Getting to Know the Havills
December 14, 2010 | Harvesters
By Jesse Newman
If you paid careful attention to the summer 2010 edition of CORE magazine’s Harvesters article, you would likely remember that both Ben and Daniel Hale spoke very fondly of John and Rebecca Havill. The Havills have been involved in ministry with NICS for many years, they have been very close to the Hale family, and they have a unique story that you will enjoy reading at the end of the article.
CORE: Please tell us a little about your family.
John: I was born in Rochester, NY, and raised in Wayne, NJ. I went to college at Liberty Baptist College (now Liberty University) after 8 years in the Air Force. I married Rebecca 14 years ago, and we have two children, Micah and Anna Catherine. I like golf, softball, and American football and as a family we like to play games, and watch Stargate or Monk episodes.
Rebecca: I was born in Amarillo, TX and lived there until I was 15 years old. My family moved to Virginia when I was 15 and I lived there until I moved to Korea when I was 26 years old. I also went to Liberty Baptist College. I like to read and crochet, and as a family we also like to bowl, and take walks (with our dog of course!). Micah is 13 years old, and likes games (video, computer, Wii, Nintendo, etc.), learning how to do new things, and playing the French Horn. Anna Catherine is 12 years old and likes to play viola and piano, and loves drama, reading, writing and journaling.
CORE: How did you first hear about NICS?
John: In 1983, Dr. Jerry Falwell asked the Liberty student body to pray for a former student, Joe Hale and his family, who were starting a Christian school in South Korea.
Rebecca: My sister, Starrla (Young) Song, went to Uijongbu to teach in the school (it wasn’t called “NICS” back then) in December 1985 and she told me about the library position.
CORE: What "hats" have you worn over the years at NICS?
John: I was a middle school Bible and history teacher in Uijongbu, South Korea. I then went with the Hale family and Rebecca to Jakarta, Indonesia where I taught grade 8 to Daniel Hale and Grade 9 to Ben Hale. The second year I had a little school in my house teaching 10 students in grades 8 through 10. I then moved to Bandung, Indonesia as the director of the new NICS school, while the Hales and Rebecca moved to Singapore (this was before we were married). After 6 years in Bandung, we took a year furlough and then moved to Lima to be the director at the new NICS school in Lima, Peru. We have been in Peru for the last 9 years.
Rebecca: Librarian, Secretary to the principals (different schools), Secretary to Joe Hale, School Receptionist, bookkeeper/cashier (for 4 months in Bangkok), preschool teacher, kindergarten teacher, and elementary computer teacher.
CORE: You have both moved quite a bit over your career with NICS. Can you list the locations where you served and how long you served there? If there is one location that stands out in your mind as your favorite, please tell us about it.
John: Uijongbu, South Korea - 1 ¼ years, Jakarta, Indonesia - 1 ¾ years, Bandung, Indonesia – 7 years, Lima, Peru – 9 years. I have enjoyed every country the Lord has allowed me the privilege to serve in.
Rebecca: Uijongbu, Korea – 4 years (Aug 87 - July 91)
Memphis, TN USA (Home Office) - 1 year (Aug 91 - July 92)
Uijongbu - 3 months (Aug 92 - Oct 92)
Bangkok, Thailand - 6 months (Nov 92 - April 93)
Uijongbu – 3 months (May 93 - July 93)
Jakarta, Indonesia – 1 year 8 months ( Aug 93 - Mar 95)
Singapore – 1 year 2 months (Apr 95 - May 96)
- Married John in June 96 -
Bandung, Indonesia - 5 years (Jun 96 - July 2001)
Furlough - Jul 01 - Jun 02
Lima, Peru – (9 years) July 02 - Present
No, no, no! You can’t ask for a favorite. My mind holds good memories from all the places. I started to list the reasons why each place was/is my favorite, but the list would be too long!
CORE: What would you say is the greatest blessing you received because you served overseas?
John: A wife and two kids!
