I was born in Seven Kings, Essex, now in East London, in the middle of WW2. In 1941 my dad’s first wife and two teenage daughters aged 17 & 19 were killed in Highbury, North London. They were dealing with an incendiary device when a high explosive bomb fell nearby. After a few months he married my mother and I was born the following year. It was a time and place of great uncertainty and my earliest memories are of air raid sirens going off and us going to the Anderson shelter in the garden if there was time or hiding in the cupboard under the stairs if there wasn’t. As I grew up I realised my dad was deeply traumatised so my home life was all about keeping things as peaceful as possible.
Religion played absolutely no part in my life except I went to a C of E Sunday School and later the church youth club. At the age of 13 every young person was expected to be confirmed. I don’t remember any spiritual reasons for confirmation, it was more a ‘rite of passage’ after which you could take Communion. It was at the youth club that I first became aware of a rather good looking boy called John. We had a large group of friends and my teenage years outside the home were fun and certainly neither of us had any serious thoughts of spiritual matters.
When we left school John worked in the chemical laboratory at Ilford Films while doing his degree part-time at London University while I qualified as a dental nurse and then as a children’s dental hygienist working for the school dental service in East London. John worked with two other blokes (I still keep my Essex vocabulary). One of them was a Christian, the other was an atheist. John thought he was a Christian. Then the atheist was converted and that left John realising he had totally different spiritual views to the other two. Each week they asked us to go with them to a Baptist church in Ilford. Finally we went - mainly to keep them quiet. We thought if we went once and then said it was not for us, they would leave us alone. But the Lord had very different ideas. For the first time we learnt that we were sinners and only a Holy God could deal with those sins. That Christ had to die on the cross in our place so that we would go to heaven. That was the ‘good news’ of the gospel. On the same Sunday evening in 1960, at the age of 18, we were both converted. John’s parents did not come to our baptism but my parents did. They were horrified by the whole event and vowed never to go to a Baptist church again.
In 1963 John’s mother was very unwell with cancer so we brought our wedding forward so she could attend the service. She died when we had been married five months aged only 53. It was a time of turmoil for both of us. My parents refused to attend our wedding if we held it in the Baptist church. The pastor didn’t come to find out why we weren’t going to church anymore and we both became very disillusioned. In 1966 John got a job as an industrial chemist in Crawley, Sussex. We were still not attending a church but after seeing several houses we did something we had not done for years – we sat with our year-old baby in the car in a car park in Haywards Heath and asked the Lord for his help. The next house we saw was ideal. We felt the Lord working in our lives and knew we had to start attending church again. The day we moved house England won the World cup. When it was over we went to see our new neighbours. They were amazed when we asked about a local Baptist church as he was an elder at Cuckfield Baptist church. We realised this was no coincidence. Over the next nine years we learnt so much from the preaching of Erroll Hulse. The Lord did incredible things at Cuckfield and during our time there the congregation increased from 30 to 130. A real revival, all based on faithfully preaching the Word of God.
Over the next 14 years John’s job moved from Sussex to Bedford via London. When he started work at Evangelical Press in 1980, we moved to Welwyn in Hertfordshire. We laid each move before the Lord, asking him to go before us. In 1988 John faced having to move EP to Darlington where they had a warehouse, as the company needed bigger premises and could not afford Hertfordshire prices. Again the Lord went before us providing a spiritual home at Geneva Road Baptist church. In 1997 we faced perhaps the most difficult choice of all. John was asked if he would consider being the Pastor of Aycliffe Evangelical Church in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham. Becoming the Manager at Evangelical Press was a huge step but being a pastor – that was right off the radar. John had never been to Bible College but he had been preaching since Cuckfield days and had read a huge amount. As we prayed about it and asked advice from friends who were pastors, it seemed more and more that the Lord had been preparing us for this for our whole lives. We felt totally unworthy. So at the age of 55 John went to AEC where he ministered for 15 years.
We retired to Penzance in 2014, wanting to live near at least part of our family. At PBC the preaching of our pastor and the warmth of the people provides what we need at this time in our lives. I also cannot leave out the privilege of working, in a very small way, with John Blanchard over the past 30 years. Every book sent out or letter written reminds me of the desperate need to tell others about our wonderful Saviour.
I’ve left out so much. There have been difficult health issues that have gone on for many years plus a stammer, my thorn in the flesh which has stayed with me since childhood and got worse as the years have passed. Over the years I’ve had much speech therapy, some helped for a while. But it’s still with me and if a wise God chooses so, then I can’t argue with that. There have also been times of great blessing. Our three lovely children, who each in their own ways are serving others. Also our nine beautiful grandchildren - we pray for them all every day. My life, like that of every Christian, has been full of different experiences, both good and not so good. It is so easy to get bowed down by the problems but whatever they are they pale into insignificance when I think of my wonderful Saviour who died for me.
A shortened version of 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 - '…A thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan …. I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, My strength is made perfect in weakness…'