‘But we’re going to Kazakhstan!’

Colin and Sue’s story | Growing wheat and faithfulness

“I was an academic at the University of Sydney, researching plant pathology in barley and wheat. During that time we discovered that the disease-resistant wheats we were breeding were actually useful to study pathogen variation around the world. So my wife (Sue) and I started travelling.

I was fortunate to attract some international project money and we travelled to places like East Africa and Central Asia, teaching and training locals about breeding disease-resistant wheat. It was a great opportunity, really valuable. After a while, our focus was drawn to Kazakhstan – a huge, former Soviet wheat-growing region, and it was being heavily affected by the same diseases we had in Australia.

We both loved it. Every time we went to Kazakhstan, we would also go to the local church. We got to know local believers, at a time when the church was mostly underground. It was the grace of God. We had a door into the country and a reason to go. We were doing a worthwhile and valued job, in a secular sense, and out of that place of integrity we could also support the local church.

Sue became involved as a tutor in an enterprise that combined a library and café with an English teaching outreach. It drew many people in. They were really interested in the Bible resources we were using. There was such a hunger for truth. We would often be giving Bibles to people who had questions, and we kept going back annually over a ten-year period to build relationships. Over time it seemed that the local church had tripled in size.

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For all that time, we planned that after we retired, we would go back long-term. We had developed good relationships with the Kazakh people and seen quite a lot of fruit. We hoped to spend the six-month wheat-growing period every year in Kazakhstan. That was our plan. Sue invested in Russian language over many years at university and she was trained in ESL teaching. We both finished Bible College. Then, in 2012, I retired. We were all ready to go.

At the same time, though, our loved pastor at our little church in western Sydney passed away suddenly from cancer. It was very hard and our church grieved. They assumed we would take over the leadership. We responded, “But we’re going to Kazakhstan!”

We prayed and sought counsel for six months. It wasn’t an easy decision, but we heard God say to us to stay in Sydney for the next season.

Proverbs 3 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (v5-6).

That’s been a key verse for us. That’s what God does. As we trust in him, lean into him, he directs our paths. We have to wait on him and not be anxious. God always puts us where he wants us… and so we started pastoring the local church.

Then, five years ago, we moved to a smaller home, in a new estate. Several thousand homes attracted a diversity of people, including many from Asia and the Middle East. The people were all really friendly, but they were isolated without English language. We invited them in for coffee, knowing how important hospitality is in their cultures. Some of them said they’d never been in an Australian home before. Then, Sue began teaching English at the community centre at the heart of the new estate.

Five years later, and it’s really snowballed! God has provided. And our little church has continued to serve with a big missions heart.  Even in lockdown, we do English classes (and church) via Zoom. One lady zooms in to English classes from Iran. Another dear brother zooms into church from Inner Mongolia. A lot of the people at English class are interested in the Gospel; some are so close!

We realise now that God has allowed all that experience in Kazakhstan to morph into this season. We’re thrilled! We’re seeing peoples’ lives changed and we’re reminded all the time that God wastes nothing.”

Colin and Sue’ story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series. Click here for more Faith Stories.

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