One great thing about life is that many people have “already done it” and have experience we can learn from. In this series I’ve asked people about key lessons they’ve learned being married. I hope it helps you have an even better marriage.
A really short interview with Norman Barnes
Chris Goodchild: How did you meet Grace and when did you get married?
Norman Barnes: We met in 1961 when Grace came to the church that I was attending to help with the Sunday School and we married in 1964.
CG: Could you tell us a little about your background?
NB: Grace was born in Whitechapel London in 1935 and moved to Dagenham Essex while still a child. Dad was a porter in Borough Fruit Market. Grace’s mum refused to have her evacuated during the war years so she lost those formative years of education as schools were closed. Many years later she was diagnosed as dyslexic. At the age of eleven Grace became a Christian when her friend took her to the Sunday School. Grace was later baptised in the Holy Spirit at the age of thirteen when she had a vision of travelling the world and living out of a suit case. She then left school at the age of 15 and worked in a glove making factory and eventually became a manager.
I was born in 1942 Romford Essex and lived in Dagenham. I left school at 16 and went to work in a bank. I also became a Christian when I was sixteen and felt a call to the world.
CG: You mentioned Grace’s vision of travelling the world and your “call to the world”; I guess that, given your relatively humble beginnings, international travel wasn’t something readily accessible at that time? Could you tell us about your journey since then?
NB: We took on a mission hall in East London in 1966 and began to plant a church there. I was working in a law firm at the time and went self-employed as a builder/decorator so that I could give time to the church. Grace did house cleaning to help supplement our income. The church grew from 14 old people to a viable church of 200. Grace travelled taking teams of women to places such as India, Ghana, Sri Lanka and Mexico. In 1979 I went to Ghana and as a result in 1985 founded Links International with a mission to change lives and transform communities in developing countries. I was the CEO for 20 years and it now has a turnover of over £1 million a year. To date we have travelled to over 49 countries. We are now retired, living on the South Coast of England attending Arun Community Church.
CG: What is the greatest challenge you’ve faced in your married life and how have you overcome it?
NB: The greatest challenge was the fact that we could not have children of our own. Nothing can prepare you for the stark words, “It is very unlikely that you will ever have children.” Having just lost the baby Grace was carrying, those words from the London Hospital specialist hit us like shock waves from a bomb. We tried to console one another but it was an empty, hopeless time. Our disappointment turned to anger. Eventually we found peace. We asked God for grace to accept our situation but also for a spiritual family. God heard our prayer and answered it in ways that were beyond our wildest dreams; we now have family all over the world!
CG: What are the most important lessons that you’ve learned about being married?
NB: We are often asked the secret of 50 years of marriage. Two things:
- We read the Bible and pray together daily.
- We have never gone to bed on an argument or not talking so we always sleep at peace with each other.
CG: It is always great to hear that even the dark times in life can bring something good. Thank you Norman for sharing some of your story with us.
Norman and Grace produce a quarterly newsletter – visit www.destinycalls.org for more details.
Visit Links International (reg. charity 327000) for information about their work.
Want to read more like this? Sign up here and I’ll keep you posted.