'My hope is that by being there we will glorify God’
Members of BMS Action teams heading overseas this week share their thoughts about the year ahead
This year sees a couple of BMS Action Teams with a twist. To mark the 200 years of relationship between Jamaican and British Baptists, two groups on the BMS World Mission Christian gap-year programme are multi-cultural, comprising, for the first time, of young people from both Jamaica and the UK.
The Thailand Action Team, from left: Richard Fuller, Nicola Shaw, Jamiko Yapp, Kathy Green.
Picture: Michael David
One is heading to Thailand, the other to Kolkata in India. All are travelling this week. They may have different backgrounds, but one particularly important thing unites them….
Bio medical scientist Nicola Shaw, 22, is part of the Thailand Action Team. As a member of Perry Rise Baptist Church in London, Nicola is involved in lots of activities, including Girls' Brigade and youth group. It was through her church, and its new pastor Margaret Gibbs, that she learnt about the Action Team programme. (Margaret is a former BMS regional secretary).
Margaret encouraged her during a difficult year, in which members of her family died. ‘Being in an Action Team was the last thing on my mind,’ Nicola says. ‘but Margaret reminded me of the interviews. I went along and got accepted, and just had this sense of God calling me.
‘I’m going with a mixture of excitement and nervousness; leaving my mum will be difficult, though it has her blessing.
‘But I’m hoping to grow in depth, and make life long friends. I’ve lived a sheltered life, and I want my eyes to be opened to the world.’
Though her church is very diverse, it is ‘top heavy with English and Jamaicans,’, so being in a Bicentenary Action Team feels like an extension of church for Nicola. ‘I’m excited by it, not intimidated – it’s about continuing that relationship, working together, and it’s really great to be part of it.’
Joining Nicola is Jamiko Yapp, a 19-year-old student from St James parish. He attends Calvary Baptist Church in Montego Bay where he is involved in many things, including worship, drama and youth ministry.
Like Nicola, he feels called by God. In fact, as soon as his pastor mentioned the Action Team programme, he knew he’d be on it. An encounter the previous week had prepared him.
‘I was walking in Montego Bay, and I saw someone struggling to move a load of chickens,’ Jamiko recounts. ‘I just sensed the Holy Spirit moving me to help him. I did. He asked me if I was a Christian. I told him yes. He said, “Because you have blessed me, God will bless you. You are going on a journey very soon.”
‘I received his word in the name of Jesus and here I am!’
Jamiko says he is trying to follow where God leads. It means he will miss the birth of a new sister, as his mum nears the end of her pregnancy term. He will work alongside BMS partner Compasio near the Thai-Burmese border. Compasio runs a number of projects in areas of community development and empowerment of women and children, particularly with children at risk.
‘I’m really looking forward to everything. I’m looking forward to spirit-led year, building new relationships, going to new places.
‘I just know that when we come to leave it will be hard, because of the work with the children.’
When he returns Jamiko plans to go to theology college and ultimately become a minister. ‘It feels like this is going to give me a vital experience,’ he says. ‘No matter where you are, we are brothers and sisters in Christ. All things are possible through Christ.’
The Kolkata Action Team, from left: Christina Howell, Matthew Cant, Leah Ninsiima. Picture: Michael David
Fellow Jamaican Christina Howell, 24, is a member of the Kolkata Action Team. She attends New Haven Baptist Church in Kingston, where she is a worship leader and a member of the adult choir. She studied law at university, and will do a Masters in Corporate Governance and Law at Portsmouth University next year.
‘I was approached by the General Secretary of the Jamaica Baptist Union Karl Johnson. He spoke about going on a mission and representing the JBU. I was a bit hesitant because I had made a decision about going to law school.
'But after lots of praying, consulting family and friends, going through the interview process – I knew the Lord was leading me in this decision. I had no choice! There is a sense of peace.’
The team will live in the BMS guesthouse in central Kolkata. They will work predominantly with the Good News Children’s Education Mission (GNCEM), who run several mobile schools for street and slum dwelling children around Kolkata. This gives the children who would not normally go to school some basic education.
The team will be asked to teach English, lead assemblies and play games. They will also work at Entally Girls’ Hostel, where you will get to know the girls living there, and at Freeset, which is an organisation that takes women out of Kolkata’s sex trade and gives them a job making bags and t-shirts.
Christina is looking forward to it all. During her time of preparation she found “great relevance” in Jeremiah 29:11. ‘This verse was pivotal,’ Christina explains.
‘I want to be in a closer relationship with God. I want to see God work in ways I’ve not particularly experienced. I want to see the lives of others touched, because of my time there.
‘I will serve in whatever way I am asked. My hope is that by being there we will glorify God.’