My beloved friend Bill (William K. Marr December 29 1934-January 26 2018)

Posted by Martin – February 12 2018.

In September 1954 I was 19 years old and serving in the RAF.  I was stationed at RAF Turnhouse in Edinburgh.  I worked in the Air Traffic Control department as an RTDF (Radio Telephony Direction Finding) operator.  RTDF technicians operated equipment that gave navigational aid to pilots.  Those of us doing this job at Turnhouse had been warned that we would become redundant when new equipment was installed in the control tower that would provide automated service of what we had provided manually.  It happened in September 1954.

The small but important RAF-ATC Fixer Station on the cliff top above Findochty 1955 – our workplace.

I was given a new posting and sent to join the RAF Fixer Network that consisted of a number of small RTDF installations that covered the whole of Scotland.  I was sent to Findochty, a coastal town in Banffshire where our small station and workplace was located on windswept cliffs that overlooked the Moray Firth.  The small number of staff, which averaged four technicians, were housed in private lodgings in the nearby small town of Portknockie.

I remember leaving Turnhouse and getting the bus to the railway station in the centre of Edinburgh to get on the train for the first part of my journey.  I was sorry to leave; Turnhouse had been a very happy posting for me and I would be leaving behind the company of men who had become close friends.  An express train took me to Aberdeen, stopping (if I remember correctly) briefly only at Dundee, Arbroath and perhaps Montrose.  From there a local train took me to my destination.  It was a “milk run” type train in that it seemed to stop everywhere.  Finally, it pulled into the station at Portknockie.  Hauling my kitbag with me I got off the train and saw a young man in an RAF uniform waiting on the platform.  When he saw me he began to walk towards me and, as we met and shook hands, he introduced himself as Bill Marr.  I liked him immediately but did not realize, and would not have guessed, that he would become a close and beloved friend, not just for the time we would serve and work together in the RAF but for the rest of our lives and into eternity.

9 Church Street, Portknockie (2nd house from the right). It was our home during the time we served at the RAF Fixer Station at Findochty, Banffshire, Scotland in 1954-5.

As we walked to 9, Church Street, the home of Bob and Lottie Harvey which was where the RAF boys stayed, Bill told me that Bob and Lottie were the nicest people one could meet and, the Findochty Fixer Station was the “cushiest” posting one could wish for.  He was right.  Bob and Lottie were a mom and dad to the RAF boys who stayed there.

The next day Bill took me out to our workplace and generally introduced me to the system of operations, the shift schedule, the bus timetable and so on.  The station was in a beautiful location but the wind blew incessantly and during the winter it could be very cold.  I did not realize then that one adjusts to those conditions fairly easily.

Bill standing on the deck of a boat in Portknockie harbour – 1955

Bill and I became firm friends.  I had become a Christian believer, a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, when I was 15 years old.  Bill and I had conversations about what it meant to be a Christian.  These conversations were never rancorous but always respectful.  Bill had not experienced exposure to the message of Christ during his earlier teen years as I had but his heart was open.  I began attending services at the Baptist Church in the nearby fishing port of Buckie and became an active member of the church youth group.  Bill would come with me and sensed the love that the people there had for each other, a love that reached out to him.  He quickly understood that the Lord was real to them and to me.  I still clearly remember the evening that Bill and I were talking together in my bedroom and he said to me that he wanted to turn his life over to Jesus and follow Him.  We knelt together as he simply received, by faith, the Lord Jesus as his Saviour and Lord.  I also remember that, after the prayer, he looked at me at me and said, “I’ve done it but I don’t feel any different!”  I tried to assure him that not everyone has a “Saul of Tarsus experience” but that the Lord had heard his prayer and he was born of the Spirit in accordance with the promises found in scripture.  I also assured him that he would experience changes in his life as the Holy Spirit began to work in his heart and life.  He was scheduled to work the morning shift the next day and that meant an early start.  He went to his room.  After praying some more for him and giving thanks to the Lord for what had just happened I got ready for bed.  I was scheduled to work the afternoon shift which meant I would relieve Bill just after noon.

I have to admit that I was concerned and hoped that I would not find Bill in the same frame of mind as he was when he went off to bed the night before.  When I arrived at the station his face was shining like a light.  There was an expression on him that I had never seen before.  He was exuberant.   He said, “Last night I didn’t feel anything but today everything has changed, I feel completely different.”  He had been reading the Bible, praising the Lord and praying on his own during the morning and reported that the workload had been light.  He stayed on for a while and we talked.  I could not take my eyes off him – he was shining, there was a glow on his face.

Bill sitting on the harbour wall at Portknockie – 1955

He went home and the first thing he did, as he walked into the kitchen was to tell Lottie that he had given his life to Christ.  She was shaken as Bill told her what had happened to him.  A few days later Lottie said to me that she had always thought of herself as a Christian. However, she now acknowledged that she did not know the Lord as Bill did and wanted me to pray with her as she gave her life to Christ.  A few days later Bob came to me and said he saw a great change in Bill, “and now Lottie, she is a different woman.”  Bob surrendered his life to Christ.  Bill, a babe in Christ, by the witness of his changed life and testimony of his mouth had brought our landlord and landlady to the place of commitment to the Lord.

