A BMS legend retires
This month marks the end of an era, as Andrew North retires after more than 30 years’ service with BMS World Mission
Andrew’s BMS journey started in Africa and now ends after 16 years as Regional Team Leader for Africa. He has a deep love for the continent and its people, and has been driven in recent years by a passion to right injustices there.
“Reflecting on what happened in Rwanda, where 80 per cent of the population would massacre half a million of their own people, albeit from a different ethnic group, and still claim to be Christian – that really challenged me,” Andrew says.
“Then in D R Congo, seeing young girls abused in such horrific ways, hiding in the forests of Congo because they were frightened of men that might come along. And seeing the boys that are taught to kill in north Uganda.
“I’ve travelled a lot… I’ve seen some horrific sights, but that has driven me to do something about it because once seen, you can’t do nothing.”
Andrew has championed legal work to ensure that victims are aware of their rights in Uganda and Mozambique. His passion for Africa has spurred him to develop BMS’ work in other African countries including Angola, Guinea and Zimbabwe.
Lynne Knight, who is Africa Director of BMS partner Family Impact in Zimbabwe, has valued working with Andrew over recent years. “Andrew North has been such an amazing advocate for Family Impact, and been able to really understand and see what we are doing,” Lynne says. “He really stepped out and met us where we were, and found ways to support and encourage us over the last few years. We appreciated his support, his thoughtfulness and the God-centered way he worked and loved those he worked with.”
I’ve travelled a lot… I’ve seen some horrific sights, but that has driven me to do something about it
It all began in 1976 when Andrew, a master butcher, volunteered to go for a year to Kinshasa in what was then Zaire (now D R Congo). At the time, BMS had over 50 mission workers in the country. Andrew’s job was to support them by maintaining their vehicles, meeting people from the airport, undertaking building projects and buying materials when needed. He enjoyed it and volunteered for another year. It was the start of 11 years in Kinshasa where Andrew served as Secretary for Missionary Affairs. He met his wife Anne there and they got married in 1978.
In 1987, Andrew returned to the UK with Anne to study at Bristol Baptist College for three years and then he became minister of Wellingborough Baptist Church from 1990 to 1994. He came back to BMS in 1994 as Missionary Support Manager and then became the first Regional Secretary for Europe in 1998. In 2001 he became Regional Secretary for Africa, a position he will now hand over to Mark Greenwood.
Andrew has represented BMS in many capacities and has spoken at numerous churches – “I don’t know how many preaches I’ve done!” he says. He has enjoyed attending the Newly Accredited Ministers’ conferences, organised by the Baptist Union of Great Britain.
At the heart of all that Andrew has done, building personal relationships has been key, especially when he was in Africa. “I would go and sit with people eye to eye, I would build relationships,” he says. The hospitality he received back, often from the poorest of the poor, was humbling. “It was a privilege to be there.”
So how would Andrew like to be remembered? “I would hope there would be people in the kingdom of God because of me and that I have done more good than harm,” he says.
Thank you, Andrew, for all the lives you have transformed through your work in Africa, Europe and the UK. BMS will not be the same without you.
Jürg Pfister, General Director of BMS partner Swiss Alliance Mission, has collaborated with Andrew for many years on work in Guinea. He has paid tribute to Andrew with an acrostic:
Africans: Andrew has a heart for Africans! Although he had different experiences, he has kept a positive attitude throughout over 30 years of ministry in Africa.
Nothing impossible: Andrew knows about a God for whom nothing is impossible. You can feel how strong his trust in God is when you share with him about challenges.
Drive: Andrew has a lot of drive. I liked travelling with him because there was energy. Even with more than 60 years, he has a lot of it!
Respect: This characterises the way Andrew is with people of other cultures, even Swiss!
Ears which are open to listen: Andrew has a gift for pastoral work and I liked the way his ears were open to the thoughts, feelings and experiences of mission workers.
Warmth: Andrew has a gift to make you feel welcome, he is what some would call a father in Christ!
This article first appeared on the website of BMS World Mission and is used with permission