Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Wieder in Deutschland

The life of a YWAMer is that oftentimes you get the privilege to step into someone else's world. Let me explain what I mean...

Tourists get a glimpse of a world presented to them (through hotels, guest houses and museums/attractions), business travellers get a similar experience, where hospitality and service are focused on 'getting the job done'. Most others live and work in a set context (place, purpose, relationships) that doesn't really change from one year to the next. However, for those of us in mission, travel and engaging with different cultures, worldviews and ways of life are part of the job. One week you could be in luxury, the next in poverty. As we travel, we are blessed by those who offer to accommodate us in their houses (we try to keep the inevitable disruption to their lives to the minimum). As such, we get a feel - even if just for a few days - of how they live. What are the main issues facing them and where are life's struggles.
Currently we are in Germany with an old friend of mine, Daniel Deutsch. He has kindly opened his one room apartment for the three of us to stay with him as he relegated himself to a converted loft space/mezzanine floor. But life hasn't just stopped for him; he carries on working and we are trying to take our part by shopping, washing and cooking where we can (or are allowed!). This blessing of accommodation from Daniel  gives us the freedom to visit supporters in Germany but have a place to rest our heads. It also demonstrates how supporting is about but journeying with us - allowing us to understand a bit more about where you come from and what makes you tick! Last  night we visited some wonderful people - Ulrich and Gabriele Mack. They have embraced our work, support and pray for us regularly. It was wonderful to hear some of their stories - find out about their kids, where they're at and pray a bit for them. This was our first time to see them in their home context. The more we develop our understanding of who God is, the more we realise that he's very interested in our relationships with one another and how we steward those. And when we come together to chat, update, eat together and pray with/for each other, we get a feeling of what Jesus meant when he called St Peter to build the church.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Back in blighty

Back on English soil. A strange feeling, yet somehow comforting to be 'home'. Lots of stuff to do - I'm not sure any of us are going to get a chance to rest. There's our house to clear/sort out/ rent out; there's 3/4 speaking engagements; there's Christmas with various relatives; there's Joshua's visa to get; there's team meetings (over skype) as the work at AfriCom continues and lots of work to do as well!
Our first stop is with Richard and Sarah with their 18-month old daughter, Emily. Speaking at St Mary's on Sunday, then off to Germany first things Tuesday. This is going to be a busy busy time, but we're really looking forward to touching base with as many as possible!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Joshua's 8 months old today

I don't normally write about mundane family stuff on this blog, where a proud parent will celebrate every small step in their first child's life. However, I felt today I would, as it has significance in our journey. Joshua celebrating his 8 month birthday (and also his first tooth appearing) has meant that we are rapidly approaching our two year mark, since we first came to South Africa to begin our work with YWAM. Two years ago today, we knew that we were being called into missions, but where exactly we would be working and what we would be doing was far on the horizon and we were just taking steps of faith away from paid employment and into Christian service.
As I walked down the street, quietly praying about things on my mind, I reflected on this amazing journey we've been on and how we have been looked after: first by God who called us here, but second by the network of people who have stepped in to (often sacrificially) support us. Every month we have paid the rent and every day we have food on the table to eat. It's not always been an easy journey, but God has been faithful throughout.
There was barely a penny to our name when we arrived after our visit to England in late 2010 and no furniture in our newly rented house, with Becky 7 months pregnant, we seriously wondered whether we'd done the right thing. A friend of ours lent us their car while they were travelling... so to anyone looking in from the outside, as we drove around in a new Jeep, living in a gorgeous scenic holiday resort, may think "they're doing well for themselves". Yet we wondered how on earth we would make ends meet.
Now, as we're thinking and talking about trips to Nigeria, Zimbabwe and back home for Christmas, we know that we have to rely on the call of God and to step out in faith. We still don't have all the money we need and still have to rely on prayer and the partnership of supporters for our daily bread. But the difference now is that we have learnt that we don't need to fear lack of provision, rather trust in our daily walk and obedience to him. We have seen Him provide and we trust he will again.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Back in the blogosphere

It has been a significant time since I did an update. Apologies for the die-hard blog readers who have been waiting for the next entry!

Over the past couple of months, we have journeyed a long way, yet at the same time we haven't left Cape Town (except for one weekend away). It might seem cliché for us to think about our life being made up of seasons; but recently it's been so clearly defined as a time to press in and serve locally. We knew 2011 would be a tough year, and it has proven itself to be. Taking over running the communications team for YWAM in Africa for me and major changes in the team for Becky has meant that, for stability purposes we needed to stay here. For me (Pete) that has been essential. I took over a team which was, to say the least, shaky on each individual's commitment to the vision. Buy-in for vision is so important, especially when 100 per cent of your staff are volunteers. YWAM is known for its transient nature and I knew to be able to be effective I needed to ensure that I was there and committed to serving the team on the ground.

After four months of heads-down, desk-based work, establishing funds for the ongoing work, meetings and team building, we were ready to start planning. It was such a clear mark of the 'change in season' this week when we met in one of the staff houses to put together a strategy for the next twelve months. Having gone through a really tough few months - at times without enough to pay the electricity bill, let alone the rent - it was so refreshing to start thinking about where we were going and how we could 'get out there' and start building on what the team has done over the past 9 years, since it was established.

At the moment, though dealing with a couple of issues regarding fundraising and finances, we are excited about the possibility of two Africa trips before we visit the UK for Christmas. Becky is planning to go to Nigeria to attend an anti-trafficking conference; I am planning to go overland to Harare, Zimbabwe (2-3 day drive) for a meeting of all the YWAM leaders and staff across the South Central Africa region (incl. Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania). We'll keep you updated and informed.

Monday, 1 August 2011

AfriCom has a NEW website!


