22 March 2011

Missions Communicators in Sudan

An update from our missions communicators in Arua, northern Uganda; working into South Sudan in preparation for shooting video footage to mobilize people, prayer and resources for the work of YWAM there.

"We were received by old friends of YWAM in Kampala and then met up with with our small outreach team in Lobone, South Sudan for our first location. It was great to be a united team of eight people from various nations coming together for Christ to be made known in the remote hills of this long neglected people. From the base in Lobone (YWAM is beginning a work on a plot there now), it is a several hour hike into the first village of the Issore region, and each village is quite a distance apart from any other. We were able to spend two nights, three days there, and we really sensed more of what God wants for this people. We are grateful to William and Bosco, who will carry on the work there even as we go away. We can see God touching many to come and serve alongside them in this needy region and we know the production of the video will move many as well."

Since receiving this communication, we have also heard that one of the team was detained by Sudanese authorities for an afternoon and only released after paying a fine. His crime? He had unwittingly taken a photograph of an army barracks. Missions communicators need to be savvy to make it in Africa!

What challenges are you aware of in your own communication? How are you working to overcome them? Have you been touched by videos and stories from remote places like Issore? How were you moved to get involved in some way?

18 March 2011

Building communication at a local level

This week, some of the AfriCom team in Cape Town travelled to nearby Worcester to meet with the newly formed Communication Team at the YWAM centre there. Our connection with YWAM Worcester was strengthened at the end of last year, when we ran a week-long Effective Communication Workshop for their staff. Since that time we have visited monthly to help the communication director in her quest to mobilize a team to work alongside her in serving the communication needs of the ministry and training staff in her YWAM location.

This week we were hugely encouraged to meet 6 new Com Team members (currently all part-time) including a writer, photographer, videographer and video conferencing expert. What a great team, each person highly motivated to launch communication initiatives that will help connect missionary staff at this thriving training and ministry centre, as well as promote their work among the local community as well as nationally and internationally.

This sort of consultation and support is one of the ways regional Com Teams like AfriCom can help strengthen the work of YWAM at a local level. To find out more about how we can help YWAM in your location, email info@ywamafricom.org.

15 March 2011

YWAMers fear armed conflict in Ivory Coast

In Ivory Coast, a nation currently under threat of civil war, YWAM has a history of discipling individuals and building communities. As well as the 6 month Discipleship Training School, YWAM Côte d'Ivoire has offered training in Christian counseling and supports a number of local pastors through their church ministries work. At times like these, when communities are under a high degree of stress, pastors and church leaders provide a steadying anchor for individuals and families who fear for their own safety.

North and south Ivory Coast have been divided since 2002 when ethnic, religious and economic disparities caused conflict that meant a united nation was not sustainable. Last year's presidential election was the first in a decade and came as the result of a lengthy peace process. In that election, Mr Ouattara, a muslim northerner, won a slender victory that has since been declared invalid by supporters of Mr Gbagbo in the south. Many international organisations, however, including the UN, African Union and EU, have recognised Mr Ouattara as the winner.

Whilst it is being reported that civil war is not inevitable, what we hear from YWAM staff on the ground indicates that there is a lot of fear that the situation is escalating towards armed conflict. "If war is unleashed" wrote Richard, YWAM leader in Ivory Coast, "there will be serious loss of life since both sides are ready to give their all for their leader."

Every day large numbers of the population are leaving the city of Abidjan for the countryside; whilst in the west of the country people are fleeing to Liberia and Guinea. The UN refugee agency reports that over 450,000 people have fled their homes because of the current crisis.

For now, although some YWAM staff have already left the country for Ghana or Togo, most YWAMers are in the city of Abidjan and for now are staying. This decision is being reassessed daily as the situation unfolds. YWAM teams in neighbouring countries stand ready to receive their fellow missionaries if evacuation proves unavoidable.

For more information about the current state of affairs, go to a news website such as this.

08 March 2011

For Marta and the women of Mozambique

Marta Alige was a pioneer. She was one of the first generation of girls to grow up educated in peacetime Mozambique, and one of the first generation of Mozambican missionaries. When she finished school, instead of moving to the city looking for work, she was trained by Youth With A Mission, and spent the rest of her short life working as a frontier missionary in the isolated Zambezi delta.

For ten years YWAM Marromeu has worked in this delta region. Education has always been a huge felt need for the Mozambicans there, living far from the nearest schools. YWAM leaders, Shephen and Caitlin Mbewe, both trained schoolteachers, are committed to develop education in this area, where poverty and illiteracy are rife.

Several years ago, after completing her DTS in Marromeu, Marta began the first primary school in the delta. Her husband Pedrito lived with her in the delta, running a small first aid post. Slowly, with the held of a fellow YWAMer, Tiago, and a government teacher, Marta developed the school. Steady progress has now been made in teaching literacy, though the number of simple books in the local Sena language is limited.

Many outreach teams have also helped with the literacy programme, flown into remote delta villages by helicopter, generously provided by Mercy Air. With the motto, ‘Wings of love to people in need’, South Africa’s Mercy Air has accelerated the speed with which the YWAM team is able to travel, reducing three-day canoe trips to 30 minutes.

Tragically, in late 2010, Marta Alige died, after complications during a Ceasarean Section. Still today, two decades after Mozambique’s civil war ended, one in thirty seven Mozambican women die in childbirth. Thankfully Marta’s story does not finish here, however. The work she started has been continued through the lives of three teenage YWAM girls.

Caitlin, and her three daughters, Nyasha, Kudzai and Tatenda, wanted to do something special to remember Marta. They translated a traditional African folk tale into Sena, doing the artwork themselves. ‘Why does the eagle steal the hen’s chicks?’ has now been published, dedicated to the memory of Marta.

The book was recently given to children living in the delta, who Marta had taught. Fifteen-year old Nyasha comments, “Everyone loved it. Even the ones who could not read could follow the story by looking at the pictures, and could recognize words in the story from the vocabulary pages. It was so exhilarating! Everyone was so disappointed when the story came to an end - it made me wish I had more books. I want to bring reading alive for them."

The day after giving the books out in Luawe, Caitlin visited Bumbani, another village in the delta, to check on the progress of the reading scheme she had introduced earlier in 2010. She found that many of those attending the programme could already read all the word cards that she had provided. Now their great need is books.

Recently, Caitlin made an emergency trip to South Africa. Whilst there, some wonderful partnerships began. She met Anne Herbert, the Outreach Coordinator for Mercy Air, with 27 years experience teaching primary education. More people heard about the Sena literacy programme and began donating their time and skills. A team from South Africa are now creating a ‘Classroom in a box’, containing practical literacy materials that can be easily carried into remote areas.

Today the Mbewes are busy translating further African folk tales into Sena, as easy readers for the learners. Enthusiastic artists from supporting churches in the United Kingdom are helping with culturally appropriate artwork. Plans are afoot to publish short bible stories and challenging books that will help build a biblical worldview.

A generation of Mozambicans living in the Zambezi delta now have the opportunity to learn to read and write. For the women in particular, education offers the possibility of radical transformation. Marta did not have formal training, only 5 years of primary school. It was Martin Luther King who said, "One does not need a degree to serve." Marta proved that to be true, she served the children of the delta with love and devotion, and her short life will bear much fruit.

For more information, contact Mercy Air or YWAM Marromeu via email: mbeweshephen@yahoo.co.uk