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From The Field

Be encouraged and inspired by stories, articles and happenings about the people and work of AMT.

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Pathways to Mission

Alex's Pathway

I had a very clear call to work at Hebron School in South India while I was at university. I was initially studying for a history degree and planned to do teacher training then become a secondary school history teacher in England. I always thought I would just live near my family and friends, as I really did not have much desire to travel at all. My home church sent out several Christian workers and had a very strong history of supporting people in cross-cultural missions. Growing up in the church, I was always interested in hearing about their work and praying for them, but I had not thought about living or working outside of the UK myself.

While I was at university, I became involved in leading on Christian camps and loved looking after a dorm of girls, getting to know them, leading devotions and encouraging them. I started to realise God was developing a call in me to do this kind of work. Then in my third year at university, I met and became close friends with a girl whose parents were Christian workers in SE Asia. She had been educated in two different boarding schools – her primary years in Malaysia and her secondary years in India. She told me about her experiences, and I was fascinated to hear all about her time at Hebron School.

Once I heard about Hebron School, I could not get it out of my head. I thought about it all the time and asked my friend to tell me everything about it. Soon, I couldn't get Hebron School out of my heart either. I was completely certain that God wanted me to go out there to teach history when I finished my training. My friend had told me that they sometimes struggled to get qualified staff, so I thought my training could make me useful there. I loved hearing about the mission work that the parents of the Hebron boarders were doing. I had a very strong sense of partnering with these Christian workers: helping to care for and educate their children, enabling them to continue their work in places where there were no suitable schools. The idea of caring for the students in the dorms particularly excited me. It seemed it would be like the Christian camps I loved, only not just for a week at a time but throughout the entire school year!

This direction was completely out of character for me. I am not a very adventurous person. I wanted to stay near my family and friends in England. They were quite shocked when I told them I wanted to live and work in India, but to my Christian family and friends, it was very clear that God had planted this desire in my heart.

Mark's Pathway

I grew up in a Christian family, attending church and Sunday School from as young as I can remember. I continued going to church and youth group as a teenager, and meeting missionaries who were sent out from Warragul Community Church. However, I never felt called to overseas mission myself.

I was invited by a family friend to join an SUFM Beach Mission Team in Port Fairy while I was still at school. I loved this experience and went back for a few more years before becoming a joint team leader with a couple of friends. While I was involved in SUFM, God put some people in my path who had been in India – a friend on the team was an ex-student at Hebron School and our team parents had been staff there.

Through contacts from Warragul Community Church and Beach Mission, I became involved in children’s camp work at Forest Edge and Lake Yellingbo. I started off as a cabin leader and then became activities leader and ran the Bible studies on both children’s and teen camps. This was a time when I grew a lot in my faith and loved being part of helping others learn about God and His love for them. I soon became interested in working full-time on a Christian campsite. People advised me to get a qualification in case this didn’t work out long-term. So I took up primary teaching, as I knew that I loved working with children.

My first teaching job was in Warrnambool – and I initially lived with a family who I had come to know at SUFM – they stayed in the caravan park where we ran the mission. I joined a local church and discovered that they did short term overseas mission trips a couple of times a year. This wasn’t something that initially interested me. However, God had other plans and was quietly working on my heart.

I went on a short-term mission trip to India in April/May 1995 – to Mussoorie in the foothills of the Himalayas in north India. While I was there, I went to visit Woodstock School, which was set up to teach Christian worker families in India and south Asia. After this trip, I didn’t think I would go back to India again. I loved my time (apart from getting chronic food poisoning!), but just felt that it had been a one-off experience.

In November 1995, I was sitting in church when a Bible verse from Genesis jumped out in a way that had never happened to me before. It was Genesis 12 verse 1: “The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.”” I wrote the date beside the verse, because I knew it was significant, but didn’t yet know how. I felt as though this verse was meant for me – but was also surprised because I was content where I was. I had no plans to leave my country and family, and no idea which country I was to go to. However, the verse also said that God would show me which land to go to. I just needed to wait on Him.

Over the next few months, God set about changing my heart. I soon sensed in my spirit that the land God wanted me to go to was back to India. I also felt that I was meant to teach in a boarding school, which was a shock to me. Growing up in rural Victoria, I didn’t know anything about boarding schools! There was one family from the school where I was teaching who came from India. I spent time getting to know them and even started learning some Hindi.

In 1996 I wrote two letters expressing my interest in teaching at Woodstock in north India and Hebron in south India. This was to test the waters, because I wasn’t responding to a job advertisement. Their mission was to teach the children of Christian workers. Both schools wrote back to say they didn’t have any vacancies, so I wondered if it wasn’t the right time. A short time later, Hebron wrote back to say they had a Primary School teaching job I could apply for, then Woodstock wrote back as well. I decided to apply for Hebron as I felt that God had opened this door first. By January 1997 I had signed a three-year contract to teach at Hebron.

During school holidays, I was fortunate to be able to visit many mission families working in different parts of India, Bangladesh, Nepal & Thailand. I was totally inspired by their work and realised that many of them would not be able to fulfil their calling if their children could not be educated at Hebron. I have never forgotten these visits, and they continue to motivate me in my calling to Christian education here at Hebron.

In February 2000, God brought Alex from England to work at Hebron, and in June 2001 we were married. We were amazed at the way God had called us both individually from opposite sides of the globe to a midway location, where we could serve Him. Our pathways into mission – although independent, had led us together. We stayed until June 2004, working as teachers then dorm parents, before relocating to England to have our family. It was always our desire to return to Hebron again one day – if God allowed.

In July 2009, it became possible for us to return as dorm parents and teachers, with our children aged 2, 4, and 6. We have been at Hebron since then, filling many different roles over the years. It has been a blessing to raise our children in this community and such a privilege to serve the Christian workers in Asia in this way. Many students who have studied at Hebron look back and see how God has used their time here in their foundational years as a stepping stone, leading them on their own individual pathways to serving Him.

By Mark & Alex Ronalds



 

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