But each time Simon Barrington travels to these challenging places as UK Executive Director for Samaritan’s Purse UK, he knows Burlington Baptist Church in Ipswich is fully behind him.
Most recently Simon travelled to South Sudan (pictured) to see first hand the impact of the escalating refugee crisis, where Samaritan’s Purse is one of the few Christian aid agencies to have been there right from the beginning. But he knew that despite the challenging circumstance he’d witness, his church would be backing him all the way in prayer and words of encouragement:
'I know that when I leave on these trips Burlington Church will be supportive in practical ways for my wife and children. But also I know that they’ll be praying for me. In this day of instant communication I know lots of them are following my blogs that we produce and following me on twitter and commenting on Facebook and consistently praying for the work that we’re doing with Samaritan’s Purse, which is very much seen as an extension of the mission of the local church.'
As soon as Simon returned from this emotional trip he shared with his church the most humbling experience of attending a church service in a refugee camp.
'We were sitting under the shade of a tree at Doro refugee camp, with a body of 300 believers who had absolutely nothing. They were sat on the ground. The offering when it went round was a humbling experience as just one or two people in the congregation had any money at all and yet there was silence.
'It was a holy moment where the widow’s offering was put in and they came to worship God beside the fact that they had very little food, water. They were away from home away from their own country, refugees, isolated. At that moment they knew that actually they knew a Lord and Saviour, who knew what it was to be a refugee even in His very early days.
'To see some of the children there away from home, isolated, bombed by their own government, forced to flee, not knowing when they will actually go back home was very emotional. It was a very humbling experience and one that I’ve shared with the Burlington church as it walks its journey of faith in a very different set of circumstances.'
Simon says it was also extremely humbling and inspiring to see the tremendous work of his Samaritan’s Purse colleagues, working in very challenging conditions and to bring a word of encouragement to them at one of their devotional gatherings.
'This is hard work for our workers in South Sudan. Its 40 degrees heat every day, it’s dusty and dirty. They’re living in difficult conditions in tents. They are very much part of the refugee community and yet they have the responsibility to be feeding 120,000 people every day and that’s a huge task and one that weights heavily on them.
'And so I was sharing with them from I Corinthians Chapter 4, the passage where Paul encourages the Corinthians never to give up that despite the fact that their
outward bodies are wasting away yet God is renewing our spirits everyday and that through all of this His grace might reach more and more people. So I was encouraging them never to give up and to know that actually through their work they were helping in Jesus’ name.'
Simon has had this passion and determination himself to never give up in serving God overseas since a very early age. As an 18-year-old he got the call to missions at a Keith Green concert in Bristol and after university fulfilled that calling by going to share the Gospel in Taiwan for a year.
From there Simon then spent 15 years as a senior manager with British Telecom. But he would often use his business skills to volunteer his services with various mission agencies on mission trips. Then Simon has a radical re-think of his life, when he met a young girl scavenging on a rubbish dump in Manila.
'I was in Manila looking over their beautiful harbour but it’s got a rubbish dump in the background. A girl who made her living on the rubbish dump collecting rubbish every day came up to me and said ‘Simon what do you do?’ It was so challenging trying to explain to a girl who’s scavenging for rubbish, that I’m a senior manager in a major telecoms company, driving shareholder values, when the girl didn’t even know what a telephone was or an answering machine. So it was a humbling moment and one that changed the course of my life.'
From that point through a series of divine connections Simon eventually became Operations Director for Samaritan’s Purse in the UK in 2003. Then just 3 months later he was asked to step in as UK chief executive and has never looked back since.
Simon has come back from this latest trip to South Sudan with a passion to spread the word not only to his own church, but to Christians across the UK to pray for a solution to the refugee crisis there.
'We sat with a group of pastors at Doro refugee camp and they told me that they’re greatest need was for us to pray for peace so that they might go home again. So I’ve come home with a determination to get that message out and to spread it far and wide to encourage churches to pray for the refugees in South Sudan, to pray for the pastors in South Sudan and pray that the international community might be able to broker a peace deal that will mean people will be able to come home.
'My fear is that the rains are coming and when the rains come these people will be trapped between bombing from their own government and rains which will bring water borne diseases including cholera, which will make the already difficult situations in the camps even worse.
'So our prediction is that life is going to get harder for these refugees and so we need to pray for peace and we need to pray that our governments will act now and swiftly to bring peace to Sudan and South Sudan.'
Peter Wooding is a TV, radio and print journalist and media consultant under the name of
Peter Wooding Productions. Having previously spent 10 years as news editor with UCB Radio in the UK, he has travelled extensively reporting from countries including Russia, Serbia, Ukraine, Dubai, South Korea, Zambia, Gambia, Mozambique, South Sudan, Croatia, Israel and India. He now reports regularly for Samaritan's Purse UK/BGEA UK, CBN News, ASSIST News Service and GDOP London.