As Serving In Mission looks forward to celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2018, Niall and Sian McCune will be celebrating their first wedding anniversary in Ethiopia.
The couple have every reason to thank God, because without their shared heart for his gospel and the desire he gave them to join SIM, it’s hard to see how they would ever have met.
Niall is from Newry in Northern Ireland; Sian lives in Southampton. He is an IT specialist; she is a teacher. Neither was really looking for a lifelong partner – Niall admits he had never found the right girl, while Sian admits she had pretty much given up of finding the right man.
But all that changed when the couple met on the SIM compound in Addis Ababa, back in February 2016, as Sian took up a short-term role teaching English at The Bridge School.
Sian, sent by Netley Christian Fellowship, explains: “It was my first weekend in the country and I was desperate to get outside Addis, which is a very congested and polluted country.
“Niall and his friend Devlin were going out rock climbing and they asked me if I wanted to come along. Even though I’d never done any climbing, I said yes, as much to see some of the countryside as for any other reason.
“From there, our friendship grew. We were going to the same church, we met up at movie nights in the SIM compound and I went climbing on later weekends too.”
Niall, sent by Newry Baptist Church, had already been in Ethiopia for some years by then, first as a short-termer from 2007 to 2009, and then as a full SIM member from 2014 working at Bingham Academy.
He said: “I can’t say I was looking for a wife. Other people had sometimes suggested girls but I’d never met the right girl – until Sian came along. I sensed this was different, that she was different, unique and special. A friend of mine said that as soon as I started telling him about Sian, he knew we would get married. It shows what a wonderful God we have.”
Sian now very much sees God’s hand in bringing them together, because without that she doubted she would be able to stay in overseas mission.
She said: “God knew that I had found life tough as a single woman on overseas mission and it was one of the things that was stopping me committing long-term.
“I became a Christian when I was 31 and since then I’d trusted that God would provide the right person, if that was his plan. My friends, especially my non-Christian friends, couldn’t believe what I was doing and, to be honest, I had pretty much given up on the idea of getting married.
“But I knew God would provide and it’s been great to show my non-Christian friends what a faithful and wonderful God we have.”
Niall proposed to Sian on his birthday, January 13, 2017 – and chose the romantic lakeside setting of the SIM compound just outside Addis to do so.
They were married in Southampton on July 8 and that was the first time many of their friends and family had met each other.
Sian said: “There were quite a few SIM people at the wedding and we’ve really felt God’s blessing through SIM, in bringing us together and in giving us mutual friends.”
While Niall continues his IT work at Bingham, Sian is now teaching English at a large theological college in Addis, helping pastors, youth workers and mission workers of the future develop the language skills they will need.
They are now members of a new church plant, serving alongside people of many nationalities to share the good news of Jesus.
Sian said: “I think I would really have struggled to settle in Ethiopia on my own. I would have got lonely, so I’m very grateful to God for Niall. We plan to stay here for a while, but we’re very open to God’s leading and will ask his will for our future.”
Give thanks to God for bringing Niall and Sian together through SIM so that they are now both better equipped to share his gospel
Pray for them in this first year of marriage, that they would lay good foundations for their life together and be open to God’s call
For the country of Ethiopia, that it would remain a place where mission workers are welcomed and are allowed to share the gospel freely