Rebecca: Learning to trust in God for all my needs. I know that this sounds cliché, but it is not cliché to me. It is a real fact in my everyday life. Throughout the last 23 years He has taught me to trust Him through the “blessings.” Here are just a few: 1) a profound illustration from God that being in His will is the best place to be (my initial move to Korea) 2) a scary moment in Bangkok when God showed Himself to me in a very real way. 3) My husband and our two children. 4) Living in 5 different countries and 31 different houses in my first 9 years with NICS. So many blessings! They cannot be counted. God is good.
CORE: What has been the most challenging thing you faced as you served overseas?
John: Being a leader is never easy, but becoming the type of leader God wants while serving overseas with darts coming from every direction has been very challenging. However, whether we are overseas or in our home country, when we allow God to mold and shape us for His glory it is never easy. Giving up how we want to act or how we have learned to act in our own self interests for how He wants us to act is always a challenge.
Rebecca: Missing family…..especially during the holidays, weddings, birthdays, and times of crisis.
CORE: Please share a couple of your fondest memories with NICS.
Rebecca: I met Susan Lugar in Korea and she is still my best friend to this day. Many of my fond memories were made with her and her precious family there in Korea and in other countries too. I also met Ann Hale in Korea and was with her and her family at other NICS schools. I learned so much from her about raising children, loving God, hospitality, and being concerned for people around me. These friends helped me through some really hard times, shared their families with me, and we celebrated good times together. I have many fond memories because of their consistent testimony to Christ and their love for me (and my family).
One of my fondest memories was in Uijongbu during the early years. Sue McCarthy was teaching 3rd grade that year and she told the story of sharing Jesus with her class. The first semester she taught her class Old Testament history and the Christmas story. Leading up to Easter time they heard from her about the life of Christ. This was the first time that many of the kids realized that Jesus was not just a word that their fathers used when something bad happened. Jesus was real, He lived and was God in man, He was kind and full of love, and He is the only way to Heaven. She left them hanging for a whole night after she told them of the crucifixion. She tells of the kids’ confusion of why the people would want to kill someone so kind and good. The next day she explained the resurrection and salvation. They were ready to accept a love so freely given! This is what our schools are about, yes?
Of course, my meeting John, my good times with the Hale family over the years, my wedding, my sister’s wedding (in Uijongbu), my children being born in Indonesia and now attending a NICS school here in Lima are all fond memories.
CORE: Any interesting story/event that you would like to share with the readers?
John: I remember when the people of Indonesia were rioting in the streets of Jakarta because they wanted to get rid of the dictator who had ruled them for over 25 years. My slogan for recruiting new teachers that year was “Come to Indonesia. It’s a riot.” That broke the ice and allowed me to share about God’s protection in our lives and in Bandung.
Rebecca: When Micah joined the 3-year-old preschool class in Bandung he was one of 10 students from 7 different countries. Most of them spoke just a few words of Indonesian language as a common language at the beginning of the year. They sang, played and learned together beautifully. They didn’t see the round eyes or slanted eyes, the dark or light skin, the lack of words to be able to communicate with, or different customs. They only saw playmates. What an education, not just for the children but for adults looking on.
I remember falling asleep on the hour-long bus trip home from the original ICS campus in Singapore. When I woke, we were somewhere near the end of the line, and it was not the best part of town. I knew that there weren’t going to be a lot of English-speaking people there. I looked around and found the youngest college-age kid I could find. He was standing very near a lovely Chinese-looking grandmother who couldn’t stand up straight. I asked him politely if he could tell me how to get back to Topayo. He looked at me blankly and started speaking Chinese. Then the beautiful grandmother told me in perfect English just how to get back. You just never can judge a person by how they look!
CORE: What advice would you give to teachers just preparing to go overseas?
John: Build a network of prayer supporters and communicate with them on a regular basis. We can do nothing of value for Him without prayer. Your ministry in the classroom will thrive as long as you put Him first in your life. As you grow and become the man or woman God wants you to be then you will become a great teacher and you will be used by Him in the classroom.
