As they prepare to leave their location for final Home Assignment in Australia, Checkpoint asked two missionary couples what they will miss most about their host country and how they have seen God at work throughout their ministry.
Question 1: What is something that you will miss about your location?
A & H* (Middle East): “There are many things we will miss after 11 years in the Middle East. We could be frivolous and say we’ll miss the warm, sunny weather, the ice-cream shop down the road and Saturday night kushary (a Middle Eastern rice dish). We could say the delicious seasonal fruit – we know it’s May when we eat mishmish (apricots), or July when we eat mangoes, or November when the strawberries come out. While all those things are true, it is the people we will miss most of all. We’ll miss our colleagues at our workplaces, our school friends, fellow workers for the gospel, local friends who are shining as lights in a difficult place, the lady who washes cars on a nearby street and who enthusiastically greets us on the way to school, the man who runs the homewares and toy shop who loves to chat, the guys who run the fruit and veg store we buy from every week. In a dusty, busy city it is these people who have made our lives so wonderful over so many years and we will miss them dearly.”
Andy & Jenny Bennett (Tanzania): “Lots of stuff! The people, the scenery, the perfect weather - we're near the equator but at 1,800 metres above sea level so it's mild all year. But really, the HUGE thing we'll miss is the incredible fulfilment of knowing that we are doing what God called us to do and seeing the amazing way that it unfolds before our eyes. When we retire, we'll see what God brings into our lives in terms of part-time voluntary work back in Adelaide, but the past 10 years have been very, very special. Life after Africa will never be the same.”
Question 2: What is one way you have seen God at work throughout your ministry?
A & H: “When A first joined our current partner organisation in 2014, we were praying to meet 50 enquirers personally to share about Jesus. Now, we meet 50 people every quarter. New small church groups have started up in cafes and people’s homes. There is Ahmed, who found forgiveness through Christ when sheikhs told him he couldn’t be guaranteed forgiveness after an adulterous relationship; Salma, whose family are so suspicious of her interest in Christianity they took the door off her room so she couldn’t read the Bible in secret; and Alaa, whose dream about Jesus led him to faith. People are contacting us from places we thought of as gospel wastelands – Yemen, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia and Oman. We had been pretty sceptical of these stories of flourishing ministries in the Arab world until we saw it for ourselves over the past couple of years. People have become confused about what Islam means, especially in the face of terrorism. They want to find a better way and God is revealing it to them through the lives of Christians, dreams and media programs. We pray that God will continue to work in the hearts of Arabs as they wrestle with confusion over their faith. We pray that God will continue to use the team in the Middle East to speak wisely to those contacting them.”
Andy & Jenny Bennett: “Again, lots of examples come to mind. Jenny has ministered to hundreds of hospital patients most weeks, caring for their spiritual, emotional and physical needs. Sometimes she has seen amazing healings, people growing in faith, or their lives being transformed to give them hope. Andy has 'gone with the flow' as God presented unexpected opportunities, such as establishing a solar power project which helped thousands of people and promoted the church as caring for the community. But Andy's final role as coordinator of Bible teaching in secondary schools seems to be what God was preparing him for all along. It was totally unexpected – even to the point of being ordained as a pastor! He was totally unfamiliar with the government syllabus for teaching the Bible Knowledge subject and didn't know how the government school system worked. He had never done any teaching, yet had to train others to do it! And yet, God says, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). Within two years, the program has gone from zero to 4,000 students doing Bible Knowledge in 30 schools. And in May it actually broke even financially! Yep, we're gonna miss that...”
There are many ways you can care for missionaries returning to Australia for final Home Assignment: pray for their adjustment back to Aussie life, ask them about their experiences on location, offer to help them out in practical ways as they set up new homes and start at new schools and jobs, or catch them up on what is new or changed here in the years they have been away.
*Names removed for privacy reasons.