WALKING ROUND THE TOWN CENTRE ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON WITH YOUR CHILD MAY NOT SEEM UNUSUAL, BUT FOR THIS WOMAN IT WAS THE FIRST TIME FOR FIVE YEARS
JO’S TEN-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER SAYS SHE CAN ONLY DIMLY REMEMBER A TIME WHEN HER MUM was able to walk unaided.
When she was just five, mum Jo was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Now in her late thirties, Jo had endured five years of constant pain and muscle weakness which left her barely able to walk. Doctors diagnosed terminal immobility and Jo spent the next few years housebound. To move around she was given an electric wheelchair, but determinedly avoided using it.
Jo refused to accept a life sentence of sickness and thought, “I’m not going to accept this. If necessary I’ll sell my house and go to the US, where they have better treatments.” When she told her doctors, they laughed, which increased her drive to get better.
But the pain increased in severity, leading to Jo being placed on the highest dose of morphine. Sadly this was ineffective…
Jo was at the peak of her physical fitness, training vigorously in martial arts. She now recognises she was juggling too much, emotionally and physically. “I was doing kick boxing, Tai Chi, Kung Fu, a photography class, learning Buddhist teaching and psychic development.”
She had thrown herself into these activities following a breakdown in her marriage in autumn 2007. She had felt repressed in her marriage, so, newly single, she now had the opportunity to indulge the interests she had been unable to pursue during her marriage.
Although she had studied Buddhism for years, she had been feeling that her own moral beliefs did not seem to coincide with the Far Eastern religion. She was drawn to Wicca, through her psychic development course. Wicca, the study of witchcraft, appealed to her as she could see it working – and Jo became a trainee witch.
Soon she collected Wiccan objects, which included a ceremonial knife, which Jo insists was not used for human sacrifices…
But as friends found her Wiccan items quite frightening, she kept them in a log cabin in her garden, her ‘sanctuary’, where she could meditate and smoke cigarettes away from the house. Soon the house was full of ancient Egyptian and other New Age artefacts, all supposed to bring favour and protection to their owner.
But despite Jo’s physical fitness, fibromyalgia struck and Jo’s life was turned upside down. From being an independent, active mother, she became a semi-invalid, confined to her home, in agonising pain, reliant on her daughters, aged 10 and 5, to manage the home and care for her. She did as much as she could, trying to spare her daughters, and accepted a series of aids to increase her mobility.
Jo’s life was about to change, however, through a series of meetings. In January 2013 she met Louise Jones, a local Christian, in a restaurant. Jo felt drawn to Louise who apparently had ‘a good energy.’
Louise, a jewellery designer and teacher of dance and creative arts, recalls, “I was in the Toby Carvery last January when I saw Jo walk towards me on her crutches. I felt as if God was highlighting her as she was struggling to walk. Her daughter was helping get her food. We smiled at each other and she commented that she liked my necklace, which is one I’d designed myself, and said she made jewellery, too.
“I asked what was wrong with her and if I could pray for her because I knew Jesus could heal her. She replied ‘You’re more than welcome!’ So I prayed for her, then spoke with her about Jesus for ages and we had a really lovely time together. I prayed a real prayer of faith and felt God’s love for her. Then I asked another leader in the church, Mark, who was also at the restaurant, to come over. He prayed for her, too, and continued to talk to her while I chatted with her two daughters.”
Louise kept in touch with Jo via text and they soon developed a close bond, Louise testifying to being released from many unhealthy bondages since becoming a Christian.
Meanwhile Jo was also being prayed for by her Christian cleaner, Lyn. Jo was unable to clean her own house, but Lyn proved to be another Godsend and is now a good friend. Lyn had volunteered to clean for people through Maybridge Church’s Handshake Community Group. Lyn introduced her to the Alpha course which Jo followed on DVD, surprising herself by accepting the encouragement to pray.
She was very touched when a friend of Lyn’s bought her an audio Bible. Listening to the Bible CDs worked very well for Jo, since the pain from the fibromyalgia made it hard to concentrate. Jo also began watching Christian DVDs, and says, “My favourite is the ‘Jesus’ one! I’ve watched it many, many times.”
By the end of April she had decided to open her heart and say all the prayers at the end of the DVDs. Receiving Jesus as her Saviour, she started to attend Lyn’s church, Maybridge Fellowship, in Goring by Sea. Gradually she noticed mental and physical improvements.
