The Lord is my Shepherd and he leads me.
This statement is very true of my life as I look back and reflect on the journey so far. Life was very ordinary for me. I grew up in a large family and the only aspect of school I thrived in was sport. I decided early on that I wanted to be a PE teacher.
At the age of twelve, the Lord drew me to himself and I realised I was a sinner and needed a Saviour. However, my Christian life developed slowly until I came to the realisation that unless every aspect of my life was surrendered to the Lord I would not know him in any depth. I prayed, ‘Lord wherever you want me to go, whatever you want me to do, whenever that might be, I am willing.’ I thank God he took me at my word and has done just that.
His ways are greater
Failure came often as I struggled to pass exams, firstly at the eleven plus and steadily through O and A levels, but through it the Lord was beginning to teach me the reality of his timing being perfect. Into teacher training I went. Three hundred and fifty students left college three years later, only fifty had jobs. Bernard, who I was soon to marry, and I both had jobs within five miles of each other. God was showing us his wonderful provision. We had little money, but God supplied.
Five years later when Bernard was called into training for full time Christian ministry, we had even less income with a young family and neither of us working. God gave and gave again. My faith was strengthened as we trusted him day by day.
A move to multi-cultural Streatham brought many opportunities to learn from others, to grow through our differences and to seek God in the problems. I came to understand a little more of his grace and mercy to me as he used the challenges to change me, to refine me and slowly make me more like him.
God provides for all our needs
I was asked by a group of young mums at the church if we could have a Bible study together. I felt really inadequate to cope with that, but prayed and asked the Lord for the help I needed to share his Word. What a blessing those times were! They built us up in our faith and showed us that he is sufficient for all things.
Five years later, the Lord clearly called us to go to ‘the ends of the earth’, Papua New Guinea. We were now in our mid-thirties and a family of five. Bernard and I had never been on a plane before! The conviction of the call carried us through serious accidents that two of the children had and a health problem for Bernard that could easily have stopped us going. The Lord was teaching us so much about our need to persevere, endure and trust him to look after us. He wonderfully supplied all our needs for the next seventeen years. We had no home of our own to come back to during home assignments, but he provided. We had no furniture, but he gave and so the journey with him continued.
We set out in complete ignorance of what living in a developing country would be like, but were absolutely assured that the Lord had gone before us and prepared us for his work. Thankfully it had been impressed upon us at our orientation course that we needed to go as learners and not as people who knew all the answers. We were so out of our depth and had so much to learn. Thankfully the Lord used our vulnerability to encourage, teach and bless us.
Gradually we learnt one of the many languages and I was asked to speak at a ladies’ Bible study. I felt inadequate and ill at ease, but with prayer and the help of the ladies who prompted me when I forgot words we grew together in every way. How could I not share the truth that I had learnt over many years with those who had not had the same privilege? Many of the ladies had never been to school and therefore could not read.
That was the next request, ‘Please teach us to read.’ ‘Oh my, who me?’ ‘Oh yes,’ said the Lord! So off we went. I cannot express the sheer delight and thrill that so many women had in receiving a Bible for the very first time in their lives, standing up in a meeting and reading a verse out loud. We were all in tears.
What a delight to be teaching again. It seemed that what I had given up to have a family was given back with so many greater blessings. So many opportunities were given to me to serve amongst the women, to see them come to the Lord in faith; to see them flourish, grow and change; to see the Word of God in another culture to be powerfully effective and true.
Knowing God through the trials
Amidst these joys were many sorrows. Death seemed to come early and often to our brothers, sisters and their children. Learning to grieve in a different way was so helpful. We faced danger and fear with robberies, armed hold ups, curfews and civil unrest, but God is faithful and rather than quitting and coming home, we sought to stand with many others who knew exactly the same trials. We were in it with them. Some folk would say that it was a great sacrifice, but it was hardly that, rather more of a privileged time to know God more through the trials.
God’s timing and plans are always right. We remember that it is his work and not ours, so the time came for our brothers and sisters to transition into carrying the work for themselves. We withdrew and waited on the Lord for his plans to be revealed.
He is sufficient
Bridgend was home until, unexpectedly, the Lord opened a door of service at Emmanuel, Newport. I had never imagined this would happen but the Lord’s ways are higher than ours.
This period has necessitated more change, much to learn in another new situation and context, more people to get to know and love. Yet in it all he doesn’t change. More challenges, but he is more than sufficient. More of the unexpected, but it is all known by him. Much blessing that he has graciously given … then the virus… and we are all plunged into the unknown, a place that for many has been totally unnerving, yet we walk by faith and not by sight.
The Lord has been teaching me more of the need to come aside and pray; to seek him, to trust him even more. I know it’s not who I am that matters, but who he is and that he is totally sufficient.
Bernard retired in October, and at this point our future is unknown by us. However we are absolutely certain the Lord has his plans and his ways already marked out and that in his time he will reveal them.
I thank God for his purposes and plans. I could never have written the story and it’s not over yet. There’s more to learn, more refining to be done, with the constant whisper that comes in so many ways at so many times, ‘I am with you.’
What grace! What mercy! What love!