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The Vivienne Stacey Story

Vivienne Stacey (1928–2010) dedicated her life to strengthening Christian witness among Muslims. From the beginning, training and equipping women was core to her ministry. She was committed to building up and training others, to see them grow by passing responsibility on to them.

As a writer, Vivienne encouraged others to share insights and learning by having them write papers and then bringing them together to discuss insights.

As a pioneer, Vivienne paved the way for many to wrestle with the issues of reaching Muslims with the good news, and particularly for reaching women. Decades of work in Pakistan culminated in a wider itinerant training ministry. She was one of the very first to see the importance of mentoring and training women from the Indian sub-continent who were working in Muslim households in the Gulf and Arab peninsula.

As a visionary, Vivienne wrote, taught, mentored and coached many, enabling them to engage with the issues in a practical and accessible way. She was instrumental in encouraging new practitioners to enter ministry.

Her teaching, her learning and her vision have influenced many who work in ministry among Muslims. Her faith, words and life have been a significant inspiration and example to the organizers of When Women Speak.

pdf Vivienne Stacey’s Autobiography – Mission Ventured Dynamic Stories across a Challenging World
pdf A compilation of reflections from friends, colleagues and from Vivienne’s own writings
  • Vivienne: The Practical

      ‘One mission interviewer in the UK had grave doubts about my suitability for work where learning a language was essential. She had taken me to church and realized how unmusical I was. However, I found that if you put your tongue in the right place and controlled the amount of breath used with consonants, the sounds generally came out right.’ ‘ Vivienne has tended to prefer using restaurants as a place of hospitality...Nevertheless, many of us have enjoyed the uncomplicated freedom of a refreshing stay at Vivienne's apartment during the years she lived in Paphos, after her retirement, and probably all who did so have savoured the one speciality she learnt to cook – sword fish...Vivienne...also taught herself to make marmalade, and would banish all others from the kitchen once a year when the ripened oranges were collected, to fulfil her chosen duty.’ (Carol Walker)
  • Vivienne: The Missiologist

      ‘To this day I can remember things Vivienne said during the course [Women in Islam} and through her writings. For example, she said that only Christian women could win Muslim women by building loving relationships and demonstrating personal interest and concern for them. She said that since a Muslim woman seldom hears her name, praying for her by name, gives genuine worth and value. She said that though many Muslim women are illiterate, and know little about the Qur'an, they do know quite a bit about the Judgement to come. And many have the idea that obedience to their husband holds the key to whether or not they themselves make it to heaven.’ (Warren Larson)
  • Vivienne: Lost And Found

      ‘I was not at peace with myself...Outward morality did not satisfy me. My thoughts and attitudes fell short of my own standards....I had thoughts about many things but had no centre to my thinking... Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, spoke on the raising of Jairus’s daughter... [where they] laughed Jesus to scorn. I had dismissed [Jesus] as not relevant to the modern world I had indeed been so dismissive that I had scorned him. The next speaker talked about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and I realized that if he rose from the dead he is alive now and can be encountered. A couple of evenings later as I was studying in my father’s office I switched off the light and knelt down. In that instant I had a vision of Jesus. There was light in the room and he was standing ahead of me. I knew that he had died for my sins. His peace flooded my heart. The risen Christ met me in my need. This encounter changed the whole course of my life. I have no regrets, only gratitude to him. Life has been far richer than I ever expected.’
  • Vivienne: The Career Woman

      ‘The next question was what career I should follow. I wanted to be a writer. I was [advised] to write articles and booklets but not to try to earn my living as a writer. My mother had warned me against teaching. I did not really know if I had any gift for teaching or not. So I decided to apply to Cambridge and London to do a postgraduate diploma in education. I asked God to guide through these two applications. I lost my papers for Cambridge but was accepted at the Institute of Education of London University. I discovered that I liked teaching. I prayed for a teaching post that would be good preparation for work abroad. ... [After Urdu language study] I took up my post at the United Bible Training Centre, Gujranwala [for 20 years]...I was determined to succeed as a writer in my own culture before I wrote for Pakistan and other lands... The Pakistani church at that time had less than two hundred titles in Urdu. Transition to pioneering with the IFES in the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf was followed by a transition to retirement from Interserve which ‘was easy and smooth. I planned to continue writing, itinerant teaching and training of leaders who are keen to reach out and train others for work among Muslims’
  • Vivienne: The Missionary