Bill grew in the Lord, quickly, and never looked back.  He was loved by the people who knew him.  My relationship with him was like a “David and Jonathan” connection.  He was due for release from the Air Force before me and I remember the day that he needed to leave and go back to Edinburgh and Turnhouse to get his release paperwork done so that he could return to civilian life.  I walked with him from Bob and Lottie’s house to the railway station.  The train came in and we shook hands and embraced as brothers in the Lord (he used to smile and “warn” people about me saying, “he always shakes hands.”)  With Bill on board the train chuff-chuffed (it was a steam locomotive – we were still in the steam age) started moving and I walked out of the station.

Bill, Grace and Martin. Picture taken in our home in Abbotsford, BC, Canada about 1980 when Bill was on a business trip to Vancouver.

I wanted and needed to be alone so I walked out of town and on to the top of the cliffs.  It was a sunny day and there was, as usual, a brisk but not cold wind blowing.  I sat down on the grass and began to weep.  My tears were not of sorrow, although I knew I would miss Bill’s presence and fellowship of course.  My tears were a mixture of things, gratitude to the Lord for the privilege of watching the Holy Spirit draw Bill first and then Lottie and Bob to Christ, for experiencing the richness of true Christian friendship, the joy of realizing afresh that I was a child of God, redeemed by Christ and finally, I suspected that Bill’s life and mine would likely take different paths, meaning that this special chapter in our lives was now concluded.

Irene, Bill and Grace. Picture taken in Toronto in 2004.

When my time of release came I went home to London, enrolled at the London Bible College and trained for the ministry.  Bill returned to Edinburgh, the city of his birth and began working in the electronics industry.  He became part of a very good church, living his life for the Lord.

He met and married Irene.  I met and married Grace.  He and Irene became successful and godly parents of Neil, Eunice and Colin and wonderful grandparents.  Grace and I, although we did not have biological children of our own were entrusted by the Lord to be spiritual parents of many dozens of young people who became part of the Grange Fellowship, a large youth work in west London.

Bill and Martin. Picture taken in Toronto in 2004.

In the mid 1970s the Lord moved Bill and Irene and us from the United Kingdom to Canada, Bill and Irene to Toronto, us to Abbotsford, 50 miles east of Vancouver.  We stayed in touch and very occasionally met. In the late 1970s and 1980s Bill’s work brought him out to the west coast from time to time.  It was very special to have fellowship at those times.

Now Bill has taken the lead and made the short and exciting journey to the eternal home that the Lord has prepared for those who love Him.  He has heard the Saviour’s welcoming words, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.” When our times come we shall follow on and join him there.  Meanwhile, I am nourished by the precious memories of a special friend who set a high standard for us all in how to live our lives for the cause and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Be there waiting for me Bill and, as we did sixty four years ago when my train pulled into Portknockie station, we will walk together as you introduce me to some of the wonders that are beyond our present imagination.

 

 

 

 

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Grace’s belated 80th birthday party

Grace celebrated her 80th birthday on December 16, 2016.  Nephew Huw and his wife Pam organized a surprise party for her.  With all the invitations done, arrangements made and supplies obtained, it sadly had to be cancelled at the last minute due to heavy snow.  Attempts to set an alternate date during the period immediately following also were not successful.  However, Huw and Pam were determined that the occasion ought to be celebrated, and before she had her 81st birthday on December 16, 2017.

The event finally took place on November 19, 2017.  It was held in the pleasant community facility of the townhouse complex where Huw, Pam and their children live in Abbotsford.  It was a warm and intimate time which gave us the opportunity to celebrate a person who is greatly loved and appreciated.  Grace enjoyed herself and felt very much loved.

It is my privilege to have shared 61 of those 80 years with Grace, 59 of them as her husband.  She is a true individual, a one-of-a-kind person, a people magnet who draws others to her, a compassionate woman who empathizes with hurting people, a woman of God who loves the Lord with all her heart.  She is a boundless source of energy and throughout the years of our married life I cannot recall a dull day!  I do not know how I came to be so blessed to have her as my spouse.  Our Heavenly Father is truly amazing and I shall be eternally grateful to Him for giving her to me.

It was she who, in 1961 in west London, UK, led four teenage girls, all students of hers, at a high school for girls, to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  She began a weekly Bible Study and fellowship meeting in our home to help them grow as followers of Christ.  It grew over the years into a highly successful ministry among young people which became known as the Grange Fellowship.

Here are some pictures, with notes, that were taken at the belated birthday celebration.

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The cake

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Collage of pictures

The larger portrait of Grace in the centre was taken when she was 13 years old.

