Miriam Samuel has found Aldridge to be different to her home in Malaysia. She was one of several St Chads Volunteers at an event last weekend: Inspiring Mission -Lessons from from West Malaysia, SE Asia and China which also welcomed the former archdeacon of Stoke, Godfrey Stone and his wife Dot who have long had a passion for mission in Asia.
But the fame and cache of the St Chads Volunteer programme isn't confined to Lichfield and its partner dioceses in south-east Asia (West Malaysia, Singapore and Kuching), Canada (Qu'Appelle), South Africa (Matlosane) and Germany (Mecklenburg): together with Revd Philip Swan (Director of World Mission for this diocese) she attended a national gathering in London, giving a speech about the work of the St Chads Volunteers Programme, of which the following is an extract:
"My name is Miriam Samuel. I am from West Malaysia. I cant believe it has been 6 months since I first arrived in the UK. Through the St. Chads Volunteer Programme, I was placed at Aldridge Parish Church. I am actively involved in childrens and youth ministry. I am happy to see some beginning to understand who God really is, and others eager to be His salt and light in their
schools and with their friends.
"What has shocked me most? Most people would assume the food, although that is not the case. Back in Malaysia, everyone older is referred to as brother, sister, uncle or aunty. We tend not to refer our elders with their first names, so that definitely took a little bit of getting used to when I came to England.
"Events have changed my perspective on discipleship. I loved the activities leading up to the Easter celebration: all different people who would normally just walk past with their shopping, stopping and listening. Curiosity grew and people asked questions that we were more than glad to answer. It portrayed the kind of attractiveness we have to possess in order to captivate people to what we believe.
"What does it mean to stand out from the crowd? How do we do it? How can we show people the reality that lives in our hearts? As heirs of God, we are called to go out and make disciples of all nations.
"Coming from a country listed no. 40 by Open Doors in persecuted countries has given me a wider view of Christianity. I remember growing up on the east coast, where the majority of people were Muslims. Of over 1800 students, there were only 8 Christians and I was the only one in my year in my high school. I was bullied for being a Christian by my teachers. My friends made fun of me. The government would not let us purchase a piece of land because we wanted to build a church on it.
"As a young Malaysian, it saddened me that when the rest of the world was celebrating new year, with fireworks and the tune of Auld Lang Syne playing, in Malaysia, the Bible Society was being raided. So I found it very encouraging to read the support given by the Lichfield Diocese, and Bishop Jonathan in Parliament, to help ensure Christians in Malaysia have the freedom to proclaim the word Allah. Truly your thoughts and prayers for Malaysia spoke louder than any action that could have been done. Thank you.
"We are brothers and sisters in Christ. The support and bond between various dioceses stand on the principle of the great commandment: love one another."
Have Miriam's experiences in England matched her expectations? Make your own judgement, as her expectations were recorded in this video alongside other St Chads Volunteers just before Christmas
Are you or is someone you know being called to volunteer abroad? To find out more, or apply to become a St Chad's Volunteer contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional grants are available for applications before August 31st.