TAWAS CITY – To realize one’s true purpose in life is exciting enough. But it is arguably even more noteworthy when that journey involves helping others.
This is the exact situation that Hanna Broughton, 21, Tawas City, has found herself in.
The daughter of Jeremy and Tammy Broughton, she is a lifelong local resident and is employed at Tawas City Walmart.
Broughton has considered becoming a full-time missionary for quite a while, and says it was her latest outreach work in Australia which truly sealed the deal.
“I left May 1. It was my first trip on my own, anywhere,” she shared of her seven-week stay.
“I had originally signed up with a team, but they ended up telling me I was the only girl who signed up. So I ended up going alone this time,” Broughton said.
“There was a host family the organization had set up for me to stay with, and I worked with the whole team over there – the ABWE missions team – and there were four families,” she continued, explaining that ABWE International is a missions organization headquartered in Pennsylvania.
Broughton has always had a love for Australia, so it was a no-brainer when the opportunity arose for her to minister there.
During her stay, she said she was mainly in the Sydney district, but that she also traveled to several other locales.
“I actually lived in Riverstone, which was about an hour train ride from downtown Sydney. But a lot of days we would ride the train into the city and do ministry work,” Broughton shared.
“So other days we would travel up north to the Newcastle area, and then we also traveled out to Canberra, which is the capital,” she said, noting that she and the other missionaries worked within a 271-mile radius.
Most of Broughton’s time, though, was spent in Sydney. “I love that city,” she expressed. “My dad was a foreign exchanged student in Australia, at the same place, when he was a teenager.”
Broughton said her family had been saving up to travel together to the land down under, which they were able to do last year, and she has wanted to return ever since.
“Growing up, it was my dad’s favorite thing to talk about,” she shares, adding that her father always had a bookshelf full of material on Australia, which she would often read and talk about with him. “I always had a fascination for it and the culture.”
When she returned for her missions work this year, she had a packed schedule each day. “Mainly, we taught scripture classes in schools about three times a week,” Broughton said.
The missionaries did open-air evangelism, as well, where they spoke to the public about faith.
“We also were involved with a lot of church programs, so I taught Sunday school three of the Sundays I was there,” Broughton said. “And I helped out with a few youth groups up near Newcastle.”
Further, the family she stayed with in Australia were very engaged in personal ministries.
“If we weren’t doing typical ministry – teaching in schools, or something like that – we were at someone’s house visiting someone,” she said, adding that she and her host family would occasionally take local church goers into the city for various events.
For example, when Broughton was in Australia it happened to be at the same time of the annual light and music festival, Vivid Sydney. She said the entire city was illuminated, with wall-to-wall attendees.
“And there was a family at the church who had just lost their mom to cancer, and the son was about 10 years old,” Broughton said.
She explained that the family she stayed with had taken the boy under their wing, and he joined them and Broughton for Vivid.
As for how she got started on her path toward full-time ministry, Broughton – a member of Cavalry Baptist Church in West Branch – said other parishioners planned a missions trip to Brazil last August, and she decided to go for it.
“I fit right in there; I love it. They’re super supportive of missions stuff, and I think that’s part of what kind of led me to want to do that,” she said of her church.
Broughton also volunteered recently for Cavalry’s vacation Bible school, which she said was missions themed, as well.
When she arrived in Brazil, it was at a remote location of the area, along the Amazon.
“We landed in Manaus, which is a bigger city, but from Manaus we drove about two hours – at three o’clock in the morning – and we got to Itacoatiara. And from there we took a boat and we went most of the way down the Amazon River and stopped at all these little towns,” Broughton said, adding that there were a lot of small churches along the way.
She reports that the heat was very intense, but she loved the adventure and realizes that not many people get to experience such things – this included sleeping on a boat in hammocks while traveling on the Amazon.
Broughton recounts one night in particular as one of the scariest, yet memorable, times of her life.
It was the group’s second night on the boat, and Broughton said everyone was getting used to the new environment, sleeping outside, being around unusual bugs and hearing unfamiliar noises.
