To mark Women's History Month PULTA has asked women who are faith inspired activists or leaders to share a story of one women from history who has inspired them as a person of faith. In the third of our series Gale Richards (pictured left) shares the impact upon her faith of the simple and faithful witness to the love of God of her own Jamaican grandma - 'Miss Jane'. Gale grew up in inner city Birmingham, has a background in youth & community work in South London and now works as Project Development Officer & Regional Tutor for Heart of England Baptist Association and the Northern Baptist Learning Community and is a member of the organising team for the Faith Hope & Love - Christian Witness in a Multi Faith Society Conference in April.
Jamaica is one of the most beautiful islands you could ever hope to visit. Blue sky, sandy beaches, juicy mangoes, I could go on and on…Yet for me, the thing I looked forward to seeing each time I visited the beautiful island, more than anything else was my beloved grandma.
My grandma affectionately known as ‘Miss Jane,’ to date remains the most inspirational Christian woman I have ever met. She was a Christian for longer than I’d been alive. Miss Jane was a very slim, softly spoken lady, without any impressive qualifications, who blessed so many with her simple ability to quote bible-based proverbs to young and old, just when and how it was needed. Two of her favourite proverbs; ‘you will reap what you sow’ and ‘the Lord will never give you more than you can bear.’
I used to lose count of just how many locals, from the very young to the very old, popped around to her house each night, to hear her words of wisdom or for food and shelter, when falling on hard times. It was captivating stuff. The irony being that she was by no means financially well off herself, in fact quite the opposite. Yet what little she had, she shared. As fast as she accumulated material possessions she distributed them to those in need. Buy her two new dresses, she’d give one away, buy her three new pairs of shoes, she’d give two pairs away. After all she’d say; ‘you can only wear one at a time!’
I was fortunate to be by her bedside when she passed away just a few days before her 90th birthday in 2008. She went just as she would have liked, in her own bed on her own terms, with her family around her. Having the very hymns and bible verses she had used over the years to inspire and comfort so many, being sung and read back to her, which she visibly drew comfort from, in her last days.
Fittingly, she had the most joyful funeral I’ve ever attended in my life. The hundreds of people (including me) both young and old whose lives had been transformed by the wisdom she shared and her acts of kindness, paid their tributes to her and the amazing God she served…