31 Jul

Robinson Ministry Update – 28th July 2017

Jos has turned a luscious green which is beautifully restful after 6 months of brown dustiness. For me the sense of restfulness is added to by the fact that Dan has finished school for the year and so I am on a reduced work schedule. Tim is still working hard however. In fact he is working even harder than usual at the moment as he is currently the Acting Director for SIL Nigeria due to our Director (Tom Crabtree) being in the US for the summer. This means that all the tricky situations land on his desk to deal with. Please pray that God will sustain him and give him strength and wisdom in this challenging time!

I have finished with all the preparations for our Nigerian Missionary Staff’s (NMS) Discipleship Ministry Partner Development training, also known as the Blitz due to its intensity! It has been a crazy few months but so fabulous to finally see all the materials come together and be put to good use.

Both Tim and I had successful trips in May. My travel to Germany was smooth and the time felt like a real break. We did work hard but the saying “a change is as good as a rest” definitely applied. It was great to meet people who are working across Africa and Eurasia and swapping stories. Several of the people there I had communicated with before by e-mail but it was the first time I had met them in person. The interface that we were being trained on is a brilliant new way for us to provide updates to the Ethnologue. On the way back to Nigeria I managed to have a few hours exploring Frankfurt with a newly made friend (a Hungarian based in Cameroon) who had been my roommate during the training.
Tim’s time in the UK was rather more intense. He was attending the Elim Missions Conference and then the Elim Leaders Summit. Both involved long days but also great interactions with other Elim missionaries. He managed to squeeze in a few days with family on either end and arrived back in Nigeria feeling encouraged.

Dan’s exams went well. Thankfully he does not seem to get stressed by exams and usually does well. His biggest challenge is taking his time and writing neatly enough that his teachers can read his answers. He is now enjoying a lovely long summer break. Having the Barnhoorns upstairs has definitely improved the quality of his summer with plenty of willing participants for board games and Lego building and just generally messing about with sticks!

Thank you so much to all of you who are supporting us and making our work possible. If you have a few minutes to pray for us, we would really appreciate it!

— A time of rest for Ali after an intense few months working on preparations for our Nigerian Missionary Staff’s partnership training.
— Dan came through his exams with flying colours and is now enjoying his break. (Back to school on August 9th).

— Wisdom and peace for Tim as he handles the challenges of being SIL Nigeria’s Acting Director. (The real director is back August 8th)
— That Tim can find opportunities for rest as well.

09 Oct

Ministry update – 9th October 2015

Good morning from what may well be one of our last damp days of the season.

The weather is changing. We are reaching the end of rainy season and are experiencing some big wind storms. They can be quite exhilarating but also potentially a little dangerous. When I was little, growing up in the north of Ghana, we had a really wild wind storm, and it took the roof off our house! Thankfully this time we have escaped anything beyond a few small branches coming down.

Change is often turbulent and can be messy, it can be exciting and at the same time tiring. It can remove dead wood and bring potential for fresh growth.

Tom&IanWe are in the middle of considerable change at work. We have a new Director for SIL N1geria, Tom Crabtree (on the left in the picture). He and his wife are godly, prayerful, wise people, not to mention good friends of ours 🙂 and we are looking forward to a new era. Our previous Director, Ian Hollman, did an amazing job and really knit together a diverse group of people with one passion – to see God’s Word being used and understood by people from every language group in Nigeria. He is now focusing on his job as an Africa Area Director and he and his family will still be based in Nigeria for the time being. We are very happy about this as our families are close and we would miss them terribly if they left Nigeria.

With this charge of Director has come some change to the structure and set up of our group. Tim has been responsible for the Finance, Facilities Management and IT teams for a while and Tom asked Tim to add the Human Resources team to his responsibilities. He is looking forward working with a new group of people, many of whom he has worked with on projects before. It will be a learning curve but we thanks God for His timing and His provision and His peace throughout these changes!

Still on the subject of change, our next door neighbours (Kostrevas) are leaving Nigeria next month. One of the many blessings of our life here is that we get to share our lives with people from all over the world. And we really do share our lives, we become family to each other because usually our blood families are not nearby. However, this blessing also brings a challenge because people come and go. We sometimes have to say “Goodbye” to parts of our adopted family with no expectation of ever seeing them again, at least until Jesus returns!

