Deirdre Pineo’s Testimony
My early life included the immense love and treasured guidance of my mother, the leadership in Christian Union camps, and my year of “Biblical Education” studies at Teachers’ Training College. Later it included many years of church attendance in England and South Africa, and much “Quiet Time” study at home.
Rico Tice at All Souls, Langham Place, has emphasised that, “evangelism takes time, and evangelism takes friendship.” I think that the friendship angle is equally significant with our spiritual walk, once we have put our trust and faith in God. We need mentors and friends!
Although I had an early belief in God, the truth remains that special friendships accounted for an in-depth understanding, and growth in my spiritual life. Deirdre Russell-Bowie has been my earliest Christian friend, (almost sixty years of friendship!), and has encouraged me, and helped to sustain me through thick and thin. My gratitude to her has been immense, and I have also been impacted in the development of my faith by Jackie Berman, Moira Bowen, Glenda Suddards, Doreen Palmer and Bruna Gillham. One-to-one encouragement is essential, and although it has not been possible for face-to-face get-togethers over lockdown, technology has come to the fore, with e-mails and WhatsApp messages, and the sharing of valuable wisdom has been truly beneficial.
I do not normally share portions of friends’ letters to others, but this part comes from one of Jackie Berman’s precious, hand-written letters. It made an impact on my birthday on 4th December, 2011, and has been re-read on several occasions:
“I know you are going through deep waters at present. The only way to keep hope alive is to remind ourselves that this life is a very small part of a wonderful whole, and God will make up to you all the heartache, tears and loneliness you are experiencing now.
I do so wish that I could do more to help. It seems that some valleys we walk largely alone, with the Lord our sole companion. But He is there through it all, and great will be your reward when you see Him one day.
All my love, Jackie.”
(Please never underestimate the power of a hand-written letter, as these can be read many times, and their significance is ongoing.)
Jackie’s love and dedication to my parents and me, included conversations, hospital visits, advice, reading recommendations, and emotional upliftment. She was a Christian in action, leading by example. I thank God for her presence in my life.
In March 2020, just before lockdown began, I was baptised in water by Peter Wessels, and the significance of 2 Corinthians 5:17 came to the fore:
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, He is a new creation.
The old things have passed away, All things have become new.”
On that day, as I emerged from the water, I experienced an immense, warm feeling of peace, unlike anything I have ever experienced before. I will never forget this unique sensation.
Little did I know that the roller-coaster ride of lockdown was looming, and that I would need to hold harder onto God, and His promises, than I had ever done before.
There have been some silver linings to lockdown, and these have included more in-depth studies, and the God-incidences of repeated references to Bible verses, such as:
“Be strong and courageous, for the LORD your God goes with you: He will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid: do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8
I have learned to trust in God’s timing, and have tried much harder to listen to God’s still small voice, and to benefit from the insight.
I have frequently asked Him to give me wisdom, and I have put my complete hope in Him to guide me when I was “lost”, and needed Him most.
It has also been immensely reassuring to be reminded that the Holy Spirit will step in and help me when praying seems too difficult, and I have held on tightly to the knowledge that Jesus is always interceding for us. These have been valuable sources of encouragement.
One of the most precious chapters in Dane Ortlund’s book, “Gentle and Lowly”, is Chapter 9, entitled, “An Advocate.” This focus on Jesus “speaking on our behalf”, and interceding for us in heaven, will always be at the forefront of my mind.
Another verse which has made an impact on my life is the following:
“Blessed be the God and Father or our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our afflictions, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
2 Corinthians 1: 3-4
I have suffered from depression, and several other chronic illnesses, over most of my life, and know that these are my “thorn in the flesh”, but that they have a purpose.
2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 reminds me that without these sufferings, I would not have been able to empathise with those who are experiencing the same ailments.
As I recall some of my many sins, God’s forgiveness comes to mind. My gratitude knows no bounds when many Bible verses remind me of the depth of His compassion and grace.
Holding on to God’s many promises has helped me through relentlessly hard times, and has enabled me to keep persevering when I remember what God has done for me in the past, whilst I hold on to hope for the future.
Joe Rigny wrote an article called “Weep, but also rejoice”, and I found this conclusion very enlightening:
I took this photograph about two years ago, and used it to feature my favourite Bible verse, John 14:6
The image also had great relevance recently, as I read Vaneetha Rendall Risner’s comment:
“My deepest struggles had become my stepping stones to my greatest revelations about God.”
What was my life like before I put God first?
My focus was on my teaching career, and my pupils’ needs...
My faith was sustained by private Quiet Time studies at home, but Reg Courtney pointed out that this was being a “Lone Ranger”, and that I needed the support of the church.
What forced me to think clearly about my priorities in life?
Chronic illness forced me to give up my career in 1990, so there was plenty of time to think.
My mother came to the fore, and cared for me, unstintingly, during my many years of illness, and she suggested that I should consider going to services at St. Olav’s with her.
What happened since then?
Church attendance for services, Bible Studies, Christian Book Club evenings, and other functions took first place in Durban, and then on my return to London.
Eventually I returned to Durban to care for my mother full-time, as her Parkinson’s disease led to many falls, broken bones, and surgeries, and ultimately, she was wheelchair bound. Twelve years of caring for her, led to our already close mother/daughter relationship becoming even more meaningful. What an immense and unexpected blessing.
When she died in April 2018, I felt an indescribable loss, which has continued to this day. It was beyond imagining, and I lost all sense of purpose and became deeply depressed. I eventually sought the help of a truly compassionate Christian counsellor, who was actually recommended to me by Jackie Berman long before her death. Marilyn was there for me when I needed her the most, and consequently was another much-needed blessing from God.
Fifteen months of isolation alone, as a result of lockdown, has been excruciatingly tough, but it taught me total reliance on God, and led to in-depth study, where I became increasingly aware of God’s precious love for me, his forgiveness of my many sins, and I have received his continual guidance thanks to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
My gratitude to God is beyond measure, and many times I have thought about the words in Ecclesiastes 3:1, which include the words, “There is a time for everything, a time to heal, a time to build, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to be silent, a time for peace.”