David and Shelley Stokes – Mission Partners in Argentina
St Mary’s is supporting David and Shelley Stokes who are former SAMS mission partners, now working in the Diocese of Northern Argentina with CMS (now incorporating SAMS). They are working among the Wichí speaking congregations, accompanying and helping train leaders at a time of rapid change.
They worked as SAMS mission partners first in Chile from 1988-1992 (where their children Jonathan and Sarah were born), and then in Northern Argentina from 1993-1999. They lived in a Wichí community and learned their language, and David was involved in leadership training across the diocese.
After returning to England, David was accepted for ordination training. He did two years’ further study in Durham, and then undertook a five-year curacy at St Mark’s, Salisbury. During this time Shelley did some work as a peripatetic violin teacher, as well as playing in various orchestras and with early music groups.
Towards the end of David’s curacy, the family made a visit to Argentina in 2006, partly to see old friends and places, and partly to see whether there was scope for further work there. After a long period of praying and searching for God’s way forward for them, they came to the conclusion they should offer to return to serve the church in Northern Argentina. At present, David is working as a part time hospital chaplain, and Shelley is working part time for Alabaré Christian Care Centres at the Salisbury Drop In Centre.
Little by little the way has been opening up for them. They received an invitation to work there again. Their two children are now studying at university: Jonathan reading Civil Engineering at Bristol, Sarah reading medicine at Cardiff. David was also able to have a trip to Argentina in October 2009, timed to include the consecration of Nick Drayson as assistant bishop. This confirmed for him the invitation to return as a couple is right.
This is a time of great challenge and opportunity both in the Diocese and the communities in Northern Argentina. They have been travelling to the many Wichí communities to listen and discover what is happening. David is involved in encouraging and training new and existing church leaders. Shelley works mainly with the women with Bible study and prayer ministry.