When our young family joined a Frontiers' team carrying out development work and church planting in a West African urban slum, some of our friends questioned whether we were being foolhardy; and to be honest there were times when we probably agreed with them. The place we called home comprised 3 small rooms in a compound we shared with an African family and their collection of sheep and goats, without running water or a functioning sewage system, but with flaky walls and initially no electricity. The street outside was dusty, smelly and noisy.
Life was basic and sometimes hard, but we soon came to understand that our feelings of fulfilment were not dependent on having comfortable physical surroundings, but in the relationships, we formed with each other, our teammates, our neighbours, and above all with our God. We realised that those we lived amongst were not a 'project' but real people who were dealing with many of the same issues we face in the affluent west: putting food on the table, staying healthy, educating children, and where to find God in the midst of it all.
During 12 years living in our slum neighbourhood we became part of the community; serving and blessing them, being blessed in return, and somehow shining the light of hope and love found only in the good news of Jesus the Messiah. By identifying so closely with our Muslim friends and neighbours we found that we had many opportunities to share the hope that we have in him, and as a result to see some of them enter into their own living faith. Despite many setbacks and trials, the church that we helped start in that country still continues to meet today.
James & Fiona were in West Africa