Leap of faith reaps rich reward

Courage and compassion are the key to Christian mission

21st March 2019

Ricky Sandiford took a leap of faith, quite literally, when he left his career in engineering after 12 years to become a Mission Apprentice - a scheme recruiting and training new church leaders in the Church of England in Birmingham that is funded by Allchurches Trust. In this blog, he talks about his early experience on the scheme and shares his advice with others who might be considering a future in ministry and mission.

When I made the decision to join the Mission Apprentice scheme, I was walking away from a good wage, but I truly believed that this was my calling, and I was so fortunate to have the support and backing of my family.

There are two things I have really enjoyed about my first four months of working as an Allchurches Trust Mission Apprentice for the Church of England in Birmingham. The first has been having the opportunity to do mission and to serve! I get just as much out of serving as the people I serve and I really feel God transforms us in service to others. The spiritual reward has been incredible.

Secondly, being part of the Mission Apprentice Scheme has enabled me to stand back and see where I am, but also to see God’s hand moving in every aspect of my work and spiritual development. I feel that I am finally where he wants me to be and I am doing what he wants me to do.

Mission covers so many areas of ministry, but for me, mission is all about connecting with those who are in need - spiritually and physically. I have found that the best way to do this effectively is to just jump straight in. At the beginning, I wasted so much time in preparing and being too cautious, but you have to just be brave and throw caution to the wind. That’s when I have been at my best in my mission, just like in my faith.

There will, of course, be disappointments along the way, and those can feel like failures sometimes, but it is important to recognise those low points as part of the journey. I can see that and say that now, but I admit that those days you feel you have failed or have fallen short are really challenging. In those times, I think you have to take heart from just being there for people in the tough times and understand how much that means to them.

Many times I have asked myself the question: “Am I actually doing anything to help? Am I serving a purpose?” But I have learned that just being there can be very powerful and a great comfort. It is important not to underestimate the impact of just asking someone if they are okay and letting them know that you are there for them if they need anything. That spiritual and emotional comfort can be just as significant as helping a struggling family with practical items such as clothes and food.

My advice to anyone who wants to explore mission is firstly to realise that you are not the one doing the work; you’re the facilitator. The problems of the world are too big for you! You have to recognise that it is in God’s hands and his will is at play. For me, it’s important to always listen and to pray for guidance and for the people you serve. I’ve also found that being comfortable in yourself is essential working in this kind of role.

You must also cherish the time you have away from mission and to take time out from thinking about those in need and those you are caring for. You need this time to protect yourself from burnout! So switch off and enjoy family and friends and don’t feel guilty about it.

Above all else, I remember the words my supervisor told me… Do God’s work but leave no footprints! That’s the best advice for being a Christian Missionary!

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