The right workers for the task // Boundless online
Posted on: 30th July 2020
Former missionaries Tim and Catherine Walker tell their inspiring story
God has a way of identifying a need and supplying just the people with the right skills.
In this case, there was great need for education in Rwanda after a crippling genocide. Tim brought his expertise in medical education, Catherine brought her expertise in primary education. They both brought humble hearts, wanting to do their part in calling people into the Lord’s kingdom.
But it wasn’t a straighforward journey into mission.
Tim: Each of our kids has been influenced by living overseas, you know, they love airports, they love transitions, they love new adventures.
We sat them down about 12 months ago think well nearly 12 months ago to give them some major news in the family about some stuff that was changing about our future plans.
And they were all like, ‘Are we moving countries?’ We were like no… do you want to?
Catherine: They said ‘yes!’
Tim: And then there was this sort of impromptu family conference about which country they wanted to move to.
Catherine: They thought France, by the way, which we thought actually wasn’t too bad an idea!
Tim: There are worse places in the world to live!
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Tim: Yeah sure, so I’m Tim, I grew up in a Christian home in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne actually.
You know when we got married, we really thought, ‘What is it that God calling us to do and be? And could go into Africa be part of that?’
Um so we went to we went as short-termers to Rwanda in 2003 and there were real needs there. But what really struck us was the need for health professions education. Rwanda had been through a horrific genocide about 10 years before this and the first graduates were just starting to emerge from the medical schools and there were no career paths in Rwanda for those guys. They were all looking to go overseas. They’re all, you know, ‘Can I get a degree here?’ ‘Can I go to Uganda?’ ‘Can I go to the U.S.’ ‘Can I go somewhere else to train.’
And I really felt called… this growing conviction from God that, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if these people were trained locally?’ But over the next kind of probably eight years, I finished off my medical training did a master’s in public health, did some theology. We had first one and then first William and then Hannah was born and about that time just before Hannah was born actually, we went to St Andrew’s Hall to prepare to go back to Africa.
Now, it was a little bit tricky at that stage because when we were planning to go back to Africa at that stage, CMS didn’t work in Rwanda, and we felt very clearly called to be part of education in Rwanda but and we also felt very clearly called to CMS.
Then one week I was actually up working in Mackay (QLD). And while I was up there i ended up doing a theater list and bumped into a German surgeon who’d just moved to the hospital
He asked me about what I was doing there and then the discussion kind of got quite deep. We were talking about life purpose and I was telling him about this call to Rwanda. He said, ‘That’s strange, because that’s just where I’ve come from!’ And there are no Australian doctors working in Rwanda at that stage. But this German surgeon was one of three or four German doctors seconded from the German government to work in Rwanda.
So God kind of brought he and I together… both a long way away from home and through him we got these contacts with the ministry of health, who you know, I wrote to them I think on a Sunday morning Australian time and they wrote back within 12 hours saying, you know, ‘We’d love to have you come! We’ll sort out salary, we’ll sort out housing, whatever it is. But come and be a part of medical education here, we want we want you to come!’
Catherine: I’m a primary teacher and the first time we went to Rwanda together for five months in 2003, I worked at the local primary school in the community where we were.
The thing that I ended up doing most of all though, was really getting to know a bunch of people who came knocking on our door! And getting to know them and getting involved in each other’s lives.
In Australia, you don’t often have people come and knock on your gate and tell you their problems. But that was a daily occurrence in Rwanda, and something that I really struggled to work out how to handle.
My closest friend is this amazing woman called Mama Peter who is so wise and such she has such incredible depth to her faith.
I learned so much from her and I came to ask her one day, ‘What do you do when people come knocking on your gate?’ and she said, ‘I invite them in and I listen to their stories and I give them advice’. And I thought, ‘They’re hungry and you give them advice?’ How does how does that work?!
But she’s so wise… she lived through the genocide in Rwanda and she lost the majority of her extended family. She’s so forgiving and has, you know, has extended that forgiveness even to people who I know still actively dislike her people group. After the genocide she ran an orphanage and when we walked down the streets together with our children she would just treat the street kids so beautifully and she just was so welcoming and compassionate towards people no matter what their background or where they came from.
So I really respected her opinion and I walked away really trying to process what she told me and i think um as I tried her method I started to understand that what I had to offer these people that came to me most of all was a relationship. They had such complex problems that really I had no hope of tackling. I could give you know a mother with hungry babies some food that might help that day or that week but that wasn’t going to help in the long term and it wasn’t going to fix her problems. And by offering her a relationship I was standing in solidarity with her. I often found that when I prayed about these people who I got to know, when I prayed about their situation, God would make it clear what he wanted me to do on his behalf.
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