      ‘I left the meeting knowing that God had called me to work abroad...‘From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded...’ (Luke 12:48). I knew God had given me much - new life in Christ and the benefits of a good education. For a while I struggled but when I told God I was willing to do what Mary was going to do [work with lepers], I found that he did not require this from me, but he wanted my willingness... I had Muslim and Hindu friends in the college and I knew that it was hard to influence Muslims. Somehow this drew me to Muslims and I recognized God’s calling to the Muslim world. I wanted to see what the living God would do for Muslims.’ ‘I began as a missionary from the West. I became a missionary from the East and I ended up a world Christian.’
  • Vivienne: The Child

      ‘At the age of six I was enrolled in a Church of England primary school in Ruislip. I remember tormenting the vicar who could not keep order. I enjoyed walking the mile between home and school and playing on the way, as I was often in trouble in both places. I soon got myself expelled from my dancing class. I learned a lot from my high spirits and punishable escapades that proved an enormous help when I myself became a teacher. ...Although I was very young I still remember the sense of foreboding...World War II broke out when I was eleven... After experiencing some of the bombing and blitzing of London in 1940 our mother decided to take my brother and me to greater safety in Wales ...In every school I attended we seemed to study A Midsummer Night's Dream and I became allergic to it for a while... I developed a great dislike of Welsh nonconformity. Everyone went to Chapel so I soon stopped going. For some years my only interest in visiting churches was to study the architecture.... After I matriculated at the age of fifteen we moved back to England... [where] I...studied English, Latin, French and History for two years in the sixth form...As the war was ending we got news of concentration camps. By then I was seventeen and began to realize even more of the horror of war.’
  • Vivienne: The Mentor

      ‘The Community Development Team at WCH referred to Vivienne as “teacher” – we were her students - she gave us “homework”. But despite the rather stilted terminology, I believe that this relationship between the team and Vivienne was true mentoring – and Vivienne a great mentor. (Barbara Dyatt) While she helped many to be reflective and intentional ‘I have never known Vivienne relate to anyone as if they were a project.’ (Carol Walker) ‘Vivienne was the major reason [we chose to work with Interserve]. Her creativity in finding ways to communicate with Muslims, her infectious enthusiasm, her vision to have Pakistani Christians become a major outreach arm of the church in the oil rich states of the Gulf absolutely captivated us. In our search process someone had told us that we should choose a mission based on the people we would want to work with rather than the location or the actual job. We chose to follow that advice... Vivienne casts a long shadow not just within Interserve but also outside the Fellowship.’ (Jim Tebbe)
  • Vivienne: Affably Accurate

      ‘Marmalade or Bible Study, there has always been a certain precision in Vivienne's approach to what is served up. Though, in saying that, one has to remark that appearance and presentation have never been the central concern; memories of slide shows, in which pictures were back to front (clear from the wording), or upside down (clear from the sky!), or locations forgotten (Oh, you know that picture three back that I thought was Dubai, I have just remembered it was Brighton!) evoke recollections of laughter, but also of how accessible, rather than awesome, Vivienne has always been. ‘Vivienne had a lovely way of sidestepping...fights and accepting the stormy response with a laugh and a smile. She would step back, only to bring up the issue at another time and another way later.’ (Carol Walker) Anne Cooper describes Vivienne as 'concerned, unconventional, practical and with a lively sense of humour.’
  • Vivienne: The Strategic Thinker

      [When I consider Vivienne's life of service], ‘more than learning about being strategic, I am encouraged to seek to be true to Christ's call, intentional in investing the gifts and abilities that I have, and patient in trusting in God's unfolding purposes...As Ramez Atallah commented, “I think she is a true testimony of the fact that ordinary people can do extraordinary things with God’s help.”' (Carol Walker) Vivienne had vision for the girls she and other teachers trained at United Bible Training Centre. Some who came to them had only the equivalent of 8th class pass...Yet in them Vivienne saw a potential missionary force for the Gulf. (Jim Tebbe) ‘In some ways I had been very vague or visionary... God led me into many things that were not on my agenda... I took a fresh look at the Bible to see how God had used dispersions of peoples to further his purposes.’
  • Vivienne: ‘On Special Assignment’

      ‘I developed a fairly strong conviction that I would never marry but I did not rule it out. I never renounced marriage but I never sought it. Now I very much enjoy being single. I once had a conversation with an Arab student who was on standby for terrorist activities in the Middle East... He asked me what my work was so I told him I was a writer. Naturally he asked what I wrote about so I showed him what I had written that morning for a Bible study on St Paul’s letter to the Romans. We had a short Bible study together after which he said, ‘Do you mind if I ask you a question?’ He asked, ‘Why aren’t you married?’ I said, ‘Before I answer you may I ask you a question?’ ‘Why aren’t you married?’ He replied, ‘I am on special assignment.’ So I said, ‘So am I’. He understood perfectly. Later through the love of God he experienced in that home he became a follower of Jesus and sought a new way of life in yet another country seeking to share the good news about Jesus.’

