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International assignment not a hardship

In addition to biblical training, Brian Dyck and Lynell Bergen also provide some support for AIDS education. Three of the four men in this picture became active AIDS education counselors in their communities after attending a training seminar.

November 21, 2002
by Dan Dyck

Winnipeg, Man.—"This has been a real blessing in our lives, for us, for our kids."

That's how Lynell Bergen responds to North American assumptions of hardship during their three-year assignment with MC Canada Witness (partners with Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission) in Umtata, South Africa.

A Mennonite Church Manitoba Camps with Meaning project involved campers writing to selected Witness workers around the world. In response to camper inquiries, Bergen said, "We really got the impression that people think that mission workers have it hard, and it's a terrible life and we're really suffering. We don't feel that way that all."

"We try to communicate that as we travel around to churches," she added, referring to their current North American visit.

Sometimes referred to as the "Nazareth of Africa" (can anything good come out of Nazareth?), life in Umtata, says Bergen is just fine. They have a comfortable home, running water, electricity, computer and internet access (in fact Bergen and husband Brian Dyck have their own web site- visit

While the services may not compare to North American standards, the Bergen Dycks simply say life is not harder in Umtata, only different.

Ministry challenges, however, abound. The Bergen Dycks assignment focuses on Bible teaching and some work with AIDS education. Challenges include the local perception of white North Americans as bible experts and the dominance of religious programming on South African radio and television-much of which is imported from North America.

One comment from a bishop who had participated in biblical training years ago identified a need for education on the relationship between the old and new testaments.

"He said to us, I was told that I shouldn't believe the old testament… and now (we have) the new testament and so this is the one I should follow, but now I know that I can use both books, and both have credibility," said Bergen.