Clacton

As part of our MAGL course in Colorado Springs, we were ask to prepare a summary of our “journey” with the Lord. This is Steve’s:

I was born in England, shortly after the war, the third of three children. That’s me on the far left in my new Christopher Robin coat. My father and mother both served in that war and expected that at its conclusion life would return to normal. It did not. Life remained difficult for ten years, and jobs offered meager wages and few chances for advancement. Post-war rationing that was short of vegetables and fresh fruit meant that the children were often sick. My father was an illegitimate orphan, my mother had lost her fiancé when he was shot down in the war. They met and married in two weeks, which was not uncommon in those troubled times. After they were married, they were separated by the war for five years. Hardship was nothing new to them. But they longed for a better life for their children, and immigrated to Canada in 1955.

My parents did well in Canada. My father was intelligent and industrious and was soon Managing Director of a medium-sized engineering firm. My mother was artistic and creative and found outlet for her talents in drama. Our middle class neighbourhood offered me opportunities for intellectual and musical growth. I joined a band as its lead singer, I wrote articles, songs and poetry and excelled in literature. My older brother graduated with two Master’s Degrees in Art and Film and became the leading expert on Canadian film.

My parents were moral and faithful people. While professing no personal faith, my mother was a lifelong Anglican and ensured that all her children attended church. My father remains in my mind the most morally upright man I have ever met. He also professed no personal faith in Christ until confronted with his own imminent death, but he was ethical and decent and schooled his children in the notion that “the truth will set you free.” I could have had no finer ethical guide to my life.

Following graduation from Teacher’s College at the University of Toronto, I took a job and settled in London where I met Pam. I had finally comes to terms with my own relationship with God, and accepted Christ by faith in 1976. Two months after my salvation I met Pam in a nightclub in London, Ontario. Before the evening was through I knew I had met my soulmate. Although it took Pam a little longer to come to the same conclusion, after a courtship that lasted fifteen months, were we married on March 11, 1978. With two well-paying jobs, good friends and good health we embarked on having a family with the highest expectations.

Despite some financial setbacks, such as losing our first house when the mortgage rate hit 19 percent in 1981, we were the objects of much blessing with three beautiful children, a good church home and a stable income. We began considering how we might give back to the Lord, and inspired by reading Daktar, by Vic Olsen, offered to go to Bangladesh for a year to teach and work at the mission hospital there. We dutifully went on deputation, and setting aside a good portion of our own money arrived in Bangladesh in July 1986. It was to be a disastrous year.

Pam contracted a local variant of hepatitis and rapidly lost both health and weight, finally stabilizing at around 78 pounds. The mission board saw no value in the teaching ministry I wished to have among the local children. They confiscated the salary I had set aside for that year, doling it back out to us in dimes, and removed a huge percentage for administrative fees. They refused to process our entry visas so that we were held as virtual prisoners in the country where we went to serve and couldn’t leave if we wanted to. We returned home broken and hurt, and determined to have a ministry among young people that would prepared them for the difficulties they would face on the mission field. Of the twelve young people in this group, ten entered missionary or pastoral service and all are still there.

We also undertook to renovate an older home that allowed us to live close to our church so our children could attend a Christian school. Our church ministries, jobs, renovations of the home we were living in and care for aging parents took its toll on our own marriage as we had precious little time that wasn’t serving someone else’s needs. We remained faithful to our church, which in return became increasingly spiritually abusive to us. We eventually left, but we were determined to continue serving the Lord in missions. We knew that we would never again put ourselves or our finances in the hands of a missions board, and began looking for an overseas ministry that would allow us some autonomy over our own finances.

A year serving at the Black Forest Academy in southern Germany was the payoff for all this hard work. We eschewed deputation and worked out an arrangement with Gospel Missionary Union to manage our own finances. The year was an expensive one, but filled with godly service, adventure and travel as our children were by now old enough to go for weeks on end in our camper and tent. Assuming leadership of the Junior High School at BFA seemed a natural progression for me and the year was productive and encouraging for our own ministries and our family life.

