UK based: the past seven months. You may just about remember that in our last update (nearly 8 months ago!) we listed 20 things that we were looking forward to during our home assignment. Whilst I could wax lyrical about the whole list, you’ll be pleased to know that I’ve only chosen 8 things from that list as a way of reporting back on what’s been happening.
|Steve waxing lyrical overlooking the Dead Sea|
Running in cooler climes. We both enjoyed running the country lanes of Wiltshire in preparation for the Nairn half marathon in August. My time of 1hr 58 mins over 13 miles was slightly faster than Eliud Kipchoge managed in Vienna last weekend, although it might be fair to point out that the professional Kenyan runner covered twice the distance in that time!!
Here we are with bro Lancs and Kerri.
|90th birthday tea!|
Spending quality time with family and friends. It’s been great to catch up with family and we’ve enjoyed some top times together! We were able to see Steve’s youngest sister and her family for the first time in six years, and had the privilege of doing a mini-preach at my Grandad’s funeral back in July – just a month after his 97th birthday! There have also been some awesome family holidays in Scotland to add to the memory bank. Ruth enjoyed being able to celebrate her parents’ birthdays in September and October – Mum was 90 and Dad was 89.
Food variety. Bring out the pork pies! And that could be the reason I’ve put on 7kgs (1 stone)! We’ve enjoyed being able to eat salads without having to bleach them beforehand, and, as a bread fan, I’ve enjoyed eating some of the 20+ different varieties currently found in Morrison’s! In Morogoro, brown bread is a relatively recent addition.
Driving on smooth roads where most people adhere to the highway code! I realise that some of you will question my judgement on this one, but I’ve found driving in the UK to be relatively relaxing! I’ve been amazed that drivers actually let you out at junctions! It also makes a nice change not to see police jumping out of bushes with a tampered speed camera in hand!
|The mighty Schilthorn|
Skiing. What better way to unwind from the heat of Tanzania than to head to the Swiss Alps?! We enjoyed a great Oak Hall skiing trip for five days back in March. Somehow we covered 199 miles in distance and skied 170,000 vertical feet – although not all in one drop! For those familiar with the Jungfrau ski area, I also managed 58mph on the wall of death; still shaking!!
Climbing a mountain or two. Definitely delivered on this one! A number of minor Lakeland summits plus the Welsh summit of Snowdon were climbed. We were also able to stand on the same mountain on which Moses stood (Mt Nebo) as he looked across from Moab (modern-day Jordan) into the Promised Land. The view from Mt Masada (Israel) is also said to be one of the finest in the Middle East, although it’s more of a cable-car ride than a climb! And during the Oak Hall Iceland trip that I spoke on, we stayed just a few miles away from the volcano that caused so much trouble back in 2010 - the one that no one outside of Iceland can really pronounce: Eyafjallajokul!
Cycling the Hebrides. What a week up in the southern Hebrides in July! Along with some of the family, we cycled 95 miles on the islands of Barra, Eriskay, South and North Uist, Benbecula and Berneray. Fantastic beaches, stunning scenery, and some quality birding: lots of short-eared owl and hen harriers, plus white-tailed eagle and snipe.
Not being at the mechanics on a weekly basis! We’ve managed to put 13,000 miles on the ‘little red blimp’ (mums car!), and apart from a standard service, we haven’t had to see a mechanic!
|Steve teaching the Word at the AIM Fellowship Conference in September|
Delays & Deferrals are plentiful in the Bible! Think about Jacob waiting to marry Rachel for 14 years! What about the Israelites who took 40 years to enter the Promised Land when it could have taken them less than 3 weeks; that’s a huge delay! The Apostle Paul was ‘delayed’ in Caesarea for two years sitting about waiting for his trial to happen. Elisha was anointed Elijah’s successor but then had to wait 7 years for Elijah’s chariot to appear so that he could become Israel’s main prophet! Jesus himself chose to delay for a few days on hearing about Lazarus. And according to Daniel 10 even angels sometimes get delayed in their duties!
