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For women beyond the walls

Belinda Ngugi

Did you know that you don’t have to travel to Oxford to be part of Church Mission Society’s Pioneer Mission Leadership Training course? Meet Belinda Ngugi, part of the pilot year student group at the St Cedd Centre for Pioneer Mission, a local learning hub that opened in Autumn 2016 as a joint initiative between Church Mission Society and Chelmsford Diocese to train pioneers closer to home.

How did you realise pioneering was for you?

I feel greatly attracted to ministering to people outside the walls of the church. I grew up in Australia with no knowledge of the church; my family and friends were all non-Christian and no one had ever shared with me about Jesus. However, in 2004, I was introduced to a large charismatic church in Perth where I came to know Christ, was baptised and started to grow in my faith.

Being a large church, there were many opportunities to serve in different ministry areas, including international mission and community outreach. Through years of serving in these areas, I gained more of an understanding of my personality, and how God wanted me to utilise the gifts that he has equipped me with.

My initial outreach was in local prisons and homes for vulnerable women and children in Thailand, Kenya, Mozambique and Bangladesh to name a few places, where I joined other missionaries and churches in sharing the love of God.

When I moved to the UK five years ago and settled in Newham, I discovered and connected with a local group of women with whom I attended antenatal training, which then helped me to access local playgroups and eventually provided me the opportunity to work as a volunteer with a local children’s trust.

Through my engagement with the local community, I have met and made friends with women from different parts of the world. I have listened attentively to their life stories and helped them wherever I could practically and spiritually. Understanding my skills, gifts and experiences has gone a long way towards helping me realise that I feel called into pioneer ministry.

Can you tell us a bit more about your current mission project?

I engage with many women in Newham from varied backgrounds and cultures who have found themselves in situations that were unplanned: living in sheltered or temporary housing, experiencing mental health issues, domestic violence, self-harm and isolation to name a few. Through these relationships, I am laying a strong foundation for a larger community of women to come together regularly. At the moment I am still discerning the shape this will take. Currently, these relationships have become a great source of encouragement for the women and I envision this will grow as they courageously focus on their future and experience a loving supportive place to realise their position and purpose in Christ.

Why did you decide to take a risk and join the pilot year of the St Cedd centre?

I initially attended St Cedd’s six-week Lent course on pioneer mission and thoroughly enjoyed the teaching. When the full course was offered later, it felt right for me to apply. I was attracted to the training as it was recognised within the Church of England and, on completion, I’d be authorised by the bishop of Chelmsford and commissioned to minister in my local community.

I also liked St Cedd’s approach to training as it’s an apprenticeship style model with creative and written assessments for each module and therefore it appealed to my style of learning. Plus I could fit the monthly teaching time into my busy schedule.

What’s it like to study at the St Cedd centre? Has it helped you in your local mission project?

The centre is based at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Collier Row in Romford. The course takes place over 18 months and is divided into six study modules, each involving two monthly teaching sessions on a Saturday taught by Church Mission Society. There are currently 14 students; each of us is part of a learning group led by a pioneer leader. The groups meet between each of the teaching days; this provides us with reflective learning and a time for sharing ideas and gaining insight for our own specific projects.

We have just finished four out of our six teaching modules; we have looked at pioneer mission, mission spirituality, church in mission and reading the Bible.

The last two modules have increased my understanding of the Bible as a story of mission and have helped to focus my reading of the Bible through a missional lens. This has been very purposeful to my project and it has helped me to be more spiritually equipped and has also challenged my views and preconceptions of different scriptures and cultures within my community.

I gained an enormous amount of information and understanding of my community through completing my assignment in the pioneer mission module. It’s been very helpful to understand the context and culture of my neighbourhood where I’m working. It’s assisted me in listening and discerning where God is and what he’s doing in my community – enabling me to join him where he’s working.

The course has also helped me to appreciate many of my gifts for ministry and how they fit together with my personality, my Christian life experience and my deep-seated heart for the lost.

I have really appreciated taking time out to focus on what I need to know about mission and the fact that I meet with other like-minded people is very encouraging and supportive.

I find the biggest challenge in my pioneering journey is finding the balance between what is of me and what is from God. I am very task-oriented and driven so I need to be very prayerful and discerning in knowing what I can do through God rather than out of my own personal strength. One area is in building relationships; this takes time for trust to grow and sensitivity to people’s experiences of Christ, if they have had one. It’s only been in being sensitive to God’s timing that I’ve seen incredible transformation in people’s lives as they’ve been reconciled into relationship with him.

I would recommend the St Cedd Centre to anyone who wants to explore a vocation in pioneering and reach out to their local community.

How can we pray for you?

As the community of women continues to grow and develop, please pray for guidance as to what shape the group shall take.

The Call in Action: LEARN

The St Cedd Centre for Pioneer Mission provides an environment for the identification, training and support of lay pioneers, who on completion of the Pioneer Mission course are licensed by the bishop of Chelmsford and commissioned to minister in their local communities. More local pioneer learning hubs are expected to open soon. Find out more at churchmissionsociety.org/ pioneer-hubs