Chris’ brother pointed with surprise at a full church while driving through England’s countryside. Chris and Laura were leading a short-term missions trip to Birmingham in 2018, and so far the team had only seen empty sanctuaries, or church buildings which had been converted into pubs or coffee shops.
They later discovered that less than 1 percent of England identified as Christian, an astonishing figure when one considers that this region produced such Christian figures as Charles Spurgeon, John Wycliffe, and Hudson Taylor.
But the statistic became more poignantly clear as Chris and Laura navigated the crowded train hub of Kings Cross Station. When they arrived at their desired platform, Laura verbalized what was already on both of their minds.
“Probably none of the dozens of people we bumped shoulders with while crossing the station know Jesus,” Laura told Chris. When they returned to the US, this experience propelled them to pursue long-term missions to the UK.
Given the fact that Chris didn’t even find out what a missionary was until college, despite his family regularly attending church his entire childhood, this is a supremely God-ordained step. Chris and Laura grew up in the same hometown of Albertville, AL, where church life was simply an accepted and normative part of Southern culture. However, legalism saturated church teaching, and both Chris and Laura walked through their teenage years believing in a domineering and terrifying God who might strip away their salvation at a moment’s notice.
In college, they began attending a church which emphasized the gospel of grace, and their faith was reestablished. Chris jumped on the opportunity to serve on a missions trip to Mexico, but he felt unsettled coming back and continuing with their lives unchanged.
“Returning home was a bit of a struggle. I was frustrated with our ease and comfort in the US, and it took some time to realize that Laura hadn’t experienced the same things I had,” Chris said. “I was ready to sell all that we had the day I got home.”
But Laura soon adopted Chris’ passion, and now both have served on 14 different trips. Although they aren’t serving in Latin America, the Hilburns will be heading to the UK next year to do church-planting ministry.
Editor’s Note: Learn more about the Hilburns’ ministry here.
Could this be you? Take a step toward missions.