend most of the day hunched over a grave site, carefully and slowly excavating the soil. I work in dust, dirt and mud, and the sun blares over us as the day goes on. The afternoon is spent processing artefacts and getting enough rest before the next day.

We go through this hard work because we know it is worth it, not just because we love it. We love others because God loved us. We want to unearth stories of the God of love at work in people who have gone before. We want to demonstrate the continuity of a community of faithful Christians in this region reaching back into history. This can also show people of other religions that they are loved by God. Archaeology is one way to love others so, well, hand me my trowel!

Victoria served her short-term placement at an archaeological dig in Central Asia.
Names have been changed.

Ambassadors of love

I first met Ankur when his marriage was struggling. My main aim was to help him to get to know Jesus and serve him physically, as needed. Little did I know how much the Lord was stretching me in my love. I was able to pray with him and support him when the marriage ended.

A little while later he developed seizures and discovered that a brain lesion was causing them. Because of this he lost his job. Through many phone calls and face-to-face meetings I discovered Ankur was owed years of leave entitlements and superannuation. During this time I told Ankur about the story of the persistent widow. We discussed how God is so much better than a crooked judge, and that we should keep praying and not give up. His face brightened as he realised that God is good and would look after him. Eventually we were able to negotiate a settlement where his employer gave him a payout of all that he was owed.

Ankur continues to struggle with his health and employment, and I have taken him to the hospital and doctor’s appointments. For a long time the medication wasn’t working, but we continued to pray. He has also been evicted and needed to find other accommodation. Together we have read through parts of Genesis and many stories of the gospel and discussed them. Through all this, Ankur has come to realise that Jesus is the Lord of the world, and that he loves him.

A breakthrough came a few weeks ago when we were reading the passage where the Pharisees criticise the disciples for eating with hands that are unwashed. This is a very relevant passage because many South Asians believe that avoiding meat is associated with purity and closeness to God. Jesus says that nothing outside of us can make us unclean by going into us. Rather, it’s from within our hearts that evil desires come and make us unclean.

Ankur said, “Whenever I go to the temple, they only talk about outside cleaning: cleaning hands, removing shoes, clean food… But don’t talk about the heart. Only Jesus talks about the heart.” Then as he read further, it struck him, “This is me. How can I have my heart cleaned?” I told him, only Jesus can clean your heart, and he died for all your sins (‘paap’) on the cross. Ankur has struggled with feelings of revenge on his former boss. And I have had to firmly refuse to take any part in revenge. After a while he is sorry and repents. And each time I have reminded him that Jesus can clean his heart, all he needs to do is pray. He keeps wanting to go and pray in a church, but he knows that Jesus can forgive him, even from home!

What I have learned is that sharing Jesus with migrants is a long-term process, requiring lots of time, patience and love. Thank God that Ankur’s seizures are now under control with some new medication and he is loving Jesus more and more. He once told me, “I haven’t seen Jesus, but I think you are Jesus.” I had to vigorously correct him, but it reminded me that we are the visible ambassadors of Christ’s love. There are many times when I wanted to give up, and other believers have helped him too. He knows that when no one else was there to help him, followers of Christ were the ones who cared for him. And now he thanks Jesus for sending us to him.

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8–9

Clive works with CultureConnect, Interserve’s ministry to migrants in Australia.
Some names have been changed.

Tell people about our suffering

"Will you love Muslims the way I love them?" She turned around, to the girl behind her in the pews. But she hadn't said anything. When she heard the voice again, 15-year-old Patricia knew it was God who called her.

It's hard for me to find her. Somewhere in the famous community center on the Chris Lebeaustreet in Amsterdam is the office of Road of Hope, the organization Patricia Silva Barendregt started three years ago to help refugees integrate. After twenty minutes of wandering around I find her hidden in a small, musty office on the top floor. Except for a simple desk and a discarded laser printer, it’s bare and empty. But soon the Brazilian refugee worker colours the room with her cheerful voice and lively anecdotes.

Am I going to die?
Since the moment God spoke to her, the Arab world has had an almost magnetic attraction to her. Even though she had never actually met a Muslim before. "Where I lived, in northern Brazil, there were no Muslims. I was pretty scared, actually. ‘No God, I can't do this. Isn’t there a lot of persecution in those countries?’ But I was also curious. I started writing letters with missionaries in the Middle East. What's it like living there? What's the climate, the food, the people? Is there really a lot of persecution? Am I going to die?"