I'm excited to announce the launch of our new website for YWAM AfriCom. With this website, we are hoping to build a closer connection of YWAMers across Africa by showcasing some great stories here. If you have any stories you would like to share, please contact info@ywamafricom.org  In the meantime, please take a look, have a read of the new blog, listen to audio stories and watch some of the talking head videos explaining YWAM in Africa.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Learning from the past

Picture: jeffrey james pacres
It has been said that to do well in the future you need to have a good understanding of the past. Our history shapes us in both good and bad ways and, without a deep revelation of where we come from, the bad parts of history have a way of repeating themselves. In the same way, our present decisions and actions have consequences for the shaping of the way things will be done in the future.
Technology has been both a blessing a curse for this. We are blogging/ discussing/ recording issues with each other more than we have ever before. But there is little-to-no structure in how we record what we are doing right now. Letters received used to be filed, recorded and responded to. But now, with email, most of us 'clear' our inbox when it gets too full, thereby deleting a section of our past, without (much) consideration for usefulness for others in the future. We are so abounding in information nowadays, most of us have little thought for what is good, or bad, and therefore no reference on what to keep or chuck.
One of the organisations I (Pete) once worked for was founded in 1701. They had an archive of minutes of decisions that were made for the past three hundred years. This awesome amount of information was neatly collected and categorised by an archivist who diligently kept us abreast of where we have come from.
Without the diligence of, let's say Paul or Luke, we would not have such a record of Jesus' life and teachings and ways that the early church learned to 'be' church.

As I take on leading the communications team for Africa (YWAM AfriCom), I am learning to understand that it is important that I take time to learn about what shaped this continent in terms of history, missions, politics and so on. As we talked and prayed as a team this morning about where we are heading, there was a realisation of how thin our personal/individual knowledge of this vast continent is. We have therefore made a pledge to one another to investigate more, listen more and read more, so that we have a good foundation on which to build our communications ministry. We are also writing a diary of the major things that we are praying about and big projects that we are planning, with notes on successes, failures (and the reasons for the failures), so that others can look upon what we have done well and what we have done badly!
For us as a family, we have started to journal in a similar way, so that, when our children grow up, they can look back and see the journey that brought us to Africa and develop a better understanding of who we are and where we, as a family, come from.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Trusting for breakthrough

Some say that missionaries spend a lot of time praying about money, while others don't pray enough. When we face the situation of 'being without' how do we respond?

Money is a strange, yet essential tool to enable us to live. Without cash we cannot pay our bills and, as such, become reliant on the state/handouts to stop us from starving and keep a roof over our heads.

So, when we ourselves face difficulties to finance ourselves and our ministry, what should we do? Where should we turn? A biblical principle behind this is that we need to keep reminding ourselves that we are not beggars, or a charity case – though our work is charitable, we are not in 'need of charity'. Rather we are working to serve others, and as such, we need to rely on friends to partner with us. In fact, it is a very healthy model to have that reliance on investors/partners, as it makes us accountable to the actions we choose to do.

Each quarter, we produce a budget which displays income vs. spending for those three months. It compares what we said we would do, to what we actually did. It's known as an accountability report, as we hold ourselves accountable to our investors who choose to partner with us in what we do: in prayer, in support and in physically helping us.

If money were to be no object, it would be very easy to lose track of your calling. There is nobody to go back to with a report to say: this is what I did with your hard earned cash; these are the results of your partnership with us; this is what can be and has been achieved.

Each of us goes through seasons of plenty and seasons of little. When we pray, it is easy to slip into the asking for finances for the bills we have to pay. But we are learning  not to ask for money for what we need, but guidance in what we are called to do. We have seen time and time again, that if we are obedient to God's calling on our lives, we see miracles happen. And when we see miracles happen, to whom can we give the glory?

So, when we have financial needs, though it is hard not to focus on the great need that we have to pay bills owed, we need to allow God to do the impossible.

OK... got to go, got some water to walk on!

Tough decisions

In Muizenberg there are plenty of people who have fallen below the poverty line and live on the streets. Each of them has complex stories of how they got there; very few of these people are easy to support. Throwing cash at the problem without strategic and prayerful thinking is a waste of time. The abundance of drugs and alcohol, added to abusive backgrounds has led so many being in a cycle of poverty that it's hard to find a way for them to escape. The Justice ACTs  S-Cape Home - a rescue centre for victims of human trafficking - this past couple of weeks has seen ladies who have a background of trafficking ending up back on the street, as they posed a danger to the staff working at the home. Grace extended to them was often spat back in the face of those who were there to help them. You'd think that supporting others to build a life for themselves after facing manipulation and trauma would be a rewarding job, but it's often thankless and seemlingly endless, as the abuse that has been inflicted on those we help often is more powerful an influence than the soft kind hand of a friend who just wants to help. The staff of the safe house often have to deal with lies, false accusations, manipulation, violence, depression and a whole host of other problems that come as a result of dealing with broken lives.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Debt and Missions – A Toxic Mix

This past week has been eventful in terms of finances coming and going through our account.

About a month after Joshua's birth, we received an unexpected bill from the various professionals who attended us in hospital - in particular the paediatrician and the anaesthetist. We had already paid the agreed money to the obstetrician (thanks mum!), and the hospital bill had been covered by our insurance. But, it appeared that our insurance company hadn't paid up for some of the others. We resubmitted the claims to the insurance company, only to find out that they'd gone into administration. They agreed to pay a proportion of what was owed, but this left us about £500 (about $800) in deficit. This money, as you can probably understand, we don't have to spare! And when the insurance won't pay, we have to swallow the debt. We felt there was nothing to do but to put it on a credit card to avoid legal action being taken against us.

