Hawkes Bay’s Hallelujah Lady

The EncouragerJoan Parker’s first introduction to Elevate was in 1986 when she attended our National Camp. Her church had heard about the camp and felt it would be good for her. It wasn’t a typical camp introduction though, as her buddy Ruth Jones (now Beale) had injured her back and Joan stayed with her in their accommodation for most of the camp. Despite this Joan became an avid supporter of National Camp and has only ever missed one since then, when she had her leg amputated.

Joan smiling and wearing a bright blue cardigan

Following her first National Camp she became involved in the local Hawkes Bay CFFD. The branch started in 1983 with seven families meeting for prayer and praise at the apostolic church, which is now Equippers. When the leaders, Ivan and Betty Northcott, stepped down 8 years after Joan joined, she stepped up and has been leading it with the help of the committee ever since.

Those who have met Joan know how determined, and dare I say fierce, she can be. But not everyone knows her story and the journey that molded her. Born with Cerebral Palsy and Epilepsy, she faced challenges from day one. By nine years of age, she was also dealing with a significant effect on her intellectual development. These challenges were the cause of a lot of frustration for young Joan, who found an outlet in the use of swear words. Her grandmother would not allow her to use these challenges as an excuse and never let Joan say I can’t. This attitude has stuck with her through life and to this day she doesn’t allow herself to say I can’t.

Her father was given a scripture when she was born that promised she would be healed at the right time. He held onto this and would take Joan to many healing meetings. In 1966 they attended a healing service and while she was being prayed for, she had a major seizure. Miraculously this was to be the last seizure she had. Gradually she noticed her concentration and communication improving. Joan says that she finally felt she didn’t need to swear with every sentence. It took 18 months before she began to let herself believe that she was healed from Epilepsy.

One day in 1969, Joan became frustrated with people not listening to her. She left home and took a plane to Auckland, without even telling her family where she was going. Amazingly God’s hand was in this, working it for good. One evening from the accommodation she was staying at she could hear modern music coming from St Paul’s church next door, so decided to see what was going on. It was there she received the Spirit and became a Christian.

Encouraged to go home and begin attending church, she began a journey of inner transformation. There were those who even called the change in her miraculous. She became very involved in the Catholic Charismatics movement, leading many people to the Lord. The reality of what God had done, and was doing, in her life was something she could never doubt and had to tell others about. She became known as the Hallelujah lady. Such a contrast to the young girl who swore with every sentence!

… it’s important to allow people opportunities to participate and to try things they may not have before.

When she was 30 years old, while singing in a choir, someone noticed she wasn’t reading the words of the songs but had memorized them. This began an eight-year journey of learning to read and write, with the help of three school teachers. Joan still memorizes things but now it is purely due to convenience.

1993 was the beginning of her volunteer leadership with CFFD Hawkes Bay. Joan shares that she “wanted to see people with disability equipped not just spiritually but mentally and physically.” Her vision was to educate people to work with people with disability, as well as educate those who were disabled. Although she hadn’t had much opportunity to develop leadership skills before this, she was determined to help others, and that determination has taken her far.

A group photo of the CFFD Hawkes Bay members

Over the years Joan has led and organised many events and meetings with the help of the Hawkes Bay CFFD committee. She says an important part of leadership is not being afraid to ask people for advice and being willing to acknowledge when something is not an area of strength.

A few of the highlights over the years have included a seminar in Hastings for 50-60 church leaders, buying a bus, an operatic concert fundraiser with Chris Skinner, running two local camps, joint meetings with other branches, a dance outreach, and fundraising for Philippines CFFD (now Hebron Disability Service) run by CBM Philippines. Throughout all the events, meetings and fundraising Joan has always involved others. She feels it’s important to allow people opportunities to participate and to try things they may not have before. This is one of the aspects she says is most important about camps.

Joan was very behind the beginning of Hawkes Bay Joy Ministries in 1996, having seen the need for people with intellectual disability to have teaching in a way that worked for them. When the Joy Ministries leaders felt it was time to step down from their leadership roles this year, she didn’t want to see the group end so with the support of the CFFD committee they temporarily included the Joy Ministries group in their meetings.

With such rich experience, Joan has learnt a lot about leadership. She shared that patience is key along with learning to delegate, although she admits she isn’t always good at that. Another thing she has learnt is that sometimes you need to push ahead with something despite others not seeing the vision but at other times you need to be willing to let ideas go.

Are you interested in volunteering with one of our ministry groups or branches throughout New Zealand? Many of our volunteers find they not only have an opportunity to use their skills but also find a place to belong. Contact us at the National Support Office 09 636 4763 or info@elevate.org.nz

Written by Kirsty Armitage


The Encourager Magazine 174



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Volunteer Spotlight

Jan Bridgeman, Joy Ministries National Coordinator


Jan Bridgeman shares how ‘looking neither to the right nor the left’ has led to her remarkable 27-year involvement with Joy Ministries. My husband and I were at Bible college. We didn’t know why we were at Bible college; God had just sent us there. At the end of the first year, Di Willis came to speak to us about disabilities. Kevin and I both knew then that this was the work God was going to send us to do.

He said not to look to the right or the left, but to focus on His ministry that He had given to us. My husband has since passed away, but that focus is still there, and I know God wants Joy Ministries to continue.

The Encourager

The idea for Joy Ministries came from Joy Fellowship in Canada. This is a church primarily set up for people with disabilities. A lady named Debbie Kennedy did an internship there and came back with a vision for starting something similar in New Zealand. She spoke about it to Emmanuel Support group, and we took it from there.

The first meeting we wondered how many people would turn up and 35 came! We realised we would need to have more than one branch for Auckland. So, Kevin and I started the group in Central West Auckland and ran a group on the North Shore as well. That was 27 years ago.

Besides the Central West group, we now have branches in South Auckland, East Auckland, Hamilton, Whakatane, Hawke’s Bay, Taupo, Masterton and Blenheim.

Joy Ministries started off like a church service. It has basically continued like that. We begin with songs. We still use a lot of Scripture in Song because many of our people can’t read. This way the Word is getting into their hearts. I will say, “You know this song?” and they will say, “Yes,” and I will tell them where it comes from in the Bible. “Oh, we know some Scripture!”

We celebrate birthdays and people can share about what they have been doing over the month. Then we have a speaker for about 10 minutes. We always close the service with communion, which usually one of our folk will help with. Then we have afternoon tea.

You can’t help but be moved when you come to help at Joy Ministries. There is this air of excitement. Everybody loves you; everybody hugs you. It must have impacted our helpers because most of them have been there since day one.

You go into this type of ministry thinking you are going to be the servant. But you get so much more from the people you are serving. They bless you every time you meet. They have got the most simplistic wonderful faith. We have made everything complicated. Their love of Jesus is simple and that’s the way we should be.

How do I know Joy Ministries is God’s work? Let me tell you a story. We were ministering over on the North Shore at the time. We were feeling so tired and thinking we weren’t making an impact on anybody. There was this man who was essentially non-verbal. Rod, our musician, got up to play a guitar. This guy walked forward, put his head on Rod’s shoulder and said, “Jesus loves me.” To me that was fabulous. I thought, “Yes, Lord, this is where we are meant to be.”



The Encourager Magazine 174



Want to read the full magazine? Click here to read the current and previous issues or to sign up to get future issues delivered digitally to your mailbox or posted a hard copy!