Rebecca: Know that it is God’s will for your life, then go. Never look back or question your decision. There will be times when you miss something or someone, but you will never regret being in the center of God’s will for your life. It is the best place to be! There will be joys and troubles but you have to trust that God knew what He was doing when He sent you. Once, when I lost hope, a wise woman (and dear friend) told me, “God is our only hope. Trust Him one day at a time. What else can you do?” He is faithful Who calls us . . . always.
CORE: I mentioned earlier that your’s is a unique story. Would you mind sharing the story of your dating, engagement, and marriage?
John: I will let Rebecca give you the longer version, or Joe and Ann Hale could give you some laughs as well!
Rebecca: I returned to the states after serving at ICS Uijongbu, South Korea for 4 years. I was working in the Home Office (which Joe was just getting started) and often times would be there alone while he was out speaking locally or traveling. So, I first “met” John in the same way that I “met” other new staff members. As they prepared to leave the states for teaching in Korea they would have questions and many times when they called I answered their questions about what to bring and what was available locally.
When I returned to Korea to start my 6th year with NICS, I was living with two other young ladies. We opened our home on Sunday evenings for the military folks. My roommates baked cookies and cakes, we played games, and just provided a place for the military guys and girls to get off base. Because of John’s years in the Air Force he had a heart for these guys. He was always at our house when we had it open for groups like this. At this time he was just one of the “group”. I didn’t even get to know him that well because the middle 6 months of that year I spent in Bangkok with the Hales when we were getting that school started.
It was the end of that year that God was burdening Joe and Ann to go to Indonesia. Their older boys were in 8th and 9th grades and they knew that they needed to bring along a teacher to help with the schooling. As Joe’s secretary, I was already going as a part of the team and John joined the team that July, also. That first year in Jakarta I lived with the Hales in a huge house that one of the local churches provided. John and I were the only singles on the team and often he would come by and take me out shopping, to a movie, out to eat, etc. to give the Hales some family time. We enjoyed our time together outside of school and the office but never considered it dating. We were just friends . . . for 1 ½ years.
In March (1995) I went to Singapore to help Lila Bruckner in getting that school started. John stayed in Jakarta until May and then he went to Bandung to take over the school there for NICS. It wasn’t until September that I realized, with the help of a very dear friend, that I was too close to John. We were still calling or emailing each other 3 or 4 times a week. I wrote to John (in Bandung) and told him that we needed to break communication. For me, those 6 months were hard months, but precious, because God taught me to trust in Him and Him alone.
John had gone to the states for the annual recruiting trip. While there, some events took place to make John realize that he missed me. He called me from the Home Office to say that on his way back to Bandung he had an 8-hour layover in Singapore. He wanted me to meet him for breakfast. It took some convincing on his part, and Ann gently told me I should give him a chance. I finally half agreed. (I found out later that Joe, Ann [who was still in Singapore with me at the time], and everyone in the Home Office already knew he was going to ask me to marry him. . . eventually.)
We met at a subway stop in central Singapore and walked to Denny’s and ordered breakfast. Halfway through breakfast he asked me if we could be friends again. I knew that wouldn’t work because I loved him too much and we weren’t even supposed to be talking. I got up and started to walk away, but he pulled my arm and asked me to sit back down. He looked me in the eye and said, “Will you marry me?” I thought he was joking. He had to convince me he was serious!
That June, almost 15 years ago, we were married there in Singapore. We were privileged to have Joe perform the ceremony and Mark Gwartney was John’s best man. I was so blessed to have both Ann and Amy there to help me prepare, both physically and emotionally, for the wedding.
CORE: What a great love story! Hopefully the Havills experiences have been as encouraging to you as they have been to us. It is always great to see God’s hand moving in the lives of his people to accomplish His purpose. Hearing their story does remind us that NICS truly is a “family” ministry! Join us in praying for many more years of service with the Havills.