In this series we celebrate how our skills, interests or hobbies can open the door to a new ministry or opportunity. This month: holidays. Interviews by Sharon Barnard
Prudence Bell is 71 and both she and her clergyman husband, Stuart, are now retired from full-time ministry. For many years the couple have travelled around the world, taking services and providing encouragement and pastoral support to holidaymakers, Christian workers and indigenous churches. This year the intrepid Bells are planning trips to Switzerland, Jerusalem, Tanzania and Zambia.
"When our three children were small we knew we could never afford to travel abroad for holidays. As there was a need for holiday chaplains on the many campsites on the west coast of France, and my husband didn’t mind working on holiday, we spent many summers serving with the Intercontinental Church Society. We organised services and were available pastorally and to talk about the Christian faith.
"As well as France, we have served several times in Switzerland, Ibiza and also Norway. After a sabbatical, where we travelled around the world visiting growing churches in different settings (Nepal, China, New Zealand and America [Los Angeles]), we returned to Nepal four times to do some teaching in the indigenous Church.
"In recent years we have had a policy to visit all the members of our congregation who are serving abroad. At one point there were 18 missionaries. This took us to Kyrgyzstan, Thailand, France, Spain, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. Last December, we were in Tanzania and then went on to Zambia to visit and share ministry with folk from our last church who work there.
"Our trips have varied in length from two weeks to two months, and a couple of times three months. The church was very supportive because we were visiting ‘our’ people or churches we supported. Now we are retired we are not restricted.
"We often feel out of our depth and even frightened, but the Lord has always been there. And he has always provided; we have never been out of pocket.
"One highlight for me was when I was visiting a young woman working in China. She said, “I would rather have your company for these three days than any money you could send me.” This had a strong influence on our future planning.
"But the biggest highlight happened in China, on our round-the-world visit in 2006, where we discovered the church where my great-grandparents had served before being murdered [in the Boxer Rebellion]. They were still honoured. Their names were on the inside of the new church which is now 4,000 strong. I have since co-authored a book with Ronald Clements about this amazing journey."
+ Prudence Bell’s book, Lives from a Black Tin Box: Martyrs of the Boxer Rebellion, their Chinese Church today and the power of prayer is published by Authentic
How your travels can be a blessing to others
+ I want to ask churches to help their congregations to think about where they holiday. Is there a missionary or a Christian worker they could visit, bring encouragement to and pray with? The blessing that brings is immeasurable.
+ Always keep a journal or diary of some sort. It really helps if you make a return visit. Write down your reactions and reflections whilst they are still fresh. It is an effort and I have often felt like giving up, but I am so glad I didn’t. I now have a whole row of journals to go with the hundreds of photos.
+ Prepare yourself by reading a Lonely Planet or Rough Guide.
+ Be organised well in advance.
+ Cover the whole time with prayer.
Barbara Morrison is a volunteer co-ordinator for The Smiles Foundation and part of her role is to prepare and accompany volunteers on short-term mission trips to Romania
"A friend introduced me to Smiles in 2007 following her mission trip (MT). I fell in love with the people as I looked at her slides and felt God calling me to go to Romania, which I did in October 2008.
This work has changed my life! Kevin Hoy (CEO) has tremendous vision for what we’re doing amongst the poorest and almost forgotten people in Romania.
"A Smiles MT is manageable for everyone because we work together on mission and it is all safe and controlled. We reach 1,500 people on a daily basis and share God’s love through a variety of projects and programmes.
"Currently we have two churches, a homeless shelter, counselling, medical help, two elderly care homes and rehousing programmes.
"We have had several baptisms over the years, but last year there was a revival in one village where 10 families had been re-housed and 18 people were baptised.
"Smiles is a lifeline for so many vulnerable people; we are making a difference and changing lives for eternity.
+ To find out more about the work of Smiles call 0788 087 5845 or visit www.thesmilesfoundation.org
Naomi Colwell, a school biology technician from Kent, relishes the long summer holidays so she can look after the under-fives at the Christian event, Revive!
"I have been volunteering at Revive! for six years and for the past four as the team leader for Noah’s Ark and Rainbow Club. During our daily morning sessions we care for about 70 one to four-year-olds.
"My biggest challenge before the event is to keep trusting the Lord for the provision of volunteers to join the team and provide really good care for the children during the week. Each year, it is a real joy to see how the Lord builds the team and blends together people from different church backgrounds, ages and experiences.
"During the week itself my biggest challenge is energy! It is very full on. I am flat out through the sessions, but it is great fun and it is incredibly rewarding to see children playing happily and to hear them proudly retelling the Bible stories to their parents when they come to collect them.
"I do see this as a ministry and it’s an incredibly pleasurable one. Serving at Revive! is exhausting, but I find it rejuvenates my regular children’s ministry at church.
+ Revive! conference is organised by Ichthus Christian Fellowship and runs from 29 July–4 August 2017. Details from www.ichthus.org.uk