It was when Mary had joined me for a year in New Guinea that one of the Missionaries children asked me, ‘Is Auntie Mary your sister or your friend?’ I was delighted to tell her that she was my sister and my friend.
We were in a family of four. Big brother John, Mary, me next and then our little sister Joy. We used to say the rhyme, ‘2,4, 6, 8…..’, but it was when we found salvation that we became very close.
Mary by now was trapped in a very unhappy marriage. But I was teaching with Esther and had attended the house groups in her home – they had just been led into the Apostolic Church, - and was challenged to leave the cult in which we had been brought up. It was a very hard time for me. Our parents, and the dear friends with whom we had been brought up, thought I had gone to the devil. I was scared to meet them, and equally scared of the folk in the little Apostolic church in Barking where they spoke in tongues, but some would behave somewhat strangely. How could I go on?
I came home from the prayer meeting to find Mary had been sent back home by her husband. Tragedy for their marriage, but what a strength for me. It was just a few weeks and Mary too had left the ‘Bible Students’ and together we were accepted into Apostolic Fellowship at Barking. But before she left, she had had opportunities to speak out boldly of our faith in the Trinity, that Jesus is our Lord and our God and the Holy Spirit a person within the Godhead.
At that time I found great difficulty in expressing myself and had felt that I had to speak by my actions, but together we were able to make our position plain.
Mary’s difficulties in her marriage increased, for now her husband blamed all his troubles onto Pentecost and the Apostolic Church. One evening he had come round to see our parents to warn them of the great danger we were in. Mary and I were huddled in my bedroom, wrapped in a blanket of depression fearing the outcome, when suddenly Mary began to sing –
‘I’ve wondrous peace through trusting, a well of joy within…..
It goes on ‘To the uttermost Jesus saves.’ We sang it right through, and that little room was filled with glory.
It was on one of the occasions when her husband had left her that we went to a Divine healing service. ‘We believe that God can heal marriages,’ the minister declared. Mary went forward for prayer for the healing of her marriage, and God did heal, though she had to face many trials before then.
Mary began to have serious health issues, which doctors had thought caused by her difficult marriage, and eventually they found she had a very large brain tumour. She was a tremendous testimony in it all, asking for all those who knew her to pray, and facing it all without fear. She was the Area Women’s leader in London at that time, and she had courage to lead these big rallies, even though she struggled for some time with recalling words.
Now reunited, she was able to care for her husband until he died.(He was 20 years older than she was.) She continued to care for his older sister for another 9 years, while she was a faithful deaconess in the Ilford assembly, like Phoebe, ‘full of good works.’
How happy we were when our dear Pastor Les cast his garment over her and became such a wonderful caring husband. With Les and Joel such good friends what a happy foursome we were, and I was able to see so much of my Sister and Friend.
In our childhood Mary was not only the pretty, but also the clever one, and went on to gain her degree at Cambridge,- how it is that now I am the one left with my wits I don’t know, but I do know Mary was always diligent to see she had her quiet time, and she had that deep relationship with the Lord with could not be destroyed.
Sometimes in her dementia she would get delusions, and if Les phoned me in the day I would know he was having difficulty. He would put Mary on to speak to her sister. It was always about some meeting where she was supposed to be ministering, or someone in need she had to visit, and she could not convince her husband to take her..
‘Well, we’ll pray.’ So I prayed.
‘Well, you weren’t much good.’ She told me.
I acted indignant. ‘Yes, I was. I prayed.’ ‘Oh yes.’ She seemed satisfied.
It was just a few months ago that I had the sad task of telling Mary that our brother John had died. I took the album of us as children. Yes, she recognised John.
I told her, ‘John is in heaven now.’ ‘Oh!’ and her face lit up. This was something wonderful. She listened happily as I shared something of her testimony with the friends who had brought me. As it was time to go we had a time of prayer. ‘Would you like to pray, Mary?’ ‘Yes’ she said, and burst out into tongues.
Death is always an enemy and there is sadness in our hearts, for Mary has been a sister and a friend to many of us, but for me I shall always remember how, when she saw me come to visit her she would joyfully tell the carers, ‘She’s my sister.’I am so privileged to have had such a lovely sister and friend.