New role to bring unreached into clearer focus


Hans-Jõrg Richter, newly appointed MITF, Outreach Development Facilitator

In 2014, the International Leadership Team for SIM called a major conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to look at how SIM as an organisation can refocus in order to reflect the pioneering spirit of its earlier years. One of the outcomes of the conference was the foundation of the Malaysia Initiative Task Force (MITF), a five-pronged approach to look at the refocusing.

As a result of this, the SIM Malawi Country Director was invited to head up one of the prongs of the MITF, and he accepted the invitation. So from

1 December 2014 Hans-Jörg Richter (HJ) stood down as SIM Malawi’s Country Director and is now the MITF Outreach Development Facilitator.

“Part of my role as Outreach Development Facilitator is to work with countries, to help them get people who live and die without hearing or understanding the Gospel into better focus,” he said.

Refocusing exercise

“Another aspect of the work is to make sure SIM as an organisation is on the right track with regard to the refocusing exercise. I am not sure, just yet, whether the two parts of the new role are equally weighted or if one will take more of a lead than the other.  What I do know, however, is that there were a number of SIM Country Directors at the Kuala Lumpur conference and they are excited about the refocusing and are keen to move forward.”

Malaysia Initiative Task Force Roles:

 Outreach development: Be the catalyst and leader in seeing that SIM takes ministries to contexts where people live and die without the Gospel.

 Ministry training: Serve as catalyst and leader in seeing that all SIM personnel are being trained and equipped to be effective in ministry in challenging contexts.

Resource development: Lead in developing global networks of relationships and resources for SIM's ministry initiatives amongst those beyond the reach of the Gospel.

 Spiritual vitality: Lead a renewed focus on personal and corporate worship and prayer in SIM in order that we will continually fan spiritual vitality into flame as we depend on God to empower us for sacrificial service.

 Focused mobilisation: Be the catalyst and leader in refocusing SIM's communications and mobilisation on ministries among those who are currently beyond the reach of the Gospel.

Inset photograph: SIM International Driector Joshua Bogunjoko speaking at the 2014 Malaysia conference


Working across borders

One of the things which HJ is looking at is how SIM works across borders. He uses the work being carried out among the Yawo people group in Malawi as an example. Although SIM Malawi is getting more involved with the work, the Yawo also live in Mozambique and in Tanzania. In other words their borders do not follow the geopolitical borders drawn up many years ago.

“We may have to look at how we do ministries which cross national borders,” he said.

Learning from each other

“There will be problems with this but it may be one of the ways we take things forward. Perhaps SIM Malawi is doing something well and SIM Mozambique or Tanzania can learn from that. Equally, SIM Malawi could learn from the others’ work with the Yawo.

“But this is not just an African problem; the same is true of many regions around the world and we have to look closely at this.”

As with any new project which looks at the way an organisation works, HJ’s new role has an initial timescale attached to it. The MITF will have three years to come up with ideas before there is a further evaluation of how things are going.  It may well be that, after that evaluation, things may continue for another three years, and so on.

H-J working in teh clinic at Chididi Health Centre in 2004

Experience in Africa-only context

But what are HJ’s feelings about taking on such a new and wide-ranging job? One of his main concerns is that all of his missionary experience has been in an African context and he has much to learn about other parts of the world.

“In human terms, I often wonder if I have the ability to cope with a new job and if it is too big for me. The new role is no different from that,” he said.

“With the new job I also have the worry that missionaries can become entrenched in their ministry. An example would be a doctor who has come out to work in the medical field and he sees the job as only that. What I think I need to do is to start helping others to see that there is more to the ministry than just the name. Everyone will need to be able to share the Gospel within their ministry and outside of it. For some people, that may be difficult but that is part of the refocusing of SIM.

“What excites me is looking at how SIM can work in its current fields and also with other organisations to help spread the Gospel. We are likely to be working in new, possibly difficult, areas, and being able to draw on the expertise of others will be important. So, for example, if we are looking at a new area, do we go in to fill a specific niche or do we work in partnership with an existing organisation and help with resources, both material and human?

“These, and many others, are the kinds of questions and situations I will be looking at over the next few years.”

The Richter family ih 2004 (top) and at SpiritualLife Conference in 2014 (below)

Mission interest ignited

When HJ became a Christian, the church in Germany which he attended was very mission-minded and it was through this that he became interested in working in mission. He even chose his profession, that of a nurse, to help in this regard.

After qualifying as a nurse he joined a German medical mission and was sent to Uganda for a year, in which time he also met his future wife, Andrea. After Uganda, he returned to Germany for further training in medical administration before he and Andrea joined DMG and were sent to Malawi.

Their first tour of duty was working in the Chididi and Lulwe health centres in the Southern Region. They found facilities that had been neglected because the last medical missionary in the centres had left some seven years earlier. Their job was to re-establish the centres, which they did.

Home Assignment in 2005 had HJ and Andrea wondering about the future and whether they should go back to Chididi/Lulwe or take up some other work in the Shire Valley. However, God’s plan was somewhat different!

SIM Malawi’s then administrator was called to go and work in South Africa, so Country Director Ryan Hannah asked HJ to come to Blantyre and take over the role. Four years and another Home Assignment later, HJ was asked to take over as Country Director as Ryan was standing down, and he did this job until assuming his new role with MITF.

Not cutting all ties

As HJ settles into his new rôle, he will not cut his ties with SIM Malawi altogether. Officially, he is working for about 80 per cent of the time for MITF and 20 per cent for the Malawi field.

“I will still have some work on the field,” he said. “The work with the Indian and Chinese Diaspora which we want to develop, some support for the Lutes in Mangochi and some of the outward-mission focused work.”

But what of the future for his work with the MITF?

“One of my immediate aims is to try and pull together a team of like-minded people on each continent who are passionate for the refocusing of SIM and for the people who are living and dying without hearing or understanding the Gospel,” he said.

Regenerate the pioneering spirit

“The MITF can come up with new ideas and new strategies but we will need people around the world to help us to translate these ideas into their particular context. We have seen a start in this as every country was asked to supply information about a particular people group for the SIM International prayer diary. Thinking in this way is a start, and a start I hope the MITF can build on to help regenerate some of the pioneering spirit of the early missionaries into SIM in the 21st Century.”