Here is an interview with Johanna who joined us 9 years ago and who now works for The Mothers Union:
Johanna, you travel extensively with your work, where have you recently come back from and what were you doing?
My most recent trip was my third visit to Ethiopia. I help coordinate a literacy programme with the Anglican Church in Ethiopia. Here, 95% of the women are illiterate in their mother tongue, therefore, the women are excluded from both development and Church leadership. We work on the South Sudanese border. We have always worked with South Sudanese refugees, however, the last year has seen nearly 200,000 new refugees fleeing from the fighting, which has put a real strain on the local community.
While travelling, there are lots of practical things like writing reports, budgets, working on programme structures, personnel issues, developing strategies and asking tough questions. This part of mission is focussed on doing mission responsibly. There is also the fun side, being on the road, visiting communities, understanding the context, going out for meals and investing in relationships with colleagues and going to Churches and being part of the Global church.
What opportunities do you have in your role to share and show your faith?
Mothers’ Union is the backbone of the Anglican Communion in many places. For an organisation like Mothers’ Union, there are tendencies towards being a club. A key part of my role uses prayer and Bible Study to keep challenging Mothers’ Union to listen to the voice of God and seek his heart for their communities.
Johanna, you studied with us at the beginnings of our FdA degree when our course was called ‘Community Evangelism’. What was the most challenging aspect of the course at the time?
I think that the most challenging thing at The Light Project was working with the homeless community. I had done a drop-in with The Light Project during missions, but this was different. I was from a nice middle class community and a sanitised life, however now I bumped into homeless people in my regular life and they knew me, it wasn’t just a corner of life. I think the reality is that a true life of mission means that we have to allow our lives to get messy because we share it with those who God has called us to.
What life-lessons do you feel God taught you when you were with us in Chester?
Whenever, I think back to my time in Chester, I am always reminded that the call of the gospel is to lead us to the lost. It still challenges me, when my husband and I got married recently, we felt called to move to a new Church that is smaller and live in a more edgy community. Where does this challenge go next?
Straight after studying with us what did you go on to do? How did the course prepare you for this?
I went on to study a BSc in International Development Studies with French at the University of Chester. This was always my plan. I think the course encouraged me to focus on building a strong group of my non-Christian friends rather than be part of a Christian clique. How can you be the light when you never hang out with non-Christians?
What was your favourite ‘project’ that you joined when you were with us? How did this prepare you for the world of work?
In all honesty, I probably chose projects that I felt comfortable with, where I would find young people who I can identify with. I don’t regret it, I was young and inexperienced and it was probably wise. I loved the young people; inputting into their lives, talking about the issues that they weren’t willing to talk about with their parents. Since then I’ve had similar experiences all over the world – I still love it.
In hindsight, I’m not sure that it was the projects that prepared me for the world of work as much as the process. As I mentioned earlier, I do a lot of practical things in my work, and working for a Church contains as many behind the scenes responsibilities. I still recall some of the Child Protection training sessions. There are lots of transferable skills I learnt with the Light Project, from facilitating a Bible Study, navigating church politics, dealing with volunteers to handling potentially volatile situations.
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