It was then that I read a blog feed on debt and missions. In Bill Hutchison's blog, he wrote: "One thing that I have seen again and again remove people from the mission field, or prevent them from entering the mission field, is personal debt. Personal debt can take many forms, including, but certainly not limited to Credit Card Debt, Student Loan Debt, Vehicle Loan Debt or Lease. I have seen numerous messages on twitter from people along the lines of wanting to join missions, but can’t because of debt. I have also seen people leave the missions field because of debt they had at home from before they joined or even because of debt they have incurred while on the missions field. Debt is very debilitating to someone wanting to follow the Will of God of their life. There is not one positive mention of debt in the Bible. Debt is always presented in a negative light. It is not a “salvation” issue, but there is not one time mentioned in the bible that debt is used to bless His people."

On checking my emails that same week, I see two that jump out of the page at me. One is from a friend of ours back home. This is a family which engaged with us and our desire for missions and agreed to support us on an ad hoc basis. The other was from my father-in-law. In total, they had sent us donations covering the shortfall.

What a blessing!

This brought to mind whether I should've put the money on a credit card or just waited. I challenged myself on "where was my faith!?", but also rejoiced in the fact that friends and family were obedient to God's call to support those in mission.

This gives me an opportunity to publicly offer our sincere thanks to all our friends who regularly support us and obediently, and often sacrificially give to our work in Africa. Your partnership is valuable and life-giving.

Whether or not I lacked the faith to believe that God would provide for us in our time of need, I know one thing is for sure: I am glad to not be in great personal debt whilst serving on the mission field. Becky and I may not have much materially/financially, but we have the freedom to go whenever God calls us, without the burden of debt holding us back.

Debt did hold us back before we left. Both Becky and I had a feeling about travel and getting into missions several years before we did, but I had personal debt that I felt that I had to 'clear' first. Through the grace of God, I managed it in 2009 and that's when we were able to start properly planning to go

Monday, 6 June 2011

Passing on the baton

Thursday last week saw the official Muizenberg goodbye for the Heathcote family and the welcoming and praying for Pete (me) to take the helm. Today I officially 'took office' at YWAM AfriCom. It was the hand-over where the current leader officially stepped down and I took responsibility. The morning started with an official welcoming of the new eldership team and an informal prayer time.

Other than that, it was a pretty normal day for most, I think. The 'exiting' leader had to deal with a family emergency and even borrowed my 'new' car to rush off to sort it out. 

Probably one of the most significant things that happened was the receipt of three application forms for new staff positions, plus a Facebook message from someone following up their enquiry about working with us. This was so significant, as we have not had any permanent applications for some time and for them all to arrive on the day I take office felt like a sign that I was not going to be left alone! 

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Leading Africa

I've just returned from the Africa Leadership Team meetings. It's a group of missionaries - from many different nations and continents - who for many years have been hearing God's voice and obediently following what they hear. They live to serve God and they do it through YWAM. I was in awe of how God has used these people, who, with such humble hearts, told me stories that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. One would tell of being beaten and thrown in prison for his faith, while others would talk of great miracles, including seeing people raised from the dead. Yet none of them had an appearance of a 'great' person. They didn't have fine clothes, or drive fancy cars. The don't hold any kind of fame for their work. Few books or films have been written about these saints. If you didn't ask, you would never know that that, let's say, the grey haired lady serving salad at the counter in the dining room heard the call of God and obeyed His call to take the gospel into some of the most remotest parts of Africa to people who had never before heard the Good News.

As I look at this generation of missionaries who have been obedient to God's call on their lives and their obedience has remained through hardships and difficult times. And, how they have continued to serve with humble hearts, I wonder how my life will pan out and my ability to be faithful too. One thing I have learnt this past week is giving proper respect for my elders. One of the best forms of respect we can give these legends of mission is to listen to their stories and challenge ourselves to also hear His voice and obey and see where God leads us.

As a communicator, it is a privilege to be a witness to this gathering. As the Africa Communications Team (AfriCom), we work to serve YWAM ministries across Africa - from the leader to the new recruit. We listen to what everyone is saying and help build connections between all of the work across this continent.

Leading Africa

I've just returned from the Africa Leadership Team meetings. It's a group of missionaries - from many different nations and continents - who for many years have been hearing God's voice and obediently following what they hear. They live to serve God and they do it through YWAM. I was in awe of how God has used these people, who, with such humble hearts, told me stories that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. One would tell of being beaten and thrown in prison for his faith, while others would talk of great miracles, including seeing people raised from the dead. Yet none of them had an appearance of a 'great' person. They didn't have fine clothes, or drive fancy cars. The don't hold any kind of fame for their work. Few books or films have been written about these saints. If you didn't ask, you would never know that that, let's say, the grey haired lady serving salad at the counter in the dining room heard the call of God and obeyed His call to take the gospel into some of the most remotest parts of Africa to people who had never before heard the Good News.

As I look at this generation of missionaries who have been obedient to God's call on their lives and their obedience has remained through hardships and difficult times. And, how they have continued to serve with humble hearts, I wonder how my life will pan out and my ability to be faithful too. One thing I have learnt this past week is giving proper respect for my elders. One of the best forms of respect we can give these legends of mission is to listen to their stories and challenge ourselves to also hear His voice and obey and see where God leads us.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Partners in mission

I have heard many say to me in the past:
Why are there so many charities in Africa?
Can't you all work together...? Surely you'd get a lot more done...?!

Well, I'm not sure about that! Let me explain...

The idea of working in partnership with one another is a fantastic thing. Being in communication and building up the value of communications among people working in Africa has been on my heart, ever since I joined AfriCom. I believe that there are many ways to build good relations across cultural, spiritual and physical barriers. 



But does that mean we should all join together and be one? 

Just take a look at the way in which YWAM works. It's a decentralised organisation, made up of people who have a passion to serve God. But each ministry, school, location and team is different. There are a myriad of different things going on around the world, and that's just in one organisation. Imagine multiplying that by all the agencies in the world. 

