An interview with Robert & Phillippa Cismas, who have recently joined the Faith Mission, and are based at Newton Stewart.
1. When Did You Study At The Faith Mission Bible College?
Phillippa was in Bible college from 2002-2004 and Robert from 2003-2005. Robert came from Romania and Phillippa is from Cumbria. Phillippa spent a year after college working in the Faith Mission on the Evangelism Team in England and Scotland.
2. Can You Tell Us About Your Family?
We got married after college and God later blessed us with four children: Nathan, Keziah, Jerusha and Joel, who are growing fast! This year we’ve had our second teenager. The children are keen members of our local silver band. They all enjoy sports ranging from cycling and swimming to tennis and football. They love the outdoors and are enjoying exploring the beautiful Galloway countryside.
3. You Have Been In Christian Work For Some Time. Can You Tell Us About That, And Your Responsibilities?
Our main period of involvement in full time ministry took place in Botswana, where we worked for eight consecutive years plus a couple of short-term trips. Robert knew God’s call to go and reach people in this country with the Gospel message and preparation for missionary service in Africa was the main reason for coming to the Faith Mission Bible College. After further studies for a BA focusing on children’s work (Phillippa) and a MA in Mission and Evangelism, with Biblical languages (Robert), we went to Botswana. For the first part of our ministry there we worked alongside existing missionaries, which involved practical work and evangelism in remote communities in the Kalahari Desert. For the second part of our time, we were led to establish and lead a Christian trust that would focus on reaching the unreached rural communities of Botswana (you can see our FM heritage coming through here!). The trust was called C.A.R.E. Botswana, which stands for Christian Assistance & Rural Evangelism, Botswana.
Over the years, our work included evangelistic events, schools outreach (from primary to senior secondary), teaching English in schools, discipleship meetings, home Bible studies, Bible and Audio Bibles distribution, children’s ministries and Bible clubs, and involvement in Bible translation into two San languages in our region. The work also involved many practical projects, from building a centre for the trust, a home for needy families, supporting Christian, income generating businesses to car mechanics. We praise God for his help and all the opportunities he brought before us to serve so far in Botswana. We still have a heart for proclaiming the Good News there and hope to go back on short term mission trips from time to time.
4. What Have Challenges Did You Face In Working In That Country?
Some of the challenges of working in Botswana were the extreme weather and sometimes dangerous wildlife. Temperatures are very high in the Kalahari Desert for most of the year with very low humidity and a lack of rain for six to eight months of the year. We or the children occasionally encountered deadly critters around where we lived, like scorpions, snakes, hippos, elephants and the tiny, malaria-bearing, mosquito! The Lord was good to us and kept us all safe throughout our time out there. Challenges to the work could be found in the honour-shame traditional African culture, which is very different from the western way of thinking and takes time to understand. Another challenge was the strong tendency towards syncretism (mixing Christian teaching with other traditional beliefs). Another significant concern was the all-prevailing ‘prosperity gospel’. Countless self-proclaimed ‘prophets’ and ‘apostles’ tell, often vulnerable and impoverished people, that if they make a financial contribution God will repay manyfold in increased blessings. There is no mention of sin, repentance, or many other biblical truths. However, it was good to be able to share the true and eternal Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and show love in practical ways through helping communities free of charge.
5. Robert, The Centre At Newton Stewart Requires Much Practical Ministry, What Skills Will You Bring On A Practical Level?
From an early age, I found that God wired me to enjoy both academic work as well as putting my hand to practical things. In FM Bible College I helped on the vehicle and building maintenance team under John Matthew’s kind and patient oversight. (Sorry I removed the steering rack instead of the steering pump off the college car that time, John! Lost in translation!) Later, in Botswana I was involved in building a Christian preschool and community building while helping in another ministry and later I built buildings in our own work, learning more of the necessary skills in the process, from plumbing to electrics, and training local people in new skills and providing an income for them. I was also often called upon to fix vehicles and to do lots of driving carrying people, large water trailers or building supplies. At various times in the UK, I’ve worked as a professional driver (buses, coaches and most recently, articulated lorries) and still hold all the professional qualifications. I praise God for all the opportunities he has given me to serve in his Kingdom on a practical level up to this point. The work in Newton Stewart has made use of and stretched some of my practical skills already in the short time we’ve lived here! I look forward to the challenges ahead and using the facilities to their full extent for the cause of Christ.
6. Phillippa, What Is Your Vision For The Area, And Is There Anything That You Will Like To Establish.
My heart is to see families reached with the Gospel. I am chatting with local mums and finding out what the needs are in the community. As the Lord leads, we hope to go into schools and to establish groups such as a toddler group, a kids Bible club and youth group to make connections with local families and young people. We see a great need for hope and identity in young people in this modern, post covid world, which can only be met by the Lord Jesus.
7. Have you any verses of scripture which have been an encouragement to you as you commence your work in Newton Stewart?
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. …for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise. (Isaiah 43:18-21 ESV)
Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38 ESV)
8. Is There Anything Else That You Would Like To Add?
We praise God for his clear leading into the Faith Mission and here to Newton Stewart at the end of a time where he had called us to wait on him for the direction to the place where he wanted us to serve him. It has been refreshing to be again in the company of godly people who are all passionate about reaching the lost for Christ and we feel honoured to work at building God’s Kingdom together. We have been blessed by everyone’s warm welcome.
We have a strong desire to see people come to know Jesus in this spiritually needy area of Dumfries and Galloway, where God has placed us, and to see Christians be encouraged to a deeper and closer walk with our Lord, by any means and using the doors that God opens before us. We also hope to see the centre continue to be a blessing to encourage Christians and to be a hub for evangelism reaching unsaved people with the love of Christ. Please pray for God’s blessing and leading in this work.