Jack, 93, lives at Framland, our home in Wantage. He is a structural engineer who built his life on The Rock
Jack was born in 1928 in Coatbridge, an industrial town between Glasgow and Edinburgh in the country of Lanarkshire. In those days the main industries were steelworks and mining. His father worked in the steel mills, and his mother, who had been in service, became a homemaker when their children, Betty and Jack, arrived.
Jack began training as a structural engineer in his early twenties, initially working in an office in Glasgow, then, a few years after qualifying, joining the Civil Service and moving to Edinburgh to become one of a team responsible for public buildings and works in the region. His parents were religious, and regularly attended a Church of Scotland church, but Jack noticed that his strength of faith and conviction was not as strong as that of one of his young colleagues. They talked about it and Jack was converted, making a full Christian commitment. He wrote his testimony and his daughter Elspeth found it years later.
He joined Coatbridge Baptist Church, where he met May. “This was 1953 and the Queen’s Coronation service was going to be televised,” says Elspeth. “Televisions were a new thing and not everybody had one. But Dad’s family had one and he invited Mum to come and watch the Coronation at his house with the family.” Jack and May were married in 1955.
In their late thirties they felt God calling them to full time Christian service, and in 1966 they left Edinburgh to join the Birmingham Bible Institute (BBI). It was a huge adjustment because it meant leaving most of their relatives and friends. It was also a step of faith. The Institute offered accommodation for families but no grant for Jack’s studies. Elspeth recalls, “Dad said that God would supply all we needed. And God did supply all our needs! We kept the car going and Mum and Dad, who were very hospitable, would invite seven or eight people for Sunday lunch, despite their restricted income. That was always a mark of my parents. We knew that God was never going to let us down.”
After Bible College, Jack and May were called to join SIM (which formerly stood for Sudanese Interior Mission and now stands for Serving In Mission), with workers in many countries. In 1970 Jack became General Secretary looking after the missionaries and others, such as African pastors, retiring in 1995. May’s health declined, and they moved to Wantage in 2006. Elspeth’s husband’s job had taken them to Wantage in 1989, where they went to Wantage Baptist Church. She says, “Most people knew about Framland, so when Mum’s health became a concern we helped them move into Framland’s Coach House, where they lived independently with our support. Being close to the home they would go in for the morning praise service, and Dad used to take prayers. Mum died in 2010, and Dad was quite lost for a while afterwards.” In 2015 her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and he moved into the residential home at the end of October 2019.
“He loves being in Framland,” says Elspeth. “His Alzheimer’s has progressed considerably, and sometimes I’ll find him quite detached and hard to engage. When I visit staff tell him, your daughter Elspeth is here to visit you! They’ll take him to prayers in the morning, and once a month they’ll have communion. Dad has two favourite hymns: Horatio Spafford’s ‘It Is Well With My Soul,’ and Martin Luther’s, ‘A Mighty Fortress Is Our God’.
Staff are wonderful: they show family members such love and respect.”
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