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.

One person among millions

Five pairs of eyes watched us in silence. Five daughters half-hidden in the furtive darkness of the ramshackle bamboo hut. Probably they had never seen foreigners before. Probably our clipped, studied pronunciation of the national language was to them an alien tongue. Curious– suspicious, they peeked out from behind a beam separating the guest area from the sleeping space in their home. Separated from us by a far greater distance than wood and shadow could show.

Our journey had begun that morning, when we embarked on a four-day motorbike ‘faith journey’, with only the bare bones of a route sketched out, and even less of a plan of where we would eat or stay the night. We had turned off the main road onto a bumpy dirt track which would eventually taper alarmingly round the edge of a mountain. Having just nearly crashed the bike in a rocky quagmire, I felt like I had already learned enough faith for one day.

Then the tropical downpour began. After miles of jungle, we suddenly emerged into the edge of a small village, where we rushed for shelter under the eaves of the first shack we came to. As we pulled in, the man of the house returned from foraging in the woods. He looked at us with surprise but invited us in, offering dried-out day-old rice: all he had.

While we ate he began to pour out his heart, telling us of his poverty, his anxieties for the future, the sickness that prevents him from working in the rice-fields and forces his wife to face the daily labour alone. Finally he shared his terrible fear that one day, when his five daughters grow up and get married—and ‘ownership’ of them transfers from parents to husbands—he will have no son to look after him, in life and in death: as an aging father needing care then as a dead ancestor demanding offerings.

His fear was real. His ethnic group are deeply enslaved to spirits, and conservative in their views on the value of women. Yet he loved his daughters. He cradled one gently in his arms and spoke softly to them all. He was not ashamed of them; only of his own failure to produce a son.

Before we left to continue our journey, I asked if I could say a blessing over him in the name of the mighty Lord Jesus who makes impossible possible. The One who has Himself walked the road of suffering and grief, who brings hope to the downhearted and love to the unloved.

“Oh! This Jesus, I’ve heard about Him before.” The man’s eyes had lit up, his voice animated. “It sounds like a good story. I’d like a book about Him so I can read it for myself.”

This may be the only interaction I ever have with this lonely father. He represents one person among millions, one ethnic minority among hundreds. Yet we were brought together to hear something of each other’s stories; to accompany and encourage one another on our journeys of faith. The short-lived downpour and unexpected welcome provided a glimpse of God’s ongoing interactions with us. A reminder that He paves His way—and makes His home—in isolated, forgotten corners; among downtrodden, destitute people; in lost and longing hearts.

Clara is a long-term Interserve Partner, living and working in South East Asia.
Name has been changed.

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.

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.

A taxi driver with a searching heart

I looked up and down the inner city street, suddenly quiet from the usual rush of traffic. I needed a taxi in a hurry and, in this city of over 60,000 taxi drivers, not one could be found. I began walking quickly to a larger thoroughfare, quietly asking for the provision of a quick, safe ride home. I had classes to teach at my university in a couple of hours. I spied a taxi some distance ahead, stopping to set a passenger down, so I sprinted and got there just in time. Falling into the back seat in relief, I gave hasty directions to the driver.

With my eyes closed, I thought back over the morning’s errand—a kind of ‘mercy mission’ to take some necessities to an elderly patient in hospital. To fit this in before classes began I had decided on the luxury of taking taxis there and back. On the way in, I had shared the gospel with the taxi driver and left him with a little booklet to read. When I first arrived in this city, I had heard about the plight of taxi drivers and their relentless schedules which gave little opportunity to hear the good news. I’d decided then that if I ever paid to take a taxi, I would share the love of God with the driver. But today, I’d already done that, and I was tired and needed to be rested for my classes.

There was a niggling thought in my head, though. What if this driver never hears of Jesus? This taxi had been a timely provision for me. What if God had appointed this driver to hear the good news today, and I didn’t tell him? What is stopping me, really? I kept wrestling with my need for a rest and rationalising my excuses. Finally, I opened my mouth.

The taxi driver was friendly, and listened intently as I shared with him the core of the good news—the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and the forgiveness and eternal life he offers. “Have you ever heard this before?” I asked. “No, I haven’t,” he replied. “Well, not completely. The passenger just before you was a Christian too, and she started to tell me but her journey came to an end too quickly. So I didn’t hear it all.”

