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Rachel T. Joyce
Although I trusted Jesus as a little, seven-year-old girl, and grew up hearing about God's love, living in the good of His love was something I didn't know how to do. Cognitively, I knew He loved me, but somehow I still felt unlovable and much of my Christian service was done out of an earnest desire to please God coupled with a nagging sense of never measuring up. Grace was a word in my vocabulary, but not in my heart.
To help me learn how to live out of the abundance of His love and grace, God gave me the gift of chronic pain. It has not been easy and I won't pretend that there aren't days I wish He would take it away, but He has drawn me close to His heart and filled me with the strength to go on, even when I think I can't.
God has blessed me with a godly, supportive husband, Bryan, who is a full-time evangelist and we take great joy in serving God together. We're thankful for our four children: Benjamin, James, Theanna, and Abigayle. We also have a sweet, blind pooch who looks like a little white fluff ball but has a huge heart. God has used each of my family to teach me more about His tender love and how to live in the good of it daily.
I am thankful to have been raised by loving, Christian grandparents who took me to hear the gospel regularly and taught me about my need for Jesus. At the age of 5, I told my grandmother I was saved, but I knew I hadn’t trusted Jesus. The Heavenly Father kept working in my heart and when I was 13, I cried out to God to save me and I placed my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Not having experienced a father’s love, I wrestled with doubts at times. Would God ever say I was not His? How could He truly love me? Did I believe right? I am so thankful for my Heavenly Father who spoke peace to me through His Word, assuring me that because of Christ I was His forever (Rom 5:9).
The Lord has blessed me with my husband, Rob, whose love has been a tangible expression of God's love. Throughout the thirty years of our marriage, as we have raised our children, Kevin and Meaghan, and welcomed our first grandchild, Remington, Rob’s unconditional love has helped me learn more of the heart of my Heavenly Father.
Through my trial with depression after my grandmother passed away, and cancer, God continued to draw me closer to Him. He taught me more about myself and more about His amazing love. I learned that I didn't need to hold back my feelings. I could bring everything to Him, my fears, my past, and my future and let Him work in my life. He is a gracious, heavenly Father who has redeemed my past and I can rest securely in His love and faithfulness.
I came to Canada from Northern Ireland as a child. My experience of the nightly bombing in nearby Belfast and the military checkpoints left me fearful.
I came to Christ when I was nine years old. I simply told God that I was a sinner, and believed that Jesus took my sin when He died on the cross. The change in me was noticed by my teachers at school. I was less anxious and more able to focus on my work, and even my marks reflected it. I had peace.
But life has ongoing challenges. When I was 19, my mother died of cancer, my father was diagnosed with cancer, and I was diagnosed with a syndrome that causes various cancers. My father survived his cancer, and I continue to have routine treatments. Although I’ve been a patient at cancer centers for over 30 years, I still face my fear when I walk through that door every month or two. I am still learning to lean in, to trust that God has a good plan for my life.
About 12 years ago, as a result of multiple stressors, I had an episode of severe anxiety and depression, when I despaired of life itself. My experience of Christian counseling and women’s Bible studies at that time was life-saving. Gradually, I was able to focus on the unconditional, and faithful love of God, and witness His love demonstrated through relationships with others who journeyed with me and pointed me to God. I also became more attuned to the emotional and spiritual needs of other women around me. This burden finally led me to return to school to study counseling.
God has blessed me with challenges that have grown my faith, and with the opportunity to use that experience redemptively to help others. I am incredibly blessed with a wonderful husband, Keith, and three beautiful girls who call me mom. I am also a mother-in-law, a grandma; and best of all, I am a beloved child of God, still learning more of His character and desiring to make Him known.
In my early years, the message of God’s love and Christ’s sacrifice for sin was incredibly clear, despite the conflict and chaos that marked my home life. Although I accepted Christ as my personal Saviour when I was 9, it wasn’t until I was nearly 21 that I realized what that meant: I am chosen (Jn 15:16), accepted (Eph 1:4) and loved (Eph 2:4) by God completely and irrevocably. God daily pours out His grace and love on me in numberless ways and I am learning to live in the good of this.