Hollywood image
There wasn't much room for doubt. Convinced of her vocation, Patricia went to study theology. She immersed herself in the world of Islam and left for Egypt through a missionary organization. She remembers her arrival well. Everything was different. Everywhere she looked, she saw women wearing headscarves. It turned out to be an excellent conversation opener. Not that the passionate Brazilian seems to really need it, during the interview she talks with a flair that Moses would have been jealous of. "Then I sat on the bus next to two girls with a niqab and asked in Arabic: 'This is so different from where I come from, how do you wear it and what do you do with your make-up?' 'We can teach you', they said. That's how I became friends with a lot of women."
"One day I went home with one of those girls. When she had changed, I didn't recognize her at first, without covering. We became good friends. "You're the first Christian in my life I've talked to", she said. Many Muslims have a Hollywood image of Christians, as if they are often drunk and violent. "But you're so quiet," she said to me. "You dress like us, you're almost a Muslim.” I'll take that as a compliment, haha!"

you belong with us
Two years later Patricia came in contact with refugees fort he first time in her life, when she was transferred to war-torn Sudan. She lived and worked in a refugee camp, ate the same food and drank the same water. "I think I've had diseases I don't even know the name of."
Irresponsible, according to the the missionary coordinator, who ordered the team to stay outside the camp. The team refused. "The people in the camp said to us, 'You are the first foreigners who really live with us, you belong with us'. If we left, we wouldn't be much different from other foreigners coming and going."

road of death
Patricia couldn't let go of the distressing situation of the refugees. In 2014 she came to the Netherlands to study International Development Studies at the University of Amsterdam. Focussing on development issues. Her goal: Iraq. To help refugees, especially from Syria, on their way to a new future. It became Amsterdam. Love caused a small change of direction on the missionary route of the young missionary when she met her husband in the capital. That and a probing visit to the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, where she did research for her master's thesis.
Patricia remembers very well the first woman she spoke to in the camp. "She had those beautiful green eyes that I will never forget. As I walked out of her tent, she grabbed my hand and said, 'Please, tell people about our suffering, about what it is like to live as a refugee. That's where the idea for Road of Hope was born. Refugees describe their flight as a road of death."

He's there
Back in Amsterdam Patricia refused to be happy for a while. "I had all those images in my head of people suffering from conflict, rape and violence. Then I can't be happy, can I?" After months of crying, bad sleep and intense conversations with a Red Cross staff member, she began to experience some rest again. "That man said: 'All the faces you have seen and keep coming into your thoughts: God knows them all. He is there. Don't forget that.' It gave me peace. I didn't have to be there. I can also help the refugees who are here. But not alone. That's why I started sending letters to churches in Brazil to support me. I noticed that they were praying for me: I could sleep again and I was doing better. In June 2016, Road of Hope was founded."

Patricia started by counseling three refugee families. Now her organization plays an important role in the work of Amsterdam refugees. Since this autumn, Patricia and her organisation have joined Team NL, the work of Interserve in the Netherlands. There she shares her knowledge and experience about working with immigrants. She also offers On Trackers from Interserve, who will be sent out for a short time, the opportunity to gain experience with cross-cultural work in her own country.

A Brazilian woman. Called to show God's love to refugees in Amsterdam. Intrigued I leave Road of Hope: God's roads are indeed higher than our own.

NOTE:
A short documentary about the work of Road of Hope can be watched at http://bit.ly/roadofhope.

STREAMERS:
"Many Muslims have a Hollywood image of Christians, as if they're often drunk and violent."
"I think I've had diseases I don't even know the name of."
"You are the first foreigners who really live with us, you belong with us."
"I had all these images in my head of people suffering from conflict, rape and violence. Then I can't be happy, can I?"

Photos available at the Dutch office.

God went ahead of us

It all started when a friend told me that she had an idea. It was late 2012 in a Melbourne suburb where a church hosted a free food distribution point for those in desperate financial situations. Most of the people coming were asylum seekers from countries such as Sri Lanka, Iran and Afghanistan who had no work rights here. Maybe we could meet more of their needs if we got to know them better? Together we came up with the idea of inviting them inside the doors of the church where we would offer cups of tea, nuts and dried fruit and help them practice their conversational English.