I was stunned. This day, the Lord had appointed two of His children, in a city of 22 million people, to talk to this taxi driver. And he had prodded me until I’d opened my mouth. The driver continued, “And I want to know where I can find a Bible. I’ve been trying to find one for a while but I have no idea where to look.” I couldn’t believe my ears at hearing this earnest desire. There are a lot of bookshops in my city, but a Bible is hard to find.

His enthusiasm grew as we talked. As we drew up to my high-rise apartment block, I took a risk. “My apartment is up there,” I said, pointing to the second-highest floor. “I have a spare Bible up there, in your language. Would you wait for me to get it for you?” “Really? Yes, of course! I’ll wait here as long as it takes!” he replied. At my apartment I made a beeline for a hidden drawer under the spare bed and drew out the precious book. I added a Jesus DVD, also in his language, to the gift. The driver delightedly accepted the materials I offered with a sincere “thank you” and a promise that he would value and peruse them all.

I never saw him again. I don’t know if I’ll see him in heaven, though I hope I will. But I know that on that day, the love of God compelled me, along with another of his children, to share the grace of the Lord Jesus with one taxi driver who had a searching heart.

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all.” 2 Corinthians 5:14

Julia has lived and worked in Asia for over twenty years.
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.

Watching Gods grace work

She turned up in my small group on the first day of my first year. A young woman, slender and frail, skin as dark as the night, dressed in faded clothes, barely speaking English. A few of us wondered how she possibly passed the entrance exam. But her name was Kiruba, which means ‘grace of God’. Maybe it was by God’s grace that she had been accepted into one of the most prestigious Bible colleges in the country. But how was she ever going to get through four years of rigorous tertiary studies in English? Maybe I could help somehow. Would it be worth it? Maybe the college should just send her home now.

In second year, every student has to read the Bible aloud in the chapel. How was Kiruba going to manage it? Her first year had passed in a blur. She barely understood instructions, often managing to show up in the right place at the right time by literally following the other women. Others from her ethnic group must have been helping her get through the classes by translating for her, both ways. She asked me for help and came to my apartment every day to practise reading her Bible passage. This wasn’t a sermon, mind you, just simply reading the passage out in front of the whole community. As she stood behind the lectern, quaking with fear, every student and every faculty member was holding their breath.

It was word perfect. And with a boldness that must have come from the Holy Spirit.

One Christmas while our residential Bible college was on its holiday break, I went to visit Kiruba and a few other students in their homes. After about twenty hours on the rickety train, she met me at the tiny station and we rode in the open, ‘naturally air-conditioned’ bus another four hours to her home.

It felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. There was a lot of love here, but not a lot of money. It was a simple mud-brick house with a couple of bedrooms, a common area and a kitchen outside. The beds were made of jute rope tied over wooden frames. We walked in the fields and chased the chickens and chatted about this and that. I wondered how this farm girl ended up at a prestigious Bible college in the big city 2000 kilometres away, and what would happen after she finished.

In final year, all of the students have to preach in the chapel. By then we were no longer anxious about what would happen when Kiruba took the pulpit. We all knew that this was a woman anointed by God with the power of His Spirit. She had an incomparable boldness, a fearlessness that made others stop still and listen. Where had it come from? I believe it was there all the time. I always felt that my time in the classroom wasn’t as significant in the lives of our students as the time I spent with them in the college dining room, by the playing field, in my lounge room. My colleagues and I had just allowed Kiruba the space to blossom and flourish under the care of her Master. She trusted in Him fully, and gave herself fully in his service.

Now Kiruba pastors a church in the south of the country, together with her husband.

Jessica has taught at Bible colleges in Asia and Australia. She currently provides leadership and pastoral care to Interserve workers in South East Asia.

The work of walking humbly

A friend recently commented that living cross-culturally strips back your identity to its most basic shell. My experience took me on a journey from being a competent, confident adult who was contributing to his community to a place where every aspect of my identity was challenged.

