Every person has a story. In Go MAD!, we hear the voices of ordinary people (like you and me) making a difference every day. Today Phyll O’Shea, part of our Everyday Southfields family, shares about life and serving Jesus in her retirement years.
Phyll has been part of Everyday Southfields (then Southfields Baptist) since she was born. Her great-grandfathers bought the plot of land that the church building sits on, and her great-great-uncle was its founding minister (what a legacy!).
Phyll, what does your average week look like?
On Mondays, I walk Millie the dog for my neighbour next door; she’s a single full-time working mum. On alternate Mondays or Fridays, I go on a prayer walk with Sue from Everyday Southfields on Wimbledon Common. I don’t make plans on Tuesdays; it is my day for God to arrange and I usually go for a long walk praising, worshipping, listening out for what he wants me to do, and recharging my spiritual batteries. On Wednesdays, I join a prayer meeting at the Southfields venue, visit a friend in the afternoons, host life group in the evenings and once a month host the GO (Golden Oldies) Club. I go to Pilates on Thursdays and help at Twiglets. Once a month on Friday afternoons a twins group for the local community meets at the Southfields venue (we have 11 sets of twins!) and I help change nappies, feed bottles, chat and make coffee and tea. In the half term and school holidays I often look after my grandkids.
I’ve been so grateful to God for opportunities to get to know people. I take in parcels for people in the street, since I’m home more. One of my neighbours likes Strictly Come Dancing so we watch it together; it began a couple of years ago, and this year two other neighbours joined us for the final. One of my neighbours needed to get to hospital for appointments and couldn’t take the bus, and I drove her there. She ended up asking me to take a friend of hers to an appointment as well! A lady down the road has a young family and was planting lavender and removing weeds from one of the trees planted on the street, and we struck up a conversation – we’ve swapped plants and share our love of gardening, and I have baby sat for her. During Easter, I said to the Lord, ‘I have a free day; what do you want me to do?’ I felt Him say that I should buy bunches of daffodils and took them to various people I know, including a couple of ladies who are housebound, and my hairdresser. I also took some Easter leaflets with chocolate to people I know in the area, to invite them to our services.
Can you tell us more about the GO (Golden Oldies) Club?
About 22 years ago, we had no activities for older people in the church, and our minister at the time asked me to start up a group. My life had always revolved around young people; I taught as a PE teacher, had been a Girls’ Brigade officer, Sunday school teacher and superintendent. I said, ‘That’s not me, Lord, I can’t do a work with the elderly.’ God changed my thinking and said this was what I was to do. It was initially for over 55s who were part of our church, but we diversified and opened it up to the community, meeting twice a month at the church.
Around the time Southfields Baptist became Everyday Southfields, it felt like the group was stagnating, especially as older members passed away and people were retiring later and were not free during the day. I took a day apart and went walking down the Thames Path, and said to God, ‘I will keep walking until you tell me what to do, because I believe this needs to change. But it needs to change to what you want it to change to, God.’ He said to me that GO Club was His, and I shouldn’t try and take it from Him. I realised I’d been trying to put my own imprint on it, do it my way. I repented and God began to show me the next steps, confirming it through pictures and conversations with Sid, our venue pastor, and other leaders. GO Club now meets once a month at my home, without a formal program, and being in a home has completely changed the dynamic. We’ve invited people from my street and some of the ladies from Saint Michael’s Church in Southfields, who we had links with, are now coming along. We play games, chat, do crafts. We always have a Christmas lunch, and at Easter we show a DVD. This year we had so many wanting to see it that we watched ‘Risen’ at the Southfields venue. It depicts the story of one of the centurions who crucified Jesus and though fictional in one sense, it’s also true to Scripture. Many of the non-Christians who attended said they didn’t realise that was how Jesus died. One lady was so moved she couldn’t speak.
We have a link with Saint Cecilia’s Church of England School and as part of their participation in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme, we’ve organised a coffee morning with the GO Clubbers at the school, a concert in the school library and a couple of the 15 year old girls came with me on a Monday to visit GO Clubbers in their homes, helping with grocery shopping, doing gardening, changing curtains or just sitting and chatting with them. One of the girls helped me do the front cover of the GO Club Favourite Recipes book. We save our pennies in aid of Love and Compassion in Action to finance bore wells in India, and put together the recipe book to raise money for this.
One of the life groups in Southfields is also getting involved with the GO Club. On 13 May they blessed the GO Clubbers with odd jobs that need doing, like gardening, especially cutting down branches that are too high, help with computers, painting, dismantling a table to take to the dump, and changing curtains.
One of the GO Clubbers asked me once, ‘Why do you do this, Phyll? What’s in it for you?’ I said, ‘Nothing’s in it for me. I do it because I love Jesus and this is what He wants me to do.’
Phyll, what are you learning in this season of your life?
When I turned 70, I said to God, ‘Lord, I have lived the most amazing life. You’ve given me the most amazing years. Give me another 10 years and the strength I need and I will serve you in those years with all the strength I have.’
And He has! I am doing more than I’ve ever done before!
Apart from Jesus, my son is my mainstay and prop. He is so encouraging, always saying, ‘Go for it, Mum!’ Sometimes people aren’t so encouraging and say I’m overdoing it. I think, ‘No, and if I am, God will slow me up.’ It’s a mindset that’s very easy to fall into as you get older. ‘I’m over 70 now, I can take it easy; it’s quite excusable to fall asleep in the afternoon and do nothing.’ But it’s not! We need to be out there and at it! I’m invigorated because I know that I have the best person possible right by my side every second of the day. He’s teaching me to rest in His presence, which doesn’t mean to say don’t work, but learn how to rest in Him. When I lose my quietness, my ability to cope with situations, get uptight about things, I hear that inner voice telling me to draw near to God and receive His strength and peace again. I’m learning that two minutes resting in God’s presence is worth two weeks in bed. I don’t remember to do it all the time and I lose it so many times, but I’m learning.
He’s amazing. I’m doing things now that I’m older that I’ve never done before because I don’t mind what people think of me. It doesn’t bother me if people think I’m potty if I walk up to them because God has told me to offer to pray for them. During our 40 days of going deeper as a church, He taught me that there are two vital keys: faith and obedience. We don’t get very far if we don’t use them together, but when we do, we unlock amazing things for us and other people!
I’ve found immense satisfaction in knowing I’m doing God’s will and am where He wants me to be. I’ve learned that you’re never too old or too alone for God to use. All I need to be is willing, wherever I am and whatever my circumstances. If He asks, He provides.
What are you looking forward to?
To seeing my grandchildren grow up in God and becoming a godly young man and woman with a passion for Jesus. To serving God for the rest of my life and remaining active. My prayer is, ‘Come on God, you give me the strength and I’ll do it!’
Words don’t fully convey Phyll’s fiery, resolute spirit, or her warmth and kindness. She moved me to tears when we talked, and again as I’m writing, with the humility, simplicity and passion with which she serves Jesus. Praying that you are similarly encouraged to live your days more fully for Him, loving Him and others, and using all your strength for His purposes!
‘And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’ Micah 6:8