SO Barbara, how does your story begin?
I was born in Porthcawl in South Wales and brought up by my mother and grandmother, as my father was killed just before the end of the Second World War. I had one sister who was three years older than me. We were desperately poor (no benefits in those days) and my mother and grandmother worked as office cleaners before we went to school.
Although I passed the Eleven Plus, I hated school. I didn’t fit in and always felt inferior to my sister and, at 18, I had a breakdown. I ended up moving to Cheltenham in England where I worked in a shoe shop. Here I made friends with some Beatniks – they wrote poems, painted unusual pictures and drank lots of cider! I was one of them but having a job and some money made me a bit different! I entered a relationship with one of the guys, ended up pregnant and moved to Rochester in Kent to live with him. When my son, Joe, was born, my partner disappeared. I was on my own and had to bring up my son as best as I could.
How did you become a Christian?
When Joe was three, I managed to get him into a nursery and I enrolled as a mature student at Sittingbourne Teachers’ Training College. I qualified, obtained a teaching post and found out that the head teacher of the school and several of the staff were Christians. They befriended me and invited me to Rochester Christian Fellowship (now King’s Church). Here I found faith in Jesus.
At King’s Church I met my future husband, Dave. We married in 1982 and had two daughters: Jenny and Katherine. In 1994 we moved up to Northamptonshire to join the Jesus Fellowship and in 2001 we moved into ‘Honeycomb Grange’, a Jesus Fellowship community house in rural Northamptonshire.
Tell us something about your journey in community?
In 2010 I went with my daughter, Jenny, to a Hillsong Ladies’ Conference at the Albert Hall and the message was about the importance of ‘being yourself’ in your local community as a way of outreach and making friends. That very weekend, Wim, our household leader, asked us what we felt about moving out of the countryside into Northampton town. I was delighted with the idea. I couldn’t wait!
We moved to Jimmy’s End in Northampton, an inner-city district comprised mainly of terraced houses built for people working in the local shoe and engineering factories in the 19th century. The first time we met together, I thought of Jesus riding on a donkey into Jerusalem. He did not go as a triumphant king (although He was one) with the answer to everything. He went as a servant. Indeed, wherever He went, He looked like an ordinary person. I felt God didn’t want us to announce, “We have arrived!” Rather, He wanted us to go and find out what was going on in the area and simply join in. We were to be joiners – not leaders. I joined a walking group and made a friend. I also enrolled on a computer class and made several more friends. I made friends with a lady down the road and we go for a walk together twice a week around our local nature reserve.
What do you feel is the most important thing you have learned as a Christian?
Two things. The realisation that sin is disobedience; to be a follower of Jesus, you have to be obedient and sometimes it hurts. The other thing is to worship – to discover that real worship is a connection with God through our spirits and is a wonderful thing. I love to worship!
As a Christian, what has been your most formative time?
The early years after I found faith in Jesus were the most formative. I read a booklet, ‘Every Day with Jesus’ and learned the importance of having a daily devotional time. The Word of God became imbedded in me. I have continued this pattern of reading and having a devotional structure in my life to the present day.
Have you ever been tempted to stop following Christ?
Yes. I have wanted to give up at times, as following Jesus sometimes seems so difficult. I get angry because things are not how they should be and I feel I’m not changing. With these feelings has come the revelation: I don’t have to be marvellous. I have ‘the righteousness of Christ’. It’s brilliant.
Barbara, you’re 71 now. How do you keep inspired?
Never stop wanting more of Jesus. My relationship with God keeps me going – it’s never lost its excitement. We can go to Him if we need anything. Miracles occur – even finding an ability to reverse park! Having Jesus as a friend and sharing life with Him is so important to me – not just wanting Him to do things all the time.
Have you anything to say to other women in the church?
I see women in the world are so downtrodden and abused wherever they go. There seems to be nowhere to look for a decent role model. Beautiful womanhood should be seen and modelled in the church.
The church is impoverished if it is not gaining from the God-given talents and gifts of women. We want to be ourselves and do and use what is in us. We must always be free to be what we are. If we are good at singing, then sing; if we are good at song writing then write; if we are good at speaking, then speak.