17 May 2011

YWAM leaders from South Africa meet in Bethlehem

Autumn in South Africa is a time for refreshing and gathering together of those that lead YWAM training locations and ministries in southern Africa. Over the weekend of 6-8th, about 50 of us gathered in Bethlehem (no, not that one! – Bethlehem, South Africa). It was a chance for us to share our stories, each one part of the larger story that is YWAM's work in this part of the world.

In the cool, misty, remote location of YWAM's training centre in Bethlehem we were singing and dancing to songs with hand and arm actions to warm our bodies as we worshipped God. Though cold outside, the atmosphere in the main hall was warm and inviting with lots of family jokes and banter among old friends. As the meetings got underway, each ministry in this region had a chance to share with the group the ways they are working to meet the needs of the communities where they live, along with the main things that they are facing this year. Some shared about great challenges, whilst others shared about exciting new beginnings.

YWAM Durban surprised us all when they told of their rescue home for cats (currently housing 100 felines) which – apparently – has opened doors into the community that would never have been there otherwise. Another unusual story came from a YWAM ministry which began working with the police to bridge relations between the community and church pastors, who had been getting into trouble from parents of school children who objected to their work within schools.

It was inspiring and encouraging to hear and share the myriad projects that are being done as part of Youth With A Mission's engagement in the communities of South Africa. Our work as a YWAM communication team means that we focus on building connections between diverse Youth With A Mission ministries, and on championing them by telling their stories. Meeting with the leaders from this part of Africa was another reminder of what an honour this is!

11 May 2011

Inter-agency Networking

When we started AfriCom, the first regional communication team for Youth With A Mission, it felt like we were creating something completely new. And we were, for our organization. Communication had either been dealt with at a local level - more or less competently - or, when it came to our public face, at an international level from the United States.

Those first years were a combination of experimentation, building connections with leaders in the organization, being told what we were trying to do couldn't work, and then seeing the first small signs of success. It was hard and sometimes messy. But we were convinced it was important and we enjoyed it enough to keep going!

Last week Miranda and Peter went to JOhannesburg to meet with the communication directors for Africa from Wycliffe, Africa Inland Mission and the International Baptist Mission. We have been discussing how the unique 'personalities' of our organizations have led us to pursue communication in specific ways on their behalf. We have exchanged ideas. We have been impressed by what one another is producing - beautiful stories from Africa in video, written and photo form. We have identified ways of partnering with one another, together supporting the work of each of our missionary groups in Africa.

We learned that we are not alone. That others have walked this road before us and have made the road smoother for those that follow behind. That this great mission which we have all given our lives to - making Love and Life known - can only be done as we work together.

Who do you network with and how does this encourage and inspire you?