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The peacemaker

A husband's divine calling to leave the frantic world of city life for the tranquility of the Yorkshire Dales...

BANKING advisor Simon Eastwood was used to the hurly burly of city life and thought nothing of working 80 hours a week.

But following what he describes as a "God-inspired" change of career and lifestyle, he felt a divine calling to move with his family to the heart of the Yorkshire Dales.

The Jonas CentreSimon, who is married with two sons, now runs the Jonas Centre, a Christian conference and holiday venue in the peaceful setting of Wensleydale.

"It was really hard at first," he said.

"We came from a church where we were very involved and knew everyone to a place where our nearest friends lived in Hull and our family were 250 miles away.

"The pace of life in Wensleydale is just so much slower to what we've been used to.

"But God has provided for all our needs and we've now settled into the lifestyle."

Simon, 42, grew up in Surrey and his first brush with Christianity came when he attended church with his mother as a child.

When he was 11 she encouraged him to attend a Christian adventure camp in Sussex. It would prove to be very significant.

"I just went to the camp for fun but obviously something was stirring and it made a big impact," Simon said.

"I went back the following year and after one of the evening meetings myself and two of the guys from my tent chatted to our leader about God over a cocoa. We all decided to make a commitment to Jesus there and then. My faith just deepened over time."

Simon later volunteered to help out at the camps and eventually went on to run a venture himself.

"It wasn't easy being a young Christian," he said.

"I got quite a hard time at secondary school but came through it."

Simon joined a bank straight from school and was a financial advisor for 17 years. He built a successful career but was often forced to work long, punishing hours.

"About eight years ago my wife and I prayed and began to feel that there was something different out there for us," he said.

"I later had a God-ordained moment and got a job working for the Church Commissioners looking after their buildings and offices. Everything eventually fit into place and the road would lead us to the Jonas Centre."

The centre is a registered charity which provides affordable holidays for families who would otherwise go without one. It is also used as a place of peaceful retreat by recovering drink and drug addicts, people with terminal diseases or those just needing to take time out.

"Running the centre has really strengthened my faith because I've seen so many answers to prayer," said Simon, who now attends Richmond Pentecostal Church.

"Our main mission is to provide somewhere for people to get away from the stresses and strains of everyday life. I see a real difference in them when they leave here."

Simon said a strong church family has been vital in helping him cope with personal tragedies such as the loss of their first baby and recent death of his mother.

"My faith is a way of life and not something I take out of a box every Sunday," he said.

"We've certainly taken our knocks in life but God has given us the faith and character to get through and move on."