by Tim and Megan Crummack
Tim and Megan served in the Middle East, while teaching at an international school.
At a barbecue in the spring of 2010, a close friend asked, ‘Where will you be in five years’ time, Tim? What if God called you away?’ Tim replied, ‘He’d have to shout loudly to convince me the plan was changing!’ ‘Would you be listening?’ came our friend’s challenge.
We had been part of a church for 14 years and had roots: Tim had been a History teacher, but now worked for the local authority; Megan was a Parenting Course Facilitator; our son, Joshua, had chosen his new senior school; and Alice, our daughter, was settled at primary school. Hopes of going on a Kingdom adventure to the Middle East were fading. Anyway, what good would a history teacher be?
January 2011 arrived and redundancy loomed for Tim. Interesting – perhaps God wants us in full-time church ministry? But God seemed silent. Six weeks on and we were getting nervous. Then came an email out of the blue. ‘Wanted: Teachers to serve the work of God in the Muslim World. Would you like to live and work in a Muslim city? Would you like to serve the families of those working to see God’s Kingdom come in the Muslim world? International Education Services recruits for an international school that serves families committed to working long term among Muslim peoples. We require a secondary Humanities teacher who can teach History and Geography GCSE to start in September 2011.’ Up it pinged as Tim logged into his computer, sent by friends reaching Muslim people in the Middle East. Tim’s heart pounded; while appealing, it also felt stupid – surely God wants us to serve our home town? He printed off the advert and went downstairs to show Megan, as a joke. While cooking tea, Megan heard a clear voice in her mind: ‘What about work abroad?’ As Tim walked in, waving the advert, he asked, ‘How do you fancy working…’ and she completed the question with ‘…abroad?’ We stared at the advert, our hearts in our mouths, and felt God’s presence in the room! For days, our conversation drifted back to the advert. We had planned to visit our friends in October 2011, but discussed bringing our trip forward to explore the idea further, in case it was God’s call to us.
Praying with the children was important. If God called, we would all have a role in what He was doing.
We knew of Echoes of Service and sent an email. Expecting a cautious response, we were surprised by the offer of a meeting. Echoes had been hoping for a way to support the church in the country and they knew the school. Partnership became a real possibility. Wisdom was also shared about timing and preparation, giving us much to ponder. Praying with the children was important. If God called, we would all have a role in what He was doing. Joshua was sad about not going to senior school with his friends, and imagined the loss of home and the familiar.
In March we visited our friends. The city was overwhelming with the booming call from mosques, city noise, traffic and pollution, and progress and modernity rising from the backdrop of tradition and poverty. Buses were crammed. Our children attracted warm attention. Alice wondered why old folks pinched her cheeks and touched her blondehair. The bazaar was filled with strange sights and smells. Alice found a guitar pick with her name on it – much to her delight!
The school was small and shabby, but joyful. Twenty-seven flags from the nations of the students lined the stairways. The staff were mainly North American and Korean. Meeting the current History teacher helped Tim to see how he might be of use. We realised our children could benefit from joining this loving community.
While Tim began to feel more excited, the reality of life in the country began to hit Megan. She was fairly confident it was God’s calling, but felt overwhelmed. Joshua and Tim were up for the challenge; Alice was still reluctant to go and live in this ‘strange’ place.
We tested the idea with our fellow church leaders and friends. Our hearts felt the anticipation of loss, yet were full of excitement. Hearing our story, each felt sure it was God’s leading. Some said, ‘It’s just so you!’ and, ‘You’ve always had a desire to serve overseas.’ Financial and prayer support was offered. We were amazed. God was openinghearts and doors.
We prayed for further confirmation: ‘God, if you are calling us, please speak to each of us and give the courage to trust.’ Days later Alice rediscovered the personalised guitar pick, except it did not just have her name on it; on the other side was the name of the city. It literally read ‘Alice Pick [this city]’. She said, ‘Daddy, I think God wants me to pick [this city], so I will’. She went to her room to sort out toys to give away, as she knew we could not take them. The Lord had turned her heart around. Joshua began to count the cost, the significant loss of family and friends, but he also trusted God and his parents. We concluded the Lord was asking us to go, and we accepted.
Within six months we were in our new country. Our old home was packed away. With just five cases, we arrived at our new home.
Most school parents were involved in Kingdom activities. The students were mainly American or Asian, the rest Europeans and Central Asians. Teaching in English every day made it hard to focus on language learning.
The first six months were tough. Simple tasks, such as paying bills, buying food in markets and getting haircuts, became big achievements. We burnt much emotional and mental energy. We remember frustrated tears as a taxi took us the wrong way and Tim could not explain. But it was a spiritually fruitful experience, being dependent on others for help. We soon felt a bond with other foreign workers, who understood culture shock all too well.
Our role was to enable families to serve and thrive. One such example was a family who arrived after four years in Central Asia. Homeschooling had become a hindrance to their work, but because the school existed they could continue in ministry. Students, who were experiencing multiple transitions between cultures, needed stability, security and a good education. It was a joy to mentor these young people. Many were embedded in the culture and served alongside their parents; some accepted university places in the country, opening even greater opportunities to witness to their generation.
Local believers, a tiny minority of the population, were our heroes. The school cleaners and security guards, who prayed for our protection as they worked, each had their own salvation story. Many were held at a distance by their families because of their faith; some were less able to find work or get married. They exhibited a beautiful brokenness, knowing so many were missing out on a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Other heroes were the foreign mission workers. Some of them had been there 20 years planting small churches, chipping away at the hard ground of conservative Islam: planting seeds but not yet reaping the harvest. We were inspired by how intentional they were, despite often feeling inadequate or facing opposition. Befriending others ranged from joining in afternoon tea with more religious types or preparing a Bible verse for the women, who would share readings from the Qur’an, to teaching English, joining cultural groups, managing correspondence courses, Bible translating and college outreach. Meanwhile short-term teams would fly through for a few weeks carrying out risky street work. Megan led a weekly prayer time with other parents, and we led worship and intercession at church and school. Family prayer around the dinner table involved remembering the plight of refugees and all sorts of security issues, which increased as the years went by.
Local people were warm and generous, but oblivious to the God of love whom we cherish. Routinely, children are brought up with lies about Jesus and told to work hard to please a distant God. This rattled us a lot in the early days. How could so many be misled? How would they be reached? So many questions! Many living around us had few material goods. We came to realise how ‘normal’ this was. We sought to blend in and be a blessing to neighbours, and they graciously accepted us.
After five amazing years in this megacity the time was right to return to the UK. To our surprise the Lord called us to a rural location (Mk 1:38). Our life is now quite different and we are changed too. The word ‘home’ has multiple meanings and good friends are far away. But God provides. Tim is a youth ministry leader, Megan works with children, and Joshua and Alice are in a good school. Joshua knows life is about living for something bigger than yourself. Alice has a wider view of the world, knowing how much people give to follow Christ. We live to serve the Lord wherever we are and guard against complacency. The door is still open – pray that others would hear His call to serve the people of the Middle East, who desperately need to know the Lord.
The journey of this family could be your journey too. The Middle East desperately needs people, called of God, to serve in a variety of roles, with a heart for the gospel and for those who, as yet, do not know the Lord Jesus.