Emily Giffen: Southeast Asia (SAV)

Over the summer I spent 6 weeks in Southeast Asia visiting a couple of mission projects. This was the first time I had gone so far East, and it was very eye-opening to see such a different part of the world. What I spent my time doing can largely be divided into three groups:

The first is time spent doing useful things. I helped out and ran English clubs in afternoons, evenings and helped run a couple of day events for people to come and practice English. These were already existing English clubs, one of which was in a university, another for all ages which ran in a café. Because of this they were established communities of people. We mainly designed lessons which would allow for them to practice speaking, listening and reading in English and through this taught about Scotland and formed friendships. Having another native English speaker present was helpful in drawing in new people. Through these English clubs relationships are developed by the missionaries with the local people, and due to security reasons these relationships are the main way in which they are able to share about Jesus. As well as helping with English clubs I also looked after children. Of the 6 weeks I was away 2 of the weeks I spent looking after the groups of children of missionary parents which allowed the missionary parents to get attend a conference. We had the children from 8.30 in the morning until 4.00 in the afternoon. It worked much like a holiday club with crafts, games, Bible teaching and sports. For both the children’s work and English clubs I was largely just left up to plan material for it, so there was also a fair about of time spent doing this prep work.

Secondly, I spent time speaking with a large number of missionaries, understanding their work and how missionaries’ organisations operate. It was very insightful to understand more about their struggles and joys. This is knowledge which I know will help me as a I seek to support missionaries and mission organisations from the UK in the coming years.

Thirdly, I spent time understanding the country and culture which I was in. This included language learning, attending a wedding, climbing hills, swimming in the sea and spending lots of time with local people. This was essential in terms of starting to understand the culture. The location which I spent most time in was in an unreached people group where the vast majority of the population were Muslim. Now living in a largely secular Scotland it was fascinating to be in a society which was so religious, where everyone’s lives revolve around their faith. It was also very interesting to see a culture which was so deeply rooted in Islam. I was really surprised by just how different it was! One thing which I really loved about the culture was the emphasis on respect. And of course as I travelled through the jungle paradise that is Southeast Asia I marvelled at God’s creation!

This trip has widened my perspective of the world enormously and I can’t wait to see how God uses this knowledge in the future. Thank you WfM for making this possible.

Women for Mission were pleased to be able to offer Emily some funding towards her trip to Southeast Asia via the Support A Volunteer Fund.

Could you or someone you know benefit from this fund? Find out more here.

Categories SAV

Luke Davidson: Romania Report (SAV)

In June/July 2023, a team of nine from Greyfriars Free Church visited Romania to organize a summer camp for children living in extreme poverty. This was part of a Blythswood Care project called Talita Kum, aimed at supporting the children’s education and creating opportunities to share the Gospel.

We first arrived in Romania the day before the camp to prepare for the week ahead and discuss our plans and what to expect. On the camp with us were three Romanian teachers and 20 kids. Only two of the kids had any form of English.

The kids are all from a small town called Jimbolia and only travel by horse and cart. The camp however was a three-hour drive which took four hours as we had to make several stops for the kids to be sick!

The camp was based up in the Mountains of Retezat and our initial aim was to climb to three of the peaks with the kids across the week. Along with this, the plan was to fill the week with sports games, crafts, dancing (and Ceilidh dancing!) and anything else that would entertain a 6-10 year old!

The weather we experienced happened to be the worst weather in many years but was still around 25 degrees. This meant that we could not do all the hikes so we only did one peak and added in more crafts and games instead. These included designing hats, T-shirts and tote bags, bracelets, paper airplanes and sock puppets. We also played games like sharks and fishes and parachute games.

We had to do all of this without the children knowing any English. However, we discovered that we could find ways to communicate and overcome the language barrier. By the end of the week, we could understand and converse almost normally.

We ended every night by teaching and singing some action songs, the favourite being “Our God is a Great Big God”. We would discuss the lyrics and their meaning with the children, helping them understand that there is always a God watching over them.

The most encouraging and blessed moment came after day three, when all 20 kids – having no English – were able to sing the whole action song without prompt! As a plan to surprise us, they had been singing the song in their beds at night, practising the English words with each other to show us the next day.

We visited the kids’ homes only after the camp had finished, aiming to avoid any preconceived ideas. Seeing their living conditions was heartbreaking, yet they seemed so proud of their homes. For instance, a girl named Ema shared one bed with four other siblings in a house that only had one other room. None of the houses had indoor toilets or showers.

