TRIBUTE TO MUNURU ALICE (The Lessons and Pain Of Mission Partnerships)

Janice and Alice

Our family were heartbroken today. We suddenly became aware that our dear friend Alice had passed away and was being buried as we got the news.

Alice was a beautiful woman. She was a gentle human being, compassionate of heart and determined of soul. Growing up on the edge of Arua in the north west edge of Uganda she needed to be resilient and resourceful to make her way in a tough world.

Making your way in the world where Alice lived is not about wealth or power or decadent living. It is not about a big house. It is not about holidays, never mind holidays in other countries or skiing. It is not about a car. It is not about savings or pensions.

For Alice it was making her mark in her community and her family. We met Alice in 2015 when a Fitzroy Youth team travelled to Onialeku Nursery and Primary School in Arua. Fitzroy had funded a new building for the Primary School. We went to be at the Opening.

Alice was the School Principal. A local Elim church Bishop Isaac felt God ask him to give the children in the area an education. Alice was his right hand woman. She had worked with him to fill the first classrooms with children and develop the school.

Alice had good English. She had a gentle strength that allowed her to have good relationships with children, parents and teachers. She knew the entire school community. There were few resources, just imagination, ingenuity and steely determination. 

As we look back today in order to celebrate Alice’s life and shed more than a few tears we realise how shy and humble she was. She wasn’t in as many photos as others. She was content to not to take any glory. She was content with the lot that life had given her but she was not content to give up on the development of her community. There was a Jesus-ness about her lack of desire for position but desire to serve.

Alice was a mother. In Uganda that usually means that you care for more children than you give birth to. Alice had taken in a brother’s children. Again resources were limited. Leisure was a crazy wasteful dream. Alice got her life satisfaction in serving her family, church and community, not in hobbies or holidays. Even when Janice did knitting classes. That was not just for leisure or chat. This was another potential resource to help get through life.

One of the reasons that I encouraged Fitzroy to partner in the way we do with Onialeku through Fields Of Life was in order that we might share the pain of our partnering community. It is easy to throw thousands of pounds to charities. It can be quite comfortable mission work. 

Today is anything but. Today is deep grief. Today is yearning prayer to God for the school that will find it hard to replace Alice, now Deputy Head of the Primary School and head of the Nursery. Today we are on our knees for her children and family who have lost the engine and the earner. 

Partnerships are all about this mutual pain. Sharing in the unique issues that both partnering organisations go through. Praying. Supporting. This is all a vital part of the deal. It is the world church together sharing mutual wealth and poverty.

So tonight we ache. BUT… 

I am also marvelling at an inspirational life. Alice’s battling with all the hurdles that living in West Nile, Uganda brings embarrasses my soft decadent western living. The sacred act of remembering Alice’s life has made me asking what are the values that I am living for, the commitment I have to my family, church and community. I look at Alice’s ambitions and the day to day ways she had faith and followed Jesus and I am weighing my own life in the balances and finding myself wanting.

Thank you Munduru Alice. You were a wonderful friend to Janice. You were one of the most beautiful human beings I ever had the pleasure to be around. I will miss you the next time the bus arrives in the Onialeku playground… over there in the distance, smiling across the heads of the children, quietly with an inner thrilling joy… you and Janice then chittering and giggling under the avocado tree. We will ever remember you. Thank you for what you did for your community and for Fitzroy’s and thank God for bringing our lives tougher.  


Uganda huts

Short prayer for my beloved Uganda as unrest hits the streets...


My crane

You are crest fallen

My pearl

You are tarnished

So, I pray

That between the ruffle and scuff

And the preen and the shine

God will keep

Your hearts compassionate

Your souls humble

And fire your minds

With wild imagination

That casts light and visions

Of peaceful pragmatism

To hope upon.


Stocki in Fitzroy Room

This photo was taken by Janice. It is July 2018 and I am working on the book in Pastor David Emazu's office in Arua, Uganda.


