Tuesday, 1 January 2008

MY STORY Chapter 13 - An Open Door

Names gave been changed to protect privacy


I believe that there are times and seasons in our journey through life and none more than the journey that God takes us on. My desire for finding a church that was something more than a Sunday plus one weekly meeting, coincided with the great changes at our Christian Rehabilitation centre that I wrote about in the last chapter.

A few of us involved in the centre had begun meeting in one of our homes for fellowship and worship and Bible study and we were also able to include any of the residents who wished to join us. These residents often felt that they did not fit in with a traditional church setting but they felt at ease in the relaxed atmosphere of a home environment.

I was in this situation and seeking God for the way ahead when I happened to go to one of our local ‘All Saints’ meetings. These were once a month Saturday evening gatherings of people from many different churches and there would always be a visiting speaker. On this particular evening I was particularly moved by the speaker, let’s call him James, who spoke on ‘Forgive us our Denominations’. It was also the time when the Christian production ‘Come Together’ with Jimmy Owens and Pat Boone was showing in London. A choir was being formed in my area to put this show on locally. It consisted of Dance, Drama and Music with a theme of bringing Christians from all denominations together for worship. I had ‘signed up’ for this choir and when attending my first rehearsal I found that James was involved, and not only that, he lived in my local area. I just knew that I had to go and visit him.

On arrival I was invited in and made welcome. I found that James was one of a group of Apostolic men around the country who were pioneering New Testament style house churches. At that time there were about 30 people meeting together in my area and they were all living in close proximity and sharing life as a community. I am not talking of a commune but a community, the whole ethos being to share our lives and live out our faith together on a daily basis. In other words a New Testament church. This sounded like the fulfilment of all my dreams and desires, committed Christians with the same vision living together not only to share their lives, but to be a light in the local wider community.

Having sat and talked the whole afternoon through, it became obvious that we were on the same wave length and James and his wife invited us to dinner. Alan was still not a Christian at this time and his first reaction was, ‘Who are you getting involved with now?’ However he was intrigued enough to find out and accepted the invitation. He was so moved by the reality he saw and the living out of faith 24/7 that within days he had accepted Christ as his Saviour and was soon baptised in water. Fifteen years of prayer had been answered and we knew that God had led us to this place.

So what happened to the others that had been meeting with us in the home group that we had recently formed? There was another group that was a part of this fellowship living and meeting in the centre of town, and as the others lived nearer to them, they joined in with them and we disbanded our little group.

As for Alan and I, we duly sold our house and bought a house in the midst of our new fellowship. Although we were only a little over a mile away we wanted to be close enough to live as part of the community. We lived in that particular house for 2 years when we moved again to live in a larger house next door to James. At the time we had thought we would not be able to afford the fee for a survey on the house. We prayed about this and the very next day there was a cheque in the post for the exact amount. A young girl from Norway who had been staying with us had received a bonus cheque from work when she arrived home. She had asked God what she was meant to do with it and He told her to send it to us. It was a real challenge as this house needed so much work doing to it that it took us 10 years to fully complete. It had an extension that was basically a shell on top of the work in the existing house, but as we were sure that God was leading us in this we knew that we could trust Him. We did get a lot of practical help in getting the work done and there was a valid reason for us moving to this larger house.

Since becoming involved in the Fellowship we had become the church hospitality house. This was not something that was planned, it just happened. From being asked to have a couple of guys from Holland to stay with us in our original house, we found that this was something that we enjoyed, offering hospitality and caring for people in our home. Our gifts are from God and He places us on our journey just where He wants us. As the fellowship grew, many people would come and stay with us from this country and other countries in Europe and also the U.S.A.

Most of the people who stayed had come to experience this kind of living as they were part of a similar pioneering set-up, or they just wanted to fellowship with other like minded believers. We also had leaders and preachers and speakers who had come to minister to us also.