The project’s goal is to keep these kids in education, aiming to broaden their horizons, helping them to realise there’s more to life than the slums they live in.

Our goal with this trip was to provide an unforgettable summer holiday and also play a part in exposing the kids to the word of God, both of which were achieved with the words of “Our God is a Great Big God” in a Romanian accent ringing in our ears.

Women for Mission were pleased to be able to offer Luke some funding towards his trip to Romania via the Support A Volunteer Fund.

Could you or someone you know benefit from this fund? Find out more here.

Categories SAV

Emily Giffen: Moyobamba Report (SAV)

Women for Mission’s Support a Volunteer fund recently helped Emily Giffen to volunteer in Moyobamba, Peru through teaching nutrition and taking music classes. Below she tells us about her experience.

This summer I spent six weeks in Peru, staying in Moyobamba with David and Martha MacPherson.

In the mornings I taught nutrition at Annie Soper Christian School. It is a beautiful school with so much to get involved with and so many welcoming staff and pupils. I really enjoyed my time at the school. As a medical student teaching nutrition was totally up my street and I loved using the creative part of my brain to plan lessons, however it wasn’t without challenges. The simple teaching plan I was given at the start quickly grew many arms and legs and I was constantly trying to re-establish realistic expectations of what I could do. I was also expected to communicate and teach in Spanish which was a challenge due to my lack of knowledge of the language. However, I got by with lots of preparation work, my slow learning and the help of some senior students who spoke some English.

In the afternoons I taught music with an organisation called San Lucas. San Lucas primarily provides medical care for the community, including cleft lip and palate surgeries for children. After surgery these children are offered woodwind music lessons to help rehabilitate them. Over the last few years however, this music program has developed to include a wider range of instruments, as well as to include local children. Over the six weeks I taught individual flute classes, group classes and musicality masterclasses. I also played in their little orchestra with them!

I couldn’t have asked for better hosts than the MacPhersons! Them, their family and friends and the other volunteers fast become my friends. And on holidays and weekends some assortment of us would go on trips to explore Peru. Hiking through the jungle, canoeing down tiny brown rivers, swimming in thermal springs, walking through the streets of some of the poorest areas in Lima and visiting the local towns helped me to praise God more fully for his creation and also to mourn more fully the brokenness of our world.

It was very special to see how God used me during my time away. Who would have thought that playing the flute would have been the most useful skill in the jungle of Latin America? Knowledge which I have acquired through hours of music lessons, orchestra rehearsals and biology lessons were suddenly in demand, and it was great to be able to share those. Six weeks is long enough to build relationships, and I pray that through these I was able to show and share something of the love of Jesus to these kids.

Thank you to the Women For Mission for supporting me!

Women for Mission were pleased to be able to offer Emily some funding towards her trip to Peru via the Support A Volunteer Fund.

Could you or someone you know benefit from this fund? Find out more here.

Categories SAV

Nathan Mackay: Hungary Report (SAV)

Women for Mission’s Support a Volunteer fund helped Nathan Mackay join the team at a children’s camp in Hungary earlier this year. Below he tells us about his experience at the camp.

I helped to organise and lead various activities for a youth camp in Hungary. This camp offered children the chance to learn English, learn about the Bible and to have fun as well. My role as a camp leader involved selecting songs, games and other activities for our Bible and English lessons. I would then help to lead these lessons each day with two partners.

Group games would take place after the lessons had finished. These included sports matches, musical games and arts and crafts sessions for the kids to enjoy. I helped to organise these along with the other leaders, and also took part in the fun.

Towards the end of the camp, I presented a slideshow to all of the children and leaders about my life in Scotland. I took this opportunity to share how God has impacted members of my home church.

My favourite part of this mission was talking to and playing with the children during breaks. This helped me to establish genuine friendships with many of the campers. At least a few of these kids did not come from Christian homes. I hope our friendship will make Jesus seem more attractive to both the children and their parents.

It was sometimes difficult for me to be around other people so often. Each day I would have breakfast with those whom I shared accommodation with, then spend most of the day at the camp, and finally I would spend most of the evening with camp leaders. However, this was an opportunity to get out of my comfort zone so I am pleased to have had the experience.