“I wake up in the middle of the night and there’s this massive rain storm,” she recalls.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a rainstorm in the middle of the rain forest,” she laughed, as she described the boat rocking back and forth.
Broughton said those operating the vessel were rushing to roll out tarps and do what they could to prevent the boat from sinking. “And I am soaked to the bone because the water’s just coming in.”
Fortunately, everyone made it through safely, and Broughton now has a great story to tell.
Her time in Brazil lasted two weeks, which is why she said her longer stay in Australia was a test, of sorts. She had been considering making missionary work her career, but had been on the fence for a while until going to Australia.
Broughton said it is a huge life decision for someone to move across the world on their own but, “God has just been tugging on my heart for a long time.”
She will begin training with ABWE in October, which includes a conference in Pennsylvania.
“After I finish school I will go through more training,” she said.
“It’s going to be a process; a lot of getting used to,” she went on, noting that it will be hard to say goodbye to family once she makes this a career. “Because once I go out on the actual field it’s going to be anywhere from two years to four years at each location.”
According to Broughton, full-time missionaries are usually stationed somewhere for four years. Following this they are on furlough for a year – which includes sharing their stories at churches – and then they return to their missions duties for another four years, and so on. “If you’re mid-term, that’s more like two years. So I’m not sure which one they’ll have me fit into.”
As for any upcoming opportunities, she notes that a lot of doors have already opened.
“I was invited by the ABWE Australia team to go with them on an evangelistic trip to the Tokyo Olympics next year,” she said of one possibility.
While not set in stone, those from her church have also discussed sending a missionary group to India in 2021.
“So I’m hoping to be on both of those teams, but they’re both kind of up in the air,” Broughton said, adding that she has been praying about her options and talking to a lot of people as she tries to make such decisions.
“Because the other thing is, you have to raise money for it. And that’s hard to do,” she said.
“I’ll work extra hours and usually I pay for my flight ticket myself,” she continued, adding that her church really pulls through to help with the effort also.
Broughton notes that missionaries have to get a lot of support for such endeavors, which puts pressure on them because, “you want to make sure you have the right motives.”
She said that some people her age have wanted to go on missions events because they think it’s like a free trip or a vacation – which couldn’t be farther from the truth.
“It’s not about where you’re going, it’s about what you’re doing,” Broughton stressed.
This is in addition to the fact that missionaries work almost nonstop and, for those like Broughton, when they receive help for their efforts they want to make sure to do right by their church and other supporters.
Broughton’s heart is clearly in the right place and, when speaking with her, it’s immediately evident that she has a strong passion for helping others.
While there are long hours and expenses associated with such work, missionaries do get to see and experience some notable things during their journeys.
For Broughton, she said there was always something to do in Sydney and, while she was there, she was able to enjoy such activities as a piano concert, and visits to the Sydney Opera House.
“I think one of my favorite memories – I still enjoy telling people this – one of the missionary couples had told me one day they were going to take me for a bush walk,” shared Broughton, who assumed this meant a simple hike through the woods.
“We get way, way up into the Blue Mountains. It’s the complete top and we go to this place called Katoomba,” she said, of the area also referred to as the Grand Canyon of the South Pacific.
They arrived at what is called the Giant Stairway although, according to Broughton, it was anything but.
She described the structure as very narrow, on a 75-degree incline, with the stairs being about half the size of her foot.
“I have to say, I was a gymnast for most of my life and my legs were still shaking about six minutes down,” she recalls of the roughly 30-minute walk.
“It’s right on the edge of a cliff,” Broughton went on, saying that while it was a bit of an uneasy experience, it has turned into one of her favorite memories.
She said she will be giving a speech at her church soon – as she provides briefings before and after her missionary work – and she plans to share the Katoomba story.
“I have to talk about the ministry, but I’m going to tell you something fun, as well!” she said. “Some of that stuff, I just can’t believe I actually got to do.”
Broughton was asked why missions work is so important and why she feels drawn to this calling.
“When people think of missions, they don’t always think of Australia,” she began.
