St Mark’s Church, Harrogate, has supported global mission for many years. Like many churches this was based around giving away ten per cent of church income to overseas mission organisations, holding special mission services, and running a prayer group to pray for the people and organisations we supported. I suspect that like many churches we found it difficult to engage the congregation meaningfully with mission. We were stuck in a ‘support’ paradigm.

Image of communion at St Marks HarrogateHowever, gradually we’ve moved into a ‘partnership’ model. The key to mobilising the church into global mission has been personalising it: by identifying mission workers or projects that the church community already has a connection with, developing more meaningful relationships, and so increasing the level of involvement. Relationship, characterised by a reality and integrity that draws people in, is key. As a result, the bulk of our financial support is now targeted to a few specific mission partners and projects.

How it started

In 2011 the Missions Support group at St Mark’s was reviewing the church’s overseas mission budget and looking for ways to enable the church family to connect more with mission. For ten years the church had supported Andy and Susie Hart and an income-generating project for those with disability in Tanzania (see www.craftaidinternational.org). This partnership had raised the profile of mission and encouraged people to get involved, so we felt we should look to support people rather than an organisation. Over the last few years this has led to number of small short-term mission trips out to Tanzania.

One suggestion was Paul and Ruth Turner, Latin Link members in Lima, Peru. Paul’s sister is a member of St Mark’s so it seemed obvious to use such ready-made links. Paul and Ruth have been mission partners ever since. At about the same time one of the church’s groups wanted to get involved with a mission project. So they sent cards and letters and raised money to buy Christmas gifts for the children at Arco Iris (Rainbow) girl’s home in Huaraz.

One small Step…

In July 2014 a Step team of six from St Mark’s went to Peru for three weeks. This was a fantastic opportunity for the church to show its support to Paul and Ruth by spending time with them in Lima, to understand more of their context and ministry. The team then headed north to Huaraz to work with the Arco Iris home, serving through building maintenance, children’s and youth work, and encouraging the staff.

The trip had a massive impact on us all. Emily was amazed and challenged by the staff at Arco Iris and their passion for Jesus, and the children they serve, despite the challenges. For Helen, the trip was a lesson in learning to trust God hour by hour. It was a time of deepening our relationships with God and as a team.

On returning to St Mark’s the team led services and hosted an evening of story-telling and pictures over Peruvian food as a way of sharing the experience and impact the trip had on us – and to inspire others.

In both directions

Before the Step team returned to the UK, Paul mentioned that he was struggling to find a placement church for a Peruvian Strider who wanted to come to the UK. This seemed a fantastic opportunity to support someone as they tested God’s call, so St Mark’s stepped in.

Image of church member being given a presentFlor arrived in December 2014. She has been such a blessing. As Paul Turner says: ‘The relational qualities of Latin Americans and their deep faith and sense of calling mean they have much to offer the Church in the UK, and more and more are being called into mission.’ Flor has a natural ability to get alongside people and build relationships, and notices those who might get overlooked. Her presence and ministry is a constant reminder of the importance of giving time to people and loving them, of building relationships.

Crafty developments

Paul had also mentioned that he was looking for people to help develop a craft-related project for those with disability in Arequipa. We told Paul about Susie and her project in Tanzania. This link has now developed, as Susie is partnering with the local church in Arequipa and sharing her entrepreneurial experience in developing the project. We’ve held fundraising efforts for the project and a number of teams have visited. Now two Latin Link members are helping to develop the project in Arequipa.

Image of Incoming Mission worker with childrenGrowing leaders

There has been one other area of partnership: Paul has identified the need to invest in and develop church leaders in Peru. We’ve been able to link Paul with James Lawrence, who has written a course called ‘Growing Leaders’. Out of that has come a visit to Peru by James to teach the course, and its translation into Spanish. St Mark’s has been part of this through prayer and financially.

It is amazing to see how God has used one short-term mission trip to our mission partners to bring about a chain of events. The personal link has led to increased involvement by the church. As the profile of global mission has risen so more people have been drawn in. Personalisation and partnership – one way to engage a church in mission.