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23 December 2016

Usha Reifsnider

Usha Reifsnider

I usually wake up at 4.30am and take a health supplement first thing. If I'm in the UK I will put some worship music on, but if I'm in the US, where my family live, I will go out and do exercise. It's too cold to do it here! 

The time before breakfast is my God time. I eat at 7.30am, a quarter of a cup of porridge and a huge cup of tea with Indian chai spices and fresh ginger. 

On my way to the office I always pick a leaf; I look at leaves as messages from God. All creation cries out that there's a creator. Connecting to nature to me is just a sign that God is there. I even write notes to my family on leaves! I started doing this in the Middle East when I served there with migrants and refugees and victims of trafficking, because I would see these olive leaves as a sign of God's peace and presence despite the chaos. 

At the office, the first thing I do is make some more tea. I then take a look at my task list for the day ahead. At 9.30am we come together for staff prayer. That's probably one of my favourite times of the day, looking in people's faces and seeing them communicate with God is a huge encouragement to the feeling of unity in the Alliance family.

My role with South Asian Forum is new. There are three million South Asians in the UK, but only 2.5 per cent are Christians. South Asians have their own cultural landscape – their view of how Britain looks and their idea of the British Church. A lot of them are very separate and I long to see the body of Christ working together with that unified goal of making Jesus known. We've always looked at Christianity as having a Western influence, but that has to change as the majority of the world's Christians today aren't of Western origin anymore.

In my role I plan to arrange a variety of informative and fun events to connect people. Not looking down from a pulpit, but sitting next to them, doing life with them - not making friends so they can become converts, but just because the Jesus in you sees the potential in them. 

Coming from a Hindu background I love strong family ties. I believe these should be replicated in the Church body. In our culture, family is in every aspect of life. There are lots of references to family and being a family in the Bible, but sometimes that is difficult to see in practice in Western cultures.

I have lunch at about 1pm. I have raw vegetables or some homemade vegetablesoup. I tend to nibble throughout the day. I take an hour and study for my PhD or go for a 30-minute run, which is like a reboot for my mind.

After being a Go To Nations missionary for 28 years, I found that a lot of people were asking me to train missionaries and church leaders. I had a lot of experience, but I wasn't very good at articulating it. This led me do my master's degree. Within 35 minutes of sending my final paper I felt God say: "PhD."

I wasn't ready! I didn't have the money – I remember I couldn't even afford to buy a pen that day. But I sent an application to Oxford Centre for Mission Studies and was accepted.

As the only woman in my cohort, I was terrified and I didn't speak to any one for the first two weeks because I felt so out of my depth. I thought Christian mission expertise came from the clever, white, ancient men – that's what I'd come to understand. I looked at my mission experience and I realised I had always felt like I had to be like them to reach people like me. OCMS really encouraged me to research from my cultural perspective. 

Today the majority world's Christians outnumber those in the Western world because of the success of mission. Now it stands to reason that more mission strategy should come from that direction. I realised I had the same access to the word of God as any other theologian or mission strategist and I needed to use it. There's room for diversity in the throne room and that to me speaks that there should be diversity in how we do mission.

I go home at about 5pm and cook food – usually a vegetable-type curry and some beans or dahl, rice and chapattis. I like cooking. I'm not a good cook but no one's ever died! After dinner I study and Skype with my husband and kids – both my kids are at university in Florida where we've been serving as missionaries to refugees for a few years. One of the ways we deal with missing each other is sending videos of ourselves singing or reading stories.

My husband and I are both full-time missionaries and both doing PhDs. We're waiting to meet Visa requirements so that he can join me here. I'm here for another four years to do my PhD and I'm open to wherever God tells me to go after that. 

I usually go to bed about 10 o'clock. I put on a podcast or listen to recordings from my family to put me to sleep.

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