Sunday, 3 January 2016

My Holidays (Christmas and New Year)

Firstly thanks for all your Christmas greetings, messages, cards and ecards. I may not have replied to each one, but I definitely appreciate them. 

On Sunday 20th, my Christmas started when I went to Belen Viviente ('Living Bethlehem) at one of the projects we work with. Their live enactment of the Nativity (complete with donkeys, cows, goats, chickens and a recently born child!), has become a bit of a tradition for me. For Educando Para la Vida, a community education project in Zaragoza, it is the culmination of a week long holiday bible club for kids, as well as medical campaign, and sports activities for young people, involving around 60 volunteers (local and international) and 170 kids. The last couple of years, the Belen Viviente has been reenacted in a farm yard - literally  - with the cows lowing in the corner, and the goats and sheep providing entertainment as we waited for the actors to arrive.

In Guatemala nativity scenes and processions are a key part of the roman Catholic churches festive activities, so evangelical /protestant churches very rarely celebrate Christmas in this way. So for me it´s lovely to be a part of it, and see a clear gospel message portrayed through the drama of the Christmas story. I´ll also admit that just the sights and sounds (and smells) of being in a farmyard makes me feel at home!. It´s a special time.

(Forgot to take my camera - so this isn´t the nativity - it´s the tree that I made for my house!)

A facebook friend took part in a Dressember Challenge - to wear a dress for every day of December. That really would be a challenge for me... but I had a go. Starting on the 20th, I managed 10 days wearing skirts. I don´t do those mirror selfies.... but you get the idea.

I spent quite a lot of the christmas week cooking and watching Christmas movies .. so in a Bridget Jones Diary style list, here´s what I got up to...

23rd Dec - 6 dozen mince pies made for my neighbours (mince meat from scratch.)
25th Dec - Pigs in Blankets, Stuffing and Bread Sauce for 15.
26th Dec - Full Christmas dinner for 5
27th Dec - Turkey Curry and Turkey Lasagne for 16
I´ve been eating left overs ever since. The bread sauce is still going strong!

Over New Year, I was antisocial but creative. This last year, I´ve read Habakkuk several times, and it´s been great to have time to create the art that´s been in my mind for nearly the whole year. It never works out quite how I imagine it, but I enjoy the process.

 Habakkuk 2: 1

Habakkuk pleads with God for a change in the violent circumstances that he and the people of Israel were in. In response God calls Habakkuk to be patient and wait and observe what he will do. That´s been very important to me over this last year, as I´ve begun to work in Mission Mobilisation in Guatemala. There´s not much of it happening so far, and it´s new to me, so I´ve spent a lot of time in prayer and just learning to wait and listen better.
Habakkuk 3: 17-19
Although God promises some specific action and response to his plea, Habakkuk´s final prayer is one of faith, of remembering God´s powerful work of the past, but also a commitment to worship him even when the answer has not yet appeared. That feels like my commitment for this next year.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

What is Mobilisation?

You might have noticed me talking about mobilisation quite a lot recently, and a few of you have asked what that means.

Firstly I´m talking about mission mobilisation -- so anything that encourages the church to take on it´s responsibility to share the good news with their neighbours, near and far. Some of that is to do with processes and training of those specifically called to serve in another location, but actually it´s a lot more to do with empowering the whole church to engage with global issues, to pray for unreaching groups, and to consistently support those who do 'go'.  (For ease, I´ll quote from an article I wrote earlier this year..)

A church that is mobilised for mission is one which has a consistent commitment to pray for the world, both in terms of the need for integral mission and evangelism globally, as well as an engagement with world news and events. It is a church with a global perspective – regardless of whether it has any mission candidates within its congregation or whether it supports any specific missionaries.

When a church is mobilised for mission, then those within the congregation who feel they might have a call to missions, are encouraged in that call and trained up. Their church leadership is able to signpost them to appropriate training institutes, or Bible colleges.  They may also give them space to test out their calling, by serving within the church, either locally or by sending them on a short term mission within their own country. A church that is mobilised for mission will help and walk alongside the person in evaluating the pros and cons of different mission agencies or denominational sending structures, as well as different regions of the world to which they may feel called. A church that is mobilised for mission will then support that candidate through application, selection processes and further training. A church that is mobilised for mission, will give spiritual covering to appropriate candidates, and support them in their fundraising efforts. They will then send them out with the churches blessing and prayers, and with a long term financial commitment (regardless of its size) to them. A church that is mobilised for mission will keep in regular contact with their missionaries and continue to pray for them corporately and encourage individual church members to do the same. A church that is mobilised for mission, will cooperate with the sending agency / denominational sending structure in the pastoral care of the missionary, both whilst they are in their country of service, as well as when they return,  for ‘home leave’ and when they complete their time of service. A church that is mobilised for mission (but that doesn´t have any candidates from within its own congregation) will also seek to make contact with and support missionaries from neighbouring churches or their denomination or elsewhere.

