Merry Christmas, everyone!
We’re enjoying being around friends and family in the UK for Christmas for the first time in 4 years, but missing our friends and co-workers in Nigeria.
We have now been in the UK for nearly 6 months, and had various plans for our time here which haven’t exactly worked out, but we’re making progress. We hoped to catch up with supporting churches, update them on our work in Nigeria, and hopefully get a little opportunity to arouse some interest in supporting our Nigerian missionary colleagues. David was also hoping to continue doing translation consultancy remotely supporting the Ashɛ translation team.
Here’s a quick update on what has actually been happening.
Visits: Reporting back to supporters and churches
We’ve enjoyed sharing a little about our work with friends and various prayer meetings in Glasgow, at the Tron Church, at Edinburgh North Church and Julie popped down to Cambridge but in the new year we’ll have a lot more visiting to do.
On our last home assignment we had whizzed round the country all together as a family, to take in friends and supporters around London, Cambridge, and other parts of England and the Scottish Highlands. We’ve realised that might not be a good idea any more. All the girls but Rebekah struggle with travel sickness, and it’s hard to balance things being helpful for them, and useful for us. So we’re going to try doing individual visits. It’s not perfect, but we also love having people visit us in Glasgow.
A re-think about housing
Abigail was born in our 2-bedroom flat in NE Glasgow almost 7 years ago, but as we went back to Nigeria later that year we realised we wouldn’t all fit into it again. So when we came back for Helen to be born, we knew we would need to rent a 3-bedroom house. That worked out OK; it was still a bit of a squeeze, but we managed and Rebekah and Elizabeth thrived in a school which had friends from church.
4 years later, we tried doing the same thing again, but this time it was a lot harder and more expensive to find a suitable flat or house in the same kind of area. Jumping through credit checks and proof of income for renting gets increasingly difficult when we’re living overseas, self-employed and not earning Oil Industry money. We also discovered the down-side of renting when no sooner had David just popped back to Nigeria for a month in September than Julie and the kids were asked to leave and find a new rental because the landlord needed to sell. Not fun. (The training month in Nigeria was well worth it, though.)
We are grateful to our church — some friends helped put us up when the flat we were to rent wasn’t ready in time, they’ve given us extra support with renting costs, and many in the church family have helped with furniture etc but we’d really like it if next home assignment we don’t have to be so much of a burden! So it would seem wise to sell up and try to buy a house which we can all fit into, ideally near to where we have lived this time and last time, for some continuity with schools and friendships.
We wouldn’t have been in a position to move house before, but as friends urged us to try to do that this year, we could see the wisdom in it. We didn’t quite anticipate how tricky all the paperwork might be, but we hope that it might pay off next time round, so that we can be less distracted!
Our current status is that our flat of 14 years is nearly sold, and we’re now in the throes of trying to find someone willing to give a mortgage to us and find a suitable house or flat that we can move to and let out when we’re abroad. It’s a little overwhelming, but we know that God is in control of it. Do pray!
Reworking our communications
This time back in the UK we’ve been pretty bad at communicating with people apart from those we’ve been seeing, and we’re sorry about that. Partly it’s because we realised we needed to find some new ways of doing things, rather than just keep what had been
On the technical side: We first were sent out by the Tron Church to be trained in Kenya and then later to work in Nigeria over 12 years ago, and we haven’t really changed very much about the way we have communicated with supporters in that time. Before the Rowbory girls descended upon us, David used to have a little more time to fiddle with websites and custom code, but now peace and quiet for that sort of thing is more limited and there are some nice off-the-shelf systems available. So we’ll be making some technical changes.
On the relational and content side: We realised we needed to have some time back in the UK to really connect with our support base because it’s all too easy for us to be so involved in all the details of our complicated work that we forget how to explain it well to ordinary people here so you can pray and be encouraged. We’d like to do a better job of communicating what we do and how we’re doing it so that our supporters might really benefit too. Some of the struggles we wrestle with force us to think more carefully about God’s message and mission, and we wouldn’t want to keep that all to ourselves.