Her newfound faith brought with it some strange occurrences around the house. Her Wiccan objects started to smash in the log cabin. One day, a figurine of a major Egyptian goddess, flew off the shelf and smashed in front of her.
Following this, her Wiccan ceremonial knife was found with one of its two wings broken off. Faithful Lyn was ready with an explanation: “It offends God to have these things in your home.”
Jo began to realise this was serious, and having attended a healing service at St Stephen’s, Worthing, where she felt ‘wobbly’, she was sufficiently convinced that God’s power was greater than that of the occult. Returning home, she says she felt ‘compelled’ to throw out her Egyptian artefacts. She also cancelled her plans to have a ‘cheeky’ devil tattooed on her body.
In the few weeks that she had been a Christian, Jo had never asked for healing, but had simply asked for prayer for an increase in faith. This happened on Sunday 25 May when she and her younger daughter had unexpectedly come to Louise’s church, Coastlands Christian Outreach Centre, Worthing. The only reason she attended was that she had received a message that her normal Sunday service was cancelled.
After preaching, the pastor, Drew Kear, having prayed for others’ healing needs in response to ‘words of knowledge’, appealed for anyone who wanted prayer for their faith to increase. After Jo had struggled to the front on her crutches, the pastor prayed for her healing and she found herself flat on her back on the floor, eyes closed and in her words, “lost in God’s presence.”
When she opened her eyes, she said, “My whole body’s tingling.” As she said she could feel no pain, the pastor challenged her to try to bend her knees. Her first response was, “I can’t,” but then she found she could, exclaiming, “Oh my goodness, I haven’t been able to do this for years!” and was able to sit up, cross-legged, which would have been impossible before. Then, as she got to her feet, she found she could walk, unsteadily at first, without aid.
Thrilled to be able to walk, Jo and her daughter spent the afternoon doing what they hadn’t been able to for years – mother and daughter walking round the town centre, looking at the shops.
That evening, Jo received more prayer in church for some residual pain in her knees, neck and back: “I felt immense heat flowing into me which removed the pain.”
Once again, the power of God left her lying on the floor, proof in itself for Jo that this was real: “I’d never have believed that I’d fall over when I was prayed for – but I did!”
Jo is now facing a vibrantly different future – and she is in no doubt of the power of God to heal in the name of Jesus. A woman who needed proof that God was real can now feel it in her heart and healed body.
In Jo’s own words…
How God ‘spoke’ to me through song lyrics
I have been searching for ‘something’ my entire life, but never felt comfortable with any religion, including Christianity (up until now), and I would never in a million years have thought I would believe in one creating God!
Even after I started to open up my heart to God, I must be honest, I started to doubt him. I had wanted to go church for some time, but the opportunity never arose.
Then I woke very early one Sunday morning, made myself a coffee and sat in my cabin having a cigarette. I was playing Angry Birds, and listening to music on my iPod, which was on shuffle, so I had no control as to which songs could be played. I was engrossed in the game as I couldn’t get to the next level, when it suddenly felt as though someone was actually in my head: God! He seemed to be telling me to listen to the words of the music. One song after another, he was trying to tell me not to doubt him and to trust in him.
Completely blown away by this, I ended up perched on the edge of my bed still listening to the words of each song. I looked up in disbelief and saw a reflection of my neighbour’s broken TV aerial, which formed a perfect cross in a mirror. I was still in disbelief and then the words were sung, “So come on, you got it wrong; to prove I’m right I put it in a song. I don’t know why you’re being shy, and turn away when I look into your eyes. Everyone else in the room can see it, everyone else but you!”
God now had my undivided attention! I was going to church. The pain started to get worse while I was getting ready, so I asked God to help me get to church to praise him. Then the pain seemed to dissolve. I made it to church and sang as loudly as I could, with all of my heart. I had finally made it, in every sense. To church, yes, but more importantly, to my one true love: God, in whom I now never doubt and completely surrender my life.
He still talks to me in songs sometimes, much to my children’s amazement. Even after we attended Coastlands Church for the first time, when we got in the car, My daughter turned on the radio and her jaw dropped as the words of the song fitted perfectly to what we had just experienced. I’m still in awe of these miracles, but no longer surprised by them. I do not believe in anything without proof but I now believe in God and a place which feels like home!