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Grace Baptist Mission CIO

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The Lord Sat Next To Us!

Chris and Helen Hawthorne describe the challenges of settling into their new work serving in Zambia.


So it turns out moving country isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. We arrived in November and three out of five of us wanted to go straight back home within a month! It is an odd feeling, being unsure about almost everything you are doing. It is even harder when you have your family with you and you feel completely responsible for the tears and tantrums caused by upping sticks and leaving everything and everyone you know behind.


In those earliest days we were enormously helped by the Lord. He brought to us and round us Christian brothers and sisters we had never met who helped us again and again and enabled us to struggle through some pretty rough days. Of all of us, Helen was the most stable. Slowly we started to get used to everyday things. Christmas was odd in the heat and without all the usual friends and family about. It has become more commercialised in Zambia over recent years, so there was a lot that was familiar in the supermarkets and shopping centres. (Kitwe now has three shopping centres!)


Just after Christmas, Chris’s dad died. It wasn’t entirely unexpected, but then it wasn’t especially expected either. There were a number of blessings in returning to the UK after only two months in Zambia, though we would have preferred not to need to. On arriving back in Zambia we discovered just how much that return trip had unsettled us. We’ve been struggling with settling the kids in school since then. The weekly boarding plan is now in tatters, and we are working on day student status for the moment. It is good to remember in all of this that the Lord knows and we are not outside his sovereign goodness. He has made that plain to us many times in the last few months. There have been moments where one or other of us, as we sat in prayer, have almost felt like the Lord was sat next to us reading his word to us, comforting us as only God can. There isn’t anyone else who is both Father and in heaven! But it can still be hard. There are times when you are running on pure adrenalin for days at a time. It’s exhausting! There are times when you ache for family or friends back home. And yet in the midst of all of this the Lord is helping you build new friendships and new family.


We have been especially blessed by the PIZ family and our new church family: warm welcome, sacrificial love, laughter, practical help. We’ve sorely needed it and the Lord has graciously provided it. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.


Proclamation Institute Zambia (PIZ) is situated about a forty-minute drive north from the centre of Kitwe, Zambia’s second city. Its aim is to train Zambians and others to be accurate and passionate handlers of the Word of God. Our particular focus is to train preachers, pastors and church planters, but anyone who is, or who wants to be, involved in word ministry can apply. This year we have twenty students from around Zambia, twelve men and eight women. Jack, from Mkushi, Central Province, is retired and serving in his church at home. Naomi, from Namwala, Southern Province, is twenty-one. She wants to be better equipped for evangelism. Ben, from Luanshya, Copperbelt Province, is twenty-six and already involved in preaching at his church. They, and the other seventeen with them, live at PIZ during term time and are studying the Scriptures that they might better serve the Lord.


Chris is principal of the college. This currently involves teaching fifty-per-cent of the syllabus, managing the staff team and overseeing the farm. It is quite a lot to do, and being in a new situation, everything takes that little bit longer. It is difficult working out at what level to pitch lessons. It’s a challenge to make sure you are being understood with your strange English accent. It is harder to get to know the students and know what questions you can and can’t ask in a different culture. Despite the challenges a number of the students are making really good progress. They come from a wide variety of church backgrounds, some with a great need of theological help. They have been taught and have picked up a number of ideas that are not biblical ideas at all. A key part of term one is helping them to fall in love with the written Word of God, showing them how God speaks through it into every situation and to every person who is willing to listen. It is thrilling to have those ‘aha!’ moments when a student gets something for the first time and their eyes light up as the penny drops!


Helen has been excellent, especially working informally with some of the ladies on the course. Each week she will spend some time with them, helping them to deepen their understanding and do a good job with their assignments. Most of her time is taken up at home and with the children, though she does also manage to see friends (like Aisha from the Angel, Islington who has recently moved to Zambia having married a Zambian, a PIZ graduate no less). She also gets into town for a Tuesday morning Bible study with ladies from church. It is a good forty-five minute journey, but well worth it.


Each of the children have begun to settle in their own way. Rebekah is very good at making friends and has already become part of a good group at church and at school. Since we have returned from our unexpected break in the UK the boys have struggled a lot more. Reuben is finding the idea of school very hard and Joshua’s anxieties have resurfaced big style. It is tough for Chris and Helen to know the best way to help them, so we pray hard and try to be as patient as possible.


We need to remember we have only been here four months (minus two weeks in the middle) and there is a lot of settling in still to do. But we can testify to the Lord’s great kindness to us in so many ways, and we have no doubt that is down to all the prayers being said for us by so many people around the world.


If you would like to stay in touch with us and know more about our work do email us at [email protected]