In short, mobilisation is the groundwork needed for successful recruitment, and for sustainable and prayerful support for any missionaries a church sends or supports.

Some churches will already be doing this. My experience here in Guatemala, is that very few churches have a vision for missions, and even less for the global needs outside of our borders. Although I meet lots of people who tell me of God´s calling on them to serve in another culture, few of them have had any encouragement or support from their church leaders. That´s the situation that I would like to help change. So I´m looking into resources and courses which would enable church leaders (and 'ordinary' Christians) to catch hold of God´s passion for the world, and do something about it. When that changes, then the processes of actually sending and supporting a missionary will become much more straight forward.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015


I´ve just come back from a Global Consultation about Mission Mobilisation. It was a great chance to hear and learn from others who have been mobilising a lot longer than me- and I´ve come back with lots of new ideas and plans.

The consultation happened near Nairobi in Kenya, and we had the chance to go on Safari..... so here´s a few pics.



 Various species of antelope


 (very old) Hippo

 (shy) Hippo

 family of Ostriches
 Water Buffalo
 Rhino (they look like 2 grey rocks!)

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Latin Link Leaders Event

I´ve just come back from Lima, Peru, where I joined the Latin Link leaders event. We had a really good time together, recieving training (crisis management, mentoring, mobilisation and more), and catching up with what God is doing in our different countries and contexts. 
During our devotional times, we spent the week reflecting on Colossians 1, and thanking God for all that he is doing. Answers to prayer that connect us up as a 'community with a calling', as we see the gospel 'bearing fruit' in lots of different ways. 
The conference was a lot of work to get organised and prepare for, but was a great opportunity for leaders from all the different Latin Link teams to come together and look to the future. I led a session about mission mobilisation. Part of that was distributing these booklets to all the spanish speaking teams. Xplore is a series of 7 Bible studies about God´s word, God´s world and God´s work - and how every Christian can be involved in that. Over the last 9 months, I´ve been coordinating a group of us, as we translate and adapt the english version for a latin american audience. Although it looked unlikely at a couple of points, we did manage to get the work completed and the booklets printed in time. I´m looking forward to being able to resource people in Guatemala with this great booklet.

 We also managed an afternoon out....
 Plaza de Armas
 We got to the top of the hill in the background and were rewarded this is panaromic view over most of Lima...

 Back at the conference centre, this was the view from my room..... so guess where I was every morning??
 And I finished off the week with a quick visit to Paddington.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Diamonds, Lasers and trip wires!!!

I was talking with a friend recently, about learning languages and culture and everything that goes with it. Although language is relatively easy to learn (she says in hindsight!!!), as it has an agreed structure, and rules, and plenty of people who can explain what you don´t understand.

Learning culture on the other hand, is a very different thing. My friend compared it to trying to steal a diamond! (Just imagine one of those scenes from mission impossible)

 You know where you want to get to, and initially it might even look easy to get to, but then you take one step and alarms sound all around you. Of course any diamond of any value is surrounded by lasers, and trip wires and alarms -- but you can´t see where any of them are, so you´re forced to move forward blindly and slowly, knowing that at any moment you might make a mistake or trip or set off alarms that you didn´t intend to. Sometimes you learn where one laser is, and manage to contort yourself into avoiding it. Other times, just when you think that you´ve worked out where it is, it changes or shifts, so that you´re right back to the beginning.

It seems like quite an accurate analogy to me! 

Giant Kites on All Saints Day.

The 1st Nov is a great celebration in Guatemala. A couple of towns hold kite competitions... but not just any old kites.... these are serious work and seriously big. Here´s a short video about the process. (It´s actually a beer advert, but you can ignor that part!!)

Weather and tragedy

Guatemala is the 4th country in the world, with the greatest risk of climate change. That is seen in lots of different ways, but the increase of extreme weather patterns is certainly one way I which I have seen changes - even in the time that I have lived here.

A month ago, a massive landslide buried over 100 homes, and their inhabitants, after weeks of heavy rain had saturated and weakened the hillside, at the base of which they were situated. A huge rescue operation began, but it uickly turned into a search for remains, rather than for survivors. Around 200 bodies have been recovered, but a similar number of people are still unaccounted for. It has been a huge tragedy here in Guatemala. The area was known to be at high risk of landslides, but the local government had continued to sell land rights in the area. Hard questions have been raised, but not quite answered.

But land has already been identified, where new houses will be built for those who have lost everything, and work actually started last week.