• New beginnings in SIL N1geria
• Friends who become family

• That we will cling to God in the midst of the changes and always seek His will
• Wisdom and strength for Tom, the new Director, and for Tim with his new team
• Peace and joy even as we say “Goodbye” to family

09 Mar

The Risk of Sovereignty

There has been plenty of Nigeria in the news of late and some of the incidents have provoked me to really, frankly… Well, how can I put it? I feel like I’ve had a kick up my complacent backside about why I am here, doing what I do.

Recently I was involved in some conversations that led to some friends looking at moving out here to join our ministry. BRILLIANT! Then I saw this post on facebook. At first, it made me giggle. 

loves her son, last night's take was "so there are no earthquakes, tsunamis or tornadoes in Nigeria" (me – not that I am aware), "so we just have to be careful about diseases and getting shot, that's good"…

It reminded me that everywhere has it’s up and downs. So I replied, twice.

 HAHAHAHA brill. no tornados or tsunamis — not liable to earthquakes.. all good!

 actually getting shot isn't too high a risk either!

Sometimes it just appears like a high risk, because that is all the information we are reading about. Someone else posted a comment in the same conversation

Malaria, mugging, kidnapping, rape and killings of white people are very high, in my stats, so why would you put ur lifes at risk?

My jovial thought about a 7 year old’s mind at work was brought to a resounding sudden halt. I decided that I could give an answer to that, but firstly was it my place to answer?

Then I remembered that of course it was. I am in said country that is being questioned. Maybe I could share my experience and help out.  So after a couple of drafts (yes maybe I should have got someone to proof read it for me!) this is how I responded.

GREAT question! I’m not sure the reality of where we are living is accurately reflected in the news and by other sources – Malaria is a problem everywhere, but mugging and kidnappings, rape and killing of Ex-pats is none- existent in Jos. Yes such things have happen elsewhere in the country and there is a risk attached to living and working here.   Personally for us, God hasn't called us to a safe life.  He has called us to minister in this country of HUGE need.  We believe our lives belong to God and when we pray, 'God let your will be done' we are re-asserting his sovereignty over our lives.  If harm came to us  yes it would devastate some people it would probably affect our ministry here (maybe for the better) – BUT that doesn't change God's status of sovereign. And besides we'd be in Glory with him 🙂  We live with the risk because the people here causing the trouble are exactly the ones who need to know God for themselves, i also appreciate that everyone has different levels of acceptable risk, living out here isn't for everyone and that is okay, because God can use you where you are!  People are in need everywhere.  Hope that TINY insight helps – if not, sorry for wasting your time reading this comment.

As I pondered it even further I realise more and more that my life is not my own and maybe it has taken getting my butt out to risky Nigeria for me to truly give it up.

I’m an aspie (Asperger's). It means there is a control freak in me and it rears its head worse when I am tired or hungry or under stress. But I survive because I maintain control – and so to give up that control is a REALLY super hard, super scary and super tiring. If I give up the control it only works if I completely trust the person I am giving it up to. Gaining that trust is hard. Re-gaining after it has been broken is even harder.

I have learnt that God is trust worthy. His sovereignty isn’t something I can really test, though. God can’t earn that status – it is simple fact of life. God is sovereign.

I got some more info from the original poster and I started pondering some more and eventually replied in a message.

I don’t know what it is like trying to relate to family who aren’t Christian, I can only imagine how ridiculously difficult it must be. I wasn’t trying to stir the water, just give an honest answer to her question. God’s sovereignty is a concept that non-believe (actually many believes for that matter) don’t’ grasp. It is a work his is doing in me at the moment! To live is Christ, but to die is gain – that hard to walk balance between effectiveness and risk.

