My wife Shona sensed the call to global mission at 12 years old at her home church in Auckland. In her 20’s she did mission trips to Tanzania and Colombia. I grew up as a son of British missionaries in Peru and we later met in Spain in 1999. We bonded over our shared experience living in Latin America during very dangerous times. Shona had always had a conviction that she would marry somebody with a passion for global mission and he would decide where we would go. Our question at the time though was “Where?”
I met a key leader from the Middle East and asked him how I could strategically serve the Muslim world. Without flinching he gave me an answer that changed my life.
“Andy with your background and bilingualism, mobilise the church in Latin America!
This one conversation mobilised me. I married Shona in London in 2000 and we moved to New Zealand in 2001 to start a family. We thought that after 2-5 years God would call us to be part of facilitating a missional movement from Latin America to the unreached nations.
At that time I felt God had told me it was not time to leave but to work on my character as I had been struggling to control my emotions for a few years. Unfortunately, I just didn’t know how bad it really was. In 2002 my life was turned upside down when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In that instant, despite the strong sense of calling Shona and I had received, I disqualified myself for service in global mission. How could I take my family to a foreign country away from our support structures if I was emotionally unstable? So I decided that we would serve in the church in New Zealand.
In 2005 I received a very strange prophetic word. A friend of mine said to me “Andy, somebody is going to give you a pair of shoes and it will be a sign to you that you will travel across many nations with a message from God.” I thought it was weird at the time but it impacted me and I held onto it.
After spending some time serving as youth pastors in Tauranga, we moved to Christchurch in 2009 and I made a serious attempt to understand the bipolar diagnosis, researching with doctors, Christian counsellors, and psychiatrists. What followed were some of the hardest years of my life. I had terrible side effects from all the medication and even went on the sickness benefit for a time. We got to the point where my medical team and I agreed that it wasn’t working and in 2013 I came off all my medication slowly.
I felt like I had no solution. My mood swings wouldn’t stop and every three weeks I battled with suicidal thinking. During this period Shona started training as a teacher and I became the house husband, looking after the kids, working part-time, and serving at church in the children’s ministry and small groups. Again, I felt disqualified from global mission and quite ashamed.
In 2015, I was invited by my friend Gabriel, to a meeting run by a healing evangelist named Susan Pillains who was visiting from England. I didn’t want to go but I knew Gabriel wanted me to translate and was hoping I would be healed. Gabriel is a passionate intercessor and over the years he had prayed with many tears for God to heal me. I had experienced God’s healing over the years in other ways, but it had been 14 years since my bipolar diagnosis, God had not healed me and I was feeling a little jaded. I decided to attend the meeting, telling Shona I would change my attitude.
It turned out Susan had an amazing ministry with miraculous healing meetings across India and Africa. She began to pray for me but after a couple of times of commanding the sickness to leave, I apologetically said to her that I felt no different. She asked if we could pray and wait on God. So we did and I stood there with my hands stretched out before me as she quietly prayed. After about ten minutes Susan said she believe God told her that my illness had been passed down to be me from previous generations. So she began to methodically go through my family generations one by one, asking Jesus to release me from any sickness that had begun there. When she counted to the eighth generation I suddenly collapsed on the floor and began to scream!
I am not going to give you more of an explanation or an interpretation of this story because I simply cannot. I can only tell you the story as it happened. All I can say is as Susan prayed, the power of God began moving in my life in a way that was beyond my understanding.
After a while, Susan began to pray for peace and said “I think something significant has happened.”
I replied, “I think so too.”
I knew it would be very easy to check because for the past 20 years I hadn’t gone three weeks without facing a cycle of uncontrollable depression and elation.
From that day on March 8, 2015, the mood swings stopped. One Christian psychologist told me that’s impossible as a bipolar diagnosis is incurable. However, I know what I was like then and I know what has changed and there is no way I would be taking my family to a foreign country and away from our support networks if God had not healed me. A miracle had happened.
In June of 2015, I was invited to speak at a combined service. I was at the church social event on a Monday night and the Pastor, Pastor Jorge, decided to pray for some people. All of a sudden the social event became a ministry time and he began to pray for me. Incredibly he said that I would have a ministry travelling across Latin America and countries where Christians faced persecution.
“Like the valleys are raised up and the mountains are lowered and the favour of God goes before you and you are walking in some shoes…” Then all of a sudden he slowed down for a bit before continuing. “Like my ones…” He stopped for a few seconds again. Finally, he said “This is going to sound very odd to you. But I believe the Holy Spirit is saying that I am to give you these shoes and they will be a sign to you that this will come true.”
I couldn’t believe it. That was it! When I got home I chatted to Shona and within a month I had resigned from my job.
John 20:20 and 20:21 have been a theme for me over the last couple of years. Jesus enters a room where the disciples were hidden away from the world for fear of death. Jesus surprises the disciples and meets them at a point when they had been blindsided by the unexpected. They had been ravished by the trauma of the death of their hero, the hero that most of them had abandoned. All were overwhelmed by their circumstance and totally baffled by the apparent news of the resurrection of Christ. And then, suddenly, he appeared to them.
Jesus showed them his hands and he said "As the father has sent me, I am sending you”. Jesus shows them the scars of wounds that should have declared his demise but now proclaimed his victory. I believe this point is relevant to all of us. God sends us fully aware of our weaknesses, frailties, insecurities, and our quirks. And yet God still calls us to go and be an incarnation of the Gospel to the world.
Andy and Shona have been Mission Partners with NZCMS since 2017. They work with Pro-meta (an online Christian university) to train leaders and work alongside missional organisations across Latin America to Mobilize the church into the call of God. Andy and Shona believe passionately that Latin America can be a powerhouse to accomplish the great commission among the remaining 7000 unreached ethnic groups around the world.