It was three years ago this weekend that I met up with Trevor Stevenson to discuss helping him write his memoir. At last, after three long years we are about to go to print and you can have From Killing Fields To Fields Of Life in your hands before Christmas!

In the Foreword to the book I tell the story of when I first said that I wanted to hear Trevor’s story. In August 2015, I was in Arua in north west Uganda, speaking at the opening of Onialeku Primary School. Fitzroy had funded a school building and we had partnered with Onialeku through Fields of Life.

As I wondered about all that had to happen in order that I would have the privilege to see this building and be somehow involved in it I took the story back to the beginning of Fields Of Life. A man leaving Ireland in 1993 set all this in motion. I had an urge to know how that came about.

Maybe God was listening and fancied a laugh. Maybe I was involved in Trevor’s story telling already and God hadn’t yet let me know. Whatever… at Halloween in 2017 I sat across from Trevor in a Bray hotel and agreed to help him write that story.

What a privilege it has been. When I get involved in an organisation, in the way Fitzroy did with Fields Of Life, I commit. I want to know everything. I want to get as involved as I can. Over the last three years, as I have worked on this book I have felt privileged to have spent time in both the Lisburn and Kampala offices, got to know all of the staff and got to visit some of the crucial places in the story of the organisation.

After that meeting with Trevor in 2017, I was privileged to travel to the Teachers’ Conference in Mukona in January 2018, be there for the 25th Anniversary celebrations of Fields Of Life, before spending a week travelling with Trevor around Uganda, even up to Karamoja for the cutting of the ground for a new school funded by Fields of Life Alumni.

In June of that same year I took a sabbatical and travelled to Uganda to work on the book. Trevor sent me 130,000 words. I had to cut it in half, shape it and make it gripping. As someone who always dreamed of being a writer I was in my element. Every day, Janice, Caitlin and Jasmine would go off and work with Fields Of Life, visiting schools etc. Jasmine did her School placement in the Child Sponsorship department. I would sit in the apartment beside the office and scribble and type. 

We headed north to Arua and I continued to shape. It was so poignant writing chapters about the northern part of Uganda, actually there in the areas that it happened. We drove through Luwero. That is where Trevor’s Ugandan story began. The Luwero Triangle was known in recent Ugandan history as The Killing Fields. Trevor wanted to transform them into Fields Of Life.

Books take time. They take longer when none of those involved are professionals. After the sabbatical I did not have the time to concentrate on a book. Trevor runs a church too. Then there are professional editors and designers and printers never mind a few lawyers. Oxford commas!

I think it is worth the time and the wait. There is drama. Lots of drama. There is terrorism, bombs, crash landings, a financial scandal, suspected Ebola, an Irish President Mary McAleese landing in a helicopter in the middle of nowhere and the President of Burundi coming to Hillsborough Castle after a throwaway invitation!  

There is vocational wrestling, cultural adaption, spiritual discernment and organisational development. There is dancing and tears, fears and prayer, loyalty and betrayal. There is a stuttering beginning and a 25 year celebration that reveals the incredible  impact of Fields Of Life across East Africa - hundreds of thousands of children educated and three quarters of a million people given the gift of clean water.

Trevor’s story is the first chapter in Fields Of Life’s story. Above and underneath is the story of God using one ordinary man and his wife Ruth to do extraordinary things. It is a book about discipleship, vocation and mission.

Before becoming an Anglican minister Trevor had grown up a farmer. One day resting on a hay bale he had the chat with his dad about maybe leaving the farm and giving his life to the ministry. As I sat with Trevor at the 25th Anniversary Celebrations in Mukono I leaned over and suggested that the story of Fields Of Life’s impact on lives, communities and indeed nations was a harvest that no farmer could ever even dream of. “From hay bales to hallelujahs," I said. We laughed and thankfully it remained a joke rather than the title of the book! 


I have some books if you would like to call and pick one up... £10

Or you can order it online FIELDS OF LIFE SHOP




Sometimes I close my eyes

Reach across red dusty miles

See you wave on the Congo Road

Brightening the day by your smile

That smile that lights my heart

That lifts my soul above

All the injustices between us

And your forgiving love.


