I became a Christian at high school after going to the school Christian meetings. This was a boarding school (think Harry Potter) and on Wednesday evenings, after I’d finished my Latin homework and before bed, I was allowed to walk down with my friends to the classroom where one of the teachers would present the Gospel and we’d get a doughnut. It was a bit of a bait and switch but it worked out well for me. One of these evenings, a missionary from Burundi came to speak about his work, and from that early point in my faith I became aware of the global nature of Christ’s work and our role in making sure the Gospel is taken “to the ends of the earth.” Africa seemed like a cool place to go (probably because of the talk) and this was further reinforced by an opportunity to go on a school trip to Kenya when I was 16. When I grew up, I wanted to be a missionary in Africa.
Carly, meanwhile, was on the other side of the Atlantic but her story had some remarkable similarities. She also became a Christian at high school and was convicted of the importance of global missions early in her faith. Maybe it’s just the default for all Christians who want to become missionaries, but she also thought that one day she’d become a missionary in Africa. Unfortunately for her, once she got to college her church did mission trips to China, not Africa, but at the end of her junior year she went on one any way. It went well, so she went back the next year and then, just over a year later, she went back again. This time, however, her term was two years and was fully involved in studying Mandarin, learning culture and spreading the Gospel in rural China with the rest of her term.
Back to the UK, where I was now at university. I’d been on a mission trip to Russia at the end of my first year and this was my first real taste of ministry in a cross cultural context. There was culture shock but overall the experience only served to affirm my sense of calling towards missions. The Where question still remained though. That began to be answered almost immediately as I took a direct flight from Moscow to Busan, South Korea.
Rather than heading straight home, I joined 20,000 students from over 150 countries celebrating 100 years of Christianity in Korea. Worshiping with this many people from this many nations is doubtless the closest experience I’ll have to heaven before I go there. It also gave me my first experience of Asia and Asian culture and I’d found where I wanted to be. I returned to South Korea two more times after that, but there is another chapter to this story which comes in between.
At the end of my third year of university, I was given the opportunity to be part of a six person team going to China for two months. We joined up with a team of Americans and, you guessed it, this was the same team Carly was on. After having spent only a couple of days in South Korea, this was a more sustained taste of Asian culture but it only served to deepen my affinity.
It was also here that my affinity for Carly began and we continued our friendship via e-mail and Skype after I left China. We started dating and continued communicating long distance until 18 months after we met we were married in February 2011 in Texas. Our mutual calling towards missions and our affinity for Asia remained throughout the early years of our marriage and as we began to explore different missions agencies and opportunities we discussed where we could go.
China may have seemed like the default but we wanted to be open to God’s leading. We felt a special desire to take the Gospel to people groups “where Christ’s name is not known” (Rom 15:20) and geographically many of these groups live in the 10/40 window (see below). We still weren’t sure when we went to our candidate selection course with OMF and even when we were appointed two weeks later! After much prayer and discussion, we decided to go back to China and will actually be in the general area where Carly and I met. There are many unreached people groups in this area with very few believers (0.1% or less). We will be sharing more about these people groupsover the coming months and please pray with us that over the coming years, God would guides us towards a specific people group who we can live among, learnt their language and share the Good News of the Gospel with.