Emily and Mark

Peter interviewing Emily and Mark

Emily and Mark serve BMS in a sensitive location in the Africa/Middle East region. They have two children, Isaac and Iris. Mark runs community development projects and Emily is a doctor. We cannot publish photos for security reasons.

How did God convince you to become a missionary in a potentially dangerous region?

Emily: It started for me when I was quite a new believer. I had a sense that God had blessed me with quite a lot — with the ability to become a doctor and to serve other people in that way. He wanted me to use that wherever he was going to call me. So I didn't have a specific sense for a while.

We were in our mid-twenties when we approached BMS, saying: "we think we are called to serve, perhaps overseas; where would you send us?" We didn't even know they worked in that region, but they asked us to think about it. We began to see that we could work somewhere where progress may be quite slow, and where a lot of it is to do with the way you live rather than the words that you speak.

Mark: How did God convict us to serve in a place like that? Step by step, in bite size chunks. Like Emily, I felt that passion to serve people who are less well off than me. When I was in my early teens, I felt this pull to go out from Britain and work overseas, helping to serve people in Jesus' name and sharing his love like that. When I was about twenty, I went off to Albania a couple of times. That confirmed to me that I could fit into a team that was going to live in a different culture and communicate God's love practically and through speaking to people when you get the chance to.

I worked in other jobs for a few years, but the thing is not to lose sight of what you think God is telling you to do with a chunk of your life. To keep on saying, "I am available," and see what happens.

How long have you been in the mission field for?

Emily: Thirteen years. Our daughter was three months old when we went, and she's now thirteen, so that's an easy way for me to remember! She's not thanking me for that reference...

The kids have been in South India at a Christian boarding school for three years. There is a lack of appropriate education for them where we serve.

How do you cope being parted from your children?

Emily: I can get there within 24 hours if all the planes line up right. It was a really difficult decision to take. We visited the school with them twice and told them: "You can decide. We can either go back to the UK for secondary school, or you can go there." They said they wanted to go there; after a year they were quite settled.

You must not forget that they may look like British kids, but on the inside they are probably slightly more culturally different than they look. Almost all the kids at their school are mission kids. They all grew up in a third culture, so they've probably got more in common with the other kids than if they went to school here.

The plan is to finish A levels, do a gap year in the UK to earn some money and learn how to live in the UK, and then study here. That transition is probably easier to make when they're adults than as teenagers. It's all in God's hands, we trust.

What are the main challenges you face?

Mark: There's a lot. Sometimes it's just getting up in the morning, like it is anywhere...

Peter: We recognise that. We can relate to that.

Mark: You get woken up by the mullah at about 4:30am in the summer, in the early morning call to prayer; then you try get back to sleep a little bit. A number of years ago, I was working in rural development. For the last year, I have been working as general director of the charity we get seconded to, so I do a lot of office work now, stamp bits of paper and write emails to people... What I'm responsible for, along with our leadership team, is helping to support work across the whole country: healthcare, eye care, mental health, development and education work. Part of the challenge is keeping it all going. We're trying to do quite a lot of things with not that much resources. Sometimes the government gets in the way, and things slow down. There's a lot of good people in there, but they're dealing with big issues in the country. Things happen really slowly generally, it's part of the culture, but you get used to it.

Emily: Another challenge is one we all face. Every day you have to make small decisions, don't you, as to what you're going to put your time into, what you're going to put your energy into. There is a sea of need around me. How do I use what I've got to glorify God and to make his Kingdom grow in the best way? I think it's a little bit more challenging in our mission field, because the safety of the country is at a lower level. Some decisions I might want to make have implications for safety. But I think it's not that different from how I used to live in the west as a doctor; it's making space for God, to depend on him completely, and then allowing him to lead me into situations and doing what the Spirit tells me to do. I think that's still the challenge for me.

And Mark, he hasn't said this, but he's got huge responsibility for the organisation, both a significant local staff and a smaller number of expatriates. If something happens to anybody, he's ultimately responsible. So please pray for him. It's a very heavy role.

Mark: having said that, one of the challenges we do have is that we could do with a lot more expatriates working in this venture with us. One of the challenges is that we're doing each other's jobs quite a bit. We could do with another dozen followers of Jesus to come and be part of what we do. Pray for those people, and listen in case one of them is you.

If you could pray one big prayer for the people you work among, what would it be?

Emily: For me it would be that the local followers of Jesus would be able to reach their own people for the gospel. I look for the day when there will be a church serving the poor, helping people with disabilities, doing the sorts of project work that we're doing now, led by local believers. I would love to see God take us by surprise and produce bigger fruit for the gospel than we ever imagined.

Mark: Do we get a prayer each? I would pray for peace. Most people there want to get on with normal life. But without changed hearts, how are people going to see that work out? Real peace only comes from the Prince of Peace. Genuine, lasting peace only happens as a move of God. So pray for that. We do little peacebuilding projects here and there, like solving conflict at the household and community levels, trying to encourage peace activists through some of the networks we're involved with. But really it's a spiritual battle.