Stories of God at work in the lives of our church family...
Pat: "With God, all things are possible!"
It is not exaggerating to say I had a dysfunctional childhood! From 1935, when I was one, I was fostered by various families in different locations. I knew I didn’t belong to anybody, and the results were inevitable- eating disorders, psychological problems and the like. Discipline was harsh, with frequent punishment. Complicated adult relationships added to the mix. At a critical time I was offered a place at Ashford Grammar School in Ken-surprise all round! But I couldn’t concentrate, was referred to Child Guidance, and expelled at 14. Two concerned teachers found a job for me in the local hospital, with accommodation! But again I couldn’t cope, lost that job and two others. A total failure. I hit rock bottom.
I told my father I wanted to be a nurse. Mocking, he said, “What, YOU?”, and he bet me £10 I would fail the entrance exam. I won the bet, and started at St Giles Hospital in Camberwell in 1952. But the pattern of failure continued, until Matron gave me an ultimatum. Shattered, I didn’t know where to turn.
Then a friendly nurse took me to hear Billy Graham preaching at Harringay in March 1954. On that first visit I was engulfed by a huge white light, but I remember nothing else. I went again, when Billy spoke about Jesus mending broken lives, making all things new. I cried, “Could this Jesus turn my life around, and make something of it?” How I needed that! At the end of the meeting I was prayed for, and referred to Rye Lane Baptist Church in Peckham. There I was baptised by the Rev. Theo Bamber, who gave me as a baptismal verse Psalm 45:13, a verse that begins “The King’s daughter….” (!). I couldn’t really take that in, but it touched me deeply, knowing that God was adopting me into His family (Ephesians 1:5). So began the Holy Spirit’s work of teaching me God’s Truth from a hitherto unknown Bible.
The Lord gave me a love for His Word and for my work, breaking the cycle of failure and helping me to pass final nursing exams, with midwifery as well. My ambition was to serve as a missionary, and I trained for two years. But the Lord closed that door, and in doing so he showed me that He had plans to give me a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). I was dismayed, but then……
I had no interest in marriage, but He worked on that, too. He knew that I needed stability in my life, and provided it through Roy and our 54 years together. Within the security of that relationship deep healing took place, and we saw physical healing for both our children at different times.
Out of the blue in 1981, I found a sister I had never known, and then my Mother. With God’s help, I was able to forgive her for having abandoned me, and by His grace, at 92, she sought forgiveness and asked Jesus into her life.
With God all things are possible!
Great is Thy faithfulness O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
GREAT is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.
(And unto all of us who love and trust Him in these precarious times).
Jeannie: Into the Light!
I am writing this in a time of deep darkness – not just for our country, but for the entire world. How would we feel if someone produced a vaccine or a cure for Coronavirus today, saving countless lives? Would you believe it if I told you that there is an even deeper darkness than that which we are experiencing at the moment; a darkness that affects everyone and lasts forever, unless someone rescues us? I was in that darkness, but without realising it…
I grew up in a loving but strict home. My parents, who had moved from Scotland to England, took my sister and me to church a few times between the ages of five and seven, but they were not Christians and this attendance petered out. However, during that time I heard some wonderful things about the Bible and Jesus, and I still cherish to this day a book I was given, full of the fascinating stories and colourful pictures. Even at this early age, I was very aware that I did not match up to my own expectations in behaviour and attitude, let alone God’s.
When I was thirteen, my sister and best friend were unfortunate enough to be dragged around with me to some local churches, as I insisted that, if God was real and spoke and interacted with people in the Bible, He must still be doing that. I needed to find out where. We met a lot of nice people and joined a youth club for a time but I don’t remember anyone telling me the truth which would have answered so many of my questions and led me out of darkness. Perhaps I just didn’t have ears to hear at that time.
I still thought about God a lot, but life took me along; the busyness of teenage years with school work, friends, hobbies, weekend and holiday jobs. It was in one of these – a bakery – where I met a guy who led what appeared to be a completely different sort of life; one that seemed exciting and free. Between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, I was involved with him and with the other bikers and hell’s angels in the area. Some of them were really nice guys, appearing tough and careless on the outside, but often hurting and longing for peace on the inside. Needless to say, this period of my life brought great worry and pain to my parents, and I am not proud of it.
