Two Briercrest families have left their Caronport homes to live in Kenya.
Although the Chalmers and Davidson families are both working with Africa Inland Mission (AIM), their individual journeys to accepting this assignment were very different.
Sean Davidson was the assistant professor of English and Interdisciplinary Studies at Briercrest College and Seminary. He and his wife Mandy hosted a house church and served on the pastoral team of The Gathering, one of two community churches in Caronport.
“We went into this year with a really clear sense that our time was done here (at Briercrest),” Davidson said. “Not because we don’t like this place or are frustrated – far from that.”
Davidson assumed that his next assignment would be closer to home in Ontario.
“A number of (opportunities) bubbled up for us but nothing (seemed like) it was the next thing,” he stated. “So we continued to watch and to wait. Then I was, ‘Where to Lord, from here?’”
About three blocks from the Davidson’s home, the Chalmers family was in the final months of their preparation to move to Mombasa where Jon will teach at Pawani Bible Institute. He and his wife Amie, who attended Caronport Community Church, started this journey almost two years ago.
“Halfway through seminary I had what I call ‘the student crisis’” Chalmers said laughing. “I didn’t know what I was going to do with my program. I started to look around at the available churches, but nothing really connected – even though they were really good churches. Amie was like, ‘Well, we’ve got the whole world.’”
In an effort to check out their global options, Jon and Amie talked to several missions representatives that were at Briercrest for its annual World Awareness Days conference.
“That actually didn’t go very good,” Chalmers admitted. “(So I thought) Oh, okay, I guess we’re not doing missions. But then we met Paul Evans here in town and had a really good connection with him personally.”
Evans, a Caronport resident, is the provincial mobilizer for AIM, an organization with almost 1,000 full-time missionaries in Africa that desires to see Christ-centred churches among all African people.
“My role is somewhat recruiting,” Evans stated. “But I see myself more as someone who helps people like the Davidsons and the Chalmers get to the place where God is calling them to. I see my role in that as just doing the journey with them and listening and helping them discern what it is God has for them – whether that’s serving in Africa with AIM or something else.”
His conversation with Chalmers helped pinpoint what kind of work Jon might be drawn to.
“(He asked me) what do I really enjoy doing and what has God gifted me with?” Chalmers recounted. “I enjoy studying, teaching and mentoring, so (this assignment) seemed like a good fit.”
As Chalmers and his wife made the preparations to move their family to another continent, they began to pray for some companionship in that call. They prayed that God would also call another local person or family to Mombasa.
In the meantime Sean Davidson had made a coffee date – with Evans.
“I wasn’t interested in anything with AIM,” Davidson claimed. “I was just getting together with Paul to have a conversation over coffee. He engaged me in this conversation about myself . . . Paul was just really interested in my journey – in me. By the end of the conversation I came around to asking him if we could talk about the missional opportunities that might be out there for my family.”
Evans briefly shared with Davidson about a year-long opportunity to run a Mombasa guest house for people in ministry. Davidson went home and shared the possibility with Mandy.
“Mandy was initially shocked like ‘What are you talking about?’” Davidson remembered. “It just sort of settled in with us . . . we sensed more and more that maybe there’s a calling for us in this as unsettling as it was intriguing. We’ve never been to Africa before, never been inspired to be in Africa before, and now here we were being led in this direction!”
Both families are finding this move challenges their faith to the core.
“Just in the last month it’s become really difficult, as it becomes more and more real,” Amie stated. “(All of our support money) has to come in within a month or else it’s postponed. It’s this weird kind of faith because you have to be willing to go and believe that God is going to send you – you have to move forward believing God is going to do it.”
“It’s a feeling like you’re being emptied out before you can be filled again,” Mandy said thoughtfully.
Her husband agrees.
“There are no experts when it comes to stepping out like this,” he insisted. “My Ph.D. doesn’t hold me up in a situation like this. We’re just saying ‘Okay, Lord.’ You quickly have to become sensitized to the living God and His provision and His care. Otherwise, what are you doing?”
Both families have young children, and they know this move impacts them as well.
“We’re going to homeschool our children for the first year and see how it goes,” Amie said. “There’s two good international schools (in the area), but we’re arriving there so late that it’s too hard to start then.”
The Davidson children have found the silver lining to the difficult task of leaving their home.
“They’re excited about the monkeys,” Mandy said with a laugh.
“They’ve been praying for a long time now that they’d get a pet,” Davidson explained. “We’ve always said no. But we’ve found out they’re going to have six pets – four dogs and two cats! The dogs are guard dogs and the cats keep away the rats and snakes.”
In the midst of the hard things this move requires, both families are looking at the positives in this new assignment.
“It’s still going to be a bit of an experiment,” Chalmers stated. “It’s going to be brand new seeing the church in a different culture. We will have a more global experience of the church.”
“It’s an opportunity for service, but a time of education for us,” Davidson exclaimed. “We are not under the illusion that we’ve got all the answers for this place – far from it. It’s about joining with our African brothers and sisters and not presuming the way in which the gospel’s meant to come alive. We are looking forward to finding ourselves in a national church.”
Mandy adds a word of advice.
“Just make sure you’re willing to go to Africa if your husband comes home and says he’s going to coffee with an AIM representative!”