As well as this aspect of hospitality, as the fellowship grew there were always quite a number of single people needing accommodation, so we would always have a long term guest living as part of the family, as did many of the other homes. Our children grew up never knowing who was going to be in the house when they woke up, and sometimes even who would be sharing their room. Some people would stay for a night and others for weeks depending on their reason for being here. Sometimes new guests would be arriving before others had left. There were times before we moved to a larger house when Alan and I would be sleeping in bunk beds and our children on the floor. Even when God moved us on into various ministries we still ran an open home.

Over the years we made close friends with some of the people who stayed in our home and there were those who invited us back to their home, giving ourselves and our children many new and exciting experiences and visits. I counted up recently the names in our visitor’s book and to date there have been 561 entries. Not 561 people as some came more than once, but the number of entries. That’s a lot of beds to make, linen to wash and meals to prepare. Won’t it be fun when we meet all those people in heaven though, and we know our lives were and are greatly enriched by every single visitor, even the difficult ones. So, having people stay in our home really did become a ministry in itself. Not that we thought of it as that, we just enjoyed meeting and getting to know people.

This was the time of the House Church Movement worldwide and as our Fellowship grew over the years we had to break down into smaller home groups while meeting altogether on a Sunday in a local hall. We also met once a month with the other Fellowships in the wider area. On a national basis we would hire the Royal Albert Hall in London for occasional gatherings. On a daily basis we helped each other in whatever way was needed, financial, looking after each others children, women shopping together etc. and we would regularly eat dinner with each other, not to mention the children’s sleep overs. We were one big family living in different houses but all close together and many in the same street.

We had started our own home school and I taught Home Economics to the older children, the class being run in my home. Today incidentally this school is a large thriving Christian School that caters for children over a very large area. Life should have been ideal and I am sure that for many it was, but for me I was living a lie although I did not really know it at the time. I still felt a failure, still suffered panic attacks, anxiety and depression. Yes, God had brought me through the drug withdrawal but I still was not healed, even though I went to every healing service that I heard of. God still had lots more to teach me and true healing, I believe, starts on the inside. What is the point of feeling better emotionally and still not understanding how to live in God’s presence?

There were times when having smiled and said all the right things to our guests before they left the house I would be in a heap as soon as they had gone. Some days I was terrified of Alan going to work and leaving me alone. There were also times when I was afraid to walk further than the end of my road. I would go into town and almost immediately have to come home. Travelling any distance from home became a nightmare.

I knew that something was not right. God had wrought a measure of healing in my life and I now know that He wanted it to be real and lasting and not a quick fix. He was keeping me in a place where I needed to rely on Him. He was building me into the person that He wanted. He is in control of the journey, He knows the beginning from the end, but I did not really know that then like I do now. To me if felt like nothing had changed except that I became more frantic as I tried to reconcile the reality of my life with what I believed to be the truth of the Gospel, Peace, Joy, liberation etc. So what did I do? I just got more involved, did more, including being a part of ‘Bind Us Together’ a follow on production from ‘Come Together’.

Eventually I came to a place where I felt that nothing worked, God did not care, it was just too hard to go on living. As you may have guessed, God knew differently and He had His ways of bringing me through this. Did He do it in one miraculous wave of a wand, no, He knows what is best for each one of us and continues to change us from Glory to Glory one degree at a time, as the Bible tells us.

17 comments:

Willow said...

Barbara, I recently heard a speaker state, out of the experiences of his life, that 'sometimes God likes us better weak.' I'm sure that is because He can then work in our lives. Your life story is certainly a testament to His work.

Betty said...

Barbara,
As the story 'Footprints In the Sand' states, when there were only one set of footprints that's when He was carrying us. I know He has carried me many times....

Aren't we thankful, after a time, that we can look back and see that the way the good Lord directed our path was so much better for us than the way we wanted...I'm so thankful that many of my prayers were answered with a resounding "NO!"
Sometimes, "yes", later in His perfect timing.....

Yes, the poinsettia tree was in our church...Betty

Mob said...