I often let my mind drift

To find you in the playground

The school behind you shining

That vibrant break time sound

There you are in your pink mac

Against the equatorial rains 

You see me ‘neath the mango tree

Both of us are  smiling again


Jacqueline I have a dream

Oh my how you have grown

Not tied to that half acre

You’re making it on your own

The nation is transforming

By the blessing you are bringing

Fired by hope inside your heart

And what your voice is singing.

THANK YOU RICHARD SPRATT (For 11 Years at Fields Of Life)

Onialeku Room

Today is a sad day for the Stockman family as Richard Spratt steps down as CEO of Fields of Life. What a blessing he has been to myself, Janice, Caitlin and Jasmine and to the entire Fitzroy congregation. Here is my tribute.

For those who read Soul Surmise regularly you will be aware of a plethora of posts under the Uganda Dairies category. If it was not for Richard Spratt they would not exist!

I first came across Richard Spratt when I was a Chaplain at Queens University living alongside 88 students in Derryvolge Hall. Actually when Richard was around there were only 58. He was dating one of our students, Katie Moffatt, now his wife!

About those days I remember most that he was a talented footballer. Indeed Richard went on to play Intermediate football and now manages Ballygowan.

I don’t remember Richard being around at a lot of our events. He didn’t live in. Years later he dared to suggest he remembered something that I preached one Sunday evening. 

Anyway, the next I heard Richard was CEO of Fields Of Life, taking over from their founder Rev Trevor Stevenson. I began to take an interest in Fields Of Life when my friend Alain Emerson took teams and then built a school in memory of his young wife Lindsay who sadly passed way at just 23 years of age.

Indeed Alain’s story made me think that Fitzroy should tithe their Halls extension and we invited various NGOs to pitch projects in developing countries. 

So, the next time I saw Richard he was sitting in the front room of the Manse pitching his project. I personally couldn’t see Fields Of Life being established enough to convince our sub committee but I was not reckoning on Richard Spratt. 

Richard was impressive. He was warm. He had a little charm. You had to wonder how he got Katie (Joke bro!). He was inspirational about what Fields Of Life were doing. He was convincing about their infrastructure. He caused us to fall in love with a community in Arua, north west Uganda that we had never heard of before.

After interviews we were so unanimously convinced that we brought the funding of Onialeku Primary School to our Church Committee and Session. A sole nominee!

So started a new relationship with both Richard Spratt and Fields Of Life.

Fitzroy have been taking teams to Onialeku Primary School ever since, Fitzroy sponsors around 60 children and we have added to the primary school, a fence, water well, kitchen, text books and soon hopefully a nursery block too! Around 50 Fitzers have now traveled to Onialeku. So many more have knitted, crocheted, crafted, washed cars, made food, written songs and given money. Our partnership with Onialeku and Fields of Life has been the richest of blessings.

Richard took on a family type approach to the organisation that was set in place by the friendly approach that Trevor Stevenson had when he set the whole thing moving back in the early 90s. 

There is a sense in Fields Of Life that everybody is in it together - the office staff in Portadown, Cork, Kent, Oregon and Kampala. Staff and schools and volunteers who go in teams or partner to fund projects. I have always felt a part of the community. When many NGOs use call centres with people who cannot answer your questions, with Fields Of Life I felt I was a friend of everybody, from the top to the youngest child wherever I met them.

Richard brought a financial sense to the CEO role, having worked in banking but also brought a developing missional theology. Thinking about how best to do Christian mission has been transformed over these past thirty years and Richard led Fields Of Life sensitively into that new thinking and practice, remaining Biblical and pragmatically imaginative.

I think I was fortunate that Richard really opened the community door to the Stockmans. In 2016 we spent 3 weeks in Uganda as a family and we had the privilege of visiting water drilling projects and a few other schools and spending time in the Shalom bungalow, getting to now the staff.

