A Mixed Up Minister?
What insights does the book of Jonah have for ministers today?
Led by The Revd Tom Stuckey, a former President of the Methodist Church.
Rest in My Love
I count it a privilege to share with you some of the wonderful things God has done for me. Born in South Derbyshire, nurtured in a Methodist Sunday School by committed Sunday School teachers, challenged early about personal discipleship, I responded to the claims of Jesus Christ in my early teens and began to seek his will for my life. And what a wonderful journey that has been with years of fulfilling ministry as a Methodist deaconess and in teaching. Through those years one of the greatest joys has been to witness changed lives as others have come to faith in Christ.
I have seen so many miracles, but 'time would fail me to tell', so let me begin from the 1980s. For some years I have shared a home with a friend, Elizabeth, a deaconess turned presbyter, with some shared ministry. We moved together from Shetland to Cumbria where eventually I had a full-time teaching post in a large Primary School with responsibility for music and RE, but in 1988 I decided to take early retirement to concentrate more on ministry in and through the churches, though I was already doing a full plan of preaching in the wide, country circuit of Kirkby Stephen, Appleby and Tebay as well as youth work, Local Preacher training and music ministry. I knew that, having taken this step, income would not cover expenditure, but that I could trust God to supply my needs. Maybe I could do a little supply teaching here and there. Anyway, all that was in God's hands.
In 1989 we were due to move to Devon where Elizabeth was to become Superintendent Minister of the West Devon circuit. Conference that year was in Leicester and, as Elizabeth was a representative, we stayed with Jessie, my friend of many years, in Hinckley. Quite out of the blue in the middle of the night I had severe chest pain and was taken to Nuneaton Hospital. It was a heart attack. Jessie was told, 'We have all the right technology but we don't think we can save her'. Practical as ever she informed Elizabeth and said, 'Will you take Janet back to Cumbria or will you have the funeral service here?'. But that was not to be. The day following, I sat up in bed and reached for my Bible which fell open at the Psalms and I read Psalm 118:17, 'I shall not die but I shall live and recount the deeds of the Lord'. I said 'Thank you, Lord' and anticipated the prospect of serving him still.
We moved to Devon where I received excellent medical care, gradually regaining my strength and becoming involved in the life of the circuit. No supply teaching, but God did supply my needs. Invalidity benefit was very welcome! In February 1990, however, I had another heart attack and a further one in 1992. I remember being taken to hospital on one of these occasions, lying in the ambulance and looking up at the window, the lower half of which was opaque, but the upper half clear; as I gazed into the sky the words from 1 Corinthians 13:12 came into my mind: 'For now we see through a glass, dimly, but then face to face'. What a joy it was, even in such circumstances, to be able to anticipate such blessing! Next came a week or so of relaxation in the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital as I awaited by-pass surgery as soon as a place became available in either Oxford or London. I remember playing one of Marilyn Baker's music tapes and what a blessing her songs were. As I heard her sing,
~qRest in my love, relax in my care
and know that my presence will always be there;
you are my child and I care for you –
there's nothing my love and my power cannot do.q~
I experienced such a wonderful sense of God's presence. As I leaned back it was like leaning in his arms. Next it was off to Oxford. I really cannot describe the peace of God that I experienced as I was taken to the theatre. Then, of course, it was another long road to recovery, but still anticipating the prospect of being able to preach the gospel once again.
September 1994 saw another move, this time to the Great Harwood circuit near Blackburn, where I was soon involved in preaching and music ministry. But then quite suddenly in 1996 came a brain haemorrhage, apparently caused by the Warfarin I was taking for the heart condition. Brain surgery followed and I was in a coma for a month and a day. My friends were told that I should not come out of the coma and I think my relatives came to say their farewells! But I did emerge from my sleep and the nurses told me I was a miracle. Well, certainly miracles happened and I told them of the people who had been praying for me from Australia to Shetland, hundreds of people in so many places. That support and fellowship was a wonderful experience and Elizabeth's support and care has surpassed anything that any friend could be expected to do. She even retired before she wanted to, thinking that I should be very dependent on her! But God has renewed my strength and his hand is so wonderfully upon me.
When, in 2000, we retired to Longridge in the Preston circuit I attended the surgery one day and the doctor decided to do an ECG. On reading the results she looked extremely worried. 'What is the problem?' I asked. 'It's heart-block" she replied. 'What does that mean?' I asked; 'it's alright, you can tell me. I've had a lot of miracles'. 'Yes, I know," she replied. 'Well, it means your heart could just stop beating. It means hospital'. 'When?' I asked. 'Now' she answered. I didn't even go to the surgery for an ECG, but God knows what he is about. The problem was an irregular heart rhythm so I now have a pacemaker. I am so conscious of God's hand upon my life that I have no fear for the future and take each new day as a wonderful gift from his hand. How great is our God!