I have been inspired to go on missions like this as often as possible. Witnessing God work in the lives of young children has nurtured my desire to be more involved in missions aimed at the youth. My family and I have already discussed how I can prepare to go on another mission of this kind next year.

I’m also motivated to be more involved in Christian work here in Scotland. I’ve already arranged to meet an OM representative to discuss my trip and what different ways there are of helping the organisation here in Glasgow.

Women for Mission were pleased to be able to offer Nathan some funding towards his trip via the Support A Volunteer Fund.

Could you or someone you know benefit from this fund? Find out more here.

Jo Hulks: Delaware Report (SAV)

Last year, Jo Hulks spent four months working as an intern at an after-school programme for elementary-aged children in Delaware. WfM were able to offer Jo some funding for her trip through our Support A Volunteer Fund. Her honest report below describes her experiences living and working in an area of urban and spiritual poverty in Wilmington.

My main responsibility was leading our after school program (ASP), “Camp Victory”. Outside of ASP hours I prepared lessons – Bible, crafts, prayer etc., visited families in their homes, assisted in classes in the Urban Promise school and discipled a small group of girls from camp

While academic progress was definitely prioritised, emphasis was placed on growth and transformation in character – explaining attributes of a godly character and holding our kids accountable to this. Most of our campers have been strongly influenced by their environment which is saturated in conflict, substance abuse, sex and little opportunity to be a child. Consequently, lots of energy was invested in discipline at ASP – this was often emotionally draining but undoubtedly worthwhile as in the short time I was there, I saw transformation taking root in even the “hardest” kids.

Walking around the neighbourhoods I worked and lived in, you could be forgiven for wondering, “where’s the poverty?”. They have flashy cars, a roof over their head and regular trips to the nail salon so while it’s not a place of lavish wealth, there are people far worse off materially. My boss put it this way however, “people here can always afford what they value most”. The central and most painful poverty entrenched in the hood is spiritual. Regular shootings, school drop-outs, expanding prisons and recurrent patterns of regret in families are the overflow of a deep lack of peace, hope and purpose. For several of the single mums I met with, Thanksgiving was going to be particularly special this year because it was the first time ever all of their sons were at home rather than incarcerated. What other message could save these families other than the gospel?

One memorable highlight was Jameela. At 10 years old her world orbits around gossip, defensive language and visits to the principal’s office. However there were strands of sensitivity, repentance and a painful longing for love somehow glowing through it all. She warmly described her Mum’s fried chicken (her favourite) and explained that they were saving up for some cooking oil to make it again. She was in my discipleship group and one week – with more concern than she may have liked to display! – asked, “how do I know I’m not accidentally believing wrong things about God?”. Her eyes fixated on me (for about 2 minutes!) as I explained that if it’s in the Bible, we can know it’s definite truth and if we’re not sure we can ask God to help us understand. Praise God He answers our insecurities with power and hope.

A consistent difficulty was that, contrary to some short-term ministry experiences, my time was not a “spiritual high” – it was a drag! That was hard. Nonetheless, God was faithful and He is due all glory for using my doubting, tumultuous faith to do eternal kingdom work:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches”

Matthew 13:31-32

 

Women for Mission were pleased to be able to offer Jo some funding towards her trip via the Support A Volunteer Fund.

Could you or someone you know benefit from this fund? Find out more here.

Carys Bilton: Three Weeks in Ecuador (SAV)

This July, I went to Santa Domingo in Ecuador for 3 weeks to serve the local community as a STEP team member with Latin Link. The fundraising target was difficult to reach, as I’m a 17 -year-old who’s still in full time education, but WFM helped me out so much contributing almost a quarter of the needed funds.

Our main focuses of the trip were to help build a second floor onto the “Hombre Nuevo en Jesucristo” church in Santo Domingo, a city 4 hours to the west of Quito, Ecuador’s capital. We got to help out by cleaning and painting massive steel beams which would contribute to the structure of the building, and smashing holes in the wall for the beams to fit into.

As well as practical work, we were able to get alongside people in the community by helping to lead the worship music in church – in English and Spanish, and taking Sunday School. The people there – our host family and some families from the church – were so hospitable and generous with their time, and despite the language barrier we were able to form such close connections with them.

One highlight was visiting a local orphanage for children with AIDS and spending time with the children.

Between our 13 hour layover in Mexico city, and our trips to Quito (including the Equator) and the Ecuadorian coast, we also got to explore a lot.