As if this wasn’t enough, Richard then, on Facebook very late one evening, asked me if I would help write Trevor Stevenson’s memoirs. That started another amazing project that is in its very last days. You should be buying it for all your friends at Christmas! 

Working on the book gave me an opportunity to attend the 25th Anniversary Celebrations at the Fields Of Life Teachers Conference in Uganda and travel with Trevor to some projects. I then got to base myself in the Shalom flat again for a sabbatical to edit the book. All of this brought our family right into the heart fo the Fields Of Life family. 

Last August when Jasmine decided to do a Gap Year Richard charmed her into committing to a year with Fields Of Life. The experience that they gave her looked on good on her CV that Reading University gave her an unconditional offer for International Development. So, as Richard leaves Fields Of Life today there are heavy hearts across the Stockman family.

I remember after hours and hours on the bus that first year to Arua in 2015 texting Richard and asking why he sent us to the back of beyond. By the time I had spent a week there I knew. Richard knew what he was doing and I am ever thankful for his strategy.

On that plane to Uganda for the Teachers Conference in 2018 Richard shared that something I said back in those Derryvolgie days resonated with him and Katie. Something about making sure you still commit to the ideals you have now when life breaks in. I was moved by that. I didn’t know that that preach had landed in fertile soil or would be remembered 15 years after when Richard took over as CEO of Fields Of Life. I didn’t know that I would benefit from my own words. If they are the only words that resonated with anybody in my 15 years in Chaplaincy and the harvest of Richard’s 11 years in Fields of Life is all I achieve, it will be well enough. Well enough.

So thank you Richard. And thank you Katie too. You’ve sacrificed as your husband has travelled back and forth to Uganda and done so much for so many. And the family… Jamie, Ethan and Amelie. God’s grace and imagination for the next chapter. 


Congo Road

Today, I should be on a bus for 12 hours. I should have left Kampala early this morning. It is a long journey to Arua but over the past few years I have gotten to love that road. Oh there may be miles and miles here and there where I read a book or have a nap. For most of it, though, there is always intrigue out of every window. I feel the utter privilege of driving through Africa. For parts of it I listen to Paul Simon or Johnny Clegg or our own Jonny Fitch, adding to the stimulation of the visual a soundtrack to make it even more spectacular.

I am missing this journey today. Here it is, as I remember it. Travel it with me. Imagine it, in all its extravagant wonder. Please God, I will be back on this road very soon.


Take the Bombo road

Heading north out of KLA

Where lives are gridlock wasted

And boda bodas and car horns trap the urban beat

Give the man 2000 shillings for a New Vision

Then clear all the panoramas

To see matoke, maize and mango trees

Along the green rolling hills

To Luwero

Pay a white man price for pineapples

The best pineapples in the world

Let the juice drip down

And marvel at the height of the anthills

Smile at the field of sunflowers, as God intended them,

Under African blue

And the trees, African shaped air-conditioning.


I breathe and catch the moment




Life in all its fullest extravagant wonder.


The traffic has eased up now

Like this rural way of life

Up through Nakasongola

What a combination of syllables that is

On a road in the middle of Africa

Oh mercy and my oh my

Bask in every single fascinating scene

Out of every window, every moment

Every precious person

Carrying every kind of load

On bicycles or heads

Slow down around the bend

And down the hill

To Karuma Falls,


Cheeky, entertaining and a little dangerous

And the Falls

Stunning effervescent cascade of the Nile

The Victoria Nile

Chasing itself up to Murchison for its spectacular fall.


I breathe and catch the moment




Life in all its fullest extravagant wonder.


After the baboons give up on the scavenge

Make a left

Alongside the edge of the National Park

The road straightens up for miles and miles

No need for McCartney’s Long and Winding Road

Less people now

But keep your eyes peeled

And there might just

If providence pokes the luck

Be a family of giraffes

Seeking the leaves

So elegant,

Their patterns, near perfectly painted by someone


Egrets on their back

Waving their ears to dismiss us

And the hippos,

Basking, bathing, blethering

On the edge of the Nile

The Albert Nile,

Wider, more sedate but no less beautiful

And no less that same Nile

As we cross the bridge at Pakwach

Through the human motorway service station

Boiled eggs, bottles of Stoney, chicken on a stick.


