The last 2 weeks of our home visit were, like the first 2 weeks, a blend of time spent with family, with old friends, days off to do things on our own, and visiting churches to report on the work we have been carrying out. Myles continued to preach from Isaiah 6:1-8, and to remind people that to “Go” in the Lord’s work is a sate of mind, not a state of geography –being ready and willing to witness to Christ wherever we are, and not necessarily travelling 4000 miles. It was great to meet so many people answering that call just where they were.While in Crieff, Perthshire, staying with Myles’s parents for 3 days, we had the joy of speaking to a number from Crieff Baptist Church as they gathered for their mid-week morning Bible study in the home of their pastor. This very informal meeting started with each of them sharing a little of their testimony and how God had worked in their lives to bring them to the Baptist fellowship in Crieff. Their own stories of God’s guidance were no less remarkable than our own story that we shared, of how God has shaped and guided us over the years, and ultimately led us to work in Malawi.
The Baptist church in Cupar, Fife, have been supporting Zambesi mission for many years, and in very practical ways. One of their own outreaches to not-yet-converted women in the town is their Dorcas Group where once a week anyone can come and knit and chat, and hear the Word of God. This group have knitted many baby vests and blankets for Malawian babies, and when we visited them on a Tuesday afternoon we were able to tell them of our own area of work within Zambesi Mission.
Cupar Baptist Church is also the home of the Angela Lynsey Macdonald Trust who, last year, gave a significant grant to Echoes of Grace to help these young musicians in Malawi get their ministry off the ground. Our time in Scotland coincided with their annual concert in the church, and they invited Ruth to come and talk about Echoes. It was the perfect opportunity to reiterate thanks to the Trust for their support, to tell everyone more about these inspiring young people, to give a little insight into the real darkness that exists in the villages of Malawi and the importance of Echoes’ ministry. And by the wonders of PowerPoint and a good pa system, Echoes of Grace “performed” one of their songs, “Ima Nji”.
It wasn’t all work in Scotland! We had time to take some beautiful (if cold) walks alongside the River Earn and up The Knock at Crieff. In Fife we stayed with good friends Alison and Campell Wood. Alison is Ruth’s best friend from University days, and as the mission secretary in her own church, she has a particular interest in mission, and in making people aware and involved in what is going on outside their own four walls. While based in Lundin Links, we spent a day revisiting St Andrews, Falkland Palace where Myles’ great-grandfather was once barracked, investigating and searching for the old station house in Lindores where Myles’s grandpa was once the station master, and of course couldn’t leave Scotland without a “haggis supper” from the famous Anstruther Fish Bar.
Our penultimate weekend was spent back in Leeds with Andrew and Catherine, finally getting the opportunity to visit Andrew’s Barn Coffee Shop at the Meanwood Valley Urban Farm – yes, we are biased, but we definitely recommend the coffee! On Sunday we visited Alfreton Christian Fellowship, just across the border into Derbyshire, another small fellowship with a long standing commitment to ZM, and a particular interest in the work of Children for Christ Ministry. So besides Myles preaching at their Sunday morning gathering, we presented on all aspects of our work, focussing on Ruth’s work with CFCM. The whole fellowship sat down to a meal together afterwards, and it was a joy to be included around the family dinner table, where they continued to enquire more about our life and the church situation in Malawi.
The evening brought an opportunity to renew friendships made from our last visit at York Baptist Church, home territory for ZM, and bring them up to date on our work. Many from this fellowship are involved on a voluntary basis with the back-office work of ZM, and their work is invaluable and essential so that the work in Malawi can continue.
This was Ruth’s final meeting, and her final week was given over to being grandma, looking after little Zachary down in Cambridgeshire. Myles made one last trip, to the midweek prayer meeting at Doncaster Evangelical Church. It was his privilege to meet before hand at the house of David Faulkner for tea with some members, and listen to stories of ZM from his former involvement with ZM as Treasurer and Chairman. Doncaster have been faithful sponsors of bible students at EBCoM and we demonstrated the two-way partnership by sharing news on their former students, and taking a photo of the congregation to encourage their new and former students in Malawi.
We left to the very end of our time something that had in fact been a priority for us this visit – to attend the church plant in the centre of Birmingham that Calum has made his home for the past two years, and where he serves as worship leader. And we happened to be there on the Sunday when The Gate Church formally became independent of its parent, Grace Church making it a great opportunity – not only for a BBQ lunch – but to get to know two groups of disciples so focussed on living out the Great Commission in their local communities.
Indeed, everywhere we went over our home assignment, it was wonderful to meet so many others who have said “Hear am I, send me” and who have “gone” to the place God has appointed for them – be that to take up a role in their own local church, to run evangelistic activities in their community, to set up new churches in difficult areas, to quietly working away in the background unseen to support those who have gone further afield, to follow with interest, to knit, to donate, and most importantly to pray. As we take up the reins again here in Malawi, we feel refreshed and reinvigorated, inspired and strengthened by those in the UK who are shining in their small corner while we shine in ours.