God in the Life Of John Earwicker

Raised in a Brethren family, John Earwicker made a personal commitment to follow Christ when he was 14. Qualified in urban and regional planning and public policy making, he has gone on to use his professional skills to serve the Church internationally. Now the Executive Director of Medic Assist International, John tells Jo Duckles his story.

John Earwicker, CEO of Medic Assist International

John Earwicker, CEO of Medic Assist International

 

John came to Church House Oxford where we met in the new café. “My parents were a very upright Christian couple who adopted me when I was six weeks old. I always had a sense that it was amazing that someone chose me. I grew up with a respect for the Bible and Jesus’s death and resurrection were very central. Now I strongly agree with Tom Wright that the Creed should also say much more about his earthly ministry,” says John.

John was conscious of how different Brethren people were. His father was on the General Oversight of Counties Evangelistic Work. “Dad took me to a tent mission in a village wearing my smart ‘Christian’ clothes on a Saturday. I was quite scared when confronted by a gang who asked me what I was doing in their village!”

From the age of 11, John began to attend an interdenominational Crusader group. Three years later, through the encouragement of an Anglican leader, John chose to follow Christ for himself. Subsequently, he left his parents’ church after a difficult and sad encounter.

“A member of our church who used to sell Bibles and literature from door-to-door was very narrow minded and critical of the fact that my father worked in a brewery. The final straw for me was the morning after President Kennedy was shot this man got up and prayed ‘Thank God we are not like all these other people worshipping a man; we are worshipping Jesus.’ I had an impassioned argument with him, wrote to the elders and left the church.”

John, then aged 16, moved to another Brethren church where he says there were more girls. It was when he went off to study Urban and Regional Planning in Coventry that he explored the world that was forbidden by his strict Brethren background including going to the cinema. “I had fun but I came to realise that although I had lots of friends, the people back in the church loved me for me, and weren’t trying to exploit me or use me. That was part of being brought to my senses in terms of faith.”

Before John returned to a serious commitment to Christ, he was going out with a girl who was a church goer but not a follower of Jesus. “We went on a five week holiday around Europe. I’d given her Michael Green’s book Runaway World to read and before we came home, she had committed to following Christ. Next Christmas we were engaged,” he says.
John’s first experience of working with people internationally was during the fourth year of his five year undergraduate course – a work placement with the Greater London Authority. “I was working with Polish, Ghanaian and Indian people, which was very stimulating.”

At the end of the year Heather and John married and 10 months later, their first child, Mark was born. Sadly, Mark had a rare form of epilepsy and the couple thought they shouldn’t have any more children. “Amazingly Heather was just pregnant with our second son when we made that decision. It was God’s grace really.” While completing his Masters and subsequently lecturing at Birmingham University, John was involved in youth work in and between churches in Coventry, when he met Peter Meadows, the then editor of Buzz magazine.

Through Peter he met Graham Kendrick and Clive Calver, who were running Youth for Christ and encouraged him to apply for a job as Clive’s deputy. He got the job, but the family’s move to BYFC’s Wolverhampton location was delayed for six months. This delay was another example of God’s grace because a week before they were able to relocate Mark died aged just seven, when Simon was six and their daughter Jessica was just two.

Later, John became involved with Youth for Christ International on the European Team. The role saw John meeting leaders from all over the world and attending the Lausanne Younger Leaders conference in the Philippines and the Lausanne II Congress. “Lausanne II brought together as many nations as the UN and was a profound experience of solidarity,” says John. “Another person who had a big influence on me was an Indian theologian who said please don’t bring the Gospel as a potted plant, give it as a seed that we will plant in our own soil and see how it grows.” John moved on, acting as Church Life Director for the Evangelical Alliance, including examining why those aged 20 to 40 were not in church and a deeper understanding of discipleship.

Later, both John and Heather were taken on to work for the Zacharias Trust, which brought them to Oxfordshire. After redundancy, John was doing consultancy work when he was approached by Eddie Lyle, then Director of Release International, to help with the newly formed Medic Assist International.

MAI was originally set up to help the victims of the violent clashes between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. However, RI’s constitution only permitted them to help persecuted Christians but there were people of other faiths and none dying in need of healthcare.

“After a consultation in 2003, Medic Assist International was established, borne out of the persecuted church experience but committed to serving all people in the name of Christ,” says John.
Initially John started working for MAI on a part-time basis, becoming full-time in 2008. “It’s been an exciting journey because part of my task is to enable sisters and brothers from really tough parts of the world to do what God has called them to do: giving access to transforming healthcare. Another thing that has excited me is that I’ve lived through a time when the Church in the West has been outgrown by the Church in the rest of the world.

“I like how Medic Assist International works. We are committed to partnerships that are relational. We assess the project and, once begun, we visit our Partners regularly and bring them to the UK once a year so that supporters can look them in the eye. We are confident that these sisters and brothers are people of integrity and have so much to teach us about faith, vision, passion and commitment.”

Currently MAI works in South Sudan, Lebanon and South Africa with completed partnership projects in four other locations. “It is such a privilege to work with these people because they are so humble but are doing such transforming things. “ In the past two months, Partners from KwaZulu Natal and South Sudan have been in the UK reporting on the Clinics that MAI has enabled them to provide where access to such healthcare was non-existent.

John is a mission partner in his home church, Christ Church, Abingdon. MAI Partners regularly visit the UK so if churches are interested in hearing from global Christians, John is happy to arrange for them to preach at services or speak at events.