It usually starts like this: an individual develops skills and passions to, let's say, rescue children trapped in violent/dangerous circumstances. They publicise what they do and gather like-minded people. I see the communications aspect of this is to value what they do and support them by communicating their message in an appropriate way so that partnerships can be made - maybe even point them towards others who are already doing what they do and get them to work together. Also, get the message out so that the wider world is aware of the need. However, if all the work came under the same organisation, rather than releasing and empowering people to do great work and build partnerships and friendships, it would become bogged down under a mountain of bureaucracy and red-tape. Just take a look at most government initiatives! Rather than being able to respond to immediate needs, a hierarchy of command makes decisions in some office on the other side of the world for issues that are - more than likely - beyond their understanding. 

That is why I value the communications team being in Africa and connecting and empowering local people here to be the communicators. Working effectively in any part of the world is about seeking to engage and understand the culture around you and work in a way that empowers, embraces and encourages good things out of it. 

I have just returned from Johannesburg where we were discussing with the communications directors of other big agencies (IMB, Wycliffe, AIM) the idea of sharing ideas and resources, so that we could effectively communicate both what we, as individual agencies are doing, but also see the bigger picture of our respective work in Africa. Hopefully as these meetings develop, more agencies will be involved and we can work in partnership with one another, when it comes to communicating both within Africa and to friends outside the continent.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Communicators in Mozambique

Some of our team have just been to Maputo in Mozambique to hold an Effective Communication Workshop with the aim to build up missional communicators in this part of Africa. Check out the video...

AfriCom in Maputo from YWAM AfriCom on Vimeo.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Street life

A few weeks ago, Becky organised prostitution outreach training for anyone at our church who was interested, through  Straatwerk (an organisation that enables local churches to reach out to the working women in their neighbourhoods). Two weeks later, Becky took those who had been recruited onto the busiest street in our area on a Friday night. With three women at the front who approached the working ladies, and three at the back, praying for them, they met, chatted and prayed with a number of women. Our local pastor was the designated body guard. The prayer beforehand was vital preparation and was obviously answered because they had instant success the first night. Usually it takes many weeks, if not months, of meeting and building up friendships with the ladies before they will trust and take a step towards a new life. However, that first night they met a lady – we'll call her 'Pat' – who said she wanted to get off the streets, and off the drugs. We met her a few days later, at her shack in the township and took her to a local charity, run by a church, which provides counselling and support from a social worker for those who want to give up drugs. After a brief word from the counsellor, we helped her enrol on the programme. We then paid for her to travel to her mother's house for the weekend to spend time with her children, and to get her off the streets, even if just for a few days.

The following week, we met another lady on the street in the same situation, we'll call her 'Cherrie'. She and her husband were both addicted to a number of drugs and she worked the street to fund their habit. We met her a few days later at her home in the township and she too is enrolling on a rehabilitation programme through the same church charity. However, the same day, Pat failed to turn up for her first rehab appointment, which we found very discouraging. We later visited her home and she said that she had been at the police station bailing out a relative. It is hard to know whether these stories are true or not, but we'd like to believe that she had a good reason for not being there. I feel she does genuinely want to give up drugs.

Although it may appear to have gone off to a great start, and we have had some great successes already, we are aware that this work will inevitably see many challenges and fall backs. We are just starting out and we're very motivated by our current successes. Please pray that we stay focused, even as we face challenges.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Stepping into Sudan

This week we are reviewing the trip made by two members of the team to Uganda and Sudan to help a team of pioneers scout out some new areas to work. By producing this video, AfriCom is helping champion this work and communicate it to a wider audience. More information can be found on the AfriCom blog


Outreach to Issore, South Sudanfrom YWAM AfriCom on Vimeo.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Part of a team

Heathcote Safari: Part of a team: "This week we are working with a team of people from five nations. We are working in two languages. Our ways of thinking and working have been strongly influenced by Europe, South America and Africa. Our ages span three decades. And it's been great..."

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Holding the fort

This week most of the AfriCom team have gone to Mozambique to hold a workshop for YWAM volunteers on effective communication. Building a communications network in Africa involves travelling to the region and face-to-face meetings and training. This means that I'm left holding the fort, so to speak, with a skeleton staff-base in the Cape Town office. It's been great, nonetheless, to take this first step of co-ordinating activities from here; putting a toe-in-the-water of directing the operations here, knowing that in 10 days the current team director returns to pick things back up again!

Meantime, Becky is enjoying time with Joshua though she has started back working part time with the co-ordination of the volunteers for Justice ACTs. It's a process that we're going through as a family to establish roles and responsibilities; trying to get everything done (washing, cleaning, cooking), whilst working full time in a more responsible role (for Pete), keeping up with work activities/updates/meetings (for Becky) and getting enough sleep. This balancing act is what many parents go through, I'm sure. Josh is a great little boy who, despite getting a bit of collic on occasion, isn't a particularly grumpy baby. He sleeps a lot and when he's awake he's generally quite happy. He loves all of his aunties and uncles at YWAM and in the community here.

Phil enjoying time with Joshua
We have just enjoyed a lovely visit from Phil, Becky's younger brother, who came for two weeks. The timing of his visit was really good, as he was able to help with cooking, cleaning, washing-up, feeding and nappy changing. An extra pair of hands really helped, especially during the six days Becky was ill. He also had the chance to do some tourist activities, like climbing Table Mountain and surfing. We took him and Joshua to see the penguins for Joshua's one month birthday celebration, which is also the location where Becky went into labour!

If you're following our blog, please comment/contact us with any thoughts/feelings/ updates. As we wrestle with the new things we are facing (being family, new roles at work), we love to know how you are doing. We value your communication about your life, wherever you are at the moment and to get feedback on the stuff we're doing.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Angola video: project completed

Travelling across Angolan terrain, which is still showing the aftermath of various wars and conflict, was the job for the AfriCom team who spent two weeks touring the country to meet the YWAM volunteers doing longterm work in Angola. It was a privilege to travel with them and experience fellowship in such a beautiful country.

