Echoes of Service
Dr Ian Burness, Bristol, England
The advance of the gospel is central to the progress of the work of God in the world, and every believer should be committed to this task. We all have a part to play as members of Christ’s body and over the years many agencies have been established to help in this task, with well-defined purposes and roles. The role of Echoes of Service has grown over the years of its existence, but the purpose remains unchanged.
Echoes began life in 1872 as a publication called The Missionary Echo, the vision of Henry Groves and Dr. John L. McLean. Their purpose was to make know the labours of many who had gone from assemblies to serve abroad and who had no formal link with any missionary society. The name was changed to Echoes of Service in 1885, and the magazine has been produced each month since then. One of the first editors resided in Bath and by the 1890’s this had become the registered office.
OUR PRINCIPLES OF OPERATION These have often been misunderstood and it is important to clarify them again:
- The local church commends, releasing to service those whom God has called and prepared for this task.
- Echoes does not place, control or direct missionaries. We believe there should be mutual accountability and that freedom in service should be exercised with responsibility.
- Echoes is a ministry of faith and we seek to be true to this principle. Appeals are never made for funds.
Our ministry can be grouped under four main roles, and different activities are carried out to fulfil these.
1. PROVIDING INFORMATION
The publishing of missionary news and information for prayer has remained one of the core activities of Echoes.
- Echoes Missionary Magazine is published monthly. Contents include articles on missionary work and extracts from missionary letters for prayer and information. It is available on subscription from the Echoes office.
- Echoes Daily Prayer Guide is produced annually and contains information on missionaries commended from the United Kingdom. It is designed to be used with Echoes magazine to aid regular prayer.
- Telephone Echoes and Electronic News. An Ansafone service is recorded twice weekly and is accessible 24 hours a day at 01225 336699. A weekly News Update is despatched by e-mail or fax to those who have registered for this.
- A Web Site. Our web site contains recent prayer news, magazine articles, publications available, coming events and other data. Visit www.echoes.org.uk
- Missionary Booklets. Factfiles are produced covering key issues in missionary service. Titles include: Facing a Call from God, Commendation and Care, Returning Home, Understanding Islam, Stewardship and Accountability, among others.
2. TRANSMITTING FUNDS
Gifts for missionaries and their work are received and transmitted though Echoes office. We are happy to transmit gifts to workers based in the United Kingdom or to those not linked to Echoes. There is no charge for this service and no deductions are made for office expenses unless specifically stated by the donor, ensuring that gifts sent are 100% available for missionaries.
SPECIAL FUNDS We also have a variety of funds for specific purposes, which allow support to be sent for different ministries.
- Echoes Disaster Fund is used for emergency relief when calamities and natural disasters occur. A rapid response can usually be made in these situations.
- Echoes Care Fund. Gifts are sent to those who are dealing with poverty and social deprivation. Help for children’s work and some special projects are also funded from the Care Fund
- Echoes Fellowship Fund is used to help national workers in some countries, and in several other ways.
- Medical Fund. Regular gifts are sent each quarter to many hospitals and clinics, which are used to purchase drugs and other equipment.
- Bible Fund. This helps with the provision of Scriptures in vernacular languages.
- Other funds are held for Printing and Literature, Radio Work and Children’s Work and are used to help those involved in these specific ministries.
3. SERVICES FOR MISSIONARIES AND LOCAL CHURCHES
Echoes has become a source of information, advice and practical support for missionaries and local churches. These services have increased with time and as needs change.
- Letters of support for visas, work permit applications and importation of goods.
- Guarantees when an indemnity is required.
- Help with administering payment of National Insurance contributions.
- Financial and taxation advice.
- Medical advice and care through specialized agencies.
- Advice on education, schooling and letters of support to universities.
- Pastoral care and counselling on work related and other issues.
- Regular visits to see missionaries and their work.
- Resettlement and retirement advice on returning to the United Kingdom.
- Offer of participation in the missionary pension scheme.
- Annual house party.
- Orientation courses before leaving for the field.
For Local Churches
- Availability for advice and consultation.
- Help with documentation and guidance on commendation of new workers.
- Ease in transmission of funds to missionaries.
- Visits to report on missionary service.
These are some of the services that are available when requested. Frequently we are able to help and if we cannot do so, can usually point the enquirer in the right direction.
4. STIMULATING MISSION INTEREST
As missionary interest has declined in Britain it has become necessary to try and impart a vision for the needs of the world. Our involvement includes:
- Visiting local churches to speak about mission, the role of Echoes or recent overseas visits. This may be part of the regular activities or in a conference or seminar format.
- Echoes Day is an annual event held at different venues around the country.
- Our audiovisual catalogue lists resources available on loan, including various tape/slide presentations and videos
- Youth resources are produced by the Youth Strategy Group and ‘Spring into Action’ weekends are run for young people.
- ‘Mission in the 21st Century’ is the title of this seminar, presented on Power Point.
- Web Pages are available to those who have access to the Internet.
Echoes is managed by a group of Editors who also act as trustees. Two of these reside near Bath and are based in the office, helped by a supporting staff. The staff and their various roles are listed in the annual Daily Prayer Guide.
Close links are maintained with other service groups based in the United Kingdom, as well as internationally, with service groups fulfilling a similar role.
Change has become the status quo of the modern world, so a service group like Echoes that has existed for well over a century, must have clear goals and a vision for the future. Our Vision Statement develops this challenge.
Following biblically-based principles of mission and church planting, Echoes of Service, through the faithfulness of God seeks to be:
- A more relevant, informed, efficient and sensitive service group.
- A major influence in promoting mission among all age groups in local churches.
- A partner in mission with similarly minded groups overseas.
To fulfil this vision we need to know the guidance of God and discern His will for this ministry. The staff at Echoes need your prayers as well as the many missionaries we serve.
The text of this article is a condensed version of our new Handbook, a copy of which can be obtained from Echoes Office, Widcombe Crescent, Bath BA2 6AQ.