Dear Friends and Family.
Greetings from Gloucester, UK, where we continue to thank God for the place he has put us. In one of the courses I (Matt) teach as part of the Wycliffe training, I show a video about David Rudisha–the Kenyan long distance runner–and his (now ex) coach, an Irish Catholic priest. Towards the end of the documentary, reflecting on his life and the way he ended up training long distance runners when he originally intended to be a geography teacher, the coach shares this well known saying: “You bloom where you are planted.”
Many times I find myself coming back to this saying and reflecting on its depth, both as an encouragement and a challenge. It is an encouragement to me in the midst of the complex work we’re involved in, that ultimately we can only do what we can do. While at the same time it challenges me to make the most of the place that we’re in, and not waste the opportunities we have around us. I wonder what your reflections are?
Since our last newsletter, Matt has been very busy teaching two classes here in the UK and then travelling to Asia twice, once in May to help coordinate a community of practice workshop in Bangkok and then in June to the Philippines and Cambodia. There is so much we could say about any of these activities but we wanted to focus on the June trip to give a flavour of that time since it ended up being a real encouragement to us in our work.
The June trip had a different slant to usual Asia visits, mainly because on this occasion Matt (together with his colleagues) wasn’t primarily responsible for the activities taking place but instead was acting in much more of a supportive capacity. Firstly, in the Philippines, they were helping a group of NGOs and academic institutions to run a community of practice workshop on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (remember the event we also ran in 2016). It was such an honour to be invited to be a part of this exciting event, seeing such a range of participants come together from all over the country to learn together, building new relationships and strengthening existing ones. Coaching the team as they put on this event themselves, chipping in from our experiences last year, was a really rewarding experience and helped to cement some really special friendships in that context.
Then, after a week in Manila, Matt moved on to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. It has been nearly five years since Matt last visited Cambodia (which, interestingly, was one of the very first places he visited in Asia), and so it was lovely to be back and working again with the wonderful people there. This was made all the more special as he and a colleague were invited by a local NGO to deliver some training for their project management team, again on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Once again it was fantastic to be able to spend a couple of days with the team, exploring together how they might be able to benefit from engaging with the SDGs.
As we said, both these activities were a real encouragement in our work. While it is fantastic to see the way participants engage with the learning events we put on regularly in Thailand, one of the goals of these events has always been to see participants encouraged and equipped to take their knowledge back to their country of work and share it with others. We love to see ideas from the events in Bangkok localised into different contexts and our work multiplied and distributed further afield. Both the activities last month were examples of just this, and they encourage us that the work we are doing, while in many ways only a drop in the ocean of change that is needed, really is rippling out and having an impact. Please join us in giving thanks for this reminder.
In home news, we have been in our current house for almost a year and Levi is coming to the end of his first year of school! Where have the last 12 months gone? We are thankful that he has had a great year and generally loves going to school. Anya continues to love life, particularly when her big brother is around, and Liz is enjoying building new relationships through their various social activities.
We had a lovely week away with family over half term, with both kids LOVING the beach! In May Matt also attended some training with Citizens Advice, and has subsequently started volunteering a couple of days a month with the witness service at the Crown Court. It is great to be able to serve in the local community, even in a very small way. As a couple we have also stepped into a new responsibility with our church here in Gloucester, joining the leadership team. It is a real encouragement to us that despite only being in the city for a little over 3 years we’ve been able to be so involved with the life of the church, benefiting from and (hopefully) contributing to relationships in this place. We give thanks for this real privilege.
Of course, the trade-off for investing in one place is the lack of opportunities we’ve had to see many of you over the last few years. We think of you all often and love to hear your news when you get a chance to share .
Thank you for standing with us and supporting us in this work.
With much love,
Matt, Liz, Levi and Anya