From being held at gunpoint to battling cancer, Shae and Quintus Dawson have faced many challenging and testing times. Sarah Steel speaks to them about how they have held on to their faith through it all.
Tell us a little bit about yourselves?
S: We’re from Durban, South Africa, have lived in the UK for two years and have a four-year-old daughter, Caitlin. I teach at a school for children with special educational needs.
Q: And I teach Maths at a secondary school in Crawley. It’s in quite a deprived area and lots of the pupils have very troubled home lives and difficult behaviour. It’s challenging but I’d be bored anywhere else!
What brought you to the UK?
Q: Shae’s mum is British and we have lots of family here. There are also more opportunities for Caitlin as she grows up.
S: Plus, we didn’t want her to exposed to things we’ve been exposed to, like violent crime and stuff. In South Africa, experiencing crime was the norm. For example, once I went to the church offices and they were in the middle of an armed robbery! We were all locked up in a little room, guns pointed at our heads and asked for all our money and jewellery. But there’s no counselling afterwards or anything, people are just like “oh thank goodness you’re still alive” and that’s it. You get used to it.
How did living like this affect your relationship with God?
S: Well you constantly pray for protection! I don’t think we’ve honestly ever thought about how God has brought us through trials, we just praise Him once we’re out! We know that God will be with us no matter what.
Q: It’s difficult because you see stuff that’s hectic and you can actually lose faith. Years ago, I visited the worst AIDS-stricken area in the world with lots of children left without parents. All they have is water and one bag of maize a month from the government. So eventually they all die as well. You become negative. It’s difficult facing that. But I’ve always been involved in church and sticking with that community is what has helped me keep faith despite these things.
And Shae, you were diagnosed with thyroid cancer last year. How did you cope with that?
S: It was tough. At first, my way of coping was to minimise it a lot and go on as normal. Then, as my symptoms got worse, I retreated more as I didn’t even have the energy to get up in the morning. I was totally drained and my hormones were all over the place. I didn’t want to go anywhere or see anyone. We were in the process of trying to find a church but put it on hold because I didn’t feel able to get out the house. After my second surgery, I went back to work and was with a class where the children were very physical. This boy got hold of me and hit me a few times and that’s when I just broke. I couldn’t pretend I was okay any longer. I think that was the time when I said “I need to find a church”. Even though I had faith, I needed the community. That’s when we found The Point.
How would you say your faith impacts your everyday life now?
Q: Being a Christian is a lifestyle for us, so a lot of it is showing our faith through our actions. At school, for example, I can’t speak to the pupils about God, but I show them Him through my actions and values.
S: I think that’s why Caitlin loves church so much and loves to read her Bible and pray, because of our actions as parents.