Vivienne Stacey

Vivienne Stacey said of herself: ‘I began as a missionary from the West. I became a missionary from the East and ended up a world Christian.’ Vivienne became a follower of Jesus at university, and soon after recognised God’s call on her life to the Muslim World. And so it was that in 1954 she sailed from England to Pakistan, teaching and then becoming the Principal of the United Bible Training Centre in Gujranwala. Describing her request to work at UBTC Vivienne said: ‘I asked to be sent to wherever in Pakistan there was a training establishment to help Pakistani Christian women in their witness among Muslims.’

One of Vivienne’s early friends after her arrival in Pakistan was Esther John. Esther, born in a Muslim family, had become a follower of Jesus through seeing the love of Jesus lived out, and through the study of scriptures, in her Christian school. She went to UBTC in 1957 from where she and Vivienne visited homes in the surrounding villages sharing the story of Jesus. Esther went on to minister in other parts of Pakistan, and was murdered in 1960, becoming the first, of many, martyrs that Vivienne knew. Vivienne’s friendship with Esther was formative in her commitment to encouraging women who were followers of Jesus from a Muslim heritage to witness among Muslims.

Vivienne has been described as a friend, mentor and example. In her work with the Community Development Team from Multan Christian Women’s hospital she would train them in outreach, setting assignments that were individually tailored to areas where each of the team needed to grow. Vivienne pointed them to readings and challenged them to find ways of integrating what they learned into their work. They describe her as a much-loved mentor, saying that the full impact of her commitment to that little community development team was immeasurable.

Ida Glasser, now the Director of the Centre for Muslim Christian Studies in Oxford, talks of Vivienne’s support for her as she pursued her PhD:

The great thing Vivienne did for me was to take me out for lunch when I was struggling towards my PhD, and then to ask whether money might help. She then (probably through a trust of which she was senior trustee) provided enough to pay Crosslinks for I think half my time for 3 months, so that I could break the back of the writing up. I might never have completed it otherwise. Another time, after a conference in Holland, she treated me to a day in Amsterdam – took me on a canal trip and gave me a good dinner – things I’d never have done for myself, or been able to afford.

Vivienne was inspiring in her creativity in witness. Once she was traveling as a single foreign woman on a rural bus. She heard the passengers around her discussing who she was and what she was carrying in her bag. So she responded, “I have seed in my bag.”

“No you don’t,” they said. “It looks like you have books.” So Vivienne took out the books to show the tracts and the Christian literature in Urdu.

“See,” she said. “It is seed. These words give life and produce fruit.” She handed out the materials. Different passengers read some of the pieces out loud with others listening and commenting.

“This may be seed,” one passenger said to Vivienne. “But it is foreign seed and won’t grow in Pakistani soil.”

“Oh no,” said Vivienne. “This seed is Middle Eastern and was prepared for the whole world.” And so the sometimes dangerous act of passing out Christian literature in a Muslim country was handled with imagination and in a way that those receiving it could not forget.

The Vivienne Stacey Scholarship is being launched to honour the legacy of this remarkable woman who has mentored so many into mission, encouraging women from all contexts into witness among Muslims. The Vivienne Stacey Scholarship is about equipping Christian women scholars from the Middle East, Asia and Africa to engage with the Muslim world. The scholarship will enable them to pursue higher studies at the Masters or Doctorate level in areas of Islam and women, that extend understanding of Islam in a way that enables more effective Christian ministry with Islam and Muslim women.

Alongside the financial support, the scholarship will offer mentoring to each recipient, and participation in a learning cohort.

Vivienne had a genuine concern to resource people who lacked what they needed to pursue their studies. She believed in sharing resources, encouraging others, going the extra mile to ensure that those committed to witness among Muslims were resourced to do so.

The Vivienne Stacey Scholarship is launched to continue that legacy, as friends, mentors and examples. We invite you to become a part of this commitment: believing in Christ, and in Christ believing in others.

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