Tim McLaughlin – My Hands Story

Each of us has a unique story of how we were transformed when we stepped out in faith and were obedient to God’s call. Tim McLaughlin shares his family’s story and the journey that has led them to be close friends of Hands in their home country of Australia.

“I have served as the pastor of a community church in Sydney, Australia since 2004. My wife Carolyn works as a teacher’s aide in a local high school.

I should preface my story by saying that I was probably one of the slowest and most reluctant people to engage with Hands at Work. By this I mean that before our first mission trip, I had no interest in overseas mission at all, let alone Hands at Work. At that time, I felt that Australia was a large enough mission field in itself and you didn’t need to go overseas when there was so much mission work to be done in Australia itself.

My story begins in 2007 when Stephen Jones (International Volunteer, Australia) came to Africa on a mission trip with Hands at Work. When he returned to Australia, he excited our church about putting together a team for a trip. At that stage, I was happy to humour Stephen and the rest of the church because the pressure was on. Surely a church leader should be excited about such a trip! Deep down I really wasn’t. All of that changed in 2009, the first time I went into one of the African communities and God used the next week and a half to completely change my attitude towards the needs of Africa and the most vulnerable.

As I left Africa, I felt like a part of my heart stayed behind. If my brothers and sisters in Africa were suffering as I had seen, then as a member of the international church I could no longer pretend it was not my responsibility. As one part of the body suffers so does the rest. Their suffering had become mine. I could no longer be complete without returning.

Since that time, my family and I have returned to Africa and Hands at Work many times and for progressively longer periods, each time with the conviction that we were to get more deeply involved.

Our church has deepened in relationship and understanding of true overseas mission. Hands at Work’s short-term mission programme has greatly aided the development of this partnership with our church. Much of our congregation has now been on short-term mission trips or volunteered with Hands. Their people are our people; their work our work; their joy our joy; their sorrow our sorrow!    

A huge part of this journey is how God has taught me the significance of justice - particularly justice and compassion for the poor and the vulnerable. Involvement with Hands has opened our eyes to this fundamental concern of God’s heart.

This journey has also transformed my understanding of the incarnation and how we bring aid to those in need. God coming in flesh to walk with us in our suffering and brokenness is the same pattern that he looks for in his church and people. The incarnation destroys the idea that simply sending money to the needy is adequate care. This may be helpful but until we have joined and walked with people in their brokenness we have not fully entered into the pattern of how God cares.

One of the greatest challenges that we face each time we return to Australia is in knowing how to translate the things that we have learned at Hands into the Australian context. But because the goal is “kingdom culture”, many of the principles carry over. “Who are the poor and vulnerable in our community and how can we reach and minister to them?” Another challenge is to retain the same sense of intimacy with God when we return to Australia. In Australia, it is easy to do the ‘Christian thing’ without any reference to God or need for intimacy with him. We don’t pray “give us this day our daily bread” in the same way. You can’t do life without a deep relationship with God. The challenge is how you carry that back to Australia.”

Tim McLaughlin and his wife Carolyn, returned to their children and church in Australia at the beginning of July where they continue to serve with Hands at Work from afar.

Are YOU being called? Come!