Who is Tim Heaton?
Tim was born in Tavistock, Devon in 1975. It was a year when Harold Wilson was Prime Minister and the UK music charts were introduced to Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody', which topped the charts at number #1 for 9 weeks!
In the years preceding Tim's birth his father had trained at Spurgeon’s College but felt called to serve abroad rather than settle in a UK church. After a year working as an evangelist in Belgium the family returned to England where his parents relocated to a dairy farm in Devon which his father ran for the next 5 years. It was during this time that Tim was born.
Aged 4 the family moved to Cornwall where his father bought a Christian bookshop. The family set up home in Penryn, but moved later to Truro. They attended a local independent community church and the family settled down and became involved with different aspects of church life. Tim's father was put forward as an elder of the church and accepted the leadership role. The church had relational links with a network of churches across America, and when Tim was ten years’ old they were given the opportunity to move to the US for three years where his father was involved in leading churches.
The Holy Spirit's Touch:
On returning to the UK, Tim's family engaged with a new Church who were experiencing a move of the Holy Spirit. Tim was brought to a place where he needed to consider his faith in a fresh and living way! Through a number of personal encounters with God's Holy Spirit his heart was set ablaze for Jesus and he began to experience a fullness not experienced before which led him to a deeper personal worship, and to wonder at the father's love and grace towards him. In his own words Tim tells us:
"I was 14 or so, when God ‘grabbed’ me. A new church that we were involved with encouraged me to consider the Holy Spirit in a new way and I had a number of encounters with the Holy Spirit that set my heart ablaze for Jesus, for evangelism and worship. My heart was sold for Christ!"
As many people experience after the height's of the Holy Spirit's touch there is often a time of testing and for Tim this came through his school work and studying for his GCSE's and A-levels. He struggled as he grappled with the teaching and science that seemed contrary to God Word, and doubt's crept into that quiet place of inner calm. "Was God really there," he asked himself? However, God had a plan for this teenager and as his 'David' overcame the 'Goliath' of doubt, he grew stronger in his resolve to see God glorified in his life. It also gave him a deeper understanding of his own faith and the challenges of engaging with his surrounding culture. Things were stirring in his heart...
"[After school] I went to University in Cardiff where I studied History. Throughout University I had a sense that God had something other than a ‘normal’ career for me."
Africa Inland Mission (AIM)
After graduating from Cardiff he decided to take a year out, and go on a 'short term mission' to Africa which saw him teaching English in a Kenyan state secondary school. "I ended up working with 'Africa Inland Mission' teaching English and Physics" he writes.
Founded in 1895, AIM is an evangelical, interdenominational organisation with the goal of seeing ‘Christ-centred churches among all African peoples.’
For Tim it was a highly challenging year - but ultimately - a great year!
"I came away certain that God had something for me but not in Kenya. There, there were loads of churches and mission organisations, I wanted to reach the unreached! Back in the UK I worked as an administrator in a printing company and then worked for my local Anglican church for a year doing a bit of everything: Youth-work, schools work, student work and working with the homeless."
In the year 2000 Tim decided to go to All Nations college to study the Theology, the Bible and Intercultural studies.
It was a formative time for him personally and he grew in so many areas of life and faith. It was also there that he met Bronwen, the girl who would go on to become his wife.
After two years of study Bronwen and Tim married and upon graduation they moved to London while seeking where God was calling them as a couple. During that time he found employment with Premier Christian Radio working in their marketing department.
After visiting Mozambique in 2003 they both had a great sense that God was calling them to work with AIM to plant new churches and to make disciples for Jesus. They both had a deep sense of peace about this 'call' and a growing excitement as they found out more about the local Mwani people, who were Muslim's by birth. They were deeply inspired by the motivational power of Scripture when they read in the book of Romans:
“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”
Moving to Portugal for a year to learn the Portuguese language which is spoken throughout Mozambique, they furthered their ties with AIM and planned for a longer trip to Mozambique as missionaries. It was during this Portuguese year that Bronwen fell pregnant and gave birth to a daughter, Katie.
On Mission in Mozambique:
It was 2004 when the new Heaton family moved to Northern Mozambique with Katie, by then only three months old. In the second month there a war broke out between two opposing people groups and they had to be evacuated as the groups in the town where they lived were attacking and killing each other. As things settled down they persevered with their work but began to find it more and more difficult to live each day even though the general stress of living without running water or electricity 350 kilometres away from the nearest major town. "The thing that kept us there was the realisation that this is what God had for us – we wanted to be good servants" said Tim.
Eleven months into their mission they received the sad news that Tim's mum had passed away and they needed to return home.
The Move to Pemba:
On returning to the mission field in Mozambique they spent the next 6 ½ years continuing their work, then they were given the opportunity to move the to the port city of Pemba, the provincial capital of Cabo Delgado. In Pemba their family grew too as Bronwen gave birth to a son, Jamie.
Pemba lays on a coastal peninsula on the North Easterly coast of Mozambique towards Tanzania and the peninsula creates the protective arc of a beautiful deep water Bay. The city itself is decked with colonial Portuguese architecture and is fast becoming a holiday destination for tourists seeking adventure and water sports. Originally, it had been founded by the Portuguese Niassa Company in the early 1900's and known as Porto Amélia. It was renamed Pemba at the end of Portuguese rule, in 1975.
In the city Tim and Bronwen were able to buy a wider range of food than they had previously, plus they had other missionaries around them for support and encouragement. Their work in Pemba involved teaching Discovery Bible studies; and 'Bible Storying', which has been effectively used with people who prefer audio or visual ways of learning as it helps people connect aurally with Bible stories, and therefore learn through the act of reading the stories aloud.
During their last two years in Mozambique Tim became the Unit Leader for the mission which saw him and Bronwen being team leaders within the town and area leaders for AIM across the wider area of Cabo Delgado
They returned to the UK at the end of 2015.
"Since our return to the UK", says Tim, "I have been AIM’s Area Mobiliser in the South of England and Wales. My role is to encourage churches to consider the unreached peoples, like the Mwani tribe of Africa. One of the best parts of my job it to chat with people who are considering serving in Africa."
What the future Holds?
The family are settled in Chippenham, Wiltshire and are involved with an independent church plant called 'Trinity Chippenham'. There they are Life Group leaders, and Tim does the PA and Bronwen helps out with the kids work. She also works part time for 'Sat7', a satellite ministry beaming the gospel into north Africa and the Middle East. Tim also enjoys playing football each week, running in the countryside and gardening.1
- From and interview with Wessex Director Brian Edgeley