Well it is August, which is vacation time for most pupils and students, and many missionaries are also away on ‘home assignment’. We are here working as normal, so it is a slightly unusual period as ‘normal’ arrangements are re-arranged. (Actually, ‘normal arrangements’ in Africa are frequently rearranged on a daily basis, so perhaps this is not such an unusual time!)
Although my (Barbara’s) lessons were interrupted in June and early July, I found it much easier than I expected to take up where I had left off. The students were keen to resume, and during this time I have been able to teach my 2 Ethiopian and 2 Malagasy students each twice per week. I am spending more time than before on speaking English, especially pronunciation and discussion. It is a great joy to be able to read and listen to Bible passages as a basis for learning and to pray with students. Last Sunday, one of the students from Madagascar was preaching in English for the first time, which is his third language, already speaking Malagasy and French. So he had last minute queries about the correct use of English to get his message across.
It is lovely to be able to socialise with students, too. Here is a photo of me with my students from Madagascar, when we went to have lunch with them. We enjoyed the Malagasy food – rice, fish cooked in coconut milk and served on a bed of peas, chicken served with peas, plus chopped onions in vinegar and mayonnaise as side dishes. For dessert, we ate tropical fruit salad and home made apple pie. Delicious!! I am also getting a taste for Ethiopian coffee and injera (a type of fermented bread) when I spend time with those students.
I (Mark) mentioned in our last blog that it was planned for me to take over as Team Leader from the end of August. Unexpected events meant that I had to stand in as Team Leader for the last three weeks, as the current Team Leader had to return suddenly to the US due to a crisis in his extended family. This meant not only my stepping into the leadership role, but that the Centre was unexpectedly short-staffed. Nonetheless, myself and the one other counsellor currently working (out of a full team of 8) have been able to see all those approaching Tumaini for support during this period.
As I cannot talk about individuals who are seen, here is an overview of the work of Tumaini. We see 300 – 400 people in a year, nearly all missionaries. Many work for Africa Inland Mission or Wycliffe Bible Translators (as these are the organisations that jointly staff Tumaini), but also people from many, many other smaller mission organisations. We see individuals, couples and families for counselling, evaluations, and for debriefing following some traumatic experience. Our psychiatrists also see children and adults to prescribe and check up on a variety of medications, and make assessments of conditions such as ADHD. In addition to seeing people in Nairobi, we attend mission conferences across the continent to give presentations, run workshops – such as marriage retreats – and see people who cannot get to Tumaini. There is a lending library with several thousand volumes related to issues relevant to missionaries, and we have a website with material on a similar range of topics. Finally, we have very beautiful gardens where people can sit, reflect, and pray.
The pictures alongside are of Tumaini, including my counselling room.
People come to Tumaini for all sorts of reasons, for example: relationships problems of all kinds, stress or anxiety, depression, trauma, and burn-out. Christian missionaries are not immune from such issues, as they often work in some of the most challenging, isolated and sometimes dangerous places on earth. And they are in the front line of the ever-present spiritual battle, so it is important that support is available when needed.
All our staff are professionally trained therapists or psychiatrists, but work with Christ’s love and rely on His power. And we are missionaries ourselves, experiencing the same life as those we see.
As I unexpectedly took over as team leader early, we were not able to take a weekend break at the beginning of August but we hope to be able to go away for a short holiday at the beginning of September.
Church and home-group
Mark has led the Sunday morning Bible Study prior to church for the last three weeks, where we continue to study Islam and the differences between the Moslem and Christian faiths. Many Moslems are very devout, and yet their faith gives no certainty of salvation. How much more should we Christians be committed to serving Jesus, who died to give anyone who will accept it, not just full forgiveness, but confidence in their eternal salvation!
Our Thursday evening church home-group has continued meeting. We have been a small group – 6 at most – and we have been watching and discussing a wonderful short video series about discipling new Christians. It is set in an African village context and addresses the topics that are relevant for many African Christians. We are blessed by the mixed African & wazungu (white) membership. The group will be going through a transition next week; we will come to the end of this series and start studying a new topic, moreover, one couple will return to the US.
In both the Bible studies and home-group, we greatly value how we can each learn from people who have a very different background and life-experience from ourselves, but who worship the one true God.
Please pray with us for:
- The work of Tumaini – so that the whole team can be a faithful in supporting missionaries who are going through a hard time
- Barbara and another missionary who teaches English, that they would be put in touch with new students arriving for the start of the academic year who need their help
- The transition for our home-group, that we will continue to thrive and new members would join
- Planning for a week’s holiday at the beginning of September
- Barbara is still needing better sleep – disrupted because of skin irritation from bites or from something unknown
- For our families in the UK; we are very glad to see them on Skype, but miss them greatly.