Getting our admin and computers all sorted out
When both Julie’s and David’s computers independently (and in David’s case mysteriously) died earlier in the year within a month it caused a bit of a struggle for us and David realised he’d spent more time on other peoples’ IT needs than keeping his own in order. We had also been struggling along and making do in ways that didn’t help us rebound from such (predictable) problems. So it’s taken a little time to figure out getting replacement computers, and recover everything. We’re not quite up to full speed yet, but we’re getting there. We thank God for many helpful friends!
David’s got various old IT relationships that he has neglected over the last few years, so he’s trying to help out friends and ministries here and there with updates to web hosting and other systems. The internet doesn’t stay the same for long! Do please pray that he’s able to help people out but avoid taking on too many responsibilities.
Girls in School — a welcome break for Julie
Julie was feeling in need of a break from home schooling and it’s been generally a healthy experience for Rebekah, Elizabeth and Abigail to go to Shawlands Primary School, picking up some old friendships, and getting more experience living in the UK. Helen’s been going to a local nursery and after about 3-4 months has finally started feeling less clingy, even if she still doesn’t really like to talk very much there. We thank God for giving us a nicely ethnically/socially diverse area to live in. That seems to have been very helpful for the girls who might look like they should fit in, but their accents and life experience are atypical. David struggled with re-entry to Glasgow as a child, so is particularly happy to see the transitions working positively.
A little remote consulting
David’s trying to stay in touch with colleagues in Nigeria — especially Moses and Arams of the Ashɛ translation team. He’s glad for colleagues like Lucky and Jonathan on the ground who can help, but it’s a major challenge for the team to wrestle with the technology and with their own schedules sufficiently to work remotely effectively. We’re trying a combination of emails, Skype (with screen sharing!) and using the Paratext translation software. The hope is that the Ashɛ team should be able to continue revising Luke’s gospel so that all our study of how storytelling works in Ashɛ would lead to a much clearer translation, not just an accumulation of unapplied theoretical knowledge.
Before we did this study translators had been bothered trying to figure out when it’s OK to have a sentence starting with the word ‘amma’. That is borrowed from Hausa and usually translates the English ‘but’, which in turn usually translates Greek ‘δε’. The answer it turns out is pretty much never to use ‘amma’, but we might mention a participant by name or description, to mark a new episode in the story. Needless to say we have tons of misleading ‘amma’s that we can now remove with confidence, but we do need to make sure that we replace them with the (completely different) correct way of marking new developments, exciting parts of the story etc.
Support for our colleagues in Nigeria
It’s been exciting to see many Nigerian missionaries join us over the last few years, but it’s a real struggle for many of them to raise financial support for their ministry. This reflects the struggle there is in convincing others that Bible translation and associated ministries are really worth giving money to support. With many ‘ministry’ charlatans around, Nigerians are often understandably cynical about people raising financial support. Do pray that God would prompt his people to support our colleagues — both from within Nigeria and from outside — and pray that the church in Nigeria and around the world would grow stronger as they join hands in the work. Do pray for various key leadership changes that are scheduled for our working group in Nigeria (known as SIL Nigeria).
Returning to Nigeria in the Spring
Coming back to the UK has helped remind us of the vast need for work in Nigeria, and the importance of us going to help in what ever ways we can. We plan to return to Nigeria around March, but will be prioritising visiting people we haven’t seen yet, having medical checkups, and hopefully finishing off the house move.
Edit - Update 24 December: While we haven't completed all the legal stuff, we thank God that we received a decent offer to buy our 2 bedroom flat, so we should be on the way to being able to find and buy a bigger place.
Something else which is interesting to read
If you’ve read this far you might be interested in some very interesting blog posts on ‘returning from the mission field’, written by German born Brits returning to Scotland having served in England then Namibia for many years:
Obviously we haven’t left Nigeria behind now, but we can empathise a little with the pain, shame and guilt of coming ‘home’ from the mission field, and there are many missionaries going through that. It’s helpful to read others’ reflections on these matters to think through how we can act now so that we avoid setting ourselves up for too much trauma or angst later.