Tearfund supporter Susan Jones is a first language Welsh speaker and recently volunteered with Tearfund Go to visit partners in Zambia. We caught up with her when she returned home to Wales to find out about her experience.
Although Susan had been to Zambia in 1992, she was excited to see the work of Tearfund through her own eyes and how the country has changed since she last visited.
Susan’s team spent a month volunteering alongside Tearfund’s partner, Jesus Cares Ministries (JCM), who are working to empower the poorest communities across Zambia through four key areas: street-connected children, vulnerable women, hospital support and schools’ provision. They visited workshops where young people are trained in dressmaking, vehicle maintenance, computing and carpentry, learning skills to be able to set up their own businesses.
But Susan says that the trip also had an unexpected twist to it.
‘Welsh is my first language. I was brought up in Cross Hands in the 1950s and everyone spoke Welsh,'’ she explains. She and her husband lived in Dundee for nearly 40 years, but they always continued to speak Welsh together, the language of their homeland. After retiring, they moved back to south Wales. ‘Since my husband passed away, I don’t speak as much Welsh as I used to,’ Susan explains.
‘There were eight of us from around the UK,’ Susan adds, ‘and I was delighted to find out that there was another Welsh speaker on the team!’ Susan is radiant as she explains that being able to converse with another Welsh speaker in Zambia was such a lovely experience.
Travelling overseas can be daunting and yet Susan found ways to connect with others through sharing about her Welsh culture, language and heritage. The group visited midweek church services, where the sermons were given in English and in the local language.
‘I felt privileged to share worship with people in Zambia. It was so good to be amongst so many keen Christian people and I enjoyed their enthusiasm. I rather liked dual language services as there was a pause between every statement, so there was a chance to take in what was said.
I even had the opportunity to share about the Welsh revival, as a way of encouraging the church.’
The Welsh word ‘hiraeth’ expresses the longing for home, the desire for something missing or lost. As Christians we share that longing, for things to be as they once were in Eden, for the world to be restored. Susan’s experience in Zambia took her on a journey of some 5,000 miles to find that comfort, that joy of sharing worship with new-found companions, a shared love for people and a shared language.
Susan is very positive about volunteering with Tearfund Go. ‘I would love to go again if I had the chance,’ she says. ‘I would say to older people that they have experience and gifts accumulated over the years and I can’t think of a better way to use them than to take part in a Tearfund Go team.’
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
If you’re inspired by Susan’s story, head over to the Tearfund Go Website to see our latest opportunities to go overseas.