Rachel Burton is a former CMS short term mission partner to Bolivia and is now studying on the Pioneer course. Rachel joined us for the Mission and Evangelism weekend.
HH: Rachel, please tell us a bit about your interest in mission.
RB: I remember having an interest in mission from a young age, and often took a real interest in visitors we would receive at church or at home from overseas and hearing stories from other missionaries. My love for languages as well as this interest has led me to a few stints overseas, most recently to Bolivia. I went there with CMS for two and a half years, helping establish a drug and alcohol rehab programme with a new ministry called Novo Communities. It was an exciting opportunity to be helping build something from scratch, using experience from my work at Yeldall Manor, a Christian rehab centre in the UK. I loved learning the language, attending a lively Bolivian church, and equipping local leaders to run the centre. It is up and running and the vision is that the programme can be replicated across the developing world!
HH: We often look for points of contact between things but I wonder if you can tell us more about comparisons between working in rehab in the UK and Bolivia. I am sure there are many points of contact but what about things that work better in different contexts or where you need to be aware or mindful of differences?
RB: There were many similarities – addiction is addiction, and causes the same kind of family breakdowns, chaotic lifestyles and hopelessness among addicts in the UK and in Bolivia. In Bolivia, the centre received a lot more residents from backgrounds of long term homelessness. But comparing their stories with those I know in England, the same themes of childhood rejection, abuse and low self-worth often contributed to issues leading to addiction. There was generally speaking more of a spiritual openness in the people I met in Bolivia. Culturally, belief in God was simply more of an accepted norm. This meant you didn’t have to try and win people round to that idea, like sometimes is the case in England. But there is of course still the challenge of discipling and helping them work out what a personal relationship with God looks like.
HH: What led you to CMS for study?
RB: On returning to the UK in summer 2018, I was recommended the CMS Pioneer Leadership course as a way to help me pursue some ideas I had earlier in the year combining interests of mine including building community, thinking about the environment and sustainability, and bringing in spirituality. I don’t yet know how this will look, and since starting the course in September, I’m increasingly sensing that God is preparing me for something, like I’m in a ‘training ground’ time.
HH: You say ‘building community, thinking about the environment and sustainability, and bringing in spirituality’ that’s quite a task, can you say some more about how all these things fit together?
RB: I’m not quite sure! I basically wrote down a brainstorm of all the things I’m passionate about and would love to be involved with in some way, and am working out how that might look! One idea was building on the idea of a repair cafe – encouraging people to get things mended rather than throw stuff away, as well as come and build community and get people involved in volunteering. I love what we’re learning about on the course, particularly around mission being about restoration of the whole of creation – both people and our world.
HH: How have you found study with us so far?
RB: I particularly enjoyed the recent module on mission. I am finding it refreshing to be reminded about the importance of listening and engaging with those around us who wouldn’t normally enter a church, thinking about how to speak their ‘language’, even though they might be right on our doorstep.
HH: Thank you so much, Rachel. How can we pray for you?
RB: For discernment over the next few months as I seek how to put the things I’m learning into practice in my own context. Also, that I’d balance my studies and work (I’m back at Yeldall Manor three days a week), which I’m finding quite full on! Thank you.