Archive for April, 2015

At the Faith Mission Convention in Bangor, Co. Down – and Old Memories of the “Stewart Memorial”

April 14, 2015

0064 Recently my husband and I drove up to County Down for the Faith Mission Easter Convention. This was a nostalgic visit for me, as we had not been there for some years and I had also so many emotional memories of attending the convention with my mum and dad who have passed away in recent years. We stayed there for two nights, returning home on Tuesday afternoon, after hearing a fascinating account of the work and recent experiences of Maud Kells in the Congo. An especially nostalgic visit awaited me on the Tuesday morning, when we took a walk around the shore to the place where I once worked, more than 30 years ago now. Some of my experiences as a result of working in the Stewart Memorial School for disabled children are recorded in my second book, “Singing on the Journey Home.” As we walked along by the sea, I stopped to talk to a lady who was sitting on a park bench. After affirming that she was a local, I asked her about the school, which I knew had closed down a long time ago. “Expect to find many changes,” she added, as I was about to walk on after our conversation. It is a truly beautiful area in any season and now, with daffodils waving by the shore and a distant ship on the horizon, I couldn’t help but remember the events in my life all those years ago, as I sat on a little bench by the sea, praying that the Lord would guide me in my life, after having had an interview for a job at the “Stewart Memorial.” Memories of a little girl, “Emma,” that I had known returned to me as we climbed up from the sea side to the now unfamiliar environs of the building where I once worked. The following is an extract from my story “Over the River Faces I See…” which is recounted in “Singing on the Journey Home:” “Little Emma was a sensitive child too and I was aware that she disliked returning to the home after a weekend with loving parents. She would often weep on those Sunday nights and I, in turn, would give her a reassuring hug. I believe that it was little Emma who first ‘brought out the mother in me.’ How I came to love all those children! In a sense it was a landmark in my life, revealing to me my own inadequacies as well.” A later extract reads:       “I had only been there for a short time when those rumours circulated that the establishment was to close down. Later, when this happened, it was a very emotional time as everyone said their ‘goodbyes.’ Each and every child in that home had made a deep impression on me; I shall never forget them and the time that I spent there. Somehow the Lord had used this short time in my life to mould me as a Christian, and even in those days I had a strange feeling that some day I would put the experience into words.       Some years later I was sleeping one night in my old home, when I was wakened by a beautiful dream. This dream was so real and lives on with me, even to this day. In the dream I could see Emma, who was running and jumping and smiling with happiness. As she looked my way, she waved to me with a delightful smile and with that I wakened. I recall sharing the experience of this dream with my mother at the time. Then, not long after that I learned from an extract in a local paper, that little Emma had died around that time. As I read the article, I recalled that vivid dream. In the dream I could see clearly that it was Emma, but everything about her was perfect and healthy. She was so full of joy and happiness, basking in God’s light, more glorious than the sunlight of the brightest day. When I think of this little girl and my subsequent dream, I cannot but recall Judson Wheeler Van De Venter’s hymn, “Looking this Way.”        This hymn reminds me that there are billions of little ones in glory today, since circumstances in their lives prevented them from ever reaching those years of spiritual understanding and so they were not held accountable. Oh that mothers and fathers would see the simplicity and depth of these words in Acts 16v31… “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” In obeying this command, they will most certainly be re-united with those little ones in a land where tears never fall”. Today it is the “Stewart Memorial House” which is threatened with closure. I was informed of this by one of the staff who very kindly showed me around the building – and the lady on the bench was so right! I remembered very little of it… so many changes had taken place. This beautiful place, which is currently home to around 30 adults of all ages with disabilities (not children as it was in my time) is no longer “financially viable” according to the “powers that be.” I felt an air of sadness about it, just talking to some of the staff, who have naturally no wish for it to close either. I was introduced to a lovely elderly lady, May, who was in her nineties. Strangely as I entered her little room, I suddenly felt very emotional. She looked like my own mother and all her walls were covered in paintings which she had accomplished over time. One alcove was full of little personal ornaments which she had collected. She even talked like mum and had a similar sense of humour… I bit my lower lip and quickly composed myself as I didn’t want to be in tears in front of this dear lady. I know that it will be a terrible upheaval for this lady and others if they are uprooted from their familiar surroundings and the people who work with them. I also know from experience that it is not such a good idea for really elderly people to have to move to another location at that stage in their lives. Expect to find many changes… Yes, indeed, how circumstances change, institutions change and people change… but “He never changes.” (Malachi 3v6) My “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today and for ever.”(Hebrews 13v8) Nothing is “set in stone” with regard to the affairs of this life. Well over thirty years have flown by in my life as I recall scenes and experiences like they had only happened yesterday. Dramatic changes have taken place in my own life within just three or four years but… “He changeth not.” I thank Him for His love, His mercy and His abundant grace – and I thank Him for guiding me this far. I now pray for relationships and situations where closure seems inevitable – but if it is at all possible I pray that this home can be saved. Yet I also pray that the staff and patients of Stewart Memorial House will come to know His abiding Presence in their lives, and may they have a heartfelt experience of the truth of these words: “For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.” (Hebrews 13v14) This morning I discovered a lovely hymn by Fanny Crosby: “On Joyful Wings.” This hymn truly echoes the truth that we are indeed just “passing though,” but for those whose trust is in the Lord, what joy to know that we are passing to our real home, the home “where He, our Saviour dwells.” Link to this hymn:   http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/o/n/j/onjoyful.htm

On joyful wings our raptured souls

Would mount and spread their flight

And from Mount Pisgah’s top behold

The land of pure delight.

Refrain

Above the clouds, above the stars,

That heavenly region fair,

Where He, our Lord and Saviour dwells

Our home, our home is there.

Sweet visions oft His love reveals,

Of that divine abode;

And with His kind, protecting hand

He leads us on the road.

Refrain

Oh blessed hope that bears us up,

And stills each throb of care!

The night will pass, the morn will come,

And we shall soon be there.

Refrain

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