Newsletter: Christmas 1996

Why haven’t you heard from our family for so long?

I don’t know how many times we’ve tried to write a newsletter in the last 9 months!  Our last one said we were uncertain about our future, and asked you to pray.  We kept hoping something would be more certain - but despite writing three drafts, we hadn’t got enough guidance to say anything more than the last one of ... "please pray". Maybe we should have sent them out anyway!   In November we had a letter prepared and were going to copy and post it at last... when, once again, everything changed and we’re having to re-write once more.

To add to the confusion of the past few weeks, Richard was admitted to hospital on December 5th for a hernia repair operation.  He had the hernia for most of his life, but it had become more troublesome and painful in the past year, which convinced him to see our GP despite his terror of anything medical!  He had expected the operation in the Spring, so while it was good to get it done earlier, it has rather disrupted our schedule, and means that we are not able to go to Sussex for Christmas, as planned.  The operation went well, and Richard is now at home, rather fed up with the convalescent period!

So what have we been doing this year?

Almost three years ago, while we were in the USA, Richard felt that he should be returning to TV/video work, helping Middle East teams with their media needs. At first the leadership of our mission suggested we should be seconded to another agency, but we were unable to find one with the same concerns.  In the past year we have explored idea after idea, to try and see how his vision could work.   This has been a stressful and difficult process.

Alongside the growing belief that he was called back to TV/video work, Richard agreed to continue working as Email Team Leader until the end of August 1996.  Doing this has often been frustrating, with much of the work too technical; the rewards come in being able to assist others.

What’s likely to be happening after Christmas?

Asking for advice has given us an ever-increasing number of invitations to work on various teams in different countries - but nothing, as yet, which seems to fulfil Richard’s calling, use his media gifts, and which would work for the family.  For a while it seemed possible that he would begin with a joint role, doing both media and some Email Team leadership.  However that all changed two weeks ago when his mission  decided that this would not work out.  They want to second us to a different agency... so in a sense we’re back to square one, but with very little time to sort everything out.

How do teams on the field feel about these ideas?

We were encouraged to write to the mission's church-planting teams, to find out what their needs are, and how much work there might be for Richard and a media team.  They felt there should be three to five teams that were very supportive before we went ahead.

We sent out a questionnaire, and had no really negative replies from anyone.  Most were open to finding out more, but didn’t know yet how it would work.  Three Team Leaders did reply very positively, one of whom represented three teams.  Thus there were exactly three to five teams, as was wanted!   The locations of these teams are North Africa, the Middle East and the Gulf.

What kinds of projects have been suggested?

The first project would probably be researching what is already available, meeting with the teams to discuss their needs, and enabling them to make better use of the current resources.  Other ideas have been proposed which would help the teams in Church-planting and nurturing new believers.  In a sense it’s hard to know what would be right and best until we know what there is already.

What does this mean for the family?

Initially we looked at moving to Cyprus early next year.   Cyprus has media facilities which Richard would be able to use.  However an immediate move would mean a lot of preparation, and a settling-in period after arriving, meaning the actual work would be delayed further until next Summer.  It would probably be temporary, with a further move likely in the future.  Cyprus also has the disadvantage of being well-known as a popular place for Christian ministries trying to reach closed countries, which might pose a problem for Richard travelling extensively in the Middle East to meet with teams.

While looking at the joint role with IHQ, we considered having Richard start the work while the family remain in Birmingham: the resources research would involve a huge amount of travelling anyway.  Then, with a year’s experience, we could look at moving the family to wherever seemed to be the best location.

So what WILL be happening?

Right now... we’ve no idea!!  Richard is in contact with some other ministries, but there is no clear way forward at present.   Please do pray for us in the next few weeks.  We are even looking at applying for secular jobs, either short-term locally, or longer-term somewhere in a warmer country!   As always, though, jobs are hard to find and the process is lengthy.

If one of the other ministries seems to be right, then Richard would probably start work with them in the Spring, with the family remaining in Birmingham until the Summer.  We’re trying to be open to whatever God wants, but that’s difficult when we don’t seem to be any clearer to knowing what it is!

If and when we do move abroad, we’ll rent out the house again - so the next few months will be a flurry of redecorating and all the other jobs we have been intending to do for ages.  Whatever happens it is likely that 1997 will be somewhat chaotic, so please pray for all of us - for coping when we are apart, and for making the most of the times when we are together.

How does our Church view these proposals?

Our church have been extremely supportive through all the uncertainty. However there is lots of transition in the church, particularly in leadership.  Many of our friends have moved, and with Richard being away so much it has been very difficult to get properly involved.  We have found it hard to feel settled for all sorts of reasons, and with the recent changes it is likely that we will lose some or all of the financial support from our Church.  We have been continually grateful for the support in so many ways from our Church: always generous, often unexpected.

How will this future work be funded?

If Richard’s media ministry proposal goes ahead, part of his time will be spent applying for grants and fund-raising for specific projects, often in conjunction with the teams wanting the work.  If he is to take advantage of the most up-to-date media technology, he will need to raise money for some equipment as well.  His travelling would partly be funded from projects, partly from personal support.

An unexpected project which has occupied our "spare time" in the past few weeks has been writing a teachers’ guide to Windows 95 and some basic software, which is being used by the staff at the boys’ school to learn how to use their new computers.  It has been suggested that this course be marketed around the country when it is completed; if that works out, it could provide a means of support in the next few uncertain months.  Please pray that we will know the best way to go about finishing this!

We have been excited by God’s provision in so many ways over the past 12 years, and are sure that he will continue to provide for whatever work he calls us to.

What have Sue and the boys been doing?

Sue has continued to apply for part-time jobs locally, but with no success.  She still enjoys volunteering in the boys’ school, mainly helping small groups of children using the computers.  The boys continue to enjoy school thoroughly, and other activities.  Both are now in Cub Scouts: Timothy eventually got a place at Beavers in the Spring, and was invested in Cubs at the start of November.  Daniel is now a Sixer and enjoying the extra responsibility which this involves.

Music continues to play a large part in the boys’ lives. Daniel plays in the school recorder ensemble, with both treble and descant recorders, and plays his clarinet in the school wind band.  He and Timothy both sing in the school choir, and a local independent choir, and are both now learning the piano.

Wishing you a joyful and peaceful Christmas!

Richard, Sue, Daniel and Timothy