One of the passages that I preached on recently involves a delay, albeit a slightly shorter delay than the ones mentioned above! Mark 6:47 says, “When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on the land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars because the wind was against them.” We are told in the next verse that Jesus went out to them, walking on the water, during the 4th watch of the night (3-6am). The disciples had been on the lake since late the previous afternoon, wrestling with the wind and battling with the waves. They were still in that position 10-12 hours later! And yet remember, Jesus had seen them straining at the oars the previous evening! He knew about their situation and the ordeal that they were facing but he chose not to come to their aid immediately. Jesus chose to delay his rescue operation! Why did he wait until the 4th watch of the night? We simply don’t know. Maybe the disciples asked that same question!
|Steve & Ruth with a calm Galilee in the background|
Be assured, the Almighty God sees you straining at your oars and, at His appointed time, He will come to your aid. Somehow, in the midst of the delay, He is working His purposes out for your life. It is during the delays, some of which can be quite stormy, that God teaches us about Himself. He calls us to trust Him through the delays and through the storms. Indeed, without the delays, stresses, trials, and even failures, we would never grow to be what we should become as Christians. They are a vital part in our spiritual growth, even though at the time, we might not like or appreciate them. Father God, grant us grace and patience to face the various delays that You, in Your sovereignty, have allowed to happen.
Onwards and southwards! Hopefully, if all goes to plan in the nasal department, we’ll be flying back to Tanzania on Sunday 17th Nov to begin our third and final term at Sanga Sanga (2 years). Ruth will continue to work closely with Pastor Batano in the management of IBM & Sanga (bookings, admin and finance), and I’ll continue in my role as a Bible teacher amongst the pastors and evangelists of the AIC. I will also continue as AIM unit leader for Tanzania East. When we get back we’ll be returning to the same house in Morogoro, and hoping that our night guards haven’t moved in during our absence! One of the first lengthy jobs will be to get the cars started, whilst hoping that the engine compartments haven’t become a nesting place for termites, rats or snakes! One of the cars also needs some new brake disks, which I’m told can’t be obtained in Tanzania, and so packing that 14kgs of steel into our suitcases is going to be a bit of a challenge!
It will also be quite strange returning to Morogoro without the Swansons or the Dixons being there, but we’re looking forward to working with our new team-mates (Joel & Lauren Wildasin), who arrived back in May and seem to have got their feet firmly under what was the Swansons’ dining table! So, onwards and southwards we go, back to the mighty continent of Africa, and in His strength we’ll carry on the work that He’s given us to do for this next chapter. We’re fully aware that “there is nothing in us that allows us to claim that we are capable of doing this work” but we know that “the capacity we have comes from God” (2 Cor 3:4). And so we commit ourselves to Him and ask that He would use us mightily for His purposes, despite our weaknesses and our ‘jars of clay’ fragility!
Praise & Prayer Points:
- We’re certainly praising God for a top quality home assignment! We’ve been able to do everything that we planned - and more! We’ve also been bowled-over with how generous people have been towards us and our ministry – from a cottage, to a car; from a holiday, to various gifts and meals along the way. You know who you are! Many thanks to you, and of course, to the Ultimate Giver for His provision!
- Please pray for Steve and a number of health issues he’s facing; that the sinus operation would go well on Weds 23rd Oct and that the ongoing stomach issue (functional dyspepsia) would somehow settle down!
- Please pray for us as we return on Sun 17th Nov; that we would be able to pick up where we left off; for good relationships with our new team mates; for strength and stamina as we get back into the Tanzanian flow; and for safety on the roads and in the home.
- Please pray for the continued work at Sanga Sanga, and amongst the pastors and evangelists of the AIC church with whom we work. Pray that I may proclaim God’s Word clearly whenever I have the opportunity.
- Whilst we think this next chapter is for a two year period, we don’t know what’s in the pipeline after that. We don’t need to know right now, and we know that God has a plan for the next phase, but we’d value prayer as we keep our spiritual eyes and ears open for what He may be saying to us during this next two years.
Steve & Ruth
|Bird of the month: Short-eared Owl, North Uist|
|Sunset in the Hebrides|