In 2013, I traveled to Zambia to work in a mission hospital for 4 beautiful, hard, wonderful years because I believed God wanted me to use my skills as a nurse and my passion for sharing His word with the people there. The transition back into Canadian life has not been without its difficulties, but I am certain this is where I am supposed to be at this time. Currently, I am taking Bible studies at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, and working at a local hospital. I believe that God has a good plan for me while I am here-a plan that demonstrates His love and grace- and I look forward to watching it unfold.
“I wonder if I’m good enough.”
It’s the first conscious thought I ever recall having regarding eternity.
Raised by moral, loving parents, I was taught I had to be “good enough” to be with God in heaven. But on the brink of turning twelve years old, I heard the beautiful gospel of Jesus Christ. My sin became a burden to me personally and, after some stubborn rejection and many months of no peace, I finally laid that burden down at the foot of the cross.
I wish I could tell you I fell in love with God and His Word right then and there, but that wouldn’t be the truth. My teen years were a tricky navigation of doing what it took to fit in, good or bad, ending in a wearisome trap of constantly trying to measure up. It left me asking over again, in a different context, "Am I good enough?" I had been saved by God’s grace, but I hadn’t found the freedom to live in that grace.
I couldn’t tell you the exact moment I finally understood what it meant to live this way. But somewhere in my early twenties, I got to digging into God’s Word. This is where my true freedom was found. I haven’t stopped mining the treasures of its pages ever since, and every day He opens my eyes a little bit more to His marvelous love and grace.
I’m blessed to be married to my husband, Bert, a full-time evangelist and so full of passion for the gospel. Together we have served the Lord, in His strength, for nearly 23 years. We have three young adult children, Megan, Owen and Brandon who bring us much joy! Far from flawless, but resting in He who is, we, side by side, seek to daily dwell in all that His love and grace afford.
God is good and I am blessed. The peace and joy I experience daily come from His gracious, nail pierced hands. My life has not always been so tranquil. God has taken me through many years of spiritual growth to enjoy His continual presence in my heart and mind. I am indeed thankful for learning from the Holy Spirit on a daily basis as God refines me for His glory. It is a humbling process, but necessary for growth.
On September 1, 1931, I was born in Bellville, Ontario to Christian parents who loved God and taught me the good news of the gospel. Aware of my sin and realizing my need of the Saviour, I became serious about salvation at the age of sixteen. There was an empty place in my heart that only Christ could fill. When I had come to the end of my own resources, I prayed for God's forgiveness of my sins. At that moment, Acts 16:31 flashed through my mind, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” At that moment, I knew I was redeemed, saved for all eternity. What joy flooded my anxious soul, what relief from sin! What a life changing experience!
Since that memorable day, I have learned to love my Lord through the endless challenges of normal life. I married Don Stewart on December 1, 1951. We were blessed with six children: Joan, Jeff, Bradley, Susan, Andrew, and Robert. When Brad was six months old, he developed influenza meningitis and suffered brain damage. We had an active, busy household that revolved around our assembly on Eglinton Ave. Our children all came to know the Lord while they were young. For that, I thank my Lord every day.
My role during the 70s to 90s was organizing the kitchen and food preparation for events, showers, weddings, and funerals. We had tract band, young people’s meetings, ladies’ coffee hour, special meetings, and picnics. For twenty years, I did features and devotionals each winter in many southern Ontario assemblies where I was blessed to know many godly women. My husband died in 2013 and I moved to Bethany Manor in 2015. I enjoy my home here and being useful in Bethany Lodge as a volunteer. My best role in life now is to pray for family (including my fourteen grandchildren), friends, and God’s work among His people. It has not always been an easy life, but through it all—financial reverses, health issues, and difficulties—the Lord has been my strength, my rock, my peace, and my joy. I would not have changed my journey with Him in the least. The older I get, the more I value the lessons learned in adversity. My Lord gave His precious life for me; God is good and I am blessed.