Back to the future
By Tim Allan | Nigeria in West Africa
FAMILY FRIENDS: Linda with some of the women at Kent Academy
Reunions always take a lot of organising but staging one for your entire family of 18 in a country more than 5,000 miles away takes things to a new level!
That’s exactly what retired SIM worker Linda Crouch did over the summer, when she, her five children with spouses and all her grandchildren, were able to return to her beloved Nigeria.
Linda, who used to teach with her husband Jim at Kent Academy, Miango, explained: “When Jim and I had to leave Nigeria after he was diagnosed with cancer we always prayed and talked about wanting to take the family back one day.
“Even after Jim died in November 2008, that idea never dimmed in me.” “It was a huge answer to prayer and a great blessing from God that we were all able to do it.”
Linda and Jim were both missionary kids, whose parents served in Nigeria with SIM. They too served in Nigeria for decades, with Jim first arriving in 1968 and Linda in 1977. It was where they met, where they got engaged and where all their children – Lisa, Danny, David and twins Matthew and Laurie – were born.
They served in several roles, but their heart was very much in Kent Academy, where they were both educated and then, much later, joined the teaching staff.
All their children are now adults, with careers of their own in different parts of the US. Two years in the planning, they finally arrived in Miango this summer for a two-week mission trip.
The school certainly found them plenty to do! They ran a holiday Bible club, along with sports and soccer games; helped with IT issues and painted some wall murals.
Three of Linda’s children are teachers, so they put on training sessions for dorm and teaching staff, and also did some trauma counselling for those affected.
One of the highlights was a 5k walkathon in memory of Jim organised by a former pupil at the school, helped by Linda’s daughter, Laurie. The 50 or 60 who took part were many people Jim had discipled at Kent.
Perhaps the most touching moment was when Linda’s son David proposed to his girlfriend Samia on the very spot Jim had proposed to Linda back in 1978.
“It was the greatest blessing for me to be able to bring my children back to the place where they were born, and for them to bring their children too.
“We shared meals together with old friends and had a wonderful time of worship in the chapel we once worshipped in.
“I am so thankful to God for the way he made it happen.”
Linda does not know what lasting fruit will come from the family’s visit but she prays it will inspire an even greater connection to God’s mission in some of them.
• For the staff and pupils of Kent Academy as they deal with multiple challenges, both current and historic, that they would find peace, hope and comfort in Jesus Christ.
• For Linda as she processes the trip and prays about ways to continue her long-standing relationship with the school.
• For the Crouch family, that the trip would not just be a joyous memory but would also be a springboard for a greater involvement in God’s global mission.