Carol and Denise: a lasting friendship with Joan

Carol writes:

‘Is it seven years since I joined Joan in her favourite harbour-side restaurant in Ramsey, Isle of Man, to celebrate her 93rd birthday? That was such a jolly occasion. Directed and guided by Joan we made our way toward the water front. Others who had gone there to eat joined in the delight of the occasion. It’s virtually impossible to be socializing with Joan and not have fun! Complete strangers get drawn in to the conversations, which can cover the ordinary, the extra-ordinary, the intellectual or theological, and the everyday of pets and plants and people. Part of the genius on display in that little outing was that unknown others were made to feel important and included.

Stopping now to recall anecdotes I realise that it was ever thus over the nearly 40 years I have known Joan, and I suspect any Home Partners who knew her for most of the 40 years before that would say the same. Certainly I have seen the same genius blessing teenage girls on courses at a Bible Training Centre in South Asia: the image that forms in my mind when I try to think of specific events is simply of Joan in sun in the girls hostel courtyard and happy young women making a bee-line for her, to gather around and to be laughing.

My first encounters with Joan were at the 1984 BMMF Induction and Orientation programme in South Asia. Was it in retirement that Joan had been willing to become hostess of the Guest House? Too much was new and unfamiliar for me to pick up such detail. I do know that we knew that Joan had spent a long time in a neighbouring country. Some of us still chuckle in recalling that at one breakfast, when having first served us, Joan sat down, took a spoonful and then enquired of us all, “Does this porridge taste cockroachy to you?”!!  Joan’s palate had perhaps been refined by experience: we could not say!

It was a lovely surprise to have Joan cross the border a year or two later the Bible Training Centre was struggling for staff. Though I had been based there whilst doing language study, we overlapped because I was on their board and familiar with girls who came to be trained through our ministry. Still I came to be one who knew Joan as a real friend. I am profoundly grateful for the way she continued to pray for me and correspond with me as shifts in my calling took me to the Middle East, and then to be involved in mission training in the UK including doing a PhD. My visit to stay with her for a week in 2015 was in fulfilment of my promise to explain my thesis to her (!), and not only did I have to respond to her good cross-questioning, but she specifically invited a theologian friend for afternoon tea so that we could have a three-way conversation about things the thesis raises. I enjoyed being organised by Joan for the whole week: She had bought the bus ticket needed and planned what I should see and where to go, so I got to see much of her beloved island and also to exercise her beloved collie Nan, sometimes in Joan’s company sometimes simply reporting back at the end of the day. I had a delightfully refreshing time: thank you again Joan.

Since then, due particularly to depleted eye-sight Joan has moved to supported accommodation. Restrictions notwithstanding, Joan’s genius still touches and encourages me, and I am sure that is true for others too.’

Denise continues:

Joan met Carol and I at the Guest House in the early hours of the morning.  I remember her diminutive form seizing my enormous case and hauling it upstairs before I could stop her.  At our first or second breakfast there, she asked loudly, “Does this porridge taste of weevils to you?” None of us newcomers round the table provided an answer, not having tasted weevils before. I remember her tireless pace of work, and her great belief in her ten-minute siesta after lunch.

My most precious memories of her arise from a holiday with her on the Isle of Man, shortly after I got married. It was pouring down when we drove off the ferry, and we had agreed she would wait for us at a particular point near where she lived.  As the weather was so awful we were wondering if that would happen.  However, at the appointed corner under the dripping trees, there she was in a pakamac and rain hood, holding a large soggy card bearing the words ‘David and Denise’.  Full of enthusiasm for the Isle of Man and the motorcycle T.T. races, David and she hit it off straight away.  She shared a great Practice Week with us, showing us all round the Island when the roads were clear. 

Thank you, Joan, for marvellous fellowship and hospitality!’