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Martin and Grace with our beloved sister-in-law Doris Gouldthorpe

Doris is the wife of my late brother Gerald.  She is 91 years young.

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Martin and Grace with some of the Franklin family, plus Janet, Norma and Steve.

Left to Right: Janet Hitchcock, on of our closest friends; Kay Morris, Grace’s niece; Huw Franklin, Grace’s nephew and brother of Kay; Norma Sloan, Pam Franklin’s mom; Martin and Grace; Pam Franklin, Huw’s wife; Steve Kellington, Meghan’s boyfriend; Meghan Franklin, daughter of Huw and Pam, Grace’s great niece.

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Martin and Grace with the Drury family

Left to right: Frazer Drury, husband of Bethan; Bethan Drury, daughter of Doris Gouldthorpe and Martin’s niece; Doris; Jonah Drury, youngest son of Frazer and Bethan; Martin; Max Drury, middle son of Frazer and Bethan; Grace.

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Martin and Grace with the Kyslik family

Jan and Lada Kyslik and their children are the Czech component of the family.  Jan and Lada were born in, what was then Czechoslovakia.  In 1987, two months after they were married, they successfully escaped from the communist regime, went to Austria and made their way to Canada in March 1988.  Grace met them at an ESL (English as a second language) programme run by our church.  They became “family” and subsequently have had three children.  Left to right: Lada; Lucas, older son and second child; Grace; Mark, younger son and third child; Jan.

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Martin and Grace with Alenka Kyslik and her friend Herm.

Left to right: Herm, friend of Alenka; Alenka Kyslik, daughter and first child of Jan and Lada Kyslik; Grace.  This picture was taken some days after the party in our home.

Grace and Meghan at Grace's 80th

Meghan Franklin and her great Aunt, amazing Grace.

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Martin and Grace with Baldev and Jan Hundal

Baldev and Jan Hundal are good friends that we first met in 1991. Note of interest: they own and operate a large blueberry farm here in the Fraser Valley.

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Martin and Grace with close friend Don Dirks

Don and his late wife served 15 years as missionaries in Gabon, Africa and then 25 years as Director of Ministries in France for the Christian Missionary Alliance Churches.

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Martin and Grace with friends Donna and Hermie Navarro

As well as being good friends, Donna has been Grace’s hairdresser for many years.

We wish you a happy journey onward to your 80th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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grange Fellowship

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Founding Grange Fellowship Members meet again in Canada – September 2017

As many of you will know, the Grange Fellowship was founded in 1961 when four teenage girls, all students of Grace at Hammersmith County School for Girls in west London, UK, began to attend a weekly get together in our (Grace and Martin’s) home in Chiswick, west London.  At these early meetings, Grace taught the girls how to cook and this was followed by a Bible Study.

Two of that original four became stalwart members of the Grange as it grew through the years.  They were Janet Morris and Ann (Schonberger) King.  Recently, Janet paid us a visit.  Here is a picture of Grace greeting Janet on her arrival – September 17, 2017.

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Janet Morris, left, being welcomed to Canada at Vancouver International Airport by Grace – September 2017.

Ann King, like Grace and myself and a number of other Grangers, also ended up in Canada.  Ann lives not too far away from us near Vancouver.  She joined us to welcome Janet.

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Janet Morris, left, being welcomed to Canada at Vancouver International Airport by Grace and Ann King – September 2017.

It is now decades on from those early days of the Grange.  In addition to being founder members, Janet and Ann also have something else in common – they are now both widows.  Ann’s husband Chris went home to be with the Lord, following a long illness in 2015.  Janet’s husband Jim went home to be with the Lord at the beginning of this year, 2017.  Ann’s three daughters and their families also live in the Vancouver and Fraser Valley area.  Janet’s son and daughter live in the south of England with their families within easy reach of her.  Janet and Ann are definitely very involved grandmas.

Within a week of Janet’s arrival, she and Ann went off together on a Hawaiian cruise and enjoyed catching up on old times.  On her return from the cruise Janet came and stayed with us.  Her visit came to an end in mid October when she flew home to the UK.  Here are some Hawaiian cruise pictures taken by the official cruise photographer.

A Welcome Aboard Picture.

Ready for Dinner at the Captain’s Table.

Off to a Hawaiian Luau (a luxurious meal)

Another person with a very long connection to the Grange Fellowship is Janet Hitchcock. She became part of the Grange about 1970 when she obtained a teaching job in west London.  She is one of those Grangers who later emigrated to Canada and took a teaching job in the same town that Grace and I have lived and worked in here in the Fraser Valley.  She stayed with the job and school that brought her here for over thirty years, the last decade of which she was the vice-principal of the school.   Now retired, Janet lives a very full life volunteering in various good causes as well as helping individual people and families.  In September of this year Janet celebrated her 70th birthday.  A celebration party was held, attended by many friends, particularly those who were teaching colleagues over a period of three decades.  Incidentally, Janet Morris celebrated her 70th birthday earlier this year and Ann will do so in early December.