Since coming to Nigeria I have become more and more aware of 2 things.
1 – The cost of missions goes FAR beyond my comfort level. It is also a cost/potential cost to other people. I have lived far too long ignorant of the cost my decision to be involved in mission is to other people.
2 – I cannot live any longer ashamed of the gospel, not my part in getting it to people who don’t have it. A great verse that has really come out fresh of late 1 Cor 1:18 “The cross is foolishness for those who don’t believe”. They are never going to understand why we do what we do where we do it. They are going to consider it foolishness. That is tough – on them and the result I guess is that they are tough on us.
But damn it, 300 languages without a single word of scripture, I have to do all I can in the time I have here – who knows how long that may be!


Right now I am re-ignited about why we are here doing what we do. I’ve been complacent about it. Maybe our lifestyle is too easy-going that I’m not being kept on my knees. But I have never been more convinced than I am now of the need for God’s word to be available – in a language that people can understand.

The only way to build trust is to get to know someone. The way to get to know God is in his word. If people can’t understand his word, they’ll never get to know him any better. How will they ever trust him and rely on him and be prepared to lay their lives down for him?   

Our family is here living with those risks – the instability, the crappy power and everything else – to help make that a reality for the millions of Nigerians in the 300+ languages that don’t currently have any scripture. 

17 Dec

Global Leadership summit 2012 – Too afraid to fail?

Geoffrey Canada, part 2.

Failure is not something we like to admit to. Sometimes we hide it away, hoping we will learn from it ourselves.

Geoffrey’s running schools, hard ministries with very high expectations and high pressure positions that need people to deliver over and over again. He is trying to change a culture, not rescue a few kids. Geoffrey was right out there, naming his most regrettable mistake: giving people a second chance.

He had Bible-believing, passionate people who were desperate to see the change happen, but they were simply not up to the task required of them. It held the ministry back and it denied kids the best opportunities. He wished he had been able to recognise that he needed people who could deliver every time.

This one really got to me. We work in an organisation that is staffed by self-employed volunteers. Throw in the whole issue of ‘call’, and getting people out of jobs that they aren’t suited for, and are being unproductive in, can become very hard.

I stopped and looked at my roles and whether I fitted them or not.  What will I do when it is time to move out of those roles and hand them over?

12 Dec

Global Leadership Summit 2012 – Tipping Point

Geoffrey Canada, who started the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York, gave a fascinating interview. His whole motivation is about changing the odds. He was totally passionate that there should be no part of a city where, when people manage to move on out, it is celebrated as a major achievement.

I wasn’t convinced that I was going to get much out of this interview, but as the weeks have gone on, I have probably referred to this session most. This is post 1 of 2 about his session. That probably tells you that I got more out of it than I realised!


Geoffrey was passionate about the young people in the neighbourhood that he grew up in, he was passionate about giving them a chance. He observed that all their badness comes down to the fact that they are contaminated with negative messages, of all varieties. The culture is contaminated, their lives are contaminated, their automatic reactions are contaminated, and everything about it is contaminated. They don’t understand right from wrong, so they make bad choices, because they don’t think they have choices.

He decided that, instead of going in and saving a kid or two, he wanted to pick a block and try to change the culture. He wanted to contaminate the culture with positive messages of hope and a future. He decided that there has to come a tipping point where any given kid is, against all the odds, receiving more positive messages that negative ones, allowing them to know right from wrong and make good choices.

He studied, and decided that, in order to pull that off, he would need 65–70% of their entire messages to be positive instead of negative. That would tip the balance in favour of the kids.

There are a lot of languages in Nigeria, well over 500 in fact. And there are a lot of mother-tongue (MT) Bible Translation projects going on. I have very close contact with only four of them, but I wondered what the tipping point would be in order to get MT Scriptures used in the churches in those areas. How many times do we need to pass on the message that MT Scripture has the most impact on people’s lives? What percentage of the Bible readings or sermons or songs needs to be MT before people see the value in it? And then make use of it all the time?

I don’t want to see so much time spent on translation work, or literacy work, or training, etc., only to have Bibles sit unused in boxes. I firmly believe that MT Scripture is the foundation for evangelism, church growth, personal growth and community transformation.

What would the tipping point be, to get the whole community involved in the project?

What would the tipping point be, to get MT scripture into every church?

What would the tipping point be, to get MT scripture into every home?

What would the tipping point be, to get all sermons preached in the mother tongue?

