Connexion People - Janet
My earliest memories of Zion Community Church are from my childhood: three times on a Sunday, church in the morning, Sunday school in the afternoon and church in the evening. My mum was a Salvationist so add in three open airs…. my Sundays were not days of rest!
I grew up with my dad at Zion, while my sister went with my mum to the Salvation Army. Sunday always finished with hymns around the piano; mum played while my sister strummed the guitar, I screeched on the recorder and my dad played the comb with a piece of paper wrapped around it. Treasured memories.
When I was thirteen, I joined the Youth for Christ choir and started attending the rallies each month. On March 4th1966 Joe Fudge, the evangelist, took as his text ‘You must be born again.’ I have never regretted the decision I took that night. My teenage years were a total blessing! There were at least twenty of us who would meet together for prayer and bible study, we would hold open airs on the sea front and ran beach missions. We organised these ourselves and didn’t expect the adults to help us. We were all from different churches and remained in those churches not leaving to go to the same church.
I left St Ives in 1971 and trained to teach at the College of St Matthias, Bristol. Away from my Christian friends this was a period of life when I learnt to trust God wholly and not to rely on my friends.
Friendship and Marriage
Ralph and I met in St Ives after he stopped me to ask about a sticker that was on my coat, ‘Jesus is Alive!’ Our friendship grew but he wasn’t a Christian and many people tried to warn me. I prayed and prayed and a month before we married Ralph gave his life to Jesus. To those in ‘unequal’ relationships trust me it was not easy!
We were married at Zion and both of our girls Hannah and Ruth were dedicated there. We were blessed with sound bible based teaching and valued the importance of being part of a Christ Centred Church. In 1982 Ralph established the Christian Bookshop in the Sunday School and donated all proceeds to Christian charities.
We were married for 46 years: years of joy, pain, heartache and challenges. A month after we married Ralph severely damaged his back and so started 46 years of hospitals, operations, doctors and ambulances. Four heart attacks, quadruple bypass surgery, COPD…I could go on but I won’t because through it all we were surrounded by saints, many at Zion, who prayed for us. There were many times when I couldn’t pray. Many times when I doubted and shouted at God. Many times when I have despaired. Through it all God didn’t let me go and even when He felt far away He was holding me tight.
It is important to be part of a church family. We are a small fellowship at Zion which has brought its challenges, but the Lord has blessed us with our pastor’s children and my grandchildren and the work goes on. We have a vision and God is honouring the faithfulness of His people in St Ives.
Retirement and Sierra Leone!
In 2012 I decided it was time to retire. To be honest I didn’t spend hours praying, I went into school one day and told the Head that I would be leaving in the summer. I hadn’t even told Ralph! I mentioned to Pastor Bob that I might be interested in becoming involved with the Sierra Leone Mission and when he returned from conference he told me that I was on the committee and that I would be going to Sierra Leone the following year!!
In 2013 I accompanied Gordon Hamilton and six teenagers on a journey that would define my focus in the coming years. Gordon told me that Sierra Leone would get under my skin, into my heart and always on my mind! What a privilege to be part of a Connexion that treasures and fosters a relationship with a people who are so deprived and poor yet so rich in their love for God.
In the last seven years I have witnessed God doing ‘immeasurably more than we can think or imagine.’ I have had the joy of watching street children develop into mature, Christian young men and women. Churches being built in Brama, Fabaina and Mabang, where folk are hungry to learn about Jesus. Shipments increasing so that more folk can be blessed with material items sent with the love of Jesus. And now a new Health Centre… words fail me!
Last year Ralph was ‘promoted to glory’ and suddenly the world has been turned upside down with Coronavirus. Everything has a season and although I do NOT consider myself old, I can look back over my life and with confidence acknowledge that God has never failed me. His Grace has been sufficient and I look forward in expectancy and excitement to the future.
Zion Community Church, St Ives