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When people are fleeing, we must take responsibility

Written anual report of 2016 by Peter Fischer-Nielsen, genral secretary. Translated by Patrick Nielsen.

When people are fleeing, we must take responsibility

Every year, Danmarks Radio and Dansk Sprognævn (official Danish language committee) determine “The word of the year”. In 2015, they chose the word “flygtningestrømme” (Refugee-influx / Refugee-flood), which speaks volumes. The refugee situation took up much of the public debate this year, especially in the fall, when we saw refugees walking up the Danish freeways, we were made aware that something was wrong. Naturally, many people asked: What can I do to help?

The refugee situation has also absorbed much of Mission Afrikas attention during the past year. The terrorist movement Boko Haram, continues to send people on the run in Nigeria and Cameroon. Alongside the Lutheran Brethren church in Cameroon and with support from DANIDA, we have been able to provide help to a lot of them. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Central Africa has helped internally displaced people and returning refugees from the civil war, and right now we are very active in terms of supporting the church to rebuild and develop health and school work. The PROCMURA organization has been working hard to create peace between Christians and Muslims, and the TV station SAT-7 has been sending school television for the many children who, because of the war in Syria, have not been able to go to regular school.

In Denmark, the recycling shops have been able to make a difference. The shops are an important part in many refugee families’ ability to make a small amount of funds last. There are also shops that have begun to integrate refugees as volunteer workers.

The theme for the annual representatives meeting this year is “Let’s carry the load together”. Let us be responsive to the challenge, both when it comes to our partners in Africa, and our friends in Denmark. And let us each listen, to where God calls us, to lift and help carry.

Vision 2020 unfolds

The main drive of Mission Afrika’s work is the desire to bring God’s love and care into a world that, now more than ever, needs to feel and accept it. Unfortunately we can not be everywhere, and sometimes it is necessary to focus and prioritize.

At the council meeting in 2015, the Board of Directors presented a “Vision 2020” with four work goals that we want to focus on in the coming years: capacity building and project development, the training of pastors and leaders, strengthening the Christian Church meeting with Muslims and development of volunteering.

The international work

The vision has already started to be implemented. On the international front, we’ve been reviewing all of our partners and projects to find out if there’s anything we need to do differently, in light of the new vision. As a conclusion to the analysis, the Board has decided to make some cuts. The partnership with Joint Christian Ministry of West Africa (JCMWA) will be phased out. The same goes for the partnership with City Ministries in Nigeria. For both partners’ cases, the settlement will take place gradually and in a responsible manner. Anne Karin and Peter Michael Lauritzen will continue their work in Nigeria until their contract ends in the summer of 2017.

The cooperation with the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria (LCCN) is also affected.The board believes that LCCN has a size and structure that makes them no longer rely on our financial project support. Thus, most current projects will be phased out over the coming years. Friendship bonds with LCCN will remain, and we must find out how they can best flourish in the coming years, for example through mutual visits and project activities. Later, there will once again be discussions about a project cooperation in new conditions, with a new cooperation agreement as a starting point.

Many active volunteers

On the Danish front there has also been much work on implementing the new objectives formulated in Vision 2020. A committee has, in recent months, focused on a presentation to the board with suggestions for Mission Afrika’s future involvement in Christian-Muslim relations in Denmark. The hope is that some of the options outlined in the paper can begin to be unfolded already in 2017.

Many new volunteers have joined the field in the past year, helping to fulfill our goal of being a network organization supported by voluntary commitment. People have volunteered for talent specific voluntary tasks like interpreting, managing our shop, photographing and playing music at events, as well as organizing IT equipment and keeping track of our directory. 30 people are also registered with our ambassador corps, and we hope that even more will join during 2016.

Our volunteer networking employee Lilly Krarup has done a wonderful job of contacting all the existing Mission Afrika groups and examining how they work. There are still 43 functioning groups that are active and make an important contribution to Mission Afrika’s work. Some of these are celebrating the 100th anniversary, thus demonstrating a great and invaluable faithfulness.