The church was happy to support the idea and good connections with the local ministers’ fellowship led to offers of prayer and practical support from other pastors and members of their congregations. We were absolutely delighted with the amazing, warm hearted and friendly responses from asylum seekers. We sensed that God had gone before us and had something special in mind.

As the program grew we decided to extend the informal English classes and launch more formal, regular classes. At that stage, the asylum seekers were not supported by the government in any way to learn English. Many were bored and really wanted to learn. The response to our proposal by the community was very enthusiastic!

We formed a partnership with the local ministers’ fellowship and cross-cultural workers from a range of organisations including Interserve’s CultureConnect. It was fantastic to see the unity. A missiologist was invited to devise and launch the new program. Volunteer teachers were recruited to teach at four different levels. There was overwhelming interest from asylum seekers and the number of students quickly surged to well over a hundred. The church felt they had reached their capacity but still the students kept coming! A few other churches from the ministers’ fellowship also started English classes from the overflow.

At the same time there were many asylum seekers asking questions about the Christian faith. At a time of personal upheaval and trauma they were open to God in new and exciting ways. By the grace of God, I was able to start Bible studies with several students. One particular Bible study grew to 20 participants, all from Central Asia. After several years, members of this Bible study formed their own church and one of them became their full-time pastor. This church still operates today.

The English classes in the main church continued for over four years. The numbers eventually declined as asylum seekers in the area obtained visas with earning rights, became more settled and the local library and other organisations began to provide services for them. One church still retains the program we began.

What a privilege it was to reach out in practical love to generous, warm-hearted asylum seekers. Lifetime friendships were formed. Most of all we praise God who had gone ahead and led us to take hold of the wonderful opportunity we had to reach out to these people. Each asylum seeker is cherished by God, whose Son Jesus offers eternal life through the cross He bore for them as He did for us.

Robert is a CultureConnect Partner helping churches in Melbourne to reach out cross-culturally.
Names have been changed.

Serving God without leaving home

A few weeks before my family went to live overseas for the first time, I got a phone call. The caller was an older friend whom I respected.

“Ruth”, she said to me, “I know we talk a lot about Jim’s role. But I wanted to remind you that the reason your family can go overseas is because you are behind him. If he could not rely on you as his wife and mother of his kids, then there would not be the option to go.”

It was the first time I recognised my unique position to be used as a stay-at-home mum overseas. We were heading there with a baby and toddler in tow. Usually the anticipation focussed on my husband's role, whereas mine… not so much. Let's face it, being a stay-at-home mum is not glamorous.

It didn't get any more glamorous overseas. There were still sleepless nights, tantrums and dirty nappies (to be clear: Jim also dealt with all of these – I couldn’t have done it without him!). Besides that, it is tough for kids in a new culture. They needed me close by, especially at first when the street dogs were scary, their tummies were upset and they were still getting used to having their cheeks squeezed by strangers.

But in the Middle East, there is a lot more respect for mothers than I'd experienced in Australia. To locals, I was doing a legitimate role. It was beyond their imagination that I put my children to bed before 11pm at night, or hadn't toilet trained them by 12 months old. But walking the kids to school, shopping at the market and doing my own cooking did make sense to my local friends. And that helped as we built our relationships.

Being a stay-at-home mum also enabled me to use other gifts in flexible ways. Relationship building was part of our ministry within the Interserve team. We loved having visitors and we would often have people over to share meals together because I had the time for hospitality. In the frequently stressful times of a foreign land, this mutual encouragement strengthened and refreshed us all for our ministries elsewhere.

Interserve’s vision is transformed communities. Did I transform anything through my school drop-offs and nappies and pots of spaghetti bolognaise?

Maybe the question is not what did I transform, but what was God doing though me? Like a tapestry that is not yet finished, I can only see scraps of the pattern God was creating. I do know my role contributed to helping us thrive as a family in the country. I had a part in enabling my husband to do the role God had for him. It also allowed me to pour time into building relationships with other cross-cultural workers, to support them in fulfilling their own God-given purposes. It gave me time to see the opportunities, and as the kids got older, to find my niche outside the home too.

I am no hero of the faith, but I trust God used me as a stay-at-home mum. He placed me there, made me the person I am, and gave me my role for that time.

The rest is His story.

Ruth served with her family in the Middle East for six years.
All names have been changed.