Another highlight was work closely with a missionary, Sharon, who supports a group of disabled children and adults: they made our ‘elevenses’ every morning and brought them to us while we worked at the church, which they loved, and we were able to go for day trips with them (the picture is from when we went gardening with them in San Pablo.)

The trip was challenging in a lot of ways: Latin American culture is very relaxed and at the start we got stressed that there wasn’t a lot to do and we wouldn’t be able to help in the ways we wanted, but this proved to be a good thing as we were able to help out more in the Sunday School, with worship music and we were able to build stronger relationships with people. We also had a few accidents and health problems between us but thankfully nothing major.

We all really felt like the experience had more of an impact on us than we had on the church, but during our leaving do some people did speeches about how we had helped and inspired them and it was really moving – lots of tears were shed!

We were blown away by the hospitality we were shown every day. Their culture focuses on relationships rather than tasks, and on people rather than materialistic things, which really struck me as a good way to live and changed my perspective.

Full weekly reports that I wrote during our trip can be found at https://www.latinlink.org.uk/step-team-reports

Iain Murchison: Mozambique Report (SAV)

To start with, I would like to thank the WfM Committee for their very generous donation towards the six months that I spent in Beira as part of the Baptist Missionary Society’s Action Team programme, which is an annual gap year initiative for 17-23 year olds.

The work of the team that I was a part of focused primarily on education. This involved us getting stuck into a number of projects, one of which was the PEPE initiative. PEPE is a pre-school programme which is supported by and run in several Baptist churches in the city that we lived in. Pre-school education is almost non-existent in Mozambique with most 3-5 year olds left to their own devices all day as their families work. This results in the majority of children starting school with little or no Portuguese which is the official language of Mozambique. In a country where 100 children in a class is the norm, those who don’t speak Portuguese are quickly left behind. PEPE aims to equip the young children with basic Portuguese as well as other useful knowledge such as shapes and numbers etc. Alongside this the children are also taught Bible stories and songs. As PEPE is the only pre-school programme in the city, many ‘un-churched’ families send their children each day so the net of this outreach spreads far and it is impossible to place a value on the learning of scripture at a young age.

I loved working with the PEPE programme and over the six months I created some really strong friendships with those in my classes. The two churches that we worked in were in a very deprived area of the city but that did nothing to affect the joy and laughter we would all share in the very early mornings. Learning Portuguese was a real struggle that I tried to avoid as much as I could when in Mozambique so I cherished my time in the pre-schools where my Portuguese was at about the same standard as the little children in my classes, although many of my Bible stories did end up turning into a game of charades. Seeing the passion that the local teachers had for this younger generation was also very special.

Some of the other work we were involved in included teaching and leading Bible studies at a large high school on the outskirts of the city. Often we would be introduced to classes as ‘professional teachers from England’ and then promptly left on our own in front of 100 pupils. It was all worth it to hear Rhiannon (a team mate from Lossiemouth) and my classes recite words and numbers with lovely Scottish lilts.

We were also kept busy helping at homework clubs, redecorating a small local school, assisting in a Christmas play and running English classes for teens and adults. We spent a lot of our free time exploring the city although mainly the 10 mile beach. Seeing God’s beautiful creation on the other side of the world was a real highlight with a trip to Victoria Falls being the cherry on the cake.

Whilst in Mozambique we decided to worship at our local Baptist church who welcomed us as brothers and sisters with open arms. The sense of community and fellowship within the church was so strong and it was a humbling experience to worship them. The fact that although we shared almost nothing in common with the congregation (language, culture, upbringing…), yet each Sunday we would gather together as one body to worship and praise the same heavenly Father. Both worship and praise feature heavily on a Sunday morning, mainly in the form of rich singing and exuberant dance. It was only when I was dancing up the aisle to lead worship from the front of the church with the women’s Bible study that I realised how far away I was from the Sing Psalms and wooden pews that I’d always known.

I am so grateful for the time I spent in Mozambique. I will never forget the friendships made and the memories created. Above all, however, I am thankful for the way God worked through me to help others but to also teach me so much about Him, His people and to remind me that He is the Father of all nations and that we are part of something so much bigger than we can imagine or perceive.

Could you or someone you know benefit from WfM’s Support A Volunteer Fund?

Find out more about SAV applications here.