Pete and Jacqui Jarvis: A Tale of Restoration
From the moment I became a follower of Jesus as a teenager, it’s always been about people. God is about people, and it seems that whatever any of us feel we should do for Jesus, whatever we think the remit is, it’s going to involve lots of people! That goes pretty much against my natural grain, as I come from a family who would happily ‘recluse’ – so it seems that God just knew that this natural grain needed some genetic modification!!
Salvation for me was a bit of a supernatural event at 17 – I wasn’t that engaged with the nuances of eternal life, but something happened when a pastor I was listening to on my first visit to a little Pentecostal church in Brighton threw out a simple question to the congregation, “do you want to be saved and go to heaven?” I was suddenly aware that my hand was in the air - It was as if there was some unidentified someone behind me holding my arm up and it wouldn’t go down again. I’d heard bits of gospel before at the ‘Way Inn’ Coffee Bar in Brighton, often frequented by such muso’s as the hippy-styled Ishmael in the 70’s, but have to say life had shaped me into a rather cynical and hardened teen, so maybe this was God’s way of showing me who was going to be in control from now on!
Life was a patchwork of learning about God at the same time as dealing with many painful life issues. I’d grown up very fast from mid teens, including homelessness, living below the poverty line, and handling difficult relationships. By 21 I was navigating my way through an unhappy divorce, but then determined to make life work with my two lovely and lively kids to raise. In my years as a solo parent I always knew that God was looking after us and despite the challenges we had a peaceful home, the rent was paid, and my church friends encouraged me – I really knew His hand on us and I was grateful. I don’t think all my decisions in life were great and I was certain that I had to pray for wisdom like a crazy woman, (still do today) but I always knew that I was thoroughly God’s whatever happened. I recall that 1 Timothy 4 was my teacher - ‘Don’t be despised for youth, but set an example, don’t neglect the gift in me, and keep a close watch on myself’.
One day a group photo caught my attention – standing a head above everyone else was the son of a friend from the church – I was curious as I hadn’t seen him in the regular crowd. He worked away, but it so happened that he was visiting his mum a couple of weekends later, and that’s where I first met Pete Jarvis. I had no clue at that point about romance as I sat on the floor at his mum’s house and talked to him about God. I told him that God wanted Pete to know Him better and was just waiting, so why not talk to Him? Not your usual conversation I suppose, but it seemed very natural at the time. I was intrigued and apparently so was he.
Pete takes up the story:
I was in an Anglican Church choir from the age of eight but I had never heard about having a personal relationship with Jesus. The God I’d been taught about was distant and authoritarian - hardly attractive to a young lad who wanted to have fun.
My dad had TB and mum worked hard to bring up her 4 children and care for him, then at 17 I left home to work away. Ten years on in October 1977 when I was in a very demanding job and drinking a bit too much I had come to the end of my resources. It was at this point that Jacqui told me of the changing power of the Lord Jesus. I was soon led to Christ by an Anglican charismatic vicar in his study, repented of my sin and accepted Jesus as my personal saviour.
Around Christmas time Jacqui and I dated and we soon realised that we were in love and wanted to spend the rest of our lives together, so with God’s promises on us we embarked on the most exciting of adventures. Over the next thirty+ years we have laughed & cried as we tried to raise our family in the best way we were able.
Back to Jaq:
We married and Pete bravely took on the challenge of step-family life. Later my old pastors told us of their utter amazement when they saw Pete for the first time – apparently they had agreed together and prayed that God would bring along a big strong man (Pete is broad and 6’2”) who loved God and would protect this little family – we were stunned again and laughed at God’s manoeuvring. It was a brilliant encouragement which has bolstered our commitment through all the years.
In 1978 we joined Hangleton Valley Church with Henry Tyler – the man who preached a sermon about mercy & grace which cut straight to our hearts. We knew this was our journey now, and so in the October with Henry and some wonderful others we began life with the Brighton & Hove Christian Fellowship at the Connaught Centre in Hove. Would you ever credit that I played guitar with a fresh faced 12 year old Matt Davis for our worship times in the earliest days (years before he morphed into James May??) And so, with Terry Virgo in the daddy seat, those early months saw us join hands with Dave Fellingham and many others with the same vision so that very soon we were taking up residence at Clarendon Villas, and the rest you know.
At home we tried to parent our kids through all those tricky stages as well as we knew how, stumbling here and there but taking bits of wisdom from sensible others, and now we have grandkids to love – that’s priceless. We’ve always had an open door, fostering lots of kids in the early years, then, having fab people living with us who became part of our family – some still are! There is often a language student or guests at our table.
Fostering new family is something straight from God’s heart we believe – it’s in the weave of scripture and fits so well for us since we were adopted by Him too. Thank Goodness! Hospitality is pretty easy as long as you keep it simple and stay unfazed when your home starts to feel like Piccadilly Circus once in a while, and God always provides enough – do try it if you haven’t yet.
It never ceases to amaze me that God can get a hold of two humble council estate kids and change our lives so radically and it’s such an encouragement for us that Jesus came from humble Nazareth.
One question I’m sometimes asked is ‘Do you not get bored being in one Church for over thirty years?’ and my response is always “Not one single day!” because whatever God wants us to do we do with all our hearts and whatever the future holds we will have the same attitude, to serve the Lord with all our strength. We are certain that with our current eldership we will see many, many hundreds come to Christ, who will bring many more hundreds behind them, brick upon brick, what a legacy!