This was partly by my own choosing. Several years ago Marie Clare and I, along with our two children, departed Melbourne (one of the world’s most livable cities) for Bangkok, Thailand. We spent our first year studying Thai. We easily could have moved to Thailand to teach in English or to work in a large international church or school. However, we felt a strong desire to partner with the local church, to be involved in community and to learn to speak Thai.

We have now been in Thailand for three years. A large portion of our time has been dedicated to learning Thai, watching the people and environment around us and attempting to understand a culture that often intrigues us. We are often exhausted, frustrated and at times desire to return to a place where we are understood and are able to clearly articulate our thoughts and feelings.

Thai is a tonal language with 5 distinct tones. The meaning of a word changes based on its tone. Thus far I have yet to master these tones. I have discovered I enjoy getting out and about and speaking to people. In English I love to talk to people about politics and debate the current hot topic. However, in Thai my conversations last 5–10 minutes before I run out of things to say. In meetings I am 5–10 seconds behind the conversation. By the time I have decoded the conversation and translated my thought into Thai, the conversation has well and truly moved on. Thai people are kind and they are always amazed by how much Thai I can speak. But I know how far I have to go before I can think and speak Thai effortlessly. The more I learn, the more I know how much I don’t know.

So is learning Thai worth it? Why can’t I, like many mission workers here in Thailand, just speak English and get someone to translate for me? Then I could get down to doing what I really love: teaching and discipleship.
The answer is yes, it’s worth it! I don’t always feel this way. It is hard living in a place where you can’t express your thoughts clearly and have deep conversations. However, this journey is not about me. I have come to understand that without walking humbly with God, one cannot understand or practice justice, mercy or humility (Micah 6:8). Not being able to speak has provided me with an opportunity to observe, to slow down, to listen and to pray. Language learning has taught me to rely on others and on God.

God often reminds me that I am not walking on this journey alone, nor am I leading the way. I am walking humbly with Him. My identity is not found in my Australian passport, my Persian heritage, my science and teaching degrees. My identity is found in God my father.

Emmanuel is a qualified chemistry and biology teacher. He and his family are in Thailand long-term, partnering with the local church in outreach and discipleship.

Tribute to John Howard Barclay AM

On Sunday 10 February 2019, an Interserve statesman and a great man of God finished his earthly work and passed into the presence of the God he loved and served. Howard Barclay – missionary, leader, encourager, pray-er and family man – faithfully and graciously served with his wife Betty the people of India, Nepal, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Australia and New Zealand during a lifetime commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Howard grew up with a family heritage of prayer and concern for Nepal. His father co-founded the Palmer Street Mission, which had a focus on prayer for Nepal from the outset and his mother prayed for Nepal for nearly 80 years until she died at the age of 97. He attended Melbourne Bible Institute (now Melbourne School of Theology) and went on to attain a diploma in teaching.

In December 1950, Howard met Betty Cane, who was about to leave for India in February 1951. Following Betty to north India in January 1952, he brought with him an engagement ring, which was presented at the first opportunity – waiting for their tickets at Lucknow Railway Station. According to mission regulations, single missionaries could not get married until they had passed their first year Hindi exam, so Howard married Betty the day after, in Motihari, near the Nepal border. This began a loving and supportive partnership of 64+ years which included four children: John, Ruth and Heather, born in India, and Margie, born in the hills of Nepal.

The move from their base on the Indian border into Nepal in 1960 entailed a five-day trek with the family from Kathmandu to the remote village of Amp Pipal. Howard was the Project Director of a United Mission to Nepal (UMN) effort to open schools to help address Nepal’s literacy rate of about 2%. Howard trained teachers and spent much of his time trekking to schools around the district, providing teaching resources and supporting fledgling teachers. Within five years, he had established nine primary schools including the nationally–renowned Luitel High School and founding the prestigious Gandaki Boarding School.

Howard held many walking records! A two-day, 98km trek from Pokhara to Amp Pipal with Bishop John Reid in the monsoon of 1966 involved crossing flooded rivers, climbing steep ridges and surviving on sardines, biscuits and chai. John Reid said of these arduous journeys, “They were great experiences, because ultimately when you got to the Barclays’ home, that was like this eagle’s nest on the ridge of the mountain, there you saw two people pouring out their lives for the boys and girls, men and women of Nepal and seeking to show them the way of Jesus – it was worth doing.”