I breathe and catch the moment




Life in all its fullest extravagant wonder.


At last, into West Nile

Through Nebbi

Watching the changing scape of the earth

From the savannah where lions roam

To the more small rugged hills

In the dark shadows of Congolese mountains

The roads meander round, narrow

And thread through these borderlands

Of a district marginalised, maligned and misunderstood

Mud huts, thatched, in family clusters

Smoke oh so slowly spiralling into the now setting sun

Like the evensong rhythms of contented souls

Having hoed all day in their shambos

For enough, just enough,

Never enough for greed

The children still smiling

And waving at the muzungus

As if to amuse us


I breathe and catch the moment




Life in all its fullest extravagant wonder.




Black as night

So beautifully bright

The shiniest light

In it all.


Stocki and Tie


Saturday November 30 - 10.30am to 2pm

Fitzroy, 77 University Street, Belfast BT7 1HL

(use the Queens University car park at the top of Botanic Avenue as the Church car park will be used as a car wash)


I had the privilege of marrying Phil and Kathryn Cairnduff yesterday. It was wonderful having Gareth Maclean sharing the service with me and when Gareth suggested he never wore a clerical collar and we should wear a shirt and tie, I panicked. Tie? 

I then remembered that my daughter was making ties out of Arua purchased African fabric for an upcoming craft sale and I didn’t only have a tie but a promotional opportunity. 

I have blogged before about my consternation in the summer of 2015 when my wife, Janice, discovered the Arua fabric market. Arua is a town on the north western edge of Uganda. Our Church, Fitzroy, funded a primary school, Onialeku, on the outskirts of that town. 

It was a blessing or a curse, depending who you were speaking to, that we had to pass that market every day on the way to and from our school. Janice loved to stop and get lost in the vast array of colour and therefore options. I was a little exasperated at the number of pieces of this African fabric that Janice bought. What was she going to do with it? How much will be just left lying around the house? What a waste!

Five years later and I am of course eating my words. With a sewing machine, and the help of the other crafters in Fitzroy, my daughter Caitlin and Janice have made a wide array of crafts, cushions, table runners, tissue holders, notebook covers. That very first year they raised £800 was raised. It shut me up and made me a little more patient every time we stopped at the market!

Over the years we have watched the obsession with the Arua fabric market reach addictive heights but as Pastor David in Onialeku says, “Good addiction!” Over £5000 has now been raised!

On Saturday November 30th between 10.30am and 2pm you can call into Fitzroy and purchase some of the Arua fabric crafted. I know you’ll all want a tie! As I type, Janice and Caitlin are in the next room stitching. There will be many old favourites but new crafting ideas too.

Bottle gift bag

So, drop in for a coffee, get your car washed and buy a tie or a bottle gift bag or a cushion or… 

All proceeds are for a new Nursery School building at Onialeku in Arua. A good gift that is good for something. A piece of craft with a story.

See you there…



4 Girls Tee

It is International Day of Education and I am drawn to all the campaigns for education across the world and particularly the education of girls. My thoughts and prayers have been concentrating on Saphara, an NGO concentrating on girls’ education in India. We in Fitzroy are proud that it is headed up by one of congregation Christine Burnett and that many of our Fitzers have been out there to help develop that work.

Mostly today though I am dreaming of a “playground” in Onialeku Primary School, on the outskirts of Arua in West Nile, north west Uganda. I am standing at the corner of a Church building watching and listening to the noise of 400 plus children. I love that sound. I love seeing them all running around. When we are there, they are usually running towards us and I hear them call out to me, “Ya Ya… Ya Ya,” my African name! They all have English ones after all, so I took an African one!

