‘Do you stay in hotels when you travel?’ We are asked this question from time to time. Occasionally we do stay in a hotel or a training centre but we mostly stay with local teams. This has given us many varied and interesting experiences 😀.
On our latest trip to Zimbabwe we lived in a tiny, remote village for two and a half weeks to run a workshop for pastors and local leaders. Here is a glimpse into our time there.
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This is Silas. We recently had the privilege to run a 2-week workshop in his community in rural Zimbabwe.
He grew up in Makamure, which is where we held the training and where he still lives. Tragically, his wife died 3 years ago. His oldest daughter is married, his middle and youngest daughters live in town, one is a teacher and the other is studying so he lives alone. He works as a child protection officer with responsibility for those caught in domestic violence and sexual abuse cases. He is also a pastor and oversees 3 rural Pentecostal churches.
Our project team in Zimbabwe started working in Makamure a couple of years ago. One of the first things we did was to appoint a community development committee and Silas is the chairman. He is extremely motivated and has already organised the community to build a dam for themselves.
At the workshop he was totally engaged and was encouraging the other participants to get the most out of the training. He told us afterwards that he now has the tools to move his community forward.
What an honour for us to be part of his story.
Over the 29 years that we have been working with communities in the majority (developing) world, we have seen many changes and new trends. Financial aid is no longer the default response; many agencies talk more about empowering people, helping communities help themselves and self sustainability. Recently we have been looking at how business and job creation can be a part of transformation in many parts of the world. Urbanisation and growing economies are also pushing us to adapt our approach to poverty. In response to all this there is a growing initiative called Business as Mission http://businessasmission.com
YWAM is part of this movement and in February we attended the annual summit in Thailand. It was amazing to hear stories of how business is being used to gain access to closed countries, creating jobs, impacting societies and bringing the gospel to the workplace.
Our main interest is to see how we can encourage our teams on the field to embrace the changes and equip them to see small businesses and additional jobs created in their communities towards the end goal of transformation. We are learning as we go and are excited to see how this will bring new opportunities on the field.
We sometimes struggle with being called ‘elders’. It must be a vanity thing, not wanting to admit our age! But with 29 years’ experience in missions and being a certain age it’s probably time to admit this is the season we are in!
In January we were two of the elders attending a training course run by the ALLC (Asian Leaders Learning Community https://allc.asia) for young leaders from across Asia. What a privilege to sit, eat, chat and pray with these courageous young missionaries working in some really tough places.
We are thrilled to be part of the strategy of bringing together elders and emerging leaders. We have already seen how this can make a profound difference to their outlook and ministry: We were talking with a small group of leaders and the subject of transition from one location to another came up (something we know quite a lot about!) Ali was able to give some really helpful advice and input based on her training as a debriefer and from personal experience. The sense of new understanding and application was tangible for so many of them.
The refugee crisis has been in and out of the news over the last few years. The reality for the refugees is that they face extremely challenging situations every day.
In June we were invited to Amsterdam to speak at a conference for refugee workers from all over the world. We heard about ministries ranging from teaching cultural and language skills with small groups of resettled migrants, to work in large scale refugee camps in the some of the hardest places imaginable and many other initiatives in between. The common thread was God’s character and love being demonstrated by His followers in creative ways. They had recognised that this is an incredible opportunity to bring Good News to people who are in great need, coming from countries where it is illegal to share the gospel. This offers an unprecedented opening and many refugees are responding.
We became aware of so many ways and opportunities the Church can be involved in making a tangible difference in the lives of refugees. As is often the case when we go to speak somewhere we come away inspired and challenged ourselves!
There is something very powerful about gathering missionaries together and hearing stories of what is happening all around Africa. In May we invited ministry leaders from all over the continent to join us in Johannesburg. Our intention was to encourage each other, share resources and make connections. We did all those things but it’s fair to say that hearing stories of changed lives and transformed communities were a real highlight.
We heard about how the Dignity Campaign http://www.dignity.org.za is changing the lives of girls and women. In Uganda an initiative to plant millions of trees, equip schools and place orphans in families is bringing transformation in amazing ways. In Mali, market gardens are giving families new hope along with extraordinary stories from Madagascar and Zimbabwe where hundreds are responding to the gospel and bringing changed attitudes to downtrodden communities.
It was a powerful time and many expressed an enthusiasm to do the same thing in different regions in the continent so many more workers can benefit and be encouraged.
We have just returned from running workshops for 2 churches in Mauritius. Although most people only know about the beautiful beach resorts and tourist industry, Mauritius has many social and economic challenges.
It was encouraging for us to meet two large churches who are excited about engaging with the community around them. Together we looked at the issues they were facing such as drugs, ethnic differences and education. We concentrated on the beliefs and world-view behind these challenges and then responses that could make a long term difference. Those who attended the workshops began to see new possibilities and the difference local church can bring.
We hope to hear stories of change and hope coming from these churches in the near future.
Children benefitting from extra education classes provided by the church
As in many places, the church in Egypt faces some serious challenges. The country has experienced political and economic turmoil, a huge influx of refugees and continued persecution of believers. What a time to be part of a gathering to bring together more than 150 church and missions leaders!
It was encouraging to see leaders from diverse denominations and backgrounds grappling together with issues; facing the challenge of how to reach out and love their neighbour.
We met some amazing people working in difficult circumstances who are asking for encouragement, input and teaching. We are hoping to go back to see how we can help.
We have been invited back in September to start training the YWAM team and local church leaders. This is a new region for us and would require a steep learning curve. However, with two invitations now connected to this region, we sense an open door and an opportunity to bring other trainers to serve this region in the future. Pray for wisdom as we consider this possibility.
Please pray for the YWAM team in Egypt who are, among other activities, reaching out to Syrian refugees and sending short term teams into neighbouring countries.
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We started the year by being part of the Asian Leaders Learning Community (http://allc.asia) Summit in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The name is a bit of a mouthful but the concept is brilliant. It’s a relatively new ministry that provides teaching, coaching and mentoring to young and emerging leaders from across Asia by linking them with elders.
Over the 4 intense days we were part of a team of YWAM elders who spent quality time with 60 Asian leaders. We absolutely loved it! We spent the days hanging out, eating together, listening, discussing and running workshops for these eager young leaders. We ran 2 workshops on ‘building effective teams’ and had 2 ‘FaceTime’ sessions. FaceTime is where we sit with 6 young leaders for 2 hours and they can ask questions on any topic. It was a rich time of investing and speaking directly into their lives. The feedback was really encouraging and many talked about how they would be able to implement the things they learned from the workshops.
What a privilege to invest in so many amazing people!
We were in Togo, West Africa recently where we met a remarkable team who are planning for the next 30 years! We were there to run workshops for local pastors, missionaries and members of the local community.
,As part of our trip we went to see some teak forests planted by YWAM missionaries, which will secure an income for the work in the long term. They have a whole system where there are short term benefits, such as producing charcoal and fencing posts from thinning the forest. In the long term there will be top quality wood to sell and sustainable replanting.
This may not sound a big deal but it is rare to find such long term thinking in developing situations. We teach a lot about planning and long term change so we came away really encouraged to see it in action!
We took some fun roads to get there as well :)
Dave & Ali Swann