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Whose faith follow: Mr John Hawthorne (1920-1995)

J G Hutchinson, Belfast

Mr Hawthorne was born in Whitehaven, England in 1920. His father was Scottish, his mother was English. In 1922 they moved to live in Ireland and came into fellowship in Ballyhackamore assembly in Belfast. John was in the Sunday school, and one day the lesson was on the cleansing of the leper in Mark 1. Though John was only 9 years old he became very burdened about his sin, and soon after Mr W Campbell was preaching on John 3.16. God used that message to bring the young lad into the assurance of salvation. When he was 16 years of age he was baptised and received into Mourne Street assembly, his parents having moved there.

A number of young men took an interest in the Bloomfield district; a brother there had a Sunday school in his house. John, with the others, gave help there and the work developed as a result of which the Bloomfield assembly was formed. John, being one of the foundation members, was deeply interested in all its activities until his homecall. After leaving school he was employed in a company involved in the installation of telephone equipment, and progressed in the firm becoming a manager. In 1945 he married Miss Sally McCracken. Her father and Mr Hawthorne Senior were both evangelists and lived almost side by side in Belfast, so John had not far to go to seek a bride. God blessed the union and gave them three children, one girl and two boys, and they had the joy of seeing them saved and in happy assembly fellowship.

While carrying responsibility in his daily work, his heart lay in the spread of the gospel. He frequently shared in special efforts and saw the hand of God in blessing. It was no surprise to the assembly and his many Christian friends when, in 1968, he left his position and gave himself to serving the Lord full time. For 27 years he moved with diligence and dignity. He was a simple preacher, always short and to the point. Folks felt they could ask anyone to hear him. While his messages were plain and solemn, he so preached God’s Word that no one could be offended although God may have reached their hearts. God gave him to see fruit in many places. He associated with a number of fellow workers, perhaps longer with Mr Tom McNeill; in all they had 38 series of meetings.

His earnestness and humility were obvious. A brother who preached with him said, "He would pick me up in his car and after a few words of greeting would settle down in complete silence until we reached our destination". Very few realise the burden the true evangelist carries, or know the strain associated with gospel work. Many of his labours were in the 6 counties of Northern Ireland, and at times he gave help in the Irish Republic. He visited England and Scotland, desiring to preach in the areas from which his parents came. A couple living in Australia, at Kalgoorlie, where the gold mines are situated, invited him out for gospel meetings, but they found the people were not interested in "something more than gold".

His brothers-in-law, Mr John and Mr Bob McCracken laboured in Nova Scotia, and being interested in their work he visited their field and had some meetings with them. He also preached in the USA for a short time. Quite often he took part in conferences in Ireland and was gifted of God to give short stirring messages, usually at the close of the meeting, sending the saints home happy. While very loyal to assembly principles and trust, he was anxious to unite and encourage God’s people. He had a pleasant engaging personality and was very kind. A fellow labourer said after his death that "He was one of the most unselfish men I ever met".

For all his life he enjoyed good health, was slim and active, never showing his age. However, in 1990 he required serious surgery for the complaint that eventually proved fatal. He had a little measure of recovery, but in 1995 he was called home; his loss would be hard to estimate. But God saw his work was done, and, having served his generation, he fell asleep. The very large attendance at the funeral was an indication of the esteem in which he was held.


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