This is a story (a true one) of God’s calling, confirmation, and faithfulness. This is also a story (also true) of our doubt, frustration and questions.
We had moved house in 2012 and although it could have been our “forever house”, while we were doing it up, it increasing felt as if we were doing it up for someone else. We had also moved church in 2014 but had felt we were only going to be there for a short time. While sitting, bored, at home with my 2 year old, I knew I wanted to be in a job by the time she was at school. So I was vaguely looking at jobs to see what was out there when I came across a job as a family and children’s worker for Ascension Church. Reading the job description I realised that that was exactly what I wanted to do. I ran it past Tim who I expected to say no, but instead said go for it (later I found out he didn’t expect me to get it!) I asked a few friends to look at the job description and they said not only did it look good for me but that it described who I was. Throughout the time I kept praying that if it was right, let me get the job and may it be for all of us, and if not may I not get the job. So the interview came, and then we came to the church and we looked at the house in Clyde Gardens. Tim had prayed that if it was right let 2 sets of bunk beds fit into a bedroom, and they would have done – just! We went home knowing there had been 3 people interviewed and at least one of the others was a possibility. We knew that the house in Clyde Gardens would only be a temporary measure (6 in a small 2 bedroom house…!), as we wanted a house that was big enough, close enough to the station to make Tim’s commute more bearable and close to the church and schools, a house with cavity walls, and one that we could afford. Going home we realised with rental prices so high here the only option was selling and buying, that Tim’s day would be a lot longer and if we found a house, it would be a lot smaller, so I would have to withdraw my application. I did and I was gutted – I kept telling myself it was only a job and another one would come up (a lady at our current church even offered me a job at our current church that evening). The following day I looked at my emails and found one from Robert saying that not to put any pressure on us but the people who interviewed me were giving me 48 hours to say I’d take the job or they were going to start readvertising as they didn’t feel any of the other applicants were right. So we prayed that a house that we could live in (not necessarily the house we’d move to) would come up on Right Move in the next 24 hours (that was all that was left by then). Having been looking for a few weeks by now with no results we realised that when a house did come up it was God confirming this was what he wanted us to do. Tim also confessed how he had also prayed that if it was the right job that I would get offered it again even after I turned it down! So after a few, and a few more confirmations God led us to know we were to move to Bath to Ascension Church.
We then had to sell our house and buy another one – this took longer and was more frustrating than expected. The house we had originally seen was sold, a few others came up but none of them were right and we were wondering what to do. Robert mentioned a lady (Olive Sellick) had moved into a nursing home and had lived in a 4 bedroom house near the church. When they had the house valued we thought it was way above what we could afford. We then asked the bank if they would lend us some more money and they said yes to exactly the price of Olive’s house! When looking at another couple of houses and getting slightly desperate as our buyers were keen to get into our house, we wanted to see this 4 bedroom house but hadn’t been able to get hold of Olive’s daughter. We decided to have a look at the outside of the house. As we did, we bumped into Bev who was walking her dogs who for some reason (maybe God?!) decided to walk a different way. She had a key to the house and so we were able to look! We felt again that God had given us the house (it ticked every box we had asked for!) We applied for schools for the girls thinking that they would be there after May half term. However there were a lot of paperwork delays, which meant that time was getting closer and closer to the start of school in September. Tim had kept saying that God was the God of the 59th minute and 59th second and lo and behold the day the new schools for the girls started began with being driven from Bristol, starting in a new school and walking home to a new house! There were spaces in the junior school and the preschool but we had to wait until the end of January (the week before applications for September 2017 needed to be in!) for a place at the infants’ school. But again God used this opportunity to meet people from another school.
We also weren’t too sure how I was going to get paid (which was necessary as Bath is more expensive to live in than Bristol). Although the church was to pay some of my salary the rest was meant to be from the house in Clyde Gardens. We couldn’t really fit in the house and the owners agreed to rent it to a Christian, and then the rent could be used for the rest of my salary. However much the church tried they couldn’t find anyone to rent the house, and eventually the owners decided to take back the house and instead, isn’t God amazing, the owners were really generous in giving the church £50,000 instead of the house in order that they could support me and anyone in the future with this type of ministry!
Life isn’t easy – Tim’s commute has lengthened his day and increased his stress levels; taking on a job for the first time with children and in nearly 10 years has been a big adjustment and challenge; and the house needs a lot of work. HOWEVER we know we are where God wants us to be, He helps us through the hard times, and of course He is developing our characters so that we can be more like Him and become the people who He’s made us to be. by Sarah
and the Ascension side of the story!