Not theoretical questions, but real issues in the projects I am involved in. I am sure it works all over the world. I’d love to know that some of the tipping points have been in other projects.

07 Dec

Global Leadership Summit 2012 – The Generations

Craig Groshel is the founder and senior pastor of lifechurch.tv, a thriving multimedia multi-site church. One of their products is youversion, the Bible app for mobile phones, tablets and computers. It is an exciting product for me, because there are plans afoot to get all the translations of the Bible in Nigeria (and the rest of the world) on there. Cool, hey? Great chance to hear from the guy who started it up.

I was looking forward to a talk about how to use technology to engage your team and enthuse people, but no – Paul a middle-aged man was going to talk about working across the generations. He turned out to be a great presenter, and I’d love to read some of his other materials.

To the older generation:
(He defined older – “If you need to ask the question, you are probably older.”)

If you are not dead, you are not done.
A motto many people in our org have lived by! His point was that maybe retiring from full-time ministry is appropriate, but you are never done leading people, never done influencing people, never done training people, never done mentoring people. If you aren’t dead, you aren’t done.

Don’t delegate tasks, delegate authority.
Delegating tasks will get jobs done and will create followers. Delegating authority will get jobs done, probably not the way you would do them, but it will create leaders. Invest in those behind you, they can do more than you did.

Authenticity trumps cool.
The younger generation isn’t bothered about cool – what they want is real. Don’t pretend to be something you are not, thinking that is going to solidify the relationship. You have to be authentic.

To the young ones:

You NEED those who have gone before you.
You can learn from them, avoid their mistakes, you can do more than they did. Get over your sense of entitlement. It isn’t your fault, it is what has been programmed into you by those who went before, but get over it! Because it will limit others’ ability to invest in you.

Honour those who have gone before you, and those who are over you.
Honour builds trust, it adds value and it builds up. Public honour allows private influence. Respect is earned by honour given.  Be intentional with giving honour, it needs to be above and beyond the normal expectation.

To both:

Create ongoing feedback loops.
Learn to listen to each other and learn to explore together.

Create specific mentoring moments.
If you aren’t deliberate about it, they will get pushed back and eventually never happen. If you are intentional about it, it will happen, it will create momentum and you will both benefit more from the session together.

22 Nov

Global Leadership summit 2012 – Energize

I had a brilliant opportunity at the end of October to attend the Global Leadership Summit.  No, I didn’t get to fly to Chicago, but they ran 4 summits around Nigeria using the video packs. I understand that they do something similar in 90 or so countries around the world.  I’m writing a series of posts on things that I learnt or observed over those 2 days.

The first session was by Bill Hybels the senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church and creator of the Global Leadership Summit.  He started with talking about the Parable of the Sower, and how 75% of the seed that was thrown didn’t produce fruit.  He had been challenged to consider the rate of seed that he had sown and how high his expectations were.  He had been challenged to so more seed if he wanted more fruit.

I wasn’t sure how it applied to the ministry of Bible Translation but it did occur to me that we reap what we sow – so if I am determined to sow more patience, more gentleness, more of the things I want to be, maybe I will only get 25% of it to stick, but play the %. The more I sow, the more I’ll reap.

He had a whole lot to say, but the other thing that really caught me was about we influence. (Now just to clarify, ‘influence’ is not the same as ‘manipulate’.) If you are leading a team, you can influence them to be a better team, more productive, harder workers etc. Bill was saying that we can influence those under us, alongside us, or above us. In my roles here, I interact with almost all parts of our office and what Bill said next was brilliant.  He took ‘influence’ and said, instead of trying too hard to influence, you need to energize people.

If you energise those below you they will work harder for you.
If you energise those alongside, you will be able to partner with them better and they will be more prepared to partner with you.
If you energise those who lead you they will involve you in more decision making.

So my challenge, as an INTJ aspie who lacks energy a lot of the time – how can I energise people to write good reports? How can I energise people to engage with strategy discussions? How can I energise people to try new file storage access systems?

Fortunately I don’t think it is about the level of energy that I possess. Rather, do I have the skills (for want of a better word) to enthuse others?

Any thoughts, greatly welcomed!

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