by Alan Park
Brass Tacks has a 30-year history of ‘serving those who serve’, with over 200 projects in many different countries completed during that period. From the outset, we focused on helping improve the facilities that are used in the general work of mission worldwide. Projects are selected for their strategic value in terms of the spread of the gospel. Our aim is to support mission by giving help with maintenance, mechanical and building work. As we build and repair, the Lord uses our efforts to encourage mission workers and to witness to the local people, particularly those working with us on building projects.
Teamwork in Moshi, Tanzania
Two years ago, while working at the Watoto Wa Thamani (WWT) children’s centre in Moshi, Tanzania, we were assisted by a great group of young men who had been part of the WWT family for many years. Their studies were complete and they were ready to look for jobs. Spending a few weeks working with us not only gave them some skills in tiling and the basic principles of plumbing, but they were able to observe a Christian work ethic. Each morning, we had a time of Bible study together as we went through some key passages from the book of Acts. In this way, spiritual and practical training go hand in hand, and we are encouraged and grow through the process.
One of the young men from Moshi, Richard, came back to the UK to attend Tilsley College, Motherwell, for a few months while he considered where he felt the Lord was leading him.
Mentors in Wukwashi, Zambia
Henry and Joyce Mutembo lead a work focusing on children with special needs and their families. Besides running the day school for those who live locally, Joyce and Henry travel further afield to give seminars to parents. They show them how to stimulate those whose mobility or mental condition means that they are sometimes left out during playtime with the other children. We were asked to build a new school on the plot of ground that had been purchased. Some local people assisted us, including two brick-makers whose presence added fun to the task at hand, not least in their attempts to cure a worker who had hurt his ankle. Both of these men were Jehovah’s Witnesses and we were able to challenge them in their beliefs. Such was the relationship that when we left, they felt bereft. On a follow-up visit, I took them out for a meal of steak pie and chips. Having eaten all of my food, I noticed that they had only eaten a few chips. They were taking them home to their families. Situations like this bring home to us the struggles that local workers face in their everyday lives, and we pray that the seed of the gospel planted might yet bear fruit.
Curiosity in Angers, France
A new housing development in Angers provided the church with the opportunity to purchase a property in a prime location, which we helped to turn into a useful space. The noise of work going on in the building brought a few curious people. Angela Hannay met with office workers from the local property centre, who visited for an inspection. They asked questions about who we were and the intended use of the building, and we were able to share with them the reason for the work. Frequent visits to the local patisserie helped us to connect with the local community and increased visibility for the new church.
In every project we undertake, we are aware that our behaviour is in itself a testimony to our commitment to the Lord
Compassion at Highgate, London
Highgate International Church is located on a busy road that serves as one of the main avenues into London. Mark and Shirley Davies have been serving the Lord there for several years. They frequently have visiting evangelism teams, who need accommodation while working with the church. Brass Tacks provided three washrooms on an upperfloor, enabling the teams to use the church as a base for accommodation. While we were there in the middle of winter, a homeless couple took up residence outside the front door. Angela Hannay spent quite a bit of time talking and listening to them as they revealed their complex story. Although the woman showed no real openness to spiritual issues, the man expressed an interest in attending a Christianity Discovery course. Perhaps deeds of kindness and discussions about spiritual things will be used by the Spirit to stir up a desire for God and His peace and forgiveness. We are grateful that even a simple installation of washrooms can provide an opportunity to reach passers-by.
Labour as for the Lord, Ireland
In many of our projects, language is a barrier. We communicate with hand signals, guesswork and a smattering of a common language, making direct conversation difficult. In othercases, language is not an issue, but we are conscious that we are being closely observed by the teams of local people who work alongside us and by their community. A few years ago, during a week in Castledaly, Ireland, we were working outside in poor weather with frequent rain showers and sometimes snow. As it was a small village, people noticed us out repairing the drystone wall in all weathers. When I went into the village shop, it was clear that people had been wondering who we were. The question was eventually posed, ‘You’re not council workers are you?’ In every project we undertake, we are aware that our behaviour is in itself a testimony to our commitment to the Lord.
A Place to Meet, France
We were impressed by the commitment of the young church in Aix-en-Provence to the work of mission in this bustling university town. Significant sacrifices were made by members to enable a testimony to be established and their enthusiasm was palpable. After much searching, a property was located that met their criteria. It was a pleasure to be involved over two visits and to see the former restaurant transformed into a space suitable for worship and outreach. The location was near perfect, with a large patio in front of the building where students can sit during their lunch breaks, providing opportunities for local workers to engage with them. During an Easter service in a semi-rural area, we saw first-hand how contacts with neighbours and friends were used to build gospel bridges. There were many who attended the barbecue held in one of the gardens. Since the project was completed in 2017, the church has grown so much that they have had to move to new premises and the original building is being used for student outreach work. As we look back at the work we have been involved in and see the impact of those ministries, we are inspired to continue with the next project.
Encouraged & Challenged
One of the privileges of our ministry is the time spent with host families. It tends to be that those who welcome us into their home, providing meals and accommodation, are themselves involved. This time together provides opportunities to learn about the challenges and the bigger picture. From time to time, we all need to be encouraged in our service for the Lord. Fellowship with kindred spirits can go a long way to bring a renewed enthusiasm to those who arelabouring in difficult circumstances.
Brass Tacks team members return home challenged and inspired by the time spent with God’s servants on the front line of mission. For some, this will be their first experience of being involved in mission, and an opportunity to serve for those who may not consider themselves equipped as mission workers. As we use our practical skills, live daily alongside the communities and share our faith with others, we see God at work beyond our home context. This can be life-changing for those we work alongside, and for us.
There are a variety of projects to support mission workers in the UK and abroad. If you are interested in volunteering, either as a willing hand or as a trade professional, please contact the Brass Tacks office or visit our website for further details.