Bakers Posted by Paul and Tania Baker on Wed, 28 Dec 2016 | 2 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to del.icio.us Post this to Facebook

Cross-cultural mission can sometimes be a struggle. In our experience, the challenges aren’t to do with a lack of decent chocolate, takeaway food or Netflix. They tend to be interpersonal – differences in approach; they are tiredness and discouragement.

In September 2015, we were going through our most difficult time in Kiwoko. Our various areas of ministry were going well but we were incredibly discouraged and exhausted. It was also the time when we had to make a decision about the future. Will we come back to Kiwoko for a third term after our 2016 Home Assignment?

At one point we told CMSI that we were “99% sure” that our time in Kiwoko was coming to an end. We could tell that CMSI understood our reasons; they were even encouraging us to explore a change of location – a different Mission Partner opportunity elsewhere. At that stage, just over a year ago, we were packing our bags…in our minds at least.

During our six years ‘on the field’ we have made various plans. Some have come to fruition, many have not. We have learned that we can make plans, but God must determine our steps. We knew that we needed to pray and ask God for direction before confirming such a big decision to leave Kiwoko.

In our work at Kiwoko, our aim has always been to work ourselves out of our jobs, so that we can one day leave without it having a negative impact on the things we’ve been doing. Our approach has always been to support, encourage, advise and train the Ugandan staff. This approach confused some of our colleagues for a while, who were maybe more familiar with long-term volunteers taking a more ‘authoritative’ approach. But we think they respect this way now and are hopefully more empowered as a result.

This ‘capacity-building’ approach hasn’t always been the norm in our experience and it can be misunderstood, from folk in Uganda as well as folk in Ireland, some of whom may have different expectations of the role and responsibility of Mission Partners with specialist skills. For us, seeking to do what we think is best has made us feel isolated and very discouraged at times.

Of course, ultimately our focus is not our jobs. Matthew 28:19 says ‘_Therefore, go and make disciples…_’ That’s why we’re at Kiwoko. Our jobs give us opportunities to help make disciples and extend God’s Kingdom. But, despite this bigger context, we didn’t know what to do next about our ongoing commitment to Kiwoko.

God responded to our prayers in two ways; through people and through Scripture.

In October 2015, a couple from England called John and Catherine arrived in Kiwoko to do some teaching for a few months. We quickly became friends. We were on the same page; non-medical, the same sense of humour, and we support under-dog football teams. They understood our approach and encouraged us hugely. This really spurred us on. (I should mention that John’s under-dog football team went on to win the Premier League.)

In our daily devotional times, God highlighted some things to us separately. Tania was reading her Bible one night and called me into the room. She was pretty upset, almost agitated, I would say. And for once, it wasn’t my fault.

She read from James 1 (MSG):

So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

Could this mean we had to stay in Kiwoko after all? Let’s think and pray about it a bit more…

A few days later I read from Hebrew 10:

Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will.

Further confirmation came and for a while we were confused… ‘Will we ever get be able to finish-up and move on from Kiwoko?’ We couldn’t understand why God wanted us to come back to Uganda, but we knew we had to. We need to endure and be in His will.

After some weeks, we felt a peace about it. God has a plan and we need to trust Him. We don’t know what’s ahead but He promises to be with us. We head back to Kiwoko tomorrow. This next term will be tough but there will no doubt be great times.

In 2009 we heard a famous preacher say; “_You have a choice – you can write the story of your life yourself, or you can let God write it._” We’ve been trying to allow God to write our story for a while now and we’re looking forward to this next chapter. We’re thankful that God sent the right people into our lives at just the right time, and that He spoke so directly to us through His Word.

Maybe you’re going into 2017 without clear direction. With doubts and fears. Why not try and let the Author of everything write your story?



Sharon Heron said Wed, 28 Dec 2016 11:10AM
Thanks for sharing this Paul. Your missional approach is absolutely the way to go! How wonderful to read of God leading so directly! May you have wisdom from above (James 3.17 - check out it's enduring qualities) for this next chapter.
Alan Curriston said Fri, 30 Dec 2016 01:56PM
Thank you for sharing, Paul. We non-missionaries often think that real missionaries walk with undaunting certainty every day of their lives. It's good to know that sometimes you stumble along in uncertainly, like the rest of us. You do an amazing job there, the fruit it's borne is testament to your approach. Welcome back to Kiwoko, I hope it feels like coming home, at least for now. Take care and God bless.

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