After a lot of hard work by the AfriCom team in Cape Town, a video has been created to help showcase some of the great work done by these Christian volunteers with YWAM in Angola.

Short promotional videos will hopefully whet the appetite of anyone interested in getting more involved, while the longer documentary will deepen people's understanding of working in this African country.

The team will get together to watch the documentary where we'll also have a meal to celebrate the completion of this large undertaking.

With a very low budget and scant resources – yet with sheer determination – this film was put together. Many hours went into editing, translating and producing this unique project.

Visiting these ministries in Angola and listening to and sharing their stories will have a much wider effect than just making them feel valued. Already stories shared in our magazines and articles online has developed interest from other agencies who wish to get involved in our work there. Partnerships are starting to be formed which will enable much more work to be done in some of these very remote areas. AfriCom's vision is to replicate this kind of work - supporting Christians working selflessly in difficult areas through sharing their stories - with others across the continent.

In my next entry, I will upload the shortened version of the Angola video to this blog. It would be great to hear your comments/thoughts about this film to help us shape future projects.

Also, if you would like a copy of the full film, please let me know and I'll get one sent to you.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Communications in Mozambique

Sponsor the trip now by clicking here

Today the team is working on the logistics and finer details of a workshop in Mozambique for missionaries who want to communicate their work better.

It has been said that God equips the called, He doesn't call the equipped. That means that those with a passion to serve, often don't know how to relay that to their supporters and to the wider world. Great things are done that go unmentioned and potential good partnerships in mission are/can be easily missed.

One of the things I love about this job is the way in which we interact with so many different people at different stages of Christian service. It is a privilege and a pleasure to serve God by training and equipping missionaries with what they need to communicate what they do. But, much more than that - we support them in their journey to connecting them with other ministries and championing their work to a wider audience.

YWAM has 1,100 ministry training and outreach locations worldwide, some of them in very remote places – especially those in Africa. Without good communications skills, the effectiveness of any mission work can be very limited. But with foundational skills, taught by experts in communication, young missionaries can further develop their local network of partners for mission.

Our next stop is Mozambique where our team will be running an Effective Communication Workshop in Maputo, Mozambique to train a group of Christians in full time ministry to be effective communicators.

AfriCom is dedicated to equipping and empowering people with the skills they need to communicate their work with the wider world. Rather than forcing all comms through us, we empower them to effectively communicate themselves. This helps them identify partners and build a better understanding locally and globally of their work.

If you'd like to support this training event directly click here.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Missions Communicators in Sudan

YWAM AfriCom: Missions Communicators in Sudan: An update from our missions communicators in Arua, northern Uganda, who were heading into South Sudan in preparation for shooting video footage to mobilize people, prayer and resources for the work of YWAM there. Read more about it here

Monday, 14 March 2011

Becoming a family

It's something that happens to so many people everyday: the transition from being a married couple to becoming parents.

When you choose to get married, there is a whole process of discussing the idea with your prospective partner and meeting the family and going through the emotional and mental process of what it means to be married. The marriage preparation course done by our pastor, Revd Howard Thornton, was amazing and set us up for, what has been a wonderful 5.75 years of wedded bliss.

But, when you have children, it's very different. First of all, the conception is rarely a plan-able event. Many couples try for years to get pregnant, whilst for others it comes sooner than anticipated. Then, once you're on your way, the 12-weeks scan has been done and you're mentally preparing yourself for the arrival of your first baby, the focus is no longer on what it is to become parents and more on the process of having a baby. These two are very different. All the appointments, discussions with medical professionals and others work on the process that Becky's body would be going through at each stage of pregnancy. Then, as the third trimester approaches, it's all about labour and what that will entail. Different methods of giving birth, what to expect, how to know what stage you're at. Then comes the actual event: the birth. An amazing unique experience that in the whole thing, you cannot deny the Creator God in the whole process. Each birth is a miracle, without a doubt.

But in all of this, nobody is really talking about, or preparing you for the transition between being a married couple and becoming parents. The body shock of sleepless nights, as you're cradling your little one at 3am, after he's woken up for the 4th time that night, screaming, you begin to ask yourself: what have I become?

Becoming a parent is a massive shift in any person's life. Yet it so often comes about without any emotional preparation for the status change. All focus is on the birth, and little-to-none is on the actual movement from couple to parent. We know that we have a new responsibility, but it's more than that. My whole thought pattern has changed and developed to have a consciousness of what I am doing, not in light of me, but in light of my family. This is a huge thing for me and has probably caused me more mental exhaustion than any crying at 3am Joshua could do!

Little Joshua is gorgeous. But he didn't come with an instruction book. He has a strong personality and a healthy appetite. There are hours on end when I can't stop staring at him and wondering how Becky and I managed it! The awe that you have as you hold him and look up to God and ask: can I really be responsible for taking care of such a precious gift?

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Rubber stamping applications

In the work we do, where crossing country boundaries is a regular occurrence, you get to see your fair share of consulates and embassies and all their various guises.

When you deal with any government office, you do get the feeling that once you walk through the door, you go from being a unique individual with thoughts, feelings, ideas and ideals to being a number. Sometimes, you are literally given a number, other times its just an attitude that states a lesser importance to anyone on the 'public' side of the desk.

The poet, Emily Dickinson once wrote, if you take care of the small things, the big things take care of themselves. As I waited the 45 minutes from when the official took my paperwork to the point of returning with a fumbled "not ready yet" answer, I had the opportunity to watch the goings on behind the desks of this consular office. I noticed that they had two staplers, two rubber stamps, three pens and one box of paper clips. But there were four officers on duty, all needing to staple, stamp and clip papers together. As I watched one person pick up a stapler from one table, they put it back on top of a filing cabinet. Then another officer took the box of paper clips from one desk, used a clip and placed it on another desk. This went on and it was like a game to watch where each item ended up.