Another Granger, in the person of Frances West, travelled from her home in Ontario to share Janet’s (Hitchcock) milestone birthday.

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Left to Right: Janet Hitchcock, Frances West, Grace Gouldthorpe, Martin Gouldthorpe. Picture taken at a gathering to celebrate Janet’s 70th birthday in September 2017

It  is a great joy for Grace and me to have so many beloved friends who have brought much blessing into our lives.  In that respect, we have a very large “family” and love every member of it.

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The Bride of Christ

This is a brief introduction to the post that follows, detailing a remarkable display titled “The Bride of Christ” celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation that began in earnest on October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther posted his now famous 95 theses on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

The post first appeared in the Grange Fellowship Interactive blog and Grace and I want to put it in our own personal blog because we should like to give the friends who follow our blog the opportunity to view the presentation.  For those who live in the UK or are visiting there, the Bride of Christ display can be seen in the historic church of St. Peter’s, located in Gloucester Road, Winchcombe, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

The presentation is the brainchild of Shiloha Levi, a local resident and gifted artist.  More details are included in the blog post.  Shiloha is married to Ben Levi, who was a member of the Grange Fellowship in the 1960’s and early 1970’s.  Contemporaries in the Grange will actually remember Ben as Brian Towell, his name back then.  Brian (Ben) became a believer and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ in 1966 when he attended the Billy Graham Evangelistic Crusade in Earls Court Arena, West London.  Ben’s roots are Jewish and he desired to identify with those roots.  The family name was Levi and he changed his birth surname back to it.  His first names were Brian Benjamin so he simply switched to Benjamin.

Ben and Shiloha have served the Lord in different parts of the world and have been in situations in which they have personally witnessed the work of the Holy Spirit in power.

In addition to their children Isaac and Harmonie they have a son named Gabriel (Harmonie’s twin).  Gabe was born with severe cerebral palsy and is currently resident in a residential care home facility where he can receive the special care he needs.

We know you will be blessed by the pictures and text that follows.

Here comes the bride

Shiloha explains her creation:

This year is the anniversary of the Reformation when Martin Luther made a translation of the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into German, so that it would be accessible to the German people.   Other countries quickly followed suit by translating the Bible into their own languages, and then with the help of the recently invented printing press, made these new translations available to ordinary people.  Now today, at least some portion of the bible has been translated into over 3000 languages.

In order to celebrate this I made a period gown. The aim of this was to create a gown that looks like something which would have been worn during the reformation, as close to 1517, as possible.

In addition, we have a number of books in various different languages, containing testimonies, for visitors to read and I am hoping to get them in even more different languages. Then our foreign visitors who come into the Church can read and connect, in their own mother tongue, with a real story written by someone whose life has been changed by God.

I am hoping this will bring solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the world with the visual imagery of the church preparing herself like a bride for the coming of the bridegroom, our Lord Jesus Christ

‘And they overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.’    Book of Revelation, Chapter 12 v 11

Here is how Shiloha did it:

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Beryl (Morgan) Franklin – January 10th,1924-February 9th, 2017

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Beryl at a St. David’s Day celebration March 1, 2013 at the Care Home where she lived.

When I was twelve years of age and living in Port Talbot, south Wales, one of my close friends was Elizabeth, (née Jones) Dumayne, fondly known as Lib.  She had been invited to be a bridesmaid at a wedding and asked me if I would accompany her to the house of a dressmaker/seamstress who lived in Oakwood Street, located right next to James Street where I lived at that time.  That seamstress was Beryl Morgan, whom I met for the first time.  I can still vividly remember the beautiful green bridesmaid dress that she had made.  Beryl was a skilled seamstress and in great demand. She never needed a pattern and could create any made-to-measure garment from a description or photo, plus taking the measurements of the person for whom it was to be made.  After that I occasionally saw her in town and knew that she attended Margam Road Presbyterian Church.

It was when I was 17 years of age that I, together with friends Hywel Jones and Len Gibbs, obtained permission to use a little, unused hut located near Port Talbot Railway Station and Post Office in Station Road, Port Talbot. We were keen Christians and needed a place where we could hold youth meetings to which we could invite friends from school as well as out of school friends.  Hywel invited a number of young people from his church, including Beryl Morgan and that is how I came to know my future sister in law well.

We had wonderful times at those meetings singing lively choruses and hymns and it was at that time that Len and Hywel had the opportunity to start their preaching careers, particularly at our Saturday night evangelistic meetings.

My brother Calvin was an officer in the Merchant Navy but when he came home on leave, he also attended those meetings in the hut and that is where he met Beryl.  Very soon they started going out together and it was love at first sight. Incidentally, years later their son Huw followed his father’s example by falling in love at first sight with his future wife Pam.  A week or so later, they (Huw and Pam) announced their engagement and six months later they were married in Prairie Chapel, where Martin was the pastor.

