In 1997 I attended a large Christian Festival in the UK and during one of the services I felt moved to make a public commitment to service in Africa and stepped forward for prayer. I was very disappointed not to receive any flashing lights or ringing bells at that time and no one rushing up to me shouting “You’re just the man we’ve been waiting for, step this way!”
What I didn’t take into consideration, is that God’s timing is not necessarily as instant as the expectations of our age. Some eighteen months later I would be travelling to Uganda to each First Aid at schools out there and an incident would occur ( treating an injury to a young girl), which would lead me into building a Clinic which has now treated more than 8,000 children and many other things including forming the charity, Gilead Health Development; www.ghdcafrica.org.uk
My life is now dominated by the commitment I made all those years ago and, although hard work for the most part, I wouldn’t change a thing and it has been amazing to see how certain things have dropped into place at just the right time, so now I get on with it, don’t worry, because I believe and trust in Him!
John ‘Nobby’ Clarke
Chair of Trustees -
Gilead Health Development Charity
Tel: 0787 649 3909
How God led us to Bolivia
We were first introduced to Bolivia in 2000 through Compassion and also a young English man called Mike who had worked there and had recently returned to the UK. He was showing slides of his work in a girls home called Bolivian Youth Ministries and we were intrigued as all the girls had parents who were in prison. I had just retired as a prison governor in England and Evelyn had retired as a residential social worker in a children’s home with our local council. Mike’s slide-show coincided with us having just sponsored a young girl with Compassion UK aged 5 called Mayra Franco who lived in Cochabamba. We had never heard of Cochabamba at that time. The remarkable thing about it all was that we had asked for a child from India but somehow Compassion sent us Mayra. Not only that but there was no other connections that we knew about anywhere else in Bolivia when we were challenged by a couple in church who unknown to us had also been to Cochabamba. They asked us to consider being house parents in Bolivian Youth Ministries – this was definitely not on our agenda! We felt however that God was saying something important to us with all the circumstances coming together as I have said already but want to emphasise once more. We got Mayra from Cochabamba when we asked for a child from India. There was Mike’s slide-show and my work in prison and Evelyn’s work in children’s homes. And finally the couple in our church in England who had actually helped build Bolivian Youth Ministries, something we had not known about. We thought all of this could not just be a coincidence. God was right there in the planning.
So with much prayer and with our church and World Mission Team support we explored Bolivian Youth Ministries www.byministries.org . Several emails later we were invited for a month in 2001 to go and see for ourselves. It seemed a daunting prospect as we had no understanding of Spanish, it meant 4 air flights taking over 34 hours and the altitude in Cochabamba is 9000 feet above sea level! Ten years later we are still doing 2-3 months each year.
It worked well and despite not knowing any Spanish we coped with all the difficulties and God set Bolivia in our hearts. We have continued in Cochabamba since then –Spanish has improved and Mayra is now 15 and we have watched her grow into a beautiful young woman.
Gordon & Evelyn Hutchinson Altrincham Baptist Church. February 2011 (submitted by email)
My great love in life was agriculture, so I attended Harper Adams agricultural college 1983 to 87. While there, CU speakers would come and challenge us Christians as to what we were going to do with our lives. I always thought that I didn't have the right qualities, skills and acumen for missionary service. I guess I didn't and don't have, but that thankfully God can compensate for this and enable us ...
It was my conviction from the beginning, that I ought to offer myself for life service, or not at all. I didn't see the 'point' in 'trying it out', as the key thing was whether God wanted me, not whether I'd 'like' it or not ...
Finally while at teacher training in late 87 I felt God clearly telling me that I should give my life in service to him in the third world. At the time I anticipated that I would be engaged in agricultural training etc. for many years - and did not realise that actually he wanted me to work more directly with the church and in theological education, which I have been doing from 1988 to date first in Zambia and now in Kenya.
I was not brought up in a Christian home, but through friends I became a Christian at the age of 16, and my minister encouraged me to be involved in outreach in home missions straight away. I think he had two reasons. Firstly, so that I could tell people about the change that happened in me, and secondly so that I could grow in confidence as a new Christian. I went to different parts of the country on Rob Frost's "Share Jesus" missions, first of all in Cornwall where I was in a mission team to Princetown - right near Dartmoor prison, then on Merseyside. My first 'cross-cultural' experience was crossing the Pennines to tell those living in the Yorkshire darkness all about Jesus :) (joking).
I trained as a physiotherapist at Salford (met Mike Frith there!) and at the end of my studies I asked God what He wanted me to do with the knowledge and skills I now had. I was ready to stay in the NHS if that was what he wanted, but wanted to know what he had in store for me. As I prayed about it on my own and with Christian friends I became aware of the need for physiotherapists to help people affected by leprosy in different countries around the world. So, (20 years ago this month) I wrote to The Leprosy Mission and said "I am Jannine, a Christian, a physiotherapist, and I think God is calling me to work with people affected by leprosy". To cut a long story short, I was accepted as a 'missionary in training and spent one year at Redcliffe College (then in Chiswick) before travelling to South-East Nigeria to work as a physio at Qua Iboe Church Leprosy Hospital which was supported by The Leprosy Mission.
Unlike the NHS, I was free to share my faithy openly with staff and patients alike and it was such a lovely experience. When in 1997 I moved to the North of Nigeria, opportunities for open witness were less, but through our relationships with our neighbours we were still able to find ways of sharing Jesus. If nothing else, people of all faiths (and none) appreciated being prayed for.
I have always seen my work as a physio as a way of serving HIM and a way of showing HIM to other people. Now I am back in the UK, but still with the Mission, serving in the dead office. I hope that through the work I do now (very little clinical work, more training and advising) I still find opportunities to share the Gospel with those I meet.
