Mark and Sarah Jason
Revd Dr Mark and Sarah Jason lived in the Gambia with their sons, Abishek and Paul. Mark served as Secretary of the newly autonomous Gambia Conference, and was also Superintendent Minister for the circuit. Sarah taught at the Gambia Methodist Academy, teaching children in grades 8 and 9. This was the stage at which students have the option to go pre-vocational training at any of the country's skills centres.
The first year as an autonomous church has been extremely challenging, especially as we are a church in transition (in terms of administrative structures, leadership, and identity). Our relationship with the Methodist Church in Britain has entered a new phase, moving from an 'overseas district' to a 'partner church. This year was full of 'history in the making', a year of significant occasions that will forever be etched in the history of the Gambian Methodist Church."Mark Jason
Mark and Sarah wrote some thoughts during their time in The Gambia:
In 2008 I set up a formal Counselling Unit as part of the pastoral ministry of the Methodist Church The Gambia. The main challenge I have faced is the limited number of users of this service. This is primarily because of the small size of the country and Christian community, where the close proximity of the people with each other coupled with the fact that most people are related to each other, makes it difficult for them to avail this service for fear that their life stories will be known to all. Ensuring the people that the counselling service offers them a safe and confidential space becomes a great challenge. Nevertheless, I have had several opportunities of doing a lot of 'informal' counselling both at Church and the School where I work through 'listening' to them. God continues to use me in unexpected ways in the area of counselling, strengthening me and reminding me that I am indeed chosen to work in another part of the world. Apart from this, for the last two years I have been teaching Christian Religious Education at the Gambia Methodist Academy, one the leadings schools in the country.
When I came to The Gambia as a Theological Educator / Minister, it has always been a big challenge to realize that 'teaching' does not necessarily have to occur in a purely academic setting. It can take place from a pulpit, bible study or church retreat or in any other such non formal setting and the ordinary lay person is as willing to learn as much as a formal ministerial candidate. Being elected as Secretary of Conference in the autonomous church in May 2009 was for me the biggest surprise. It was a humbling experience and served for me as a sign that I had well and truly been accepted and integrated into the life and witness of Gambian Methodists. The strange way in which my ministerial journey has evolved - from Theological Educator to Superintendent Minister and Secretary of Conference reminds me that God is in fact guiding my work.
Mark and Sarah write:
Just being ourselves and being willing to accept their culture and traditions has impacted our relationships with the Gambian people. We are considered by our Church members as part of their community and there has been a lot of sharing of love, hospitality and even gifts and food! Abishek and Paul (who was born here) are very much at home in The Gambia. Overall, the ability to work and serve God in a country where peace and religious harmony between Christians and Muslims is cherished is truly amazing and something that we are thankful to God for.