Fulfilled living in later life

Friday 9th June 2023

My Story - Grace

Grace, 96, lives at Milward House in Tunbridge Wells. She tells us how God’s love has led her to spend a lifetime caring for others, including through Christian organisation National Children’s Home (now Action for Children)

As a young woman, Grace found herself working as an assistant house mother at a National Children’s Home school for boys in Carmarthenshire, Wales. Aged between 11 and 14, the boys had all been convicted by the juvenile court for things like truancy and petty larceny. “They were little flotsam and jetsam, somehow,” says Grace. “It was post-war and a lot of children had traumatic, heart-breaking birth circumstances. Some had lost fathers, some had parents who had deserted them. I felt my heart going out to them.”

Every night Grace would say, ‘Bedtime now boys. Once you’re ready I’ll come back and say prayers with you.’ “It was a struggle to get that off the ground but when I did, they appreciated it. They liked that someone would pray with them in a simple, childlike way, bringing them to the Lord and asking Him to bless them, to take their fears away, and to look after them whatever the future held.”

It was at the age of 19 that Grace had the “born again experience” that shaped the rest of her life. “It was a cry of desperation, really. I wasn’t getting on well with my mother. I’d fallen in love with someone but he chose someone else. All my sisters were getting married. One Sunday I felt a bit strange and I wondered ‘is someone praying for me?’. I was climbing the stairs and felt like I was the prodigal son returning to God. I kneeled down and said, ‘Please make me like when I was little, when I believed in You and it used to come right’. And the Lord took me in His arms, like the prodigal son, and I sensed this
outpouring of His love.”

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Grace later found out that a serene-looking Christian lady who sat opposite her at the food office where she worked counting coupons had been praying for her. “Everything was different after that,” says Grace, “I just wanted the Lord and the Lord’s people.”

Naturally caring, Grace found the Lord used this gift to help her reach out to others. One of her first jobs was as a classroom assistant at White Hart Lane Junior School in North London, working with children who were, in the language of the time, “maladjusted”. She then left home to work at the National Children’s Home’s open-air sanatorium in Harpenden. TB was rife, with no medication for it. “Sunlight and fresh air was considered the best treatment,” says Grace. “The wards had moveable sides that you could pull right back and there were little huts on tramlines that you could push out into the garden.”

It was from here that Grace moved to the boys’ school in Wales. She also spent a year training at the National Children’s Home’s
college in London. When Grace then moved back to London, she heard about a widowed father-of-four, John Alexander Peters, who needed a housekeeper. Grace took on the role and eventually became John’s wife. They went on to have a son together. “There were seven of us living in this three-bed council house in Harefield, Middlesex, and we were a bit pushed for space really. All these teenagers and all these shoes!”

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Grace and John had a canal boat nearby which was a handy bolthole. John was very successful in business, becoming a Freeman of the City of London for his services to industry. Grace took on various roles including as a demonstrator of knitting machines and as a visitor with the probation service, supporting prisoners’ wives.

Following John’s death, Grace moved into a flat at Pilgrims’ Friend Society’s former location in Brighton. “I used to love to go down and help with the frail, older people in the home,” she says. When our Brighton Home closed, Grace moved to a flat at Milward House, and has since moved into the care home.

“It was lovely when I moved across as one of the staff spent the time talking to me find out all about me,” says Grace. “It isn’t always easy being a recipient of care but we are blessed with wonderful staff. We’re always laughing together. A sense of humour goes a long way.”

Grace stays in touch with her family regularly, including by video call and text as some of her children live in Australia.

The Christian environment means a lot to Grace and she has made some good friends.

“We have services and we can live our faith with one another. If I was in a non-Christian home I’d have to guard it. You could talk about it, but you wouldn’t be received. It’s the oneness here that’s so special.”

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