However, Calvin and Beryl were not able to get married as quickly because Calvin had to complete the obligations of his contract with his marine employers which meant being away at sea for considerable lengths of time.

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Pictures of Beryl and Calvin’s wedding.

Calvin and Beryl had a wonderful relationship and a lot in common; first and foremost
was their deep personal relationship with the Lord which never wavered and became stronger every day. They shared the same passion for classical music and were extremely knowledgeable.  When they first met Calvin loved symphonies and concertos composed by the Great Masters.   Beryl loved choral works such as oratorios but both grew to appreciate all genres of music.  They did of course love hymns, worship songs and Gather style music.

They were totally non-confrontational and used to say that they had never had an
argument, which is almost impossible to believe but their children have confirmed that this was so.  Beryl used to laugh so easily and had a unique sense of humour; she was quick witted and always seemed to make humorous retorts (a talent that she passed on to her two children, Kay and Huw) and I really enjoyed the repartee.  It was a joy to be in her company.  Beryl talked freely about the Lord and was a vibrant and joyful Christian. Since living next door to us, I have spent many hours in her lovely apartment in Huw and Pam’s home just talking about the Lord and sharing His blessings with each other. She was a good conversationalist, never criticized others and generally was cheerful and positive.  Calvin and Beryl were both gentle, unassuming, humble and self-effacing but for those of us who knew them, they were invaluable.  Both in the UK and in Canada they enjoyed a gentle ministry of hospitality, counselling and helping the needy. In Abbotsford, they were involved in helping and supporting unmarried mothers.   When they were part of the Vineyard Fellowship in Langley, the congregation consisted mainly of younger people.  Calvin and Beryl were certainly older than the majority of the members of the congregation so were like Mam and Dad to many.  They were both extremely generous and did not expect anything in return.

Sadly my brother Calvin died in 1997 at home where Beryl had cared for him supported by her family.  Calvin’s premature death was a devastating blow to us all but Beryl was a shining example of serenity as she embraced the grace of the Lord and comfort of the Holy Spirit during this difficult time.  They were soul mates for sure but Calvin and they enjoyed 40 happy years together and were a testimony to all.

Beryl was blessed to be surrounded by her two children Kay and Huw, their spouses and her grandchildren.  At the time of Calvin’s death they were living in an apartment in the ground level basement of Huw and Pam’s house.  A short time later, they sold that house and purchased the house right next door to us.  The same arrangement was possible for Beryl but now, we had the blessing of having them all living next door.  Huw and Pam and their two children Meghan and Evan were a great support and encouragement to her.  Kay, Tony and their children Siobhain and Daniel visited her regularly and Kay took over the responsibility of family reunions such as Christmas.  Both her children and grandchildren brought her much joy.  She told me how comforting it was to hear the sound of their voices and their footsteps as they walked upstairs. I would like say how I appreciate Pam who was willing to share their house with her in-laws and she was a constant support to Beryl. I find Pam laid back but very loving and caring and she didn’t hesitate  in welcoming her in-laws to live in their apartment. Beryl was equally grateful for Kay and Huw and very proud of them both.

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Beryl, with her daughter Kay and son Huw – Christmas 2005.

When Beryl was in her late 80s, it was obvious that she needed full time care.  She quite suddenly lost the use of her legs and she was no longer able to take care of herself. Huw and Pam had full time jobs and  Beryl couldn’t be left alone.  Beryl understood her dilemma and broached the subject with Huw that the time had come for her to move into an extended care home. By doing this, she lovingly and mercifully removed the need for Huw to raise the matter with her, something he was very reluctant to do.  The Lord moved marvelously and Beryl was offered a place in a local care home where she would be loved and cared for by a truly wonderful staff.

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Beryl with her daughter Kay at the St. David’s Day celebration March 1, 2013.  Persons in the background are my other sister-in-law Doris and her daughter, Jane.

The initial wrench was painful but Beryl settled in and we were told that she had more visitors by far than anyone else in the facility and there were many occasions when visiting Beryl that we would find one of the nurses sitting chatting with her.  A week after arriving in The Cottage, she had her 90th birthday and on January 10th, 2017, she had her 93rd birthday.

During the past year at the Cottage we saw deterioration in her health.  She became very deaf and her eyesight also deteriorated.  She could no longer read even large print books in addition to suffering other physical problems.  However, whenever we visited her, she loved Martin reading familiar passages from the bible to her and even if she were sometimes confused, once Martin started reading, she would become lucid and alert and would recite the passage with him.  Similarly whenever we prayed with her she was no silent observer but punctuated Martin’s prayer with  “Yes Lord”, “Thank you Lord,” and multiple “amens.”  Even as her body and mind became weaker, it was such a treat to see that her spirit was intact and very much alive. We often sang hymns to her and she would immediately sing quite loudly.  Our friend Naj suggested that I sang some Welsh hymns to Beryl which she sang heartily and still remembered the Welsh words.