Global Disability Adviser
The Leprosy Mission International
Ha ha! Oops! yes, it is 'head office'.
My calling feels like a journey where I have to keep looking up to God for direction. I’ve tried to give the shortened version but it still looks long - apologies! I studied Computer Science at Loughborough University but I always felt different to many of my class mates who for them, computing was a means in itself. They truly seemed to enjoy reading C++ manuals into the night and taking computers to pieces! For me, computing has always been a means to an end rather than an end to itself and what excited me was the possibilities and doors they can open. I’ve always been a bit of dreamer!
After I left Uni. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, I remembered praying that if I was meant to stick with computing that please I’d find a job where I would have a passion for the end purpose.
I was on the mailing list for a small Christian charity, Compass Braille. My grandparents had taken me there for a visit in my Uni holidays with them. They use computers to transcribe Bibles into braille into many languages. When I read in their newsletter they were looking for a computer programmer - I just knew I had to apply because their work had captured my heart. So I ended working down in Devon for five years, in this little town on the edge of Dartmoor! Through email and post I had much contact with many missionaries both on the field and who were distributing the braille Bibles; and also retired missionaries who were involved in the transcription process. The passion these missionaries had for sharing God’s love around the world was contagious. I loved knowing that every task I did each day no matter how boring or exciting was a small link in the chain in getting Bibles into the hands of folk who never had opportunity to read Scriptures for themselves in their own language.
Then for various reasons (including the arrival of a baby nephew!) I moved back to my home city (still working remotely for Compass Braille a day or so a week) and I got involved in a church plant in Cardiff which began soon after I moved. There are many international people in the area where I live, which I love. I also helped with a lady’s group where I met many Muslims and I was really moved to pray for them. I applied to do an MSc in Computing hoping it would help me get work. However, even though I’d secured my place I just knew my heart wasn’t in it enough to stick with it and that I would really struggle with the Maths and Scientific stuff.
My love for people is far greater than my love for computers (even Ipads!). When I discovered Redcliffe college I was keen to apply. I talked it all over with my pastor who encouraged me to go with my heart. I did a three month course, keen to study how to reach Muslims as well as meet people from all over the world. I stayed onto do a masters degree. My dissertation was related to Internet Evangelism – combining my computing and passion for mission.
As I came to the end of my Masters degree I kept looking on the OSCAR website at the vacancies for ideas of what to do next. I began investigating an opportunity to go overseas but that door closed and while all this disappointment was going on I had spotted that OSCAR wanted help with web 2.0 stuff. I t was funny – I printed out the information without actually processing it properly and left it on my desk. Then I remember my sister visiting - I was a bit low, sharing with her “I don’t understand what’s going on, why do all these doors keep closing, what do you think God’s up to? etc. etc.” and my sister asked me had I seen another opportunity you can investigate? I remembered the sheet on my desk and picked it up and we looked at it together and she said “Ceri, this work looks like it has got your name written all over it.” I was grateful for her prompting because as looked through it again I began to see possibilities and prayed and I knew I couldn’t just leave this paper on my desk! I got in touch with Mike to see what he thought! … and here I am :-) That was over 18 months ago and I’m still really enjoying working for OSCAR. It’s a privilege to use and develop the skills and gifts God has given me as well as my love of relating to people and passion to have some small part in joining in God’s mission. :-)
Fascinating reading all the comments below. Thanks for all you do Ceri with OSCAR, and Mike. I find my own story touches several of those told here.
Like Mike, whose calling started with becoming a Christian, my salvation experience was also my saying 'Yes!' to Jesus to go into missions. For two weeks, before turning to Christ, I was counting a cost (that no one preached to me!) that "if I follow this Jesus, I am to spend the rest of my life telling people about Him"! It was based on a naïve belief that the girl who led me to Jesus, a close male friend, and the church the girl came from, were the only ones in the world who truly believed the real Jesus of the Bible, and thus I HAD to tell others and not keep this to myself!
I was 16. The year, 1973.
Two weeks after trusting Jesus He spoke to me about Russia and Bulgaria, and I went to Bible
College (Cliff College) upon leaving school, and then joined OM's clandestine Communist Europe work, smuggling Bibles and doing literature translation projects in E European languages. When I was blacklisted ("for life") from both places of my initial calling (Russia & Bulgaria), because of the smuggling, the Lord opened another door into another part of the world, and I have been pursuing that call ever since: to take the Gospel to those who have never heard, in the hardest places where other believers do not want to go.
I am currently at 'home' in N Ireland for "family reasons", and meantime, running a ministry from here called story4all, which focuses on bringing the Word of God to non-readers (those who can't and/or don't read) through oral means. We use and teach storytelling with discussion (inductive Bible study, oral style) at home and abroad, coaching and running workshops for missions, churches, agencies and small groups.
I wasn't raised a Christian, nor did I know anything much about God or Jesus. But then, totally out of the blue, when I was about 11 years old, I suddenly realised that my life would be spent in a foreign country, telling people who had never heard before that God loved them and sent his son to die for them.
So I found out that it was called "mission" and looked up some mission agencies. I wrote to several, asking if they were willing to send a non-Christian to evangelise to people. They are replied that no, you had to be a Christian to join them. So I knew that one day I would become a Christian.
I went to Christian Union, started going to church and asked a lot of questions. I figured that if I had got my future right, then I must become a Christian at some point, so I could go into mission. When people asked me if I was a Christian, I would reply with "Not yet".
When I was 17, I felt I'd had my questions answered sufficiently and that I understood enough to commit. So I became a Christian, just like I knew I would one day. I've been waiting (semi!) patiently to go into mission ever since then. Hopefully in the next few years it will finally become a reality, having been planned and thought about for around 15 years...