In 1972, Howard became Interserve Director for Australia and New Zealand, serving in that role for seven years. He was a convincing preacher and speaker, spending time in churches, universities and professional groups every week. He listened and he encouraged many to deeper commitment to Jesus and to serve Him full-time – where appropriate, cross-culturally.

In 1980, Howard and Betty returned to Nepal, serving as Personnel Counsellors in UMN before Howard was appointed the Executive Director in 1984. At this time, UMN was involved in healthcare, education, rural and industrial development. UMN was a complex organisation with over 400 expatriate mission personnel, and employing more than 2500 Nepalis. He had a wonderful relationship with the Nepali church leaders whom he mentored and encouraged. Howard had a role in seeing the church grow from just a handful of believers to many thousands in his lifetime.

Howard and Betty returned to Melbourne in 1990 and served in post-retirement interim executive roles in Kabul, Kathmandu and Mongolia. He received a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) award from the Australian Government in June 1994 for “service to international relations in the Asian region, particularly through the provision of humanitarian aid to Nepal”. Betty passed away in October 2017.

Howard inspired, mentored and encouraged countless Partners and remained a key member of Interserve’s prayer community right to the end. God has deeply blessed Interserve through his work and we mourn the loss to his family and our fellowship.

With thanks to members of the Barclay family, Berys Nixon (former Interserve Personnel Director) and Dr Graham Toohill (former Interserve Partner) for sharing their memories and photos.

Feeling frustrated and fruitless

It is a strange relief to find that I am not the only one working cross culturally who feels it is often fruitless and profoundly frustrating.

Things never work as planned: ‘amazing potential’ always feels within reach but, because of our own intercultural incompetence and local resistance to ‘outside things’, the impact of our work never seems to reach anywhere near its potential. Culturally conditioned as I am to take at least some of my identity and worth from my success at work, it has at times been a crushing journey that has frequently tempted me to pack it in. At my worst, the crushed expectations have driven me further into workaholism, with a subtle but inherently selfish Babel-like agenda to “make a name for myself” (Gen 11:4). That at least would validate why so many people continue to so generously support us!

I have fought discouragement from fruitlessness for over 10 years and perfection-driven workaholism for over 20 years, so I wish I had read Tim Keller’s book Every Good Endeavour earlier and taken his advice that “the key is to accept fruitlessness”! This book helped me discover what hope there is for work and how I can look past the deep problems and realise God’s purpose and plan. As Keller says, it all starts with being clear on one sure fact: nothing will be put perfectly right “until the day of Christ” at the end of history (Phil 1:6; 3:12). Until then, all creation “groans” (Rom 8:22) and is subject to decay and weakness.

et all is not lost. The disappointments of cross-cultural work have given me ample opportunities to get my identity from what God has done for us and in us and to constantly check that I am not making any good thing that work might offer into an idol. There is no shortage of toil, often more than I seek or expect, but my challenge now is to be one who “find(s) satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God” (Ecc 3:13).

Keller’s idea that we view all work as cultivation was new to me: as gardeners we work to rearrange the raw material of God’s creation to help the world in general, and people in particular, thrive and flourish. His question, “How, with my existing abilities and opportunities, can I be of greatest service to other people, knowing what I do of God’s will and of human need?” has helped me focus on where to be working/gardening. I run a business here and the heart of my ‘gardening’ is to sow in peace. I’m praying for a “harvest of righteousness” (Jas 3:18)—creating the space for individuals to get right with each other and, ultimately, with God.

As I seek to work as a peacemaker, I must first use my talents as competently as possible. Even if my job is not, by the world’s (or my) standards, exciting, high paying and desirable, reframing it as fundamentally a way to love my neighbour has been a great way to find job satisfaction. My daily work is ultimately an act of worship to the God who called and equipped me, no matter how fruitless and frustrating it can get! The act of worship that God asks for in our work and everything else is to be a “living sacrifice” (Rom 12:1); as Keller says, “to be continually in the rhythm of dying to your own interest and living for God”. Please ask that all Partners serving cross culturally would “never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord” (Rom 12:11).

Paul is a long-term Partner working in business in the Middle East.
Names have been changed.