My late brother’s wife, our darling sister in law and one of our spiritual mentors, entered into the awesome presence of the Lord Jesus on February 9th 2017.  She loved and served Him until He called her home to the place that He had prepared for her.  Huw and Kay, Beryl and Calvin’s wonderful children, and their supportive spouses Pam and Tony were present. She had been sleeping all that day until 11.38 pm, when she opened her big beautiful blue eyes and then breathed her last breath.   We went to see her in the afternoon of the day that she died.   As she was sleeping peacefully, we told her that we loved her and thanked her for being such an important and precious member of our family.

She is now enjoying what Jesus promised, the details of which are recorded in John 14:1-3

“Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am, there you may be also.”

Grace (Franklin) Gouldthorpe

February 17th 2017

Important note: Let me encourage you to take the opportunity to write a comment, particularly if you knew Beryl personally and have memories to share.

 

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Canada in Winter

Many people around the world, when they think of Canada in winter, picture in their minds deep snow, bitingly cold temperatures, snow blowing into huge drifts, polar bears ambling down the main streets of towns and people dressed in very warm clothing, including long johns under warm pants (trousers), fur lined jackets, hoods and gloves.

It is that way in parts of Canada although the only place that I know of where polar bears amble down the main street is Churchill, Manitoba on the western shore of Hudson’s Bay.  Otherwise, places like Whitehorse in the Yukon, Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, Edmonton, Alberta, Saskatoon in Saskatchewan, The Pau and Winnipeg, Manitoba, Northern Ontario and even places like Montreal, Ottawa and the eastern provinces of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland can see temperatures drop to -40° to -50°C.   That is cold for human beings and requires adaptation and great care to avoid frost bite which can happen very quickly.  It is a special breed of people that not only live in these conditions but can be heard to boast about it!  I think they have the right to boast.

There is a part of Canada that stands apart from these raw and cruel conditions.  It is found in the southwest corner of the nation, in the southwest corner of British Columbia.  It includes Vancouver, Victoria, Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and the Fraser Valley.  As the town of Abbotsford, where we live is in the heart of the Fraser Valley, it means that we have the luxury of living in this mild, “banana” belt.  The hardy Canadians who live in the icy climes sometimes poke fun at us “softies” who live here.  That’s OK, we can take it!

From time to time, however, we get a reminder that this is still Canada and we find ourselves on the receiving end of weather that the rest of Canada would hardly blink an eye at but, for us, it causes havoc and disruption.  This winter has been such a time (you knew I was building up to say that, weren’t you?).  It started in mid-December and we are only now (mid February 2017) enjoying a milder, wetter trend that is more typical of here.  Normally at this time of the year, crocuses are in abundance, the daffodils are approaching blooming time, the wild cherry blossom is in bud, as is the Forsythia.  This year?  Nothing yet.  The weather forecasters are hesitant to tell us that the worst is over, and I don’t blame them.  We have had more snow this winter than our area has seen for many years.  In some locations, new snowfall records have been set.

I should have gone out with my camera and taken more pictures but the conditions were too bad.  Also, in spite of being two good children in November when we got our ‘flu shots, Grace and I both went down with a ‘flu virus that wasn’t covered by November’s vaccine.  Actually, I got it first and gave it to Grace.  We are over it now.  I did take some pictures of the immediate area around our house.  Here are five of them.  Enjoy them, because we may not get another winter like this one for a few years, at least that is what we are all hoping!

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Our house on a crisp, cold and windy morning (February 7, 2017). There had been a heavy snowfall overnight but the system had moved eastwards, leaving us with blue sky. The wind had blown the snow off the rhododendron bushes. The footprints in the virgin snow are mine, made as I walked across the street to take this picture.

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Looking from our front porch across the street.

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Early morning view looking east from our house. Our neighbour’s house, shown in the picture is the one that was owned and occupied by our nephew Huw and family for many years.

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View from our patio door. Note the tiny Anna’s humming bird sitting at the nectar feeder. Anna’s humming birds have been spending winter in British Columbia rather than migrating south for a number of years now. We have been feeding them for about seven winters.

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A close up of an Anna’s humming bird hovering and feeding at one of our two nectar feeders.

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Rev. James Morris – June 20, 1946 -January 2, 2017

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Rev. James Morris

Jim was among the first group of boys who began attending Bible study and fellowship meetings at our home in Chiswick, west London in the early 1960s.  These meetings began in the autumn of 1961 with four 13 year old girls, all of whom were pupils of Grace at Hammersmith County School for Girls.  The number of attendees grew but, for a while, continued to be girls only.  In time, however, boys began to attend.  As numerical growth took place the group became known as the Grange Fellowship.