On our return to Canada we hunkered down for the final few years of our children’s adolescence. We gave up house renovation for these years, moved into a newer home that allowed our teenaged children a measure of privacy, and concentrated on raising our teenagers and developing our careers. During this time we saw our oldest son married shortly after the turn of the millennium. We also saw our two younger children enter university, graduate, and move west to Calgary to find work.

But we never lost sight of our own missionary vision, and shortly after our son’s wedding I got a chance to go to Malawi to teach teachers. Although organized by the Canadian Teacher’s Federation, a secular organization, the trip afforded me plenty of opportunity for personal witness and the development of my teaching and leadership skills. I took another missions trip to Serbia in 2005, and Pam also went overseas to serve as well on a couple of occasions. Every fall we planned a retreat on the shores of Lake Huron to talk and pray over the Lord’s will for our full time service.

Following one of these retreats where we were both convicted by the Holy Spirit that the time had come, I resigned from my teaching position in Ontario after 32 years and got ready to go overseas. We sold our house, and maximized our final house renovation that allowed us to buy a small apartment condo to retain a Canadian address and identity, sold off the majority of our belongings and flew off to Malaysia to undertake a new position at Taylor’s College in Kuala Lumpur teaching English literature.

Despite my misgivings at such a dramatic change in venue and teaching responsibilities, I found that my age and experience were not only welcomed in this new environment, but were seen as huge assets. My students enjoyed my avuncular ramblings and fatherly advice almost as much as they enjoyed the eclectic illustrations of my lessons. I became mentor to junior staff and my reputation for serving others lead to new and unexpected opportunities outside of teaching.

For the past 18 months I have forged a new position within the larger Taylor’s Group as Project Coordinator for Corporate Social Responsibility. The role has afforded me wide latitude to encourage Christian social enterprise and develop partnerships that further Christian efforts to care for their communities. I have catalogued and captured all of this activity on a website that continues to grow and connect all those who want to help with community service projects. This position in turn has led to the opportunity to take my Master’s in Global Leadership

My wife and I embarked upon our Master’s degrees in order to be more effective for God. Although I have taken two deferred salary leaves in my career, I did not use these opportunities for personal advancement, but rather sought to serve the Lord. With our children’s education, weddings and mortgage down payments behind us, we are finally in a position to afford our own education. Although initially enrolled in a degree in Intercultural Studies, we both jumped at the opportunity to segué into a degree in leadership as being more in keeping with our experience, talents, and opportunities for service. We find that taking these courses together gives us ample fodder for fruitful discussions, and helps to focus our ministries more intentionally on root causes and solutions, and the ability to see the larger spiritual issues as play in the problems we encounter. It has been a time of tremendous spiritual and personal growth and we have grown both closer to God, and closer to each other as well.

As our time in the East has grown, so has our family. We now are the proud grandparents of four growing grandchildren. Although our passion for serving God has not dimmed, recent events in our daughter’s life, and recent sickness in our own, has brought us to the place where we recognize that our ministry will have to be relocated closer to North America. We are now actively looking for ministry in the Caribbean, Central or South America. I will attend a job fair in San Francisco later this month, and Pam has several applications out to regional NGOs in need of her experience and training in health care. Although the easiest point of entry for me during this transition is through teaching, I am trusting that this degree and the concurrent courses I am taking for my principal’s qualifications through OISE in Toronto will allow me to have a ministry of leadership in an international or missionary school in the future.

I am sixty-five, and have been a Christian educator for almost forty years. This is a good stretch by any human reckoning. However, the Lord does not reckon as man does. In Ruth Tucker’s wonderful chronicle of missionary activity, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, we find the inspiring story of Eliza Davis George, the first Black missionary to Africa. When her mission board called her home at 65, Eliza refused to retire, started her own mission board, and continued her work in Liberia, planting one church a year for the next 27 years. When she finally retired in her nineties, the nationals she had trained carried on the work. She died at 100 years of age. I dare to believe at 65 that the Lord is not done with me yet either. I do not wish to outlive my love for God, nor do I wish to live longer than my useful service for Him. I am grateful for all that He has done through me in the lives of others, and ask only that I be allowed to continue to use the talents He has gifted to me to further His kingdom for as long as He allows. This is my prayer.

Advertisements