Willing to Serve

by Ricardo Santana

Ricardo and his wife, Susan, are from Bogotá, Colombia; they studied at Tilsley and served overseas as part of the Echoes International short-term programme.

In 2018, Directors of Echoes International were in our country Colombia, visiting us and seeing a bit of the mission movement in the brethren churches called ‘Aposento Alto’. At that time, we were invited to consider the opportunity to study the Bible at Tilsley College and also to improve our English while being in the Scottish culture. In February 2022, Tilsley College contacted us again asking if we would be interested in going. We started praying for God to help us with all the things that needed to be arranged. I work as a civil engineer and, although I work independently, I had to organise our small company to see what work I could do remotely, talk to the elders of our congregation to receive their commendation and support, organise the ministries and delegate responsibilities. We also needed to make personal and household arrangements.

We travelled to the United Kingdom on 5 September arriving in London, then Glasgow and finally Motherwell where we began our studies, very excited to learn more about the Bible, learn Scottish English and to know more about our good God.

The first term was great and in November we had our first mission-awareness trip to Italy. We visited Patrizio and Jennifer Zucchetto in Serino, Luca and Anca in Naples, and the IBEI Institute and Andy Hamilton’s church in Rome. Seeing these church-planting ministries was unforgettable and encouraging.

Tilsley assigned us to a local church where we served in the youth ministry, supported some activities and made friendships with many of its members who were lovingly hospitable to us. They consider us part of their congregation and we consider ourselves part of theirs.

In the second term after the Christmas holidays, we continued to study the different subjects of the Bible. At the end of this term, we prepared for our overseas placement, a place to go to serve with our gifts and knowledge. Among several options, Echoes International suggested Cyprus, so on 24 February 2023 we undertook our mission on the island.

Cyprus

We arrived at Ercan airport in the north of the Republic of Turkish Cyprus. The island is divided into two. The southern part is Greek, it is in the European Union and the currency is the Euro. Greek is spoken and the majority identify as Orthodox. While the northern part of the island is disputed territory, its currency is the Turkish lira, Turkish is spoken and it is almost entirely Muslim.

Our two-month placement was in Northern Cyprus, where the vast majority of the work is under the leadership of Jerry and Sarah Mattix (USA), who worked for 12 years in Turkey and have been working in Northern Cyprus for ten years. A Turkish-speaking church and an international church, aim to make disciples from nations like Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Nigeria among others. The people who come to the island are received because they are from Muslim countries, and they seek opportunities for study and some for work. They are people who come with a thirst to know the true God; they are teachable and listen to the gospel in an open way, providing a great opportunity. In addition, Jerry and Sarah help Afghan girls who come looking for a better future. They assist them with applying for university places, accommodation, food and basic needs. This is with the purpose of showing the love of Jesus and little by little working with them, discipling them and presenting who Jesus is, and His work on the cross and that He will return.

Seeing these church-planting ministries was unforgettable and encouraging.

We are grateful to God that we were able to engage and actively participate in most of the ministries. We went to one of the main universities where we sought to interact with some students to share the good news about the Lord Jesus and create friendships. We worked with young people who already attend the church. I shared the gospel with three guys from Iran, one a believer in the process of being baptised and two others who say they are Muslim and humanist. They heard the gospel and showed an interest in attending the youth group and church on Sundays. The church takes place in a cafe called Exile and during the week it is a place available for discipleship, to have coffee with new people. This space is an open door for many.

Susan was able to share with some Afghan girls telling the stories of Jesus and the women in the gospels, showing how Jesus values women and giving the message of the gospel. Although we know that it is a process, the seed was sown and many of them continue to have contact with Susan.

There was an English club, designed to invite people, interact and create friendships with the goal of spreading the gospel. We also attended weekly Bible studies, prayer meetings, cleaning days and integration activities. It was a truly amazing two and a half months of productive work.

Turkey

Jerry invited us to go to Turkey for a week to help meet the housing needs of people in Antioch, one of the ten cities destroyed in the earthquake that hit southern Turkey on the Syrian border. We arrived in Turkey on 6 March, a month after the earthquake. Along with a group of volunteers from other countries, we were able to build many small wooden houses where people could sleep without fear of dying in their homes in the event of another earthquake. Most houses were destroyed and people were left without shelter or basic supplies. People try to optimise the resources that they already have, such as land next to their houses, to avoid migrating to the big cities without employment and without housing options. Some shelters were also built and God’s love was shown to these people. It was a beautiful challenge to see, in the midst of so much chaos, destruction, sadness and desolation, God bringing a thirst for His presence and the search for answers to the lives of so many there.

We returned to Turkey for another week in April to do similar work. This time Susan was able to share more with the children, as they have not been in school and their mothers struggle with the lack of healthy activities for them. We sought to encourage the church in Antioch where Jerry was a participant for so many years. We learned to see the goodness of God in the midst of so much chaos and to value more and more everything we have been blessed with, materially, emotionally and spiritually.

Grateful Thanks

We spent some time studying online for our third term at Tilsley before we were finally able to return to Scotland with our visa problem resolved. We finished our studies there and graduated on 16 June.

We are very grateful for this time given by God, it has been a gift of His wonderful work to be able to participate in this short-term mission programme. We feel privileged, and give thanks for this opportunity, and for the work that God has done in us by his Holy Spirit transforming us more into the likeness of Christ over those ten months.

We returned to Colombia to present everything we have experienced to our local church and to ask our elders to pray for us as we see opportunity in Cyprus to join the Mattix family in their ministry. If the leadership is led by the Holy Spirit to support us in this, we pray for open doors. We know that we are safe in His hands and that the best place to be is in His perfect will, with our satisfaction in Christ. Thank you for praying for us as we seek His guidance.

For more about short-term service, visit our this web-page.

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