Jim was invited by his best friend, David Burl.  Both of them, along with another close friend, Ben Belsham, had hearts that were open to the Lord and soon received Christ as their Lord and Saviour.  The promise of John 1:12-13 was fulfilled in their lives, “… to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

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They were nicknamed, “The Four Just Men,” L to R: Jim Garden, Jim Morris, Ben Belsham, David Burl – 1964

For these three teenage boys, there was no doubt about their commitment to the Lord Jesus and they have subsequently never faltered in their witness and service for the Lord.  Jim and Ben received and obeyed the call to full time Christian ministry; David went on to serve the Lord illustriously in the world of academia.  Ben conducted the service of celebration for the life of Jim on 27 January 2017 and David was present.

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Youthful Janet and Jim – very much in love already

Like Adam, to whom the Lord brought a wife and soulmate in Eve, the Lord brought Jim the love of his life in Janet, who was one of the original four girls in the founding of the Grange Fellowship.  My wife Grace has always been very proud of the fact that she had a role in bringing them together, with the help of David and, doubtless, the approval of the Holy Spirit!  Many of you are familiar with the story of how Grace invited Janet, Jim and David to our house one Saturday evening for a time of informal fellowship.  The agreement between Grace and David was that he would, under some pretense, leave at 9:00pm leaving Jim and Janet with us for a while longer.  It was a dark night and Jim, being the young gentleman that he was, insisted on accompanying Janet to her home in safety.  It was the beginning of their courtship and life together.

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Wedding Day – September 24, 1966

Their wedding took place on September 24, 1966, when they also became the first Grange Fellowship couple to marry.  The Lord blessed them with two fine children, Craig and Lynne.  Jim and Janet celebrated their Golden, 50th wedding anniversary in 2016.

Jim joined the staff of the Come Back to God Campaign, an evangelistic organization and trained for the ministry under its auspices.  This included studies at Adelaide College and a comprehensive, “on the job” schedule of training at Highgate and Ealing. Incidentally, Ben took the same route in training and preparation for the ministry.

Jim’s first pastorate was at Underwood Free Church in Reading, Berkshire where he was also officially ordained.  He remained there for 5 years, after which he became the pastor of Perivale Mission Church, taking over that responsibility from the Rev. Denis Paterson, the founder and director of the Come Back to God Campaign.

From Perivale Jim and Janet, and family moved north to Rochdale in Lancashire where Jim became manager of the Come Back to God Campaign Christian bookshop and also joined the pastoral team of Zion Baptist Church with Rev. Mansel Hiles.

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Jim and Janet with their children Craig and Lynne

In 1986, Jim became pastor of Fordham Baptist Church in Cambridgeshire and remained there until 2001.  It was during these years that both Craig and Lynne were married. Subsequently, their children presented Jim and Janet with 5 grandchildren.

His final move took place in 2001 when he accepted an invitation to become the pastor of Bere Regis Congregational Church in Bere Regis, Dorset.  He remained in that position until the Lord took him Home on January 2nd, 2017.

Jim loved being a pastor.  Evidence of that can be seen in the fact that he never had any intention of retiring from pastoral ministry.  When he celebrated his 65th birthday in 2011 he kept going and on his 70th birthday in June 2016, he was still “in harness” caring for God’s people and preaching the Gospel.

I have no hesitation in saying to any young man aspiring to the ministry, who wants an example of how it should be done, to take an earnest look at the life work of Rev. Jim Morris.

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An intimate moment at their 50th wedding anniversary

Before saying anything more, this is an appropriate moment to refer to the part played through the years by Janet, Jim’s soulmate and partner in the great work the Lord entrusted to them.  Jim and Janet adored each other.  They were perfectly matched and Jim would be the first to say that he could not have been such an effective servant of the Lord without Janet at his side.

Jim was a people person.  He loved others and there was no limit to the lengths he would go to help and nurture people in their spiritual journey and overcome the challenges that they faced.  He attracted people to himself and he was loved by them.  A touching and tender example of this was the case of his mother-in-law.  Her husband, Janet’s father, predeceased his wife and she, from then on confidently depended on Jim.  When she began to slip into a state of dementia, it was Jim to whom she looked more than anyone else to comfort and help her.  That care was given attentively by Jim and, of course by Janet too, until she passed away.

I remember him telling me once that he did not have the ambition to be the pastor of a large church with a multitude of people in his congregation. A smaller church in a smaller community fitted him perfectly.

Jim was a sound theologian and an excellent preacher.  Through the decades of his ministry, his congregations were blessed by his teaching and counsel.  The Holy Spirit was upon him and he spoke with authority.  People sensed this about him.

