Thursday, 28 January 2016


Tribute to a special sister – Pauline writes

‘My earliest memory of my elder sister is of her playing peep-bo with me. I was lying by an open window in my pram. The breeze was blowing the net curtain and I could hear my mother’s voice, ‘Don’t wake Pauline.’ But this was our secret and we were supremely happy.

Two of our four siblings, we were the closest, and as so often happens, it was a love hate relationship, our happiness so often marred by jealousy.

I don’t think Mary often had need to be jealous of me. To me she was the clever, the beautiful one. I remember longing to be six because I thought then I would be like Mary, but of course by the time I was six she was eight and there was no change.

Mary seemed to sail through life. In the Juniors, all the boys loved her. In high school exams held no fear for her, and she went on to gain a scholarship to Cambridge. 

There was no competition academically. I was much happier at school once they accepted that I was not university material, and was at Saffron Walden teacher training college whilst Mary was at Cambridge and we got on much better now we were living our separate lives.

Back at home, we both went into teaching but I don’t think Mary ever had the satisfaction in this that I did. We all found our Dad difficult to live with, probably Mary more so because she  was a stronger character and so, sadly, she found her escape from the confines of home to find she was trapped in an unsuitable and very unhappy marriage.

Mary, so beautiful, so confident, gradually had all her confidence stripped away, but it was perhaps through this that she turned to the Lord, not just for intellectual satisfaction – we had been brought up in the Bible Students –but for salvation and all that it entails.

We became very close, but whereas I had found deliverance from my jealousy, it was very hard for Mary now, for I had become the one to take the lead in coming into the Apostolic Church, and while Esther and I were able to go the Penygroes convention, and had been baptised in the Holy Spirit, she felt she was missing out spiritually. But God had his own ways of meeting with her, and when her husband had a break down, which led on to times of separation, she was able to share with us in many of the blessings of being in Apostolic fellowship. Together we were received into fellowship in the little Apostolic Church in Barking (in London’s East End)

But now, while we single girls were hoping for a husband, Mary was feeling she was missing out on God’s blessings because of her married status, and that I had the best spiritually. It certainly didn’t help her marriage that her husband felt she was closer to me.

At a time when they were separated, Mary came out to join me for a year on the mission field in New Guinea. She taught in my place so that I could concentrate on language study and the Sunday School work, and was wonderful in coping with all the hardship of primitive conditions. She was thrilled when the suggestion was made that we return together, she teaching in a government school while I gave myself fully to the Children’s work.   

We returned to UK, and she coped with teaching, which, while not primitive, is still a great challenge, until she was told she could not be accepted for New Guinea because of her marital status – she was separated, not divorced. Her world seemed to have collapsed around her.

But she had previously gone forward at a service for Divine healing and asked prayer for the healing of her marriage.   Now, in wonderful ways, God brought about this miracle. Her husband, by now an old man – he was 20 years older than she was – was glad to ‘try again.’

Many years before, the Lord had impressed on Mary that she should spend an hour with Him each day. She had insisted on keeping this time on a previous occasion when he had returned to her. At that time he was seeking to brain wash her, blaming all their marital difficulties on Pentecost and the Apostolic Church – and she believed it was this precious quiet time which enabled her to survive.

He began to continue with this brain washing, but the Lord intervened and they were willing to accept each other as they were. It was then, when Mary had learned contentment in her lot in caring for her husband, -  I was now in Ghana,- that her husband realised that there was a serious problem with Mary’s health and they diagnosed a brain tumour.

Mary was a wonderful testimony through this time, asking for messages to be sent to all the assemblies to pray. She was the Area Women’s leader, and she continued with this, even as she was convalescing and had difficulty in recalling words. She made an amazing recovery, even driving again in London traffic.

She had been a faithful member, and deaconess in the small assemblies she had been attending; Barking/Ilford first, then Exeter when her husband bought a cottage in Branscome, Devon, thinking he was making it impossible for her to get to an Apostolic church, and then when they were back in Ilford. Mary would never come to church unprepared. She would be quick to pray, always praising the Lord, and usually had a  scripture portion, or something to contribute. She had learned the secret of godliness with contentment.

She cared for her husband until his death, and then continued to care for his elderly sister who lived in the flat upstairs, until she died nine years later. In all she had fourteen years as a widow until her dear Leslie took her into his heart to love and to cherish as she deserved to be. 

Those years which we had as a foursome were very precious. Mary had thought for me to marry a pastor had been a wonderful honour, as indeed it was, and God had the same honour for her. For some years we went on holidays together, and up to recent years, especially after I was widowed, we would meet in Gnoll park. They would come there from the prayer meeting in SAron. Coffee in the visitors centre, a walk round the lake and a meal together, and we would go on our way. But with the passing years the walks got less and eventually we were no longer able to meet like this, and though I was occasionally able to drive to Ystrad, my life line with my precious sister was the telephone.
Mary had been wonderful in her support of me. Especially since Joel went ahead of me to heaven, it has been so precious to be able to share my joys and sorrows, hopes and fears with Mary, who would always promise to pray, and she would always ask what I had planned so that she might pray for me.

