by Alan Park with David Wood
In 2020, Covid disrupted life as we knew it: images of deserted cities and overflowing emergency wards filled our newsfeeds; church gatherings were forbidden and Christian ministries had to rethink their focus and means of operation. Brass Tacks was no exception with projects cancelled or postponed and mission partners stuck at home – in some cases, catching up with much needed home DIY, to the delight of their spouses!
As restrictions on building work eased, an opportunity became apparent: small teams or individuals could work on locations near their homes. Brass Tacks often has requests from within the UK and, although we would love to help, limited manpower means that our main focus has been overseas, where mission partners have fewer resources and options available.
A year followed with some major projects at Tilsley college in Motherwell, Opal Trust in Ayrshire, Keswick Ministries, Currie mission accommodation and the Echoes International offices in Bath, to name a few. It was a privilege to enable these support ministries in our own country to function more efficiently and make best use of their resources. In the process, new contacts and volunteers became known to us.
Finally, in summer 2022, overseas projects became viable once again. Dealing with flights, visas, varying Covid rules and restrictions caused some headaches in the Brass Tacks office but then we were off to Africa, to known destinations in Zambia and Angola. Many mission partners had an isolated and difficult time during the pandemic so welcoming a small team meant much more than just building work; fellowship and mutual support are a real blessing.
Historically, our field of operations has been in Southern Africa and Europe, and occasionally in South America or the Middle East. However, it was a new challenge to consider a project in an area which would be deemed ‘sensitive’. Due care of our own mission partners is a priority but there are needs across the globe in countries where people live with danger every day, and especially for believers in Jesus Christ who face persecution for their faith. Do we just say, ‘we’re praying for you’ and leave them to get on with it? Just before Easter this year, we sent a team to a Middle Eastern country. Despite recent political turmoil, the team were keen to go and help as requested. This project had to be halted during the outbreak of Covid. When the team arrived back at the building site, they were faced with three years’ accumulation of dust and bird droppings, which had to be cleared before the work of tiling and grouting could continue. There remains much to be done to bring this building work to completion. However, it is hoped that when the building is finished there will be sufficient accommodation to meet not only the needs of the Emmaus Bible study offices but also to provide living quarters for various teams who pass through.
Returning the Favour
Most Brass Tacks trips to Africa are to sub-Saharan Africa but this February we made a trip to North Africa. Back in 2020, during Covid, we got to know a young couple who were living in the mission accommodation in Currie, which we worked on. As we worked with Y and C and got to know them, we were touched by their commitment and vision for the work God was calling them to. They returned to their field of service in 2021 along with their daughter and set about the construction of the five-story building in a new city being built close to the main river, in which they planned to house their family and the new ministry.
Progress on the building went well although they were living in a small flat in a village over an hour’s drive away. They returned to the UK in 2022 for the birth of their second child, a boy. During their stay in Edinburgh, we were able to meet and be updated on the progress of the work.
We wanted to help them in this work not only as a way of saying thanks for the help they had previously given on the Brass Tacks job in Edinburgh but as a tangible way of encouraging them in the difficult ministry they had undertaken. After much prayer, deliberation and research by all involved with Brass Tacks, Phil Kennedy, Maureen and David Wood set off to meet up with them in North Africa.
After three flights and a 40-minute drive, we arrived at their new building project. They had only fitted windows and doors a few days previously but had made one floor of the building habitable for us all to live in. Y and C were in one room with the two children, Maureen and David were next door in the other bedroom and Phil was in a curtained off section of the main living and dining area.
We were not quite sure exactly what we were going to be doing but, during our time, we were able to make enough units for four full kitchens and to fit two of those. The first set we fitted were the kitchen where C and Maureen were working to keep us all fed and watered. The flat above is going to be home for the family and, although the first-fix electric and plumbing was installed and all walls and ceilings plastered, the floor still needed to be tiled. As the local method of tiling is a bit different, they brought in a local crew to tile the floors so we could then fit the second kitchen. We were able to buy the tools and materials we needed for the work locally and found a company to make and drill all the cupboard doors for the two kitchens.
During our stay we were able to visit some of the local orthodox churches and share the gospel with them as well as some sightseeing as tourists before finally flying back to the UK. Y and C are working in a very difficult and lonely situation. They face challenges working in a hostile environment and need wisdom and encouragement as they look to God to provide for their daily needs and for their children’s education. Since our return, they have started to enjoy fellowship with a small evangelical church in another part of the city.
It was a great joy to go and visit them in situ and share in developing the base for their mission venture. Both the Brass Tacks team and the local Christians were greatly encouraged by the visit.
In Snow & Sunshine
In Scotland on the Isle of Arran, we put up cabins for Scripture Union. Temperatures there were so low that some mornings the cement truck could not come because the water supply had frozen over. Our gallant team battled rain, snow and high winds almost as if we were giving the cabins a thorough test before they went into service. Now that the drainage is complete we look forward to some good deluges so that we can test it. Apparently in previous years a feature of the times when the camps were all under canvas was that a lot of time was spent digging ditches to pass the water round the tents rather than through them.
Three members of the team, David Wood, Paul Dodds and Phil Kennedy, then travelled out to Kamundambala in Angola to erect a steel frame for the new church building. The old building is made of traditional sun-dried bricks and needed to be replaced.
For His Glory
While on site and in the local community, there are daily interactions with suppliers and building inspectors. Our own mission partners, Paul Dodds, Philip Kennedy and David Wood, are great ambassadors for the work of Brass Tacks but more importantly, for the gospel, sharing their faith with those they meet and doing a great job for the glory of God.