Destination: Japan

Designation: Language and Culture Learning

Sending Church: St John’s Church, Woodbridge

Departure Date: February 2020

David & Manuela Pawson with Esther

I (Manuela) grew up in Japan as a missionary kid of German parents and had always planned to become a paediatric nurse and work in Africa. I did become a nurse, but never went to Africa. Instead, God directed my heart back to Japan. When I went to England to Bible college, I met David, who was also heading towards Japan.

I (David) had a very different life to Manuela. Growing up in England I had a very nominal connection to church and I didn’t know anything about mission. I became a Christian in my early twenties and decided to go to Bible college rather than continue my career in IT. One of my short-term Bible college placements was to Japan and it was then that God showed me the opportunities to share Jesus in that country. After getting married we’ve had to wait five years until we could go to Japan due to uncertainties over Brexit. Whilst this time of waiting has been difficult, God has used it to help us grow in lots of different ways. After 3½ years of marriage Esther has joined our family. She’s now 1½ years old and loves people, books and climbing. After language study we’re looking forward to being involved in church planting and want to encourage Japanese churches in their outreach.

Destination: Thailand

Designation: Language and Culture Learning

Sending Church: The Belfry, York

Departure Date: February 2020

Luke & Alison Blacker

We both felt called to mission when we had first started dating aged 16. During a service at The Belfrey on Isaiah 6 we both felt convicted that God was going to send us somewhere, we just didn’t know where! Being a bit of a fixer, I (Alison) decided to learn French and then Spanish to cover a wide range of countries but God had a different place in mind. After time in Thailand with Tearfund, God confirmed to Luke that he was leading us there.

We got married, studied and worked in Hull and we felt God continuing to prepare us for Thailand. He gave us an unexplainable passion for the people and the place. In 2012 we volunteered for a Thai charity, working with children with disabilities. We went for a year but stayed for over three. We loved working with people with disabilities. However, we were frustrated by our level of Thai and knew that for our family to serve in Thailand long term we needed an organisation and sending church behind us. God placed OMF members alongside us seemingly everywhere we went!

After a couple of years of asking lots of questions and praying, we returned to the UK for Bible training and to apply to OMF. It was hard leaving the country we felt called to, but we knew God would help us. We’ve spent three years at All Nations Christian College and loved being surrounded by people passionate about what God is doing in the world. We have learnt so much about living overseas, and are thankful for how God has taught, healed and moulded us. Although we longed to be back in Thailand, we weren’t always certain that it made sense for us to return. Our son was in an excellent deaf school and was catching up on missed education and (sign) language. We could see the shock on people’s faces when we explained we were heading back to Thailand and taking our son out of his school. God in his kindness answered a huge, seemingly impossible prayer by providing not just an individual but a whole family (the Bennetts) to come with us and support us during our year of language and culture training. God clearly showed he was calling us back to Thailand, and that he has us and our children in his hands.

After language and culture training, we are hoping to join a team in Central Thailand or Bangkok. Although we don’t know exactly what we will be doing, we will be seeking to point people to Christ in all that we say and do.

Destination: Thailand

Designation: Third Culture Kid Education Support for nine months

Sending Church: York Baptist Church

Departure Date: February 2020

Sam & Heather Bennett

We both grew up in church and always recognised Jesus’ call to make disciples, but never imagined God might want us to move to East Asia as part of his plan. Asia had never even been on our radar as somewhere we would like to go. Our trip to Singapore for Orientation Course in February was our first time in the region!

We were content to be involved in the life of our local church and praying for our friends, the Blacker family, who have a heart for the people of Thailand. Until one day when we realised we might be the answer to one of their prayer requests.

They were praying for someone who could help with educating Banya while they were in full-time language and culture study. Sam was working for an assistance dog charity working with deaf people at the time and also had experience in teaching and kids work. So we began to consider how we could serve this practical need and be involved in the work of OMF.

We’ve had many practical arrangements to make before we could get there, from Sam getting time off from work to financial support, and getting our home renovated for rental to support us whilst we are away. However we have always felt so clearly that God was calling us to serve him in this way, and that he would make a way for things to happen.

God has encouraged us at every step towards Thailand and we hope to encourage others to consider how God may be calling them to live for him.

We really don’t have much of a clue what living in Lopburi, where the OMF language centre is, will look like! We do know we will be learning much during our time there, and we pray that we can be a blessing to the team, and a witness to the Thai people we will be living alongside. Sam will be homeschooling Banya while Heather is looking at roles to help out the team in Lopburi. We also hope our two young kids will come away with a deep sense of dependence on God, and seeing him at work in their lives as well as the people around them.