Many people who attend Cornerstone Church Kingston have wonderfully interesting life-stories to tell. Today, we meet Heather White who spends three months of every year visiting Nyangombe, Zambia.
Early childhood in Zambia
My earliest memories were around the time I was 6 years old when my parents first moved to Zambia and I was sent to a Zambian Christian Boarding school, called Sakeji.
I remember that first journey to Zambia very clearly. We travelled from our relatives in Bromley to catch the ‘Boat Train’ from Southampton to Cape Town. After days on board ship, and many hours on a train from Cape Town, the journey culminated in a 12 hour road trip to the Kalene Mission Hospital, in the North West corner of Zambia. The roads are far from good at the best of times, but we were travelling during the rainy season, and I remember vividly that we had to stop periodically on the way while trees were chopped down to create a driveable surface on the flooded road.
Becoming a Christian
Being part of a missionary family, I had always been aware of how important God is in my parents’ lives. When I was about 8 years old, a fictional film was shown at school about the end of the world, which troubled me. I desperately wanted to go to heaven, because I wanted to be with Jesus and with my family, and that is when my faith in Jesus became real to me.
When I returned to England, at the age of 14, for secondary schooling, I had to live with friends of my parents. I was very anxious about staying with this family because it was like going to live with strangers. I felt a conviction that I had to completely trust God to help me.
It was at this time that I made the decision to get baptised. This was a very significant decision because my baptism really consolidated my faith and helped me make a clear stand for Jesus Christ.
Faith during the Falklands
There have been a number of times in my life when things haven’t been easy for me.
My brother was in the Royal Navy, and in 1982 he served in the Falklands War. Because my parents were in Zambia, I was named as his next of kin, which meant that if anything happened to him, I would be the first to hear.
News, during that time, rarely came through, and we didn’t know exactly where he was. This was a worry which tested my faith and I relied on prayer that God would keep him safe. God was faithful to answer my prayers. He gave me complete assurance that my brother would come home, and he did, indeed, come home safely.
Of course, God doesn’t always answer our prayers in this way, but there are those precious times when He does give us a complete assurance and peace. It was a miracle which helped me to rest in Him and to continue to trust Him.
Answers to Prayer
Another example was when my grandma, my dad’s mum, was terminally ill in hospital.
When she died, I needed to inform my parents of the news. As there was no email or mobile communication in those days, I had no choice but to phone someone who would then arrange for the message to be transmitted to my parents over the Zambian radio network.
From previous conversations that I had had with Dad, his intention has always been to come home for his mum’s funeral, but sadly, the cost of travel to the UK, and the difficulty of taking time away from his work at the mission, meant that he could no longer come.
In my distress about this news, I prayed earnestly to God, and told Him how much I wanted my dad to be able to come to the funeral.
God wonderfully answered my prayer.
When Dad told the workers at the Christian Centre that his mum had died they grouped together to give him a gift of money.
These workers were in poverty by our standards, yet, out of love and loyalty to my parents, they had sacrificed enough money to help my dad to be at his mum’s funeral. The generosity and love of these people confirmed to Dad that he should come.
My experience in all of these situations has shown me that prayer is powerful and effective.
I would encourage people who are going through a very dark time to keep crying out to God because there will be an answer. God is always there with you in your sorrow or difficulty, even when He may seem very far away. The path out of your pain might not be quick, or easy but God always steps in.
Sometimes it isn’t until later that you really find out why things happen the way they do, and sometimes you may never find out. But I am confident that God is ultimately the only faithful one, and He is just and righteous.
Life between the UK and Zambia
I’m now in semi-retirement from nursing, and I regard myself as having two homes.
For nine months, my home is here in the Kingston area, where I have lived for a number of years. I am very involved with the life of Cornerstone, and I have close family and friends who are important to me.
But Zambia is also my home for three months each year. My trips to Zambia are important for me because, from the age of 6, I had never really lived with my parents for any length of time. I believe that God has given me back some of the time with my parents that I had lost whilst I was growing up.
My time in Zambia is also important to me because I work closely with the local women and children at the Christian Centre, teaching at the school and leading bible studies. This is a real privilege, and a blessing to serve God in a very different culture.
Life as a Christian
I always try to spend time, every day, praying and reading a portion of the Bible. Even just a couple of verses from scripture will remind me that God is in my day and is over-seeing everything.
I cannot imagine living my life without faith in God. It is what supports me in every area of my experience.
In work I find myself frequently praying for my patients. I cannot imagine living my life without that communication with God. I’m not a perfect Christian but because Jesus died for me, I’ve got this sure hope of eternity with Him.