by Paul Schamberger
New missionary flat at RUC is like a home from home
RUC recently announced the opening of a spacious new flat on the church’s property for visiting missionaries and their families.
Paul Schamberger asked Jenni Kurten, Missions Co-ordinator, and Erin Wiesner, who project-managed the refurbishment and the furnishing of the new accommodation, about the flat and its purpose.
P: What is the rationale for this flat? Don’t RUC missionaries have their own homes to go to when they return for breaks or holidays?
J: Almost all have sold their homes and have gone to be missionaries full time. We have one or two missionaries who still own their South African home, but they would invariably have a tenant living in it.
The flat can be used by RUC’s 23 missionaries who work in SA, elsewhere in Africa and around the world. But there are others who work in the missionary field who are attached to different missionary organisations, and they can also be put up here.
We moved the previous missions flat to this part of the building as it’s larger and has an extra bedroom and bathroom. Whereas the old flat had only one bedroom, accommodating families with kids was awkward. Now we can even accommodate short-term teams, who might come from overseas to serve with Rays of Hope.
E: Sometimes we have missionaries coming from countries such as Malawi or Zambia because they need medical treatment either for themselves or for a sick child, and need affordable accommodation. Often they can’t afford to stay in a b&b or to rent rooms. We can lend a helping hand.
Most visiting missionaries are faced with financial constraints because missionary organisations don’t pay salaries; the missionaries have to raise their own support. RUC supports its own missionaries up to 30% of their support needs, depending into which category they fall, so they have to raise the balance of 70%+ themselves. Fortunately, generous support tends to come from RUC members, but also from other churches and related organisations.
P: How many couples can stay here at the same time?
J: We accommodate one family at a time. When people come back with a crisis to cope with, such as a medical emergency, or a planned furlough, you don’t want anyone else living in your space. For groups, the flat can sleep up to nine people, dormitory-style. This would be ideal for a team of young adults on a short-term missionary trip. There would be room for all of them around the dining room table.
We are fully booked until June 2019, and therefore might still call on members to put up visiting missionaries in their homes.
P: What kind of work had to be done to the new flat?
J: No extra building was required, but it did need more than a lick of paint! Except for some furniture from the old flat, everything was donated. You cannot believe the generosity of our church member when the call went out to help furnish the flat. For some items we had to arrange transport, but people mostly dropped off their items right here – anything from cushions, carpets and pictures to a dishwasher! Amazingly, we didn’t get a single duplicate item except for a double bed! This item we could give away. We also received a donation of R5,000 which was perfect as we could buy linen for the children’s room and other small necessities.
P: Who does the cleaning?
The church’s cleaning staff is fully occupied, so we outsource that function. While people are staying here they are responsible for their own cleaning, washing, ironing, whatever. And they cook their own meals.
Erin Wiesner, who is an administrator at the church, was seconded as the project manager for the renovation and refurbishing of the new flat.
She has intensive boots-on-the ground experience in construction and maintenance work, including issuing tenders, getting quotes, writing contracts and conducting the ensuing negotiations; liaising with the Church Council, which has to approve all expenditures; tracking down reliable suppliers; building-site co-ordination; knowing and complying with all relevant municipal regulations; selecting and employing a trustworthy handyman, and so on.
She has the perfect recipe for ensuring that all work get done properly, on budget and on time: “I am very good at nagging,” she smiles. “It’s a gift.”
Erin estimates that the total cost came in “under ten grand”.
Erin says the actual work on the flat took about six weeks to complete. It entailed a thorough clean-up of the premises, the installation of plumbing and electricity, and having all the walls repainted. The refurbishing took another month.
Wendy Lock of RUC, who is linked to Wycliffe Bible Translators, has been teaching missionary children at Faith Academy in Manila, Philippines, for 15 years. She was the first tenant to move into the new flat recently.
Wendy has stayed in the previous flat numerous times, and expected to do so again this time round.
“I thought I would get a mattress to put on the floor. Instead, I was told I could move into the new flat. The last one was a blessing, but this one is amazing!
“We don’t have dishwashers in the Philippines, or hot water that comes out of a tap.
“It’s lovely and it’s so quiet. In the mornings I make some tea and just sit and have time with the Lord while the beautiful sun comes streaming in. It’s like a haven to me. I have been staying here for six weeks, but have been away for some of the time.
“I have a small one-bedroom apartment below someone’s house in the Philippines, but don’t have a place I can call my own here. I have been staying here for six weeks. So it’s great to be able to stay in the mission flat when I’m here on furlough.
“I feel so blessed by the church that cares for us missionaries in such a beautiful way.”