Hannah Chapman

What can I say? I am broken-hearted that the person I love most is no longer here. For more than 40 years, she has been a mother to me, teacher, pastor, counsellor, friend; but Mrs Smith has served her Lord God all her life, His timing is always perfect, so it would me wrong of me to wish things to be different. She knew her work on this earth to be completed, and she has gone to her heavenly home. What joy for her to be free from the pain of her many ailments, and united with her Lord whom she has served so faithfully!

She is the only person to fully understand me, the only one to love me enough to tell me the truth. She had the ability to reach out to people whose lives were damaged, and bring them to a place of usefulness and service to God. She took the ‘broken bricks’ of our lives and built something worthwhile out of them. She welcomed and appreciated every act of service I did for her, no matter how poor, as she was able to see the heart and the spirit in which it was given. When I did things wrong she never held back from saying so, but was always quick to forgive when I was truly sorry.

As I have worked for Mrs Smith, (as a volunteer, behind the scenes), I have seen first-hand the attention to detail and the effort that she put in to preparing for each visitor. From the smallest baby, the youngest grandchild, to the oldest celebrity, and even animals, she provided for the individual needs of each one. She understood them all. If there was a fractious bay when she was talking to a group of people she would take him in her arms and talk to him. Babies instinctively knew they were in safe hands, in a place of love. Every person was treated as special, and each one sensed and responded to the love they received, including the pets.  I am convinced that the dogs and other animals understood what she said to them. She especially loved children and would pull out all the stops to ensure there were plenty of appropriate toys, and presents for any child who came. Of course the grandchildren had a very special place. They had their own rooms full of treasures for when they came to stay and their favourite meals were prepared for them when they came after school. She made a tremendous contribution to the upbringing of each one.

I first met Mrs Smith in 1980, when she was starting a faith school. At the time I was teaching Physics at a girls’ school. A friend put me in contact with her, suggesting I might help with the Maths and Science. I went came to what was then the Retreat House on a visit, but instead of launching into discussion about teaching she asked me about myself, and gently probed under the ‘front’ I put on to the world to discover my personal problems. Nobody had ever cared enough to bother to do this before. I was overwhelmed by her love. Therein started a long process of her ministering to my needs over many years during which she spent many hours counselling me. I am only sorry that I was so slow to learn. She would always put the spiritual wellbeing of the individual ahead of any project she was undertaking because she knew that if our hearts were right and we were loving God, only then would we be able to work together and achieve the required results. Her teaching was right and true and her guidance was always good. As a school teacher she was able to bring the best out of all her pupils no matter how deprived their background because they knew she really cared for them, and as a result they achieved far more than would have been expected.

It has been a privilege to know Mrs Smith and have her as my spiritual Mother. There is so much more I could say but this is already too long! I am honoured to have been able to serve her in small ways. It has given my life a purpose and a usefulness beyond anything I could have otherwise achieved and I can only marvel at the most amazing work she achieved spreading out from small beginnings to become internationally renowned. Mrs Smith has been the heart of it all.

So dear spiritual Mother, there is a big hole in my life, but your timing is always right and your work here on earth is finished. God’s ways are perfect. So I will rejoice that I have known you and been taught by you, and will continue to follow that teaching and live as you would want me to. Thank you for letting me be part of your extended family. Thank you, thank you for all you have done for me and for the world.