At eighteen I had the decision before me, whether to continue the way I was living or go to university as I had planned. Instead of remaining a ‘straight A's student’, I struggled to get to university through the clearing system, amazingly finding myself on the way to Reading in October 1977.
On the third day there, I was persuaded by my temporary room-mate to go to the ‘Freshers’ Disco’ at the Students’ Union building. There I met a lovely guy called Steve who really made me laugh. We became friends and eventually started dating. We were engaged a year later. We led ‘normal’ student lives, which I’m not too proud of either but, of course, the subject of what we thought about God came up from time to time. This was most pronounced when I would go with Steve to visit his parents in London and his twin brother would also be there. Colin and I would discuss our thoughts on God a lot, but both of us were coming from places of little knowledge and no experience.
The third year of my course was spent in Valenciennes in the north-east of France. Colin, who was studying French and Russian, was not far away in Lille. One Sunday, he came to visit me and we sat drinking hot chocolate in the Café de Paris. Once more, the topic turned to God, and he told me how he had recently become a Christian. He said that it was essential that I have a relationship with God now in order for that to continue into heaven. He asked me if I believed that Jesus was the Son of God. I realised that I did. He asked me if I believed that Jesus had died on the cross to take the punishment for all my wrongdoings so that I could be forgiven by God. I realised that I did. Then he explained that the missing piece of the puzzle for me was to say sorry to God and ask Jesus to come into my life as my Saviour and Lord, so that I could be with God forever. I was amazed and relieved to hear this, but still had many questions and barriers. I knew any decision would involve vast change in my life.
That night, when I went to bed, I remembered what Colin had said. Instead of just saying the prayer I had been taught from childhood, I found myself asking God: "If you are really there God, reveal yourself to me! After so long, I was really desperate to know. I cannot fully describe what happened next, except to say that I felt that I was being drawn into a tunnel, where I knew I would meet the Lord. I was equally wanting this and afraid of it – I understood that God is holy. In this tunnel, it was as if Jesus were showing me each of my sins and asking me if I would give it up to him. I was only too willing to do so. After this, he spoke three specific things to my soul, which I believe were to strengthen me and give me deep assurance of faith. Gradually, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. As I came out from this experience, I could hear a voice shouting, ‘Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Lord!’ I looked around to see who it was, then realised it was me! I felt such joy! I was filled with the Holy Spirit - something I only understood more fully as I read the Bible over the following days. I was truly free. My life was changed forever from that night. I wrote a letter straight away to Colin (pre-mobile days), as I thought that my memory of the experience might fade by morning. But it never has. It is as clear to me now as it was then.
I am a very ordinary person, but I can truly say that I have known the Lord’s presence and peace over all the years since that evening in 1979. He has been there during some really difficult times and He has done some amazing things in my life too. (You’re welcome to ask me about them sometime.) I actually got a good degree, Steve became a Christian over the next year (even though he, Colin and I were living in different cities), we were married in 1981 (coming up on forty years next year!) and we were baptised together in the church we joined in London.
Since then, I’ve been privileged to work in a hospital, the Prison Service Headquarters, and in a local school, and to be involved in crisis pregnancy and post-abortion counselling. Along the way, God granted Steve and me two lovely sons and three wonderful grandchildren. Amid all this, a real joy of my life has been to share the Good News of Jesus and to serve God in His church and in the surrounding community in different places, and to see how He changes and grows people, rescuing them ‘from the dominion of darkness and bringing them into the Kingdom of the Son He loves’; an eternal kingdom.
I am so thankful He has done that for me, and He will do that for you, if you call out to Him, even in these darkest of days,
‘for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”’ (Romans 10 v 13)
I’d like to end with sharing some really important Bible verses, spoken by
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
- Matthew 7 vs 7 & 8
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
- John 8 v 12
“… And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
- Matthew 28 v 20b