D’s face lit up with a big smile as she saw Adalia approaching through the village. She greeted her warmly and then turned to greet us. It was obvious she was genuinely pleased to see Adalia and was not just going through the usual pleasantries. We were visiting with Malachi and Adalia Coal, and they had brought us to this Ottoman village, not just to enjoy a Turkish breakfast at a quaint restaurant, but to build on the friendship they had begun with D, the owner.
Conversation flowed easily between the Coals and this lady as she prepared to seat us around the traditional low table and bring tea and a wonderful breakfast. Before we began eating, a friend of hers arrived at the restaurant, and she introduced her to Adalia. Within minutes they had arranged to meet again and were exchanging phone numbers. We were so proud of the Coals and how their years of dedicated language and cultural learning had enabled them to cultivate meaningful friendships. As we left the restaurant, D gave Pauline a gift of shelvar, the traditional baggy pants the village ladies wear. Pauline was surprised to receive such a generous gift from a first-time acquaintance, but she realized it was evidence of the high esteem D has for Adalia.
As we sat around that breakfast table in December, we were saddened at the thought that this would probably be our last field visit to Turkey. For some weeks, God had been impressing upon us that it was time to leave AFM and return to pastoral ministry in the UK. We had spent much time wrestling in prayer about it. We love what we do and have been truly blessed to provide pastoral and strategic support to our wonderfully dedicated missionary families. It was a hard decision to make. However, after 11 years of frequent international travel, our bodies have been finding it more of a challenge to adjust to the different time zones, and we knew for the sake of our health that we needed to make a change. There was also the added consideration that, in order to receive pastoral retirement benefits, Graham would have to be in pastoral ministry in the UK for at least three years.
There is a great need for British pastors in the UK to reach the majority population who make up just a small percentage of the Adventist membership in the British Isles. We look forward to using the insights we have gained during our time with AFM to enrich our ministry in the southwest of England. We have been asked to provide pastoral support for two churches and give mentorship and coaching to a lay-led church plant.
Although we have enjoyed visiting our missionaries and meeting their contacts, it will be wonderful to have more hands-on personal ministry.
As we look back over nearly 12 years with AFM, we give God praise and thanks for what He has done and is doing through the projects we have had the privilege of serving. Below are just a few highlights:
• Several baptisms, and active small groups are reaching their communities.
• A church building/center of influence is under construction that will have a strong community focus.
• Friendship evangelism has resulted in Bible studies, including one man being prepared for baptism. He has helped a lot with translating the Bible and Adventist materials.
• English language classes are opening doors to deeper spiritual conversations.
• Believers are determined to remain faithful to Jesus despite death threats.
• Contacts have requested prayers and books and engaged in spiritual conversations as a result of the websites developed specifically for Greeks.
• A family of four was baptized last year after making contact through the website.
• A small group of Adventists has been established on one of the Greek islands.
• A new group of about 20 people, mostly Greeks, has been established in Athens in association with the Greek Mission.
• Bible study groups are attracting Irish people, one of whom is preparing for baptism.
• The congregation in Cork purchased a church building.
• Missionaries had spiritual conversations with many Irish people who came to the Serendipity shop.
• Missionaries developed culturally relevant and contextualized Bible study guides.
• Several Turkish- and Farsi-speaking people were baptized.
• Several books were translated, including The Great Controversy. Copies were sold and given away at various book fairs. The team has also developed Turkish media resources.
• The church has a beautiful building and an office for the publishing company.
You may not have had the opportunity to visit the various countries and projects we have supervised to witness first-hand the interaction between our missionaries and the local people, but so many of you have been on this journey with us through your prayers and financial support. To all who have traveled this road with us, we give our heartfelt thanks. We praise God for such faithful supporters, spiritual encouragers and friends.
We will still have a link to AFM as Pauline will continue to be AFM’s volunteer banking representative in the UK. Through newsletters and magazine articles, we will follow with interest how God continues to grow His kingdom.
Please keep us and the missionaries we serve in your prayers during this time of transition. We are pleased that our field-director colleagues, Sean and Brenda Mays, will take over supervision of our projects in Central Asia, and Jack Bowers, AFM’s International Field Director, will take over supervision of the work in Turkey.
We began our overseas ministry living in Veria, Greece, the Biblical town of Berea. Just as the Bereans faithfully studied the Scriptures, our prayer is that many people across Europe, Central and West Asia and indeed all parts of the world will come to know the Word made flesh and experience the joy of a relationship with Him.