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Craig and Lynne’s opinion about their father

He fitted well into a public setting and when he spoke to a crowd of people, they listened.  He also had a great sense of humour.  There was nothing dour or depressing about his manner.  I told him that I believed that, if the Lord had not called him to ministry in the Kingdom of God, he could have succeeded very well as a stand-up comedian and entertainer.  He had a great stage presence.  On the occasions when Grace and I travelled to the UK, and there was a Grange Fellowship reunion included on the itinerary, we had no hesitation asking Jim to be the master of ceremonies at that event.  Many will recall the easy, humorous manner in which he performed this responsibility.  Who can forget him producing a packet of pills from his pocket and saying, “I think the average age of those attending this reunion is 55.  Perhaps now is the time we should be taking our pills?”  Then, taking pills out of the packet in his hand he would say, “These are my heart pills and these are for my cholesterol etc. etc.”  Vividly imprinted on my memory is the hilarious rendition by Jim, complete with costume, hat and false beard, at the 2015 reunion in Gunnersbury Baptist Church in Chiswick of Fagan’s song from the musical Oliver, “You’ve got to pick a pocket or two.”  Those of you who were there will remember and it is OK to laugh again right now.

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Jim in the Bere Regis Jubilee Parade

This brings me to a very valuable comment that I want to make regarding Jim and Janet’s ministry.  They did what Jesus did in a way that regrettably is not always seen in the work of pastors and their wives.  While some of us busy ourselves setting up programmes in our churches and invite people to come to them (nothing basically wrong in doing that), we forget and fail to do what Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel.”  Jim did not make this mistake.

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Jim participating in a “Strictly Come Dancing” fundraising event  (Strictly Come Dancing is known in Canada and US as Dancing with the Stars) Not sure whether the expression on Jim’s face is an indication that his shoes were too tight!

The Gospels tell of the Lord Jesus going to the people and mingling with them where they were, often to the disgust of the religious leaders of His day.  Jim and Janet did what their Saviour did and became involved in their community.  The people of Bere Regis have plenty of memories of Jim that will remind them that he was a man who loved them, a man who loved life, a man who not only wanted people to come to faith in the Lord Jesus but have fun and be happy.  Jim and Janet could be found attending and active in events that included the whole community and brought people together.

I do not know of any pastor anywhere who regularly became involved in the presentation of an annual pantomime or musical production.  Jim did more than get involved, he wrote the script, directed and played a major role in at least 9 major dramatic productions over the years.  He will be sadly missed and long remembered with affection by the people of Bere Regis, a community Jim and Janet came to love.

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Jim and Janet in one of the many pantomimes Jim wrote and produced

King David is believed to be the writer of Psalm 37 and in verse 23 he says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and he delights in his way.”  Jim was truly, a good man.  If he were here and heard me say that, he would hasten to add that, if that were true it was due to the manifestation of God’s grace in his life.  He would be right of course, in the way that it would be true for all of us who seek to follow the Lord Jesus as His disciples.

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At Lake Louise, Canada, September 2007

Grace and I are so grateful for some quality time that we were able to spend with Jim and Janet in 2007.  Through a Time Share to which they belonged they were able to book a stay at a very nice location near Banff, Alberta and invited us to share it with them.  It was a wonderful time of rich fellowship.  Afterwards we drove home to Abbotsford where we had more time together.  We shall not forget that special time.

Sadly, for us, we shall not have another opportunity here on earth to have good fellowship with Jim, or to sing along as he leads the singing of worship songs, strumming along on his banjo, or hear him preach, or watch and roar with laughter as we attend a performance of one of his pantomimes.  We all mourn and grieve our loss of him.  For Grace and me, his passing means another of our spiritual children has gone on ahead of us into the glorious presence of the Lord.

However, grieve though we may, that is far from being the whole story.   Writing to the believers in Thessalonica, the apostle Paul said, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.”  We know by faith and the witness of the Holy Spirit that Jim is more alive now than he has ever been.  He has seen Jesus face to face, and has entered into his eternal inheritance that the Lord has prepared for him and all of God’s people.  Without any doubt in my mind, I know he was greeted on arrival in glory with enthusiastic rejoicing and heard the word of the Lord Jesus to him, “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord.”

It is not easy for us to imagine what eternal blessings Jim is now enjoying.  Matthew Henry (1662-1714), the Bible commentator wrote the following words as he neared the end of his life, and gave instructions that they be read at his funeral.  Let us put these words into Jim’s mouth and give him the last word.

“Would you like to know where I am?

I am at home in my Father’s house, in the mansion prepared for me there.  I am where I want to be – no longer on the stormy sea, but in God’s safe, quiet harbour.  My sowing time is done and I am reaping; my joy is as the joy of harvest.

Would you like to know how it is with me?

I am made perfect in holiness.  Grace is swallowed up in glory.

Would you like to know what I am doing?

I see God, not as through a glass darkly, but face to face.  I am engaged in the sweet enjoyment of my precious Redeemer.  I am singing hallelujahs to Him who sits upon the Throne, and I am constantly praising Him.

Would you like to know what blessed company I keep?

It is better than the best on earth.  Here are the holy angels and the spirits of just men made perfect.  I am with old acquaintances with whom I worked and prayed, and who came here before me.

Lastly, would you like to know how long this will continue?

It is a dawn that never fades!  After millions and millions of ages, it will be as fresh as it is now.

Therefore, do not weep for me!”

Martin J. Gouldthorpe

January 22, 2017

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