The project groups have worked well and a new project has begun, with a focus on Central Africa. The other groups are the Health Care Project group, the Mali Group and the Pearls of the Street Group (Cameroon). The Lights of Youth Group (Sierra Leone) have unfortunately had to close in the spring, but the members deserve a big thank you for the effort they have put into the work.

A very positive development on the voluntary side is that we now have been able to advertise volunteer opportunities in Sierra Leone and Cyprus (SAT-7). We look forward to sending out some young people who can also subsequently help to reinforce Mission Afrika’s youth work.

Record year in Recycling

2015 was a fantastic year in recycling. A record profit of 9.2 million kr. and a higher VAT compensation than expected meant that this year’s recycling performance was a million kr. better than the year before. Which is splendid and deserves great recognition. Without the money made from recycling, Mission Afrika would not have been able to bring all the work to fruition that we do.

In the beginning of 2016 Danmission and Mission Afrika decided to divide the nine thrift shops, which we managed together at the time. This was to facilitate the administration and monitoring of the stores and to give them a more unique identity. It’s hard to do this kind of maneuver and people have been hurt in the process. We are sad to hear that and we are sorry. However, we look forward to continued allegiance with the stores that work with Mission Afrika and wish the employees of the aforementioned shops all the best.

Though we are saying farewell to some shops, we can also say welcome to a brand new one. In June 2016, we opened a beautiful new thrift store in Grenå. We’ve been looking forward to this, and we welcome the many dedicated volunteers who have joined the fray.

Mission Afrika now has 75 thrift stores, 18 of which are run jointly with other organizations.

In 2015-2016 the thrift shops gathered money for a farming project in Mali, and through the popular thrift rallies in May 2016, we introduced a new campaign. In the coming years, Mission Afrika will be gathering money for the relief efforts instead.

The economy is developing nicely

As shown in the financial figures in this annual report, Mission Afrika’s economy is experiencing reasonable growth on top of last year’s critical situation. The year ended with a nice profit of 1.1 million kr., Partially due to the increase in recycling work and greater inheritance revenues than expected. It is gratifying and helps to reinforce our expectations for the future. There are so many needs and tasks that hope to meet over the coming year, so thanks for your continued generosity and your trust that we can manage your gifts in a good manner.

Last year, due to rule changes at SKAT, we introduced a membership to Mission Afrika. Before the turn of the year we needed to have at least 300 members, which turned out not to be a problem. At this very moment, there are 655 members in addition to the employees at the thrift stores that are also counted as members.

We have much to be thankful of

It is appropriate to round off the annual report with a big thank you, for there is much to thankful for. Thank you to our partners in Africa and in Cyprus that have given us at least as much as we give them. Thanks to all of volunteers who have brought their time, talents, ideas, prayers and money into the game. Thanks to the Secretariat and expatriate staff for their outstanding efforts in a difficult year marked by reorganization. A special thanks to the staff who have left us: Ingelise and Regin Benner, that after almost 25 years of faithful service have returned from Nigeria; Mette Alex and Bjergbæk Klausen, who have completed their missionary time in Sierra Leone; and Hanne Hauge Andersen, who has decided to leave her job as development coordinator in recycling work. Who each in their own way, they have provided a valuable and important contribution to Mission Afrika.

At the same time there must also be a warm welcome for new employees: Hanne Fornitz, who’s exchanging her secretary job with the position as development coordinator in recycling activities; Dorrit Ruby Jensen, who has been appointed to take over the secretary position; Philip Christoffersen, who is maternity cover on communication record for Anne Sofie Bjorn Bitsch; and Lars Torp, who has been employed in a flex job as assessment employee in recycling. It should also be mentioned that our finance and administration manager Torben Hesselbjerg from the turn of the year also received management responsibility for recycling work.

We must also remember to say thank you to all the volunteers, partners and employees, who together carry on Mission Afrika’s vision, but we must also not forget to thank Him that carries us all and gives us visions. We believe that the mission is about God sending us out into the world with love, hope and joy. May God also in the coming year give us ears to hear, eyes that can see and hands that are willing to bear.