“But the thing about Australia that surprised me is, they are a first world country, for one thing. They have everything they could ever want in the world. Of course they have their struggles, like we do, but they have the beauty unmatched by anything,” Broughton continued.
“But in exchange for that, it’s really a very cold environment when it comes to Christianity and faith, and they just don’t accept it because they do have everything. They’re not lacking for anything, so they don’t think they need that,” she said.
“And I love Australia because it’s like a big melting pot where you can go out, do ministry and you can talk to someone from Jordan, and you can talk to someone from Africa, you can talk to someone from America, you can talk to someone from Asia or Russia,” Broughton said.
“One of the missionaries told me – and it’s so true – he told me Australia is about the only missions field you can go to where the missions field comes to you,” she went on.
“There’s not many other places in the world you can go where you can get that much diversity and be able to minister to all of them. So I really liked that about Australia, and just the fact that it’s always been a part of my life somehow,” Broughton said.
“I’ve just felt the past few years that God was leading me that way, which, I can see now why. But, regardless of that, I know that I’m being led to missions. And, regardless of where He sends me, that’s where I’m going to want to go,” she expressed – even if it’s back to the Amazon jungle, she added with a smile.
“The denomination of the missions agency I go through is Baptist. Baptist makes up about 10 percent of the Australian population,” she continued. However, there aren’t a lot of good churches.
So, she says many of the Christians who live in Australia aren’t very strong in that, but just exist in it, which is a challenge for missionaries. “It’s a very hard missions field, just because they do have everything.”
What it really comes down to, Broughton said, is getting the message across.
“I love Australia and I want people to love Australia here because I know a lot of people here probably won’t ever get to go. And I feel like I can help them know what it’s like, and help them know that they really do need God,” she said.
Her plans, though, were almost derailed when she got very sick two months before she left.
“I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. So I’d been through three surgeries in the past two months,” said Broughton.
Unsure if she would be able to travel, she was ultimately given the OK to proceed, as long as she stuck to a strict diet.
According to Broughton, this was surprisingly easy to do in Australia, and she loved the food. “I had zero problems over there.”
She said it was a little scary being in a hospital bed shortly before taking off on a significant trip, but she had a peace about the situation and knew things would work out. “And I didn’t have problems. I’m getting better.”
When she met with this reporter on June 26 to share her story, she said that she was scheduled to undergo another surgery the following week. “After two more procedures they said I’ll be done, and then I’ll just have to follow a diet for the rest of my life.”
While Broughton may travel to far away locales to inspire others, she loves a good testimony and, no matter where one lives, she recommends looking into the story of Arthur Stace – also known as “Mr. Eternity.”
“That story just hit me hard,” Broughton said.
She explained that Stace, who also fought during World War II, dealt with such issues as a difficult childhood and then a battle with alcohol, until he turned to Christianity and changed his life.
Following this – for the next 35 years – Broughton said Stace would wake up bright and early every morning, go out on the streets of Sydney and write the word Eternity on the sidewalks for two hours. This way, when people read it as they walked by, it would get them thinking about where they are going to spend eternity.
“And I think that’s really cool because there’s been a lot of people who go to Australia and try to reach these people and they just can’t. They try, but it doesn’t always do much good,” Broughton said.
But, with one simple word, Stace impacted countless individuals. “So many people got saved,” Broughton notes.
She said the word Eternity has made more of an impact on Australia than almost anything else, especially in Sydney. To this day, the word can be seen all over the city – which is also home to the Eternity Cafe and other entities which acknowledge Stace’s message.
Broughton says her venture into missionary work as a career is the start of a completely new chapter in her life.
“It’s a lot to think about right now because I just got back and I made this big decision where you know everything is going to be different following,” she said.
“I know that I have a lot of schooling to go through, I know that I have a lot of training to go through. And it’s not easy,” she continued. “So it’s a lot to look at, but it’s one of those things where you’re not intimidated by it, really. You’re more excited about it. I think that’s how you know it’s the right thing to do.”