What was most interesting to me was the sheer amount any one officer spent looking for one of these or other items that had just 'vanished'. I counted at least 5 times over this period where one officer would say to the other "do you have..." or "have you seen the...". It gave me a picture of what potentially happens to my application form as it weans its way from one official department to the other.

For this particular application, I now have four different reference numbers, some interchangeable, some not. They haven't yet admitted losing my paperwork, but the latest news I have had from this office is that if I were to re-apply, it would "help speed things up". I'm not sure how re-submitting paperwork would speed things up, unless of course, someone has filed my application in the bin.

Needless to say, patience is called for in such circumstance; it doesn't 'do' to lose your cool. Yet the self-appointed authority that these establishments give themselves and their officials can drive you to distraction!

Now, of course, I've been told that they can't process the re-submitted application until it has been rubber-stamped from the office in town. What joy tomorrow will be as I return to this office with more forms to be rubber stamped (or not, depending on where they've left their stamp).

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

YWAM AfriCom: AfriCom goes to Sudan

YWAM AfriCom: AfriCom goes to Sudan: "AfriCom exists to serve YWAM in locations all around Africa and our next exciting opportunity to connect with YWAM in the field is coming u..."

Monday, 21 February 2011

A weekend of false starts

Everyone who's gone through the process of having a baby will know of the feelings you have in the days building up to the 'event'. Becky and I aren't there yet. After twinges, aches and general discomfort, topped with the coming and going of contractions, getting ever regular (every 15 minutes at one point) both of us felt at several different times over the weekend that 'this is the time, he's coming'.

Just as we started to time contractions and put the hospital bag by the door 'ready' for the trip to hospital, all stopped. The most recent was last night, when I was psyching myself up (Pete) for a long night of supporting my wife through this amazing process of labour, the contractions stopped completely. To bed. Back to work on Monday
morning to think about developing a sustainable advertising campaign for our YWAM Africa magazine and do some testing on the database. But my mind is somewhat elsewhere and concentration is hard. Please pray for me.

I've been assured that, as twinges and contractions have started, things will be underway soon. I hope so for both our sakes!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Taking steps towards the goal

Yesterday I (Pete) spoke to my colleague, Anne, in Nigeria and Charles in Uganda. This three-way conversation - conference call if you like - is nothing new in the western world where virtual meetings are becoming ever-more the norm. Yet in an African context where electricity is often sporadic and internet connections are prohibitively slow, such a way of communicating is unheard of in most parts.

Virtual communications won't replace face-to-face contact. In fact we are increasing the amount of visits we make to our volunteers across the continent of Africa as we develop the communications structure. We are looking to develop a combination of roving reporters, who meet with YWAM teams in remote areas, gather information about their work and then feed it into regional 'hubs' for it to be collected and broadcast and passed on to the relevant parties.

With over 100 training locations and 1,000's of outreach initiatives happening across this continent, it is impossible to expect every one to just 'email' us the news. We are becoming ever more pro-active and
going to where the work is happening, encouraging those in isolated circumstances and advocating the work to a wider audience.

Speaking with Charles yesterday, his passion for communications is wonderful. With little resources to hand (their team has just one computer, one printer and a slow, expensive dial-up internet connection) yet he is passionate about putting East Africa and the work in the countries there on the map. Lydia, my colleague, will be travelling up to Uganda to meet with him in just over three weeks and then from there they'll take a trip up to Sudan to meet with volunteers there and find out what is happening on the ground.

Meantime, Anne is passionate about developing a stronger presence of the already good work done in West Africa. Based in Jos in the middle of Nigeria, her work entails meeting with and encouraging those across a vast region with many hundreds of tribes and tongues.

I'm really excited about the future of AfriCom and how we have a mandate to meet those in mission/volunteer work, encourage them and report the great things that they are doing. We are pioneering new ways of communicating, mixing the essential face-to-face contact needed in Africa with the cutting edge technology which means we can collect video interviews and publicise them online from some of the remotest areas.

**Mini Advert**
As always, we welcome support from friends who want to join us - think/pray about how you can be involved. We are in need at the moment of a web-editor who can help us further develop our website and manage it on a daily basis. If you're interested contact me - peterc@ywamafricom.org

Friday, 11 February 2011

Communication in Africa

Working in a communications team for a Christian missions movement in Africa is an exciting and ever-changing place. In the peaceful environment of the comms office, it's hard to imagine what friends in Sudan, Egypt, Tunisia or the DRC are going through right now. Yet we have the privilege of getting much closer to the action than most. And I yes I do mean privilege!

Sometimes that manifests itself in a visit to a region to report on the 'action', other times that might mean welcoming people here who have fled persecution or war. Next month we will be sending a reporter up to Sudan to gather data on how the recent referrendum on the separation into two states will affect the people on the ground. I wish I could go too, but as Becky gets closer to giving birth, I think it may not be the best timing!

The passion that the AfriCom team has to discover what is happening across this continent goes much deeper than what stories make headlines on the 6 O'Clock news. We have friends posted in some of the most remote areas of this continent, serving communities in whatever way they can. These friends email and text us updates for prayer regularly. So, when we sit down to pray, we have on our hearts what great things a nation can achieve and we remember our friends who are out there, serving with humble hearts.

It also raises lots of questions when you're reading through personal accounts of a crisis, like the one in Egypt, from our contacts and friends and then contrast that to the very westernised and, sometimes sensationalised perspectives of the BBC or CNN. Of course friends accounts are subjective and limited to their own experiences, but it does give a flavour and a insight that these big media agencies don't always get it right when it comes to accurately portraying the situation on the ground. And it's limited to bad news, because bad news sells newspapers.

