‘We’re just an ordinary family’

Simon Harrison and his wife Ally are serving with SIM in Ethiopia, but still find it hard to believe they are actually there!

The couple and their children Samuel (10) Mia Belle (seven) and Madeline, (five) moved to the capital Addis Ababa in July, and are sent by Avenue Community Church, Leicester.

Simon, a GP, is using his medical skills to provide opportunities for evangelism and discipleship, while Ally is teaching music at Bingham Academy, a school that serves children of missionary families and expats, as well as Ethiopian children.

“One of the reasons it’s so hard to believe that we’re finally in Ethiopia is that we’d been praying about overseas missions for over 14 years!” reveals Simon.

“Initially, we’d thought we’d go overseas immediately after getting married, but we spoke to various mission agencies at the time, who advised me to finish my postgraduate training as a doctor. So instead of going abroad, we moved to a Muslim area of Leicester in order to gain some experience in cross-cultural ministry.

“Eventually, three wonderful children came along, as well as some health challenges, and before we knew it, it was 12 years later and we seemed no nearer to serving the Lord in an overseas mission context!”

However, a few years ago, the couple’s good friends, who are already serving with SIM in Addis Ababa, mentioned a need for an elementary music teacher at Bingham, so they began seriously praying about whether the Lord might want them to serve him there.

“We felt led to begin the application process and as we progressed, gradually, the Lord allayed our fears and broke down every barrier we thought might keep us from the mission field,” recalls Simon.

From support-raising and health needs, to the children’s education and the reaction of family members, the couple say the Lord has helped in an amazing way and opened doors as they trusted him with each step into mission.

“We’re just an ordinary family, but we have an awesome God who can do amazing things!” says Simon.

The Harrison family

Parenting anywhere is hard, but parenting on the mission field is even more challenging as it involves navigating a new culture and helping your children thrive in foreign systems while learning to do the same yourself.

The children have all settled into school well and seem to have made a remarkably smooth transition to being in such a new and different place,” says Simon.

“They enjoy living at the school and having friends nearby to play with, but finding foods they like has been difficult because availability here is quite limited.”

With their family, friends, and their sending church behind them, the family are coping well with the transition to Ethiopia and have been greatly encouraged by the help SIM can provide as families prepare to serve overseas. Read more about SIM UK’s work to support and care for families.

“We’re just so grateful to the Lord for all the love, prayers and support that have enabled us to get to this point,” says Simon.

“However, we can’t pretend that everything is easy living here in Ethiopia and there are many things we’re missing about home,” he admits. “I’m learning Amharic, which is known to be a hard language to learn, and there are times it’s easy to feel very discouraged, but we know that investing this time is really important for our life and ministry here.”

Yet despite the realities of life on the overseas field, Simon and Ally remain motivated to carry on because they’re convinced they are where God wants them to be.

“One of the most common greetings here in Ethiopia is ‘Selam no?’ (which literally means, ‘Is it peace?’) and we’ve had a lot of practice responding to this phrase since arriving in Ethiopia,” says Simon.

“But although we have some homesickness, we can truly answer, ‘Selam negn, Exhabilhir Yemesken’ (‘It is peace, praise God!’) because we know we’re where the Lord wants us to be.”

by Kerry Allan

Thinking about serving with your family?

Why not work with us to find the best fit for you? Email [email protected] or call 01223 788288 to find out more.

Please pray

  • For Simon as learns Amharic and waits to get his medical licence to work in the country and for Ally adjusting to being in the classroom again.
  • Give thanks God’s love and grace is sufficient for the whole family as they adjust to ministry and new life in Ethiopia.
  • For the Lord to provide for all their needs.

This was posted on 22 November 2022 in Ministry stories.
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