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Taking the EX out of ex-missionary

Ongoing ministry for missionaries: “It’s like I never left”

“I wish I could go back,” is the response of many missionaries when they get back to their home country. Reasons for not returning can be many: age, health, caring for older family members, children’s education, finance, or a volatile political situation.

Happily, there are many ways that a returned missionary can continue to minister to his or her country of service. Many are involved in some area of prayer and mission advocacy – encouraging prayer involvement and mission commitment within their home churches. Many can maintain mentoring links with national believers, or be involved in translation work. In these days of population mobility, they can often find a sizable population of ‘their’ people in larger towns.

But is it possible to maintain a direct evangelistic input into a former country of service? Yes!


Jane’s story

Jane is based at SOON Ministries, a part of WEC International, which produces evangelistic papers in a range of languages from small premises near Derby, UK. Her previous work with the Fula people in Senegal has equipped her to edit and administer an outreach paper in several Fula dialects. She is therefore directly touching this ‘gateway people’ in a number of countries across West Africa.

“When I returned to Britain for health reasons, after nine years with the Fula people in Senegal, I was expecting to return as soon as possible. Six months later, hearing of the desperate need of staff for our organization's French BIENTOT literature outreach, I began to help their team whilst waiting to return to Senegal. I was challenged to see this work as not just a stopgap measure but valid in its own right, by a colleague saying that potential missionaries should be asked, “Do you want to go to Senegal or do you want to reach the world?” Obviously both ministries are valid and vital. The only relevant question from day to day is, “Where does God want me at this point in time?”

“I can’t do it”

For over a year I kept pushing away an idea that was beginning to plague me: If these papers are so much appreciated in European languages wouldn’t they be at least equally appreciated in the language of the Fulas? The reason for pushing away the idea was two-fold. To produce a paper for the Fulas would be extremely difficult and I lacked many of the gifts such a project would need.

Eventually one quiet time God convinced me that this idea was his plan for me. With fear and excitement I began to mention it to several people. Many were excited but those who knew most about this language were, like me, cautious. One of these however had only recently been reading about how Paul “was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” Feeling more inadequate than you could imagine, I began to gather information and feel the way ahead.

Without email and the Web the task would have been impossible, as I obviously needed to make contact with many different Fula people or those working amongst Fulas, from Senegal to Sudan. Over the years I have found both readers and mother-tongue language helpers in an online guest-book, in online telephone directories, amongst contacts from our webpages, from blogs and by following through friends of friends of Fulas using Facebook. I work with those language helpers using either email or, where they can't write their own language, by using Skype. Email has greatly speeded up contact with those who know Fula Christians and have been able to get their testimonies to me for inclusion in the paper. Other testimonies I found online.

Belonging to the SOON Ministries team is also a tremendous help as others on the team have some of the gifts I lack and are able to give advice and ideas, and help me to solve problems of which there have been plenty!

A first issue of the paper, called ˆBOOYATAA was launched in May 2002. A year later a second paper ˆBADAKE was printed in a different dialect for Fula people from Republic of Benin eastwards. With additional administrative help, we could consider versions in other Fula dialects too. God has given me fulfillment and a vital ministry even outside of Senegal!”

pdf icon Online PDF files of the papers here.


Beryl’s story

Beryl served in Dem. Rep of Congo (formerly Zaire) for 25 years where she learned Swahili. (It is widely used in E Africa – as a second-language in Congo, Uganda and Kenya, and a first language in Tanzania.) The civil war in Congo forced Beryl’s evacuation in 1998. She is now based at SOON Ministries, where she took over the evangelistic paper UPESI in Swahili from its previous editor Margaret Coleman. Margaret had herself worked in both Zaire and Kenya, and on retiring had started the paper in the early 80s.

“I came to know the Lord at camp by the side of a lake in Central Alberta, Canada. I was eight years old. Camp is a great place for children to learn how God can change their lives. When I was twelve, God called me to be a missionary in Africa, later directing me to Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo).

When I arrived in 1973 I wasn’t sure what I would be doing nor was I aware of what kind of ministry the Lord would give me. My ministry started so simply with a few children and one teacher in Sunday School at Nebobongo, but quickly grew to three hundred children and several teachers who needed training. This was to be the ministry God gave to me: training Sunday School teachers, preparing teaching books and training manuals and finally training people to train the teachers.

I started first by using the Congo Swahili language, translating notes, writing lessons and then going out to the village churches to hold seminars, always encouraging the Christians to teach their children the Word of God. Later I learned Lingala and began writing more lessons in that language. The blessings came in seeing the teachers begin to faithfully teach the children and in finding many children's lives changed as God worked in their hearts.

A gentle nudge

In 1993 God gave me a nudge towards a change in my life. Our mission’s magazine printed a picture of Margaret Coleman, the editor of UPESI, with a brief article asking for someone to replace her because she wanted to retire. I remembered this when Margaret made a visit to the Congo in early 1998; I knew that this was the right time to offer for this ministry.

When the Congo civil war started in 1998 I knew my time in the Congo was finished. We missionaries evacuated out of Nebobongo and I went to Kenya for three months to study Union Swahili. By early December I was with the SOON Ministries team, learning how to edit UPESI All the work doing Sunday School materials in the Congo was exactly the preparation I needed to do the editing!

Despite some health problems, I am able to touch the whole of East Africa – we are now printing 110,000 copies of the paper every three months.

I currently urgently need more sparetime mother-tongue language helpers, to translate or proof-read short articles. Helpers should speak the form of Swahili spoken in Tanzania and in Nairobi or eastern Kenya. It is helpful, though not essential, if they are on email.”

pdf icon Online PDF files of the papers here.

Starting a literature outreach

SOON Ministries papers are single-sheet two-color, cheap to print and light to distribute. [Read online samples] They use these principles of editing and communication. The ministry depends on UK-based volunteers to wrap and post the papers – a fulfilling task for Christians, which also lifts the financial burden of posting from the office! Printing costs alone are not vast. A print-run of 5000 copies of the Fula paper is under US $100/£60 The team will gladly give advice and encouragement to anyone wishing to start a similar outreach in any language.