Africa is a very diverse and beautiful continent. Its problems and issues aren't small (but whose are?). It's also such a vast place that while one community can be ravaged by war and hatred, another can be living in peace. As we travelled through Angola last year, we met communities who had never experienced war, yet on the road and in the large cities, the evidence of the destructive nature of war was everywhere to be seen.

As we build our communications network, YWAM AfriCom's vision is to support volunteer teams who want to live with and serve communities whatever each village/city is experiencing at the moment. We want to hear and tell others their stories. We will mourn with them at their loss and rejoice with them in their victory.

But we don't want to be sensationalist. Thankfully in our communications team, we are dependant on donations, so we don't have to rely on selling newsapaper/tv advertising to survive. In a media environment that is a great blessing. Our responsibility changes from making headlines that sell to having integrity to use supporters money wisely - and that means we are judged by our ability to be obedient to what we've been called to do: listen, report and serve those working in mission work across this continent. And the result of that is: most of the work of this organisation is carried out under the radar of big media headlines and journalistic spin. AfriCom is practically unheard of outside of YWAM, which is no bad thing. We pride ourselves in being obedient to our vision and valuing those who need our support. If by-standers don't know about us, then so be it.

Some friends will work in areas for their entire lives to see how they can serve, and walk with communities as they are transformed by God's love. That's not a catchy headline, yet it penetrates so much deeper than a sound bite from a president who says something stupid.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Taking the NHS for granted

It might be true to say that you only really understand the true value of something good when you have to live without it.

Moving to South Africa, we were aware that we would be using a different health care system and that we would be responsible for the costs incurred if we needed to see a doctor or go to hospital. As a requirement for our visas, we needed Medical Aid, which is the South African model for health insurance.

What we didn't realise is that there are lots of hidden charges and squirming ways in which medical aid providers try not to pay up or communicate what they are willing to pay for. Also, we didn't know that hospitals, doctors and other medical services are very unclear on their funding structures.

In fact, the other day a midwife told us "Often it's not until you get the bill that you'll know who is going to pay for what!"

We have had an acute experience of this system moving here right at the time when we are expecting our first baby. In the UK, as tax payers and British citizens, we had no idea how easy we had it. Attending check-ups with the midwife, booking into hospital, having scans, getting prescription drugs and all the other medical services used were all '"FREE". Of course we knew that these costs were covered by our taxes under the National Insurance tax system. But the beauty of the system is the focus: health care first and foremost.

It seems somehow wrong to be given choices, based on healthcare, like you were choosing a hotel room, or a bottle of wine. We have had to make some tough choices on where to give birth, how to give birth (water birth, home birth etc) and pain relief, not based on Becky's well being and future health of her and the baby, but on what we can afford. This makes it clear who has money and who hasn't. What's bizarre is that those with wealth, aren't necessarily given the best choices. Private hospitals in this area encourage those with money and good insurance to opt for a c-section. Why? Because of the safety of the mother/baby? No! Because of fear of litigation, if things in a vaginal birth go wrong. Choices are made, not based on the long-term health and well being of the patient, rather on what will enable the hospital or surgery to reduce the likelyhood of being sued!

We are embracing the life here in South Africa. We have made so many friends from many walks of life who also bemoan the system here. As visitors, we're not inclined to just complain about how 'different' things are here. This is more of a reflection and thanks for the services we received through the NHS.

The very idea of a health system, whatever country you're in, that works for greedy insurance companies and is in constant fear of law suits will never be as good as those that work for the good of the patient. Oh yes, you might get friendly service and a hotel-like environment when you check in, but is that a worthy compromise for behind the scenes decisions made on your behalf? I think that it's is our moral duty to look after the people that surround us and ensure that healthcare provision is based on need and not social status.

For all its faults and difficulties, I love the NHS and I wish that many other countries adopted its model. Never again will I take the services I received from this age-old institution for granted. Thank you NHS!

Friday, 28 January 2011

One on One

The strange thing about going from being a student to being staff in a training organisation means that people treat you differently. There's nothing un-normal about this, as students have a different status and purpose. As a student, you are given timetables, homework, assignments, work duties. You work in teams with the other students and it's only for a set period of time. For the Discipleship Training Students, things are done in 3-month blocks, so it's really hard for those who don't work directly in the school, but for other areas of the mission, to get to know the students in any deep or meaningful way.

However, one way I have found to combat this is to take the role of a so-called one-on-one. This is someone who is allocated a couple of students of the same sex to spend an hour a week with, to chat through with them how they are finding life in YWAM. It's great, because there's no set agenda or 'teaching' that I have to do, yet I can help two young men grow in their relationship with God by giving them a platform to explore, outside of the peer pressure/busy-ness of the week. I meet with my two guys and we just walk and talk. They share their journals with me and I can see how they are learning to become disciples of Christ. They are exploring their faith journey and it's such a priviledge to walk it with them.
It is done in my spare time, outside of my working week with YWAM, but I feel that it is two hours of the week very well spent - whether that's having lunch together, or taking a walk down the beach at sunset - to hear about someone else's walk with God is a great thing to do.

The other day, we invited the prayer and worship team over to our house to intercede for us as we move in and start a family. One of the team said to me: "In our department, we welcome people from the entire community to come and be prayed for. It is such a joy to do it, because as we pray for them, I start to see some of God's heart for that person and I just want to get to know them more and more. There has never been a time when we have prayed for someone and God hasn't showed up!"

I am not sure where God is leading me at the moment, or how the rest of my life will pan out, but what I do know is this: God is good, trustworthy and faithful.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

S-Cape from human trafficking

Justice ACTs is now in the process of setting up S-CAPE - a haven for victims rescued from human trafficking. This safe house aims to address the immediate needs of victims including medical, legal and psycho-social as well as trauma support and counseling.

