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A step of faith

By Amy Durrant
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    James, a deputy headteacher from the East of England, shares how he responded to God’s call to spend his summer holidays serving refugees in Southeast Asia:

    I have been reading GO magazine for many years, as I support some friends who work with Interserve. As I settled down to read a new edition of GO last year, little did I know this was about to set in motion an adventure of my own with God! Amongst the updates and articles that I read was an invitation to those working in education to consider a short-term mission opportunity as part of Interserve’s On Track programme. I felt a quickening in my heart and a prompt that I can only describe as the Holy Spirit, saying to me ‘What about you?’. I have been working in primary education for twenty years, ten as a deputy headteacher. Would it be too much of a sacrifice to give up some of my school holiday to serve God, and use my skills, knowledge and experience to
    serve another community elsewhere in the world?

    After prayerful consideration I decided to take a step of faith. Often in my life when faced with a possible new direction, I’m a firm believer that doors that are meant to open will open, and the ones that aren’t will slam shut. So I tentatively contacted the Interserve office and left the rest to God. God well and truly swung wide the door! The On Track team carefully sought to match my skills and availability with the needs of established Interserve Partners, and provided some great preparation.

    Seven months later, just five days into my summer holidays, I found myself on a plane, on my way to spend three weeks in Southeast Asia. I was to be working alongside staff in a school for refugee children from across Asia, in a city where many families live while waiting (often for several years) for their asylum claims to be processed. Children from these migrant communities are not eligible for mainstream education, so a Christian NGO, a partner organisation of Interserve, has responded by providing education for over 1,200 students in 19 different centres across the country.

    Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

    The main aim for my time in Southeast Asia was to support the development of teaching within the school that I was visiting. Through coaching and mentoring I worked with a local teacher on key areas of practice that we had identified together. The context of this work challenged my own teaching practice. Compared to the British school where I normally teach, classes here were much larger (up to 50 children), and included a greater diversity of cultures. Nonetheless, God helped me to apply my knowledge and experience to support the teachers in this challenging context.

    It was truly inspirational to experience first-hand the heart of this organisation for the diaspora community there. Their love and compassion for these displaced people shone through. Hearing students’ personal stories opened my eyes to the ongoing difficulties faced by refugee families in ways that I had not understood before. Suddenly, faceless refugees who I had only heard about in the media became real people with real plights and problems.

    I went to give, but received so much as well.

    Since returning to the UK, my understanding of refugees here has changed too. I am now hoping to get involved with similar ministries here. I am also hoping to continue working with the inspirational team in Southeast Asia. I plan to return again this year, and in the meantime am keen to support their work remotely from the UK. I went to give, but received so much as well. If you are thinking of volunteering, I would encourage you to step out in faith.

    This article was first published in GO Magazine, February 2024.

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