Even when I knew there was no hope of her remembering to pray,  I knew it was in her heart to do so, and sometimes she would just pray for a need as we were talking together.

I have been so blessed to have such a precious, godly sister. She has been a witness, even in her dementia, content, and loving, shedding abroad the fragrance of her wonderful Saviour.

Monday, 11 January 2016


Switching to Facebook, I was surprised to find my profile picture filling the page,  congratulations abounding.

It was taken on the occasion of my eightieth birthday, but how it got onto my page at this time I have no idea. Sometimes I think my computer has a mind of its own, while at other times I know that God is in charge, yes, even of computers.

But this reminder of a big ‘O’ that was almost five years ago, brings me to my hero, Caleb, who said, ‘I am eighty five years old, yet……… my natural health has not abated.’ I was always hoping to be like him. He was begging Joshua to let him be involved in the fight against their enemies. ‘Give me this mountain,’ he cried, and Joshua did give it to him, but he had to wage war against their enemies and claim it.

Some people, turning eighty, or even seventy, think it is time to give up, or at least retire and enjoy a leisurely life, and I’ve had loving friends who told me I am doing too much, but thank God, he doesn’t tell me this but reminds me of his calling and assures me of his strength and blessing. But sadly, with a ‘shooggily’ shoulder and a rickety knee, in these nearly five years since my ‘big O’, my natural health seems to have been abating. Caleb, are you letting me down?

Gently, the Lord reminds me that I have never had too much natural health. A bonny baby until, at two years old I only just survived whooping cough, after that I  was a concern to my mother. ’Pauline, you are not strong enough to be a missionary,’ I was told, while when I arrived in New Guinea some of my colleagues  gave me a year at the most to last the rigorous conditions.
Before I went overseas, I was struggling against the wind and the rain to get to a convention service, and asked, ‘Lord, why do you give me so little strength?’ I did not have to wait for his answer. ‘I am sending you to a task that is beyond your strength and I want you to learn to rely on me.’

So today, when I set out for one of our local schools to take an assembly or teach Bible Explorer, wondering how I can find the strength, God reminds me of these words and I claim his promise, ‘The Lord is my strength and my song.’ Yes, he gives, not only strength, but joy too.

Still my hero, Caleb has inspired me, not just for his courage in old age, or his strategic skills in warfare, but by his endurance in hard times.

Remember – they were just ten days out of Egypt; the Promised Land within sight. Young and fit, he and Joshua knew they were well able to possess it, but because the rest of the spies refused to trust God and to lead the people in they too were condemned to wander for forty years in the wilderness.   
God had said, ‘Except for Joshua and Caleb, none of you will enter in. You will all die in the wilderness. But your children –‘
Imagine living with a people without hope. And yet, a generation did arise at Joshua’s call and  went in and possessed the land. Yes, it was the children who had grown up with a different spirit. I’m sure it was the teaching and example of Joshua and Caleb which had made the difference.  

We know Caleb had a special portion of health and strength. When all around him found old age to be ‘labour and sorrow,’ God made it up to him, and in his old age gave him strength to claim that mountain.

But we don’t read that he went on to fight another  battle.

No, he had set the example, but now he challenged the young men, maybe bribing them with the promise of marrying his daughter. ( I guess he had a good idea who would accept the challenge, and we read how it was Othniel who married Achsah and together they  went on to possess their possessions.)

Maybe this is why Caleb is still my hero. He helped me to hold on and trust God when our fellowship seemed to be at a low ebb. Now, widowed and in my eighties, when I am feeling weary and think  maybe it would be good  if God called me home, he reminds me of the ministry he has given me over the years and which still burns brightly in my heart. And he reminds me too of how he taught me to climb mountains when I was in New Guinea. Feeling I could go no further, he asked me, ‘Can you take one step?’ I can always take one step, and that one leads on to another.

So today, with the spirit of Caleb, may we Senior Citizens  ask him for strength to take one step. And if our natural strength is abating, we can still reach out to the younger ones who have so many burdens to bear, and take what we can off their loads and, like Caleb, help to raise a generation who will shake off the unbelief and rejection of their fathers and arise and do exploits for God.

P.S. I have just realised: Caleb had been robbed of forty of the best years of his life while they marched round and round in the wilderness. Now God was restoring the years the locusts had eaten. Yes, we can emulate, but not envy. God will give each one of us his best, if we will trust him.