After I take in the wide screen, I start to focus my eyes a little more carefully and reasonably quickly I see Jacqueline and Rachel. When Jacqueline spots me her serious little face lights up in the brightest smile. Rachel on the other hand is so shy that her little head turns in to her shoulder and I have to joust a little humour with her before I see and hear the joy of her laughter.

This is the school that Fitzroy funded, tithing our new halls expansion. Fitzroy sponsor 60 pupils in Onialeku. Jacqueline and Rachel are the Stockmans' sponsor children. Over the last five years we have got to spend time with them and look forward to seeing them again in July. Our girls simply love those girls. It is more than a few pounds in a sponsorship programme.

Before Bishop Isaac had a dream of a school for his neighbourhood Rachel and Jacqueline had no chance of an education. Now, the whole neighbourhood does and though that is good news for all, it is particularly good news for girls. Girls are the ones least likely to go to school and girls are the least likely to keep coming to school. Our sponsorship will mean that parents are more encouraged to keep Rachel and Jacqueline in education.

That is an obvious help for Rachel and Jacqueline and the children like them. As UNICEF puts it, “Providing girls with an education helps break the cycle of poverty: educated women are less likely to marry early and against their will; less likely to die in childbirth; more likely to have healthy babies; and are more likely to send their children to school. When all children have access to a quality education rooted in human rights and gender equality, it creates a ripple effect of opportunity that influences generations to come.”

What I realised too was that this is not just about Rachel and Jacqueline but about Uganda. I have come to realise that education is not just for the benefit of the pupil but the pupil’s education is vital for a transformed community and nation. Uganda needs teachers, doctors, lawyers, business leaders and so many other things. Through education, we can change the future. Maybe a future President of Uganda is running around my favourite couple of acres of earth at Onialeku Primary School today!

So, I am proud of Jacqueline, Rachel, their parents, Pastor David, Principal Charles, Nursery School head Alice and the Onialeku school management committee. I am proud of Fields Of Life who have built well over 100 schools all over East Africa. I am proud of Fitzroy for partnering. On International Day Of The Girl, I am praying for all our Onialeku children, particularly the girls and most especially for Rachel and Jacqueline.


S  L  T & T

Over twenty years of taking mission teams to Africa I have had to rethink what mission means and how we do it. Books like When Helping Hurts or Toxic Charity have influenced us all to ask questions and rethink our motives, strategies and hoped for outcomes. 

Recently in Fitzroy I experienced something quite phenomenal. Two guys came to Fitzroy and gave us a new vision for mission. 

It was astonishing. It was spiritually vital, it was culturally astute, it was prophetically challenging. It was laced with personal pragmatic stories of transformation. There was a thin line between our broken world and the Kingdom of God. It was a game changer. 

The missioners. Well they weren’t the old traditional white Saviours from the Baptist Missionary Society. These guys were from Kosovo the most dangerous slum in Kampala. 

Levixone and Trinity Heavenz are young men that we listen to listen to and hear good. 

When they were ten these guys were living on the street of a violent crime ridden slum. They were selling weed. They had no English or education.

Coming into contact with a Fields of Life funded school, Treasure Kids, they quickly found a way out of crime. Today Levixone is a Gospel music star. He had just recently been to New York to receive a global award. Trinity is a social media entrepreneur with contracts for web pages all around the world. He had just been to Chicago to visit a client. 

The thing is that they still live in Kosovo. The have the funds now to live somewhere plusher but they want to be with their people. They have moved from the boys people feared to young men shining a hope across the slum. 

Levixone told the story of KevLX who was in one of Kampala’s worst gangs. KexLX ended up in prison. He heard Levixone’s music and was drawn to it. He came out of prison and went to Kosovo looking for Levixone. No one would tell him where Levixone was as they were protecting him! 

Eventually they met and Levixone was not too sure. He paid for some accommodation and Trinity got him a mattress. KexLX began to change and eventually Levixone started to trust him. KevLX’s story of transformation in Jesus has been on TV and radio stations throughout Uganda.

