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Bread from heaven: Judy (100) and the ministry that beat the floods

Two friends, two fires, a