Meet James Hawksworth
Have you ever wondered what motivates an evangelist? What drives them to share the message of Jesus with others? Their reasons may differ, but one thing is consistent — they all have a story. For James, that story is one of personal transformation. He was a former drug user whose encounter with Jesus transformed his life and set him on a path to seeing that transformation happen in the lives of others. Now an Evangelist with the Suffolk Centre of Mission, James’ story is a powerful testimony to the transformative power of the gospel and how God can take the most broken pieces of our lives and use them for His glory.
Growing up, I lived with my mum. I saw my dad regularly, and he would take us to church. He had become a Christian after seeing Billy Graham in 1986, but my mum wasn’t religious. In my early teens, I thought church was boring, irrelevant and was just an obstacle in the way of me sneaking off for a cigarette. As I got older, I started to experiment with drugs and became depressed and aggressive, resulting in me yo-yoing from living with my mum to living with my dad. I had fallen out with my older brother after I had acted badly towards him and eventually my behaviour became too much for either of my parents to manage, so I left home. I was living in a flat, by myself, and I was starting to think that things had to change.
My older brother came to visit me, and I thought it was going to be difficult because of what I had done to him, but instead of being angry, he forgave me. It was as he left and I closed the door that I suddenly felt God’s presence fill the room. I felt an overwhelming sense of peace, excitement and hopefulness all at the same time. I remember punching the air and saying to myself, “This is it now — I want to live for you, God!”
I started reading the Bible, and, when I got to Acts, reading about mission journeys. I thought, “This is what I want to do.” It was a really exciting time. Later, I met my wife and started looking for ways to be involved in ministry, to build community and to find restoration and reconciliation. I began searching the internet for church planting and evangelism training and discovered Church Army. I applied and started the training towards being a Commissioned Evangelist.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing; things became quite challenging and difficult for me. After commissioning, I began my first post with CA, but, for a lot of different reasons, I decided to leave. I felt a lot of self-doubt and embarrassment, and I let that get the better of me. I started a job as a support worker, to rebuild my confidence, and it was there that I began to talk to people about faith, offering pastoral support. One of the people I was supporting came to faith because of our chats, and I knew that evangelism was my true calling. I contacted Church Army and had a meeting to unpack what had happened in my previous role. They encouraged me to start again and to apply for a position in Bradford. This was the start of my new beginning; I found my passion again and was successful in applying for the role.
I have worked for Church Army since, and I am now the Pioneer Evangelist at the Suffolk Centre of Mission. Looking back at my first post with CA, I realise that I was quite broken, burnt out and disappointed. But after taking time and speaking to people, I knew that I still had gifts and abilities and that God could use me in meaningful ways. With the help of CA, I took things back to basics and started again. I believe I am God’s child, and I will function wherever he takes me.