It was the street wise wisdom as to how to deal with KevLX that impressed me. Then the sheer sacrifice to rent him a place and make it habitable. These guys don’t talk the talk. It is a daily walking the walk. 

Trinity then shared his vision. He discovered his gift for design, branding and creating websites. However, yet again, it was not just about him. He was then keen to train others and employ them and give jobs. As wells doing that with his social media enterprise, he has also got a craft collective going where the young women in Kosovo can make crafts to sell on. 

Trinity and Levixone also have a food programme and have been known to build houses for those in need of one.

Trinity threw out a phrase, almost threw it away. It was though the phrase of the night, or any day. After a thoughtful speech that took in international development, education policy and business insights as well as spiritual truth, he said, “Brilliance is equally distributed but opportunity is not.” 

Oh my! There is the game changer. They told the story of another boy, Julias, who has a bone disease. His hands are twisted the wrong way up. Yet, Levixone saw something in him and convinced Trinity to give him a try. Julias it happens has a scattering of brilliance and typing with his knuckles has found his opportunity.

And… it goes on. Levixone and Trinity are keen to share the New Africa they have branded on their sweatshirts (guess who by?!!). It is not one of pity for the poor African and a charitable donation that meets a momentary need but doesn’t help withs sustaining the future. 

These guys want investment. They want us to offer opportunities. They want us to get our branding and web design done in Kosovo. They want us to be as passionate, compassionate, thoughtful, imaginative and practical hands on transformative as they are. They want to tell the story of a New Africa. They want to show us a new model of mission. We need to listen and we need to hear.

“Brilliance is equally distributed but opportunity is not.”




Uganda Team 19

Short Term Mission is an exciting thing. You get to visit the most interesting of place. Short Termers are stretched. They have to come to terms with a new environment. They find out what their gifts are. There is an intensity about being with a team for a short time in very close quarters. Camaraderie is strong. Friendships are nurtured. Then there are those you are working with. If, like us, you work in a Primary School then relationships with pupils are strong and emotional. There are tears on the last day.

Short Term Mission is over too fast (there’s a clue in the title). The adrenalin is still running. The excitement is high. That emotion is palpable and, before you would like to, you are going back through customs to the flight home. It’s a flight that seems longer and less comfortable and more boring than the outgoing journey because there is nothing to look forward to at the end.

When they arrive home the most natural human thing happens. Their parents, brothers, sisters, friends and members of their Church ask them how their trip was? Short Termers are full of it. Full of all the new experiences. Full of all that it meant to them. They want to talk about it, rave about it, wax lyrical. They want to share the experience of a lifetime, wide eyed and from the depth of their soul. BUT…

One of the things that Janice and I were trying to tell our Fitzroy Short Term Team before we left them at Entebbe airport was not to be disappointed when people just want a quick “I had a great time” when they asked about their trip. “How was your trip” can be very like a throw away “how are you?” When we use “how are you?” in a greeting we really are not inviting someone to open up about their physical, emotional or psychological concerns. We are just saying hello before we move on to the weather or the football or the latest gossip.

I understand. It was our Short Term Mission. You don’t need the details. We might get out the photos and now with smart phones there are a lot of photos! There are actually thousands! The football season has started and so much happened when we were away. Apparently the weather was amazing!

This is where I want to encourage the parent, brother, sister, friend or member of a Short Termer’s church. I am not asking for polite listening. I am asking for almost a wee ministry in itself. Some Short Termers are looking for, needing indeed, someone to listen with a little bit of depth.

They do not want to boast about their time. They do not want to bore you with it either. They long to share it in order to help themselves make sense of it. The Short Term Team experience usually has ten to fourteen days of full on stimuli for the soul. Something happens then the next thing leaves that first thing behind.

As summer ends there are a lot of ripe Short Termers all around us. It would be a wonderful thing to invite someone you know who has been a way this summer for a coffee, ask them about their trip and invite them to unpack it with you. I imagine you might learn all kinds of wonderful things about mission and places and about your friend too. You will make their day and perhaps be a real contribution to them fully understanding what just happened to them.