What do I mean by "home"? Occasionally I would casually ask myself that question in the many years that I was working overseas. Although there wasn't a clear-cut answer, I felt that as a single person, it was probably where my parents happened to be at the time.
When God made it clear in 1988 that I should return from Nepal to the UK, as my parents were becoming elderly and in need of more support, I made my base in their small, retirement home while I looked for a job. Over the next few years, God always supplied my housing needs in wonderful ways. Sometimes it went with the job, once I lived in the caretaker's home, another time I found a church that rented out "low-cost flats for Christian workers". Although my father wanted me to inherit his house, we had to sell it to pay for his nursing care, while my mother moved in with me. When my mother died, three years after my father, I gave up the flat as I was invited, much to my surprise and delight, to work again in Nepal. I stored my belongings, lent my car to a friend, and suddenly found myself in the strange position of possessing no keys, except those to two suitcases. For the first time, I was aware of being without a home.
After a further period of work in Nepal, I returned to the UK, where a kind friend accommodated me, with my suitcases, in her guest room. I knew I needed something more permanent, and had absolute confidence that God would, in some way, provide for me, though I had no idea how. I wasn't penniless. I had inherited enough from my parents to buy half a house, but estate agents don't normally sell half houses. I had saved whenever I could, and my saving had increased wonderfully, but there was still a huge shortfall. Property prices were soaring and the local council had a long waiting list for accommodation. I contacted various housing agencies, charitable trusts, and so on, but all seemed to have strings attached. Either they were too expensive, or they required you to belong to a particular group (denomination, ex-military, etc.) or, very often, to demonstrate a strong connection to a specific place. The 'indigenous poor of the parish' seemed to be generally better qualified for housing than rootless nomads. At this point, through the encouragement of friends, I put in an application to the Whitefield Christian Trust before thankfully accepting another invitation to return to Nepal for a few months, in order to fill a gap.
Nepali friends were very concerned about my lack of a home. They found it hard enough to understand my single state, let alone the fact that, in British culture, one's married brothers do not automatically absorb retired sisters into their household. Few shared my God-given assurance that I would in some way be provided for, and at times I wondered myself whether I was demonstrating faith or presumption.
On my next return to the UK, a kind lady in my home church gave my suitcases and me an open-ended invitation to stay with her until a more permanent solution could be found. I was very grateful for this offer, and from being mere acquaintances we became good friends.
I was encouraged to learn that the WCT was willing to take me onto their books, but I knew that they had a growing number of applicants, and assumed that I was in for a long wait before my case could even be considered. However, I was encouraged by them to start looking for a property at once, so that we had some idea of the finance involved. I was very impressed by their flexibility, the variety of ways in which they might offer help, and also by their personal interest in my situation. Feeling slightly light-headed, but aware of the prayers and support of many friends, I stepped tentatively into the minefield of house hunting, only to find my dream cottage on the first day! That must be a record!
A small, flint house in a terrace of four, situated on the edge of a pleasant market town with good facilities and easy access to the countryside, the cottage is everything I have ever wanted. Once a 'two-up, two down' mill- workers cottage, it has a garden at the front and a small yard at the back. It is three minutes walk to church and four to the shops. Perfect!
Before I could contact WCT, I received word from them of the amount up to which they could help me. It not only covered the shortfall in the purchase price, but also allowed for some minor alterations, which needed to be done on the property. I was then able to buy my first home on a shared equity basis with WCT.
Even now, two years after emptying my suitcases, I am still euphoric about my home. I have never lost the sense of awe and thanksgiving to God for his wonderful grace and provision, and the way that he used WCT to make the impossible possible. I have told the story to many people, and everyone who hears it and sees the house is amazed. "It's perfect for you," is the unanimous verdict.
I'm so grateful to those who, seeing the housing vacuum into which some Christian workers return from overseas, had the vision to set up the Whitefield Christian Trust to meet that need. I'm also grateful to those who have, since then, developed the work and continue to be a channel of God's blessing to people like me.
When I first saw my house it was called "Seeker's Cottage" - not appropriate for someone who is a "Have-Found-er". I might have called it "Cloud 9", but in view of it's past history and mine, I have renamed it "The Servant's Quarters."