Faith Stories

My Story – Kim Bates

I enjoyed a good childhood and am the eldest of four, with one brother and twin sisters. Despite my disability I was treated as ‘normal’ and am ever thankful for encouraging parents. I would occasionally go to Sunday school and later sang in the choir with a friend. We enjoyed our ‘pocket money’ if we had sung at a wedding. I had a deep awareness of God dipping in to my life at times of danger or fear. My teenage years were full of the usual difficulties of letting go of childhood and growing up.

I was introduced to my first husband at the age of 19. We married and soon after our first son was born. Sadly things began to go wrong in our relationship. We parted, reunited and parted again. This pattern went on for ten years. At one point I did divorce him, but later reunited and our second son arrived. With all this going on my eldest became one very angry child – who can blame him? We had badly let them both down. The guilt of this wouldn’t leave me. My first husband finally met an old flame and left for good. As he moved out, Christ moved in, and in His tender mercies prompted me to take the three of us to church. It was Harvest Thanksgiving. I found I was thanking the Lord before I knew what I was thanking him for. Things at home became more and more difficult and I was on my knees by then praying. The Lord moves in strange ways, or so it seemed at the time. Both my sons left to live with their dad and his wife. It was a very difficult decision to reach but the Lord makes good his promises and the healing process began for all of us.

I had met a friend whose husband had also left her and she was looking in to the Bible. We would sit there over coffee talking about the Bible and began to attend a ladies’ Bible study group. The Bible really came to life for me. On one occasion I was reading John 11 about Lazarus and came to when Jesus spoke to Martha after her brother had died and said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even though they die, and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” It was as if the Lord himself was standing there in the room asking me that question. How else could I respond but with “Yes, Lord, I believe”? Soon after that I became very aware of the darkness of my sins – a feeling that almost overwhelmed me. I remember saying, “Father, save me” and was filled with light and love and forgiveness. I couldn’t stop smiling!

Back on earth I moved to a flat in Guildford where my two boys would visit. I met Jane at the church we were attending and we ‘flat-shared’ for about two years. I also met Keith and in that time we were married.

Two years later Keith’s mum, who lived with us, was taken in to hospital and we visited each evening. One morning we said our usual goodbyes, expecting to visit his mum that evening. The next time I saw Keith was in a London hospital about 11 at night, covered in bandages and hooked up to machines. He had had a very serious work-related accident. Many injuries, but the worst was losing his left arm and right thumb. He had got caught up in a winch but mercifully a doctor ‘happened’ to drive past, stopped and Keith told her to turn his lorry’s engine off, which prevented any further damage. The two churches we were connected with devoted the whole evening to praying for Keith and myself. He was heavily sedated for at least six weeks. The pastor’s wife, Sally, arranged for me to have transport up to the Chelsea and Westminster each day and the whole fellowship was a great support. The day that Keith had his throat tube removed and spoke to me over the phone was sadly the day his mother died. It seemed puzzling to me that they never saw each other again. His mum knew of the accident and must have been so worried for him, but again the church arranged to be with her when I couldn’t. What a time. We both learnt a lot during the whole experience and knew how treasured we were by the Lord. He never left us once and remained our anchor through it all; and so the journey with Jesus goes on.


An Eye to the Future

At the end of 2010, I was fairly upbeat; I was looking forward, amongst other things, to spending time with my grandchildren, completing my Open University degree and getting more involved with charity work. I have been blessed with good health all my life, but there was a surprise in store for me.

A routine visit to the optician in April was the start of an unexpected journey. I’d noticed some flickering at the edge of my vision which I assumed to be a minor problem. I mentioned this to him, and he seemed rather concerned and arranged an appointment at the local eye clinic a few days later. They in turn referred me to Bart’s Hospital, where I was diagnosed with a choroidal melanoma – a small tumour in my eye. I spent a week in hospital receiving radiotherapy treatment, which I was told had a 90% chance of success. A recent check-up has confirmed that the tumour has begun to reduce in size, which is good news. Unfortunately, I am likely to suffer permanent partial sight loss as a result of the treatment, and I still have some double vision while my eye muscle heals. However, I am very grateful to my vigilant optician who referred me so quickly; I hope and pray that the tumour has been treated in time and won’t spread anywhere else.

When I was first diagnosed, I wanted to find out all I could about my condition, so that I knew what I was dealing with. I started looking on the internet, and soon found myself on forums which seemed to be full of scare stories about the ghastly things that had happened to other people with this kind of tumour. So I decided there and then to stop visiting these websites and to trust God and the wonderful team at Bart’s for my future. I was reminded of the verse from Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding”. It’s printed on a card on my dressing table, so I see it every morning.

Throughout this time I have been greatly buoyed up by prayers and messages from the Emmanuel family; when I was in hospital, I felt I was gently floating on a huge sea of prayer. I was calm and knew that I was safe in God’s hands, and I understood for the first time what it means to be supported by prayer.

I am getting on with my life, and not letting this hiccup get me down. Thankfully we all have two eyes, and my good eye is compensating for the weaker one. I have done everything I planned to do in 2011: seen lots of the grandchildren, finally got my BSc and even joined a new choir. I have also been to Uganda and met people who have experienced great suffering during the 20-year civil war; they are putting their past traumas behind them and are determined to build a better future. We can all learn a lot from that positive attitude. I am looking forward to 2012, and I know that whatever the future holds for me, God will be with me every step of the way.

Sally Varley




My early days were spent in Westcott near Dorking, but when I was about 2 years old we moved to Cobham where we lived for many years.

My mother was a Christian but my father wasn’t. So I grew up going to Sunday school and at the age of 14 years I was confirmed at my mother’s wish, chiefly to transfer the responsibility, rather than any real commitment on my part. I continued going to church and praying and, as is common, answers don’t always come by return. The turning point for me was when my Auntie had a stroke and needed to move in with us so my mother could care for her. To achieve this we had to move my cantankerous grandfather from two rooms in to one (his wife had died many years earlier) I had never prayed so hard in my life that he wouldn’t cause problems. Praise be, he accepted the change without argument.

A few years later whilst working for British Railway I met Bill and we married a little while afterwards and continued to live in Cobham for about 10 years. We moved to Guildford with our two children in 1965. We started coming to Emmanuel and felt it to be a very welcoming church, there have been many changes over the years as the church has grown. I found Emmanuel very supportive when Bill died and later when I decided to move house, the love and prayers helped me through very difficult times.

God has also been very good to me by giving me two lovely grandsons of whom I am very proud.

Looking back God has done so much for me during my life, how could I not worship Him?