I loved the "forgive us our denominations". I feels that if every person who accepts Christ as Lord could come together as one, we would be a lot better off. Thanks for the latest installment of "your life" series. I cannot believe you had that many people stay over at your house. Truly Christlike!

nikkipolani said...

561 guest entries is an amazing number for sure, Barbara. It seems amazing to me that you were able to minister and use these hospitality gifts while still experiencing so much disconnectedness. Thank you for yet another fascinating chapter in your life.

Jeanne said...

I love your stories my wonderful friend.
Keep them coming..........
When prayers go up blessings come down.
Love Jeanne ^j^

Sara said...

Your story helps to show that this walk of faith is a process...God is in no hurry, His timing is just right....and despite all our flaws and fears, He is always there for us. Sometimes it doesn't seem like it to us, but later we look back and realize just how involved He was. That's one think I like about growing older...perspective!

Britt-Arnhild said...

Barbara, what an amazing life you have lived.....though following the Lord is always amazing, isn't it :-)

God bless you and thanks for sharing.

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

I find your story absolutely fascinating, Barbara. My church was very involved in the home fellowship movement and in Christian schooling where I taught for years. As always, I'll be eager to read more.

Reflection Through The Seasons said...

Its wonderful to read your story Barbara and see the ways the Lord has guided you. Happy New year. Marion

Lisa said...

Barbara
Thanks again for sharing another chapter in your life.You are an amazing and truly Blessed person.
(((Barbara)))Your friend, Lisa

BeachysCapeCodCupboard said...

What a beautiful life-story you continue to share. We really are all one big family of God, and it is only the human man that creates/names all of the different religions. I love the saying you quoted, "forgive us our denominations"!

Happy New Year to you!

Linds said...

The more I read about your life, the more I am aware that everything that happens to us is for a reason. You would not be who you are today, Barbara , if you had not gone through all the tough stuff on the way. And, as I have met the "you" of today, I can say quite honestly, it was worth it! You are a wonderful lady!

Happy New Year!

Charity Grace said...

Barbara, the story of how God has transformed you is such an inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing your heart!

A Woman Who is: said...

Man Barb, you have got me on a cliff hanger now...

I am so curious about the Home Fellowships. I have heard of them here but not much.

"Forgive us our denominations" is quite a statement. We are on our way tonight to a citywide meeting. In our small town 24 churches have come together to just seek more of God to pray and fast for 4o days together, with a weekly worship and prayer meeting. It has come about by God, not man's agenda, and I am very excited to see what God has in mind for this region.

You are such an inspiration, sharing your life story with all of us.

Patti Blount said...

You know, Barbara, I think we all go through putting on two faces in life until we start to open up to the love God has for us and just accept who we are. It seems like I am always at the beginning of that process. As far as fears and such go, I have struggled with them all of my life (I'm 55 now) and yes, I believe God would have us live without them, but until we can, I honestly believe He sees us as his fragile ones, who He tends in a careful and unique way. Refreshing that you will admit where you've come from. Many won't as it is too threatening for them. It's a shame, though, as they would see that there are many in their company, even as Christians who are being conformed to His image.

Rhondi said...

Barbara, I am enjoying reading your story. I always love to hear stories of how God works in people's lives. I will bebackto read the rest of the story. Rhondi

Teresa said...

Barbara, there are so many here that I know, wanting a better mode of worship and fellowship, but not know how to go about it, and all too willing to be complacent. I am not one of those people. This fellowship of believers that you are a part of in this chapter are what I think to be, spending their lives as the first century church did. How wonderful. I would so much like to be a part of that type of life - building each up in the Lord, strengthening one another so that individually and as a community you can witness and minister the lost and those in need. Oh, how I would love to be a part of that. I can certainly see why you would move your home and rearrange your life for this. And, how wonderful to be an hospitality house. I get that you were struggling on the inside, and believe me I am going to be watching to see how that works out, but what a simply beautiful, scriptural thing you and Alan, did. I imagine your children saw the love of God, up close. Alan did, the proof is in his salvation. Praise God!!! for prayers being answered.