Becky is working to help furnish the property with her team and recruit a 'house mother' who will live with and take care of the residents when they arrive. She has been scouring house sales in the area, searching out materials - from blankets and bedding to white goods and other appliances, the safe house needs to be equipped if it is going to serve as a home.

As part of an effort to reintegrate and rehabilitate victims there will also be a skills training centre attached to S-cape. The type of training would be specific to each girl but we envision such things as basic computer skills, cooking, music & dance. We also have a number of volunteers coming to do art therapy and teach crafts which the ladies will hopefully be able to sell for a profit, to sustain themselves. Becky will be involved with this too. She is also currently recruiting and coordinating logistical details of new volunteers due to arrive soon.

Monday, 17 January 2011

When to give

Do you give to someone who begs you for money on the street?

Yes... what is a few coins to me, but it could mean a lot to them.

No... they're only going to spend it on drugs/alcohol.

I've been finding this question surprisingly difficult to answer. The debate appears never ending. It's a little easier to resist beggars as a tourist. But living here, the question becomes a little more complex. These are my neighbours.

In South Africa, the contrast between rich and poor is great. You can't escape from poverty when it's right on your doorstep. In many areas there are high walls with electric wires and 24-hour patrolling security on one side of the street, and shacks on the other with no security at all. Apart from, that is, the 'security' that comes from the gang culture which is ever-increasing here.

In the work that we do in Africa, it would feel somehow wrong if, after helping the people we reach out to in this continent, we do not care for those who live on our own doorstep. The easy answer (to say to to yourself) is: “the money you give all just goes on drugs, don't give.” or, “you'll be inundated...once they see you as a soft spot, they'll just come back for more and more.”. Both of these things I have said before – maybe to ease my own guilt/conscience in not helping those around us. That was until I had a conversation with the pastor's wife, who set me straight!

“What does it cost us, to help them a little bit?” she told me. I feel so much more part of the community when I am friends with both rich and poor around me.”

This really challenged me. I know that the pastor's family is not rich. Far from it. They are living on a small budget and have to rely a lot of the time on the generosity of others for their own needs (they have just recently been donated a car to do their ministry). They live in a 'rich' part of town, protected by the usual security features. Yet they embrace the community around them.

“The communities here are very well connected,” she went on to tell me. “We had our car radio stolen and I was chatting to a guy begging outside the 7-11. He knows me and knows my heart. I've chatted to him a lot. He said to me 'sister, you are a good woman. I will help you get your radio back'. I kid you not, when I say that within two days, my car radio was returned to me.”

I wasn't sure what to make of that. Again, my cynical mind came up saying: It was the beggar who stole it in the first place or, There's a protection racket going on here but she wasn't at all thinking in that way. She said that she feels so much safer living in a community where she is not flaunting her wealth to those who don't have much, rather sharing what little she had with anyone and everyone she meets. She is a warm, happy, welcoming person whose love for others impressed me to do something. A small step, I know, but now when I go out I pledge to give what little I have (time, food, or even money!) to those in the community in which I live. Becky and I have budgeted our income and we aren't exactly 'flush with cash', but we are learning that we can still share what little we have.

In Africa, there's always room for one more.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Learning to give birth in a foreign land


At 34 weeks pregnant, we have now begun the antenatal classes in our new home: South Africa. As first time parents and 'newbies' to SA, we are somewhat unnerved by not knowing the healthcare system. Seven couples were there at the class, most of whom were preparing to have their first baby.


It is apparently increasingly popular for women to give birth at home and the professional medical advice now is that giving birth at home is a natural and normal thing to do and going to hospital should be limited to high risk, complications and emergencies. However, Becky and I are unsure of this and we are still weighing up the options. We have our first appointment with our obstetrician next week and we will discuss options with him and our midwife. It is essential to have a meeting with, and a referral from, an obstetrician to activate the medical insurance (apparently).

We learnt about the transition from being a couple to becoming parents, getting the baby into the best position for him to ‘engage’ – “be open, upright and forward leaning!” – as a modern man, I did my best to join. Angela had a model of a pelvis and a toy puppy to demonstrate the journey of a baby during labour. She showed how the baby engages, turns to allow the head through, then drops and turns again to allow the shoulder’s through. She also talked about all of the different hormones that a woman may experience around child birth and how to stimulate the good hormones (oxitocins, protoglandins and endorphins) and prevent/reduce the hormones which would prolong labour/make it harder (Adrenalin).


Tonight is our second session with Angela. Let's see what I can learn as a dad-to-be!

Learning to give birth in a foreign land

At 34 weeks pregnant, we have now begun the antenatal classes in our new home: South Africa. As first time parents and 'newbies' to SA, we are somewhat unnerved by not knowing the healthcare system. Seven couples were there at the class, most of whom were preparing to have their first baby.


It is apparently increasingly popular for women to give birth at home and the professional medical advice now is that giving birth at home is a natural and normal thing to do and going to hospital should be limited to high risk, complications and emergencies. However, Becky and I are unsure of this and we are still weighing up the options. We have our first appointment with our obstetrician next week and we will discuss options with him and our midwife. It is essential to have a meeting with, and a referral from, an obstetrician to activate the medical insurance (apparently).

We learnt about the transition from being a couple to becoming parents, getting the baby into the best position for him to ‘engage’ – “be open, upright and forward leaning!” – as a modern man, I did my best to join. Angela had a model of a pelvis and a toy puppy to demonstrate the journey of a baby during labour. She showed how the baby engages, turns to allow the head through, then drops and turns again to allow the shoulder’s through. She also talked about all of the different hormones that a woman may experience around child birth and how to stimulate the good hormones (oxitocins, protoglandins and endorphins) and prevent/reduce the hormones which would prolong labour/make it harder (Adrenalin).