It all started with a prophetic word which felt very clear – we were to ‘start again with the children’. We took this seriously enough to actually suspend our youth work and go in this direction. Though we wondered if God would honour our doing this and help us restart youth-work in the not too distant future – He did and we restarted this September with the help of James Rogers from Bath Youth for Christ!
We also had a clear sense of God’s hand in the writing of the job description. There was a strong awareness of the importance of networking and relationships when it comes to helping parents grow in their spiritual care of their children, as well as for the children’s own involvement. The job-description – as it turned out – seemed tailor-made for Sarah as she said!
The turn of events around the interview days was quite strange too! The actual interview day was quite long, with 3 candidates. At the end of the day we decided we’d have to come back afresh to make a final decision about them all and what to do. In the meantime Sarah withdrew, as she said in her part of the story. So when we did get back together, we all knew that already. However, we still came to our view that the way was very clear, clearer even than Sarah records! We decided to say, “We know you’ve withdrawn but we’d like to offer you the job anyway – we were unanimous!” I repeat what Tim reports saying to the Lord, if we’re meant to go there, may they offer the job to Sarah anyway, even though we’ve withdrawn! I guess it must have been a bit of shock to Tim when that’s exactly what we did. Apparently he’s had many arguments with God, but never won yet!
Then there was the house – I remember Tim measuring the fit for bunkbeds at the house we had the use of in Clyde Gardens. It involved the last centimetre – gosh it was going to be a squeeze, but these people seemed so keen to follow the Lord’s calling you felt they’d do even that for a while if necessary! But it wasn’t as you’ll now hear.
Olive Sellick, an older member of our congregation, was moving first to a rest home, then to be with her family in Cornwall once they’d finished the house they were buying for them all. I was praying and all of a sudden it just seemed an obvious suggestion: Tim & Sarah had been looking for a house to buy and were really struggling; would Olive’s house tick all the boxes? And might it help Olive and her family too. I had no idea what Tim & Sarah could afford, that’s none of my business – but I just put the idea out there to Olive and her family and then to the Sandersons. And they said yes we’d love to look. Then, as they said, time to see it was difficult, get keys etc, so they just went to look from the outside. But there was Churchwarden Bev who had keys and just happened to be walking her dog…… (see above). The rest, as they say, is history!
But for us, how then were we to pay Sarah? Phew! The owners of Clyde Gardens were willing for the house to be let and for the rent to come to us which would make up the difference we needed. So we then needed to let the house, hopefully to Christian workers of one sort or another, which seemed the right thing to us and the owners – a win win sort of thing. It went on and on! Sarah was offered the job 31st Jan – and September was approaching fast. We had a great team who’d really work hard getting the house totally redecorated and repaired for let, but though a good number had looked, and several had ummed and aahed, it just didn’t happen……
How was the story to end? Well, the owners had been thinking about it a while, but graciously decided this would be the time to wind up the arrangement with us on the Clyde Gardens house and take it out of our hands. This suited them, but they also knew our need, and made this huge £50,000 donation in lieu of the house so we could support Sarah by that means (and her successors in this kind of ministry in Twerton). When we announced it in Church, I remember a lady in the front row’s jaw dropping and her being seemingly unable to shut her mouth again for some time. Awesome is not the word. How does God line up all those things!!!
Finally, Bishop Peter Hancock had asked around churches if he could come for an ‘ordinary Sunday’. I’d forgotten I’d invited him till his PA was in contact and we’d then booked him for 15th September. When it came to it, this turned out to be the ideal day to commission Sarah as she’d just started, and friends and family came to be with her on the day. It also turned out to be the day when Olive Sellick, whose house they’d moved into, managed to get to Church! It was to be her last Sunday before moving to be with family in Cornwall. The Bishop’s wife ‘happened’ to sit with her (which Olive loved), and Olive rose to her feet. She wanted to say how she’d been part of Ascension all her 86 years and wanted to thank everyone for their love and support. And she then said how to see her old house being used by the Sandersons in this way was such a delight to her. She even told the Bishop in the chat afterwards over coffee ‘You’re the first human bishop I’ve met’.
Now!! If you could possibly line all of that up, on all sides of the story, right down to Olive being there on her last Sunday after 86 years, then please let me know!! And if you’re not yet a Christian reading this, perhaps now is the time to put your faith in the God who knows everything there is to know about us and is only waiting for us (you) to ask for faith to believe in His love and faithfulness…..
by Vicar Robert