My husband John and I shared a dream. We would retire early and travel the canal and waterways of Europe.
In 1996, we found a half-finished boat to buy. Having had no family of our own, we had spent many years fostering children with complex needs. We decided that when the boat was ready and our children were ready to leave, we would not take on any new placements.
In 2003 we set off for France where we spent two summers on the canals and rivers. During this time I began to reflect back on life and found myself dwelling on the very specific calling we had received to go to Africa.
In the late 80s three ‘coincidences’ had led us to Zambia. We met a missionary from the country, who invited members of the youth group we were running to visit. Both John and I felt the trip would be a good thing for us to do but we were deeply committed at church, at work and had just started fostering.
A month later we were visiting a church and the service was on guidance. Although the preacher knew us, he had no idea that Zambia was on our minds, yet during his talk he said, “There are my friends, Becky and John Wright, maybe the Lord would want them to go to Africa.” The following evening at a Bible study the subject turned to guidance again. I asked our home group leader, “What would the most significant form of guidance be?” Having thought the reply would be “the Bible” I was somewhat surprised when he answered, “Well, I think you should listen to what is said at the front of the church.” So our first trip to Zambia happened, and we returned for a second trip in 2000.
As I remembered how definite that call had been, I began to wonder if we should go back. We rang John’s Dad who was keeping an eye on our post. Before we could tell him our thoughts he said, “You’ve just had a letter from Brian in Zambia asking if you wanted to go out to help.”
So we left our boat, and returned once again. This time, we found ourselves with a specific focus: again and again we came across disabled children who – outcast socially and confined to their houses - were desperately in need of help. We began to wonder if we could set up a project. Again, the hand of God became apparent, for not long after we met Susie Howe, of the Bethany Children’s Trust (BCT), who had set up a similar project in Zimbabwe. We felt our eyes open to the scope of what He could achieve through us. I am a trained occupational therapist – a career I have always felt I was led into by God - and John is a carpenter. While I was equipped to practice and teach rehabilitation, John could construct the necessary practicalities for our ministry.
Amazed by how God was using us so specifically, and with the necessary funding from BCT, we decided to stay indefinitely.
The project runs out of a series of homes, offered for use by individuals. The results we see are endlessly rewarding. Two of our recent patients - brothers Philip and Nemon Mwale – were handicapped from birth and unable to stand or walk. Through love, patience, a walking frame and arranging funding for surgery, both are now mobile and in school.
Our aim is to eventually establish the project to a point where it can be run without Western missionary day-to-day management.
Do we have any regrets for our lost dream? Well, John still misses his boat – but recently, in a period of doubt, he picked up the book, ‘If you want to walk on water you’ve got to get out of the boat’ and, aside from the rather pertinent title, was reminded yet again of how God so often wants us to take risks for Him.
I think often of how strongly I felt called here, and sense a wholeness I have never experienced before. Increasingly I see that every bit of life’s experience can be put to use by the Lord; my old job was heavy on paperwork – which frustrated me at the time – yet now I am reaping the benefits in being able to manage the records out here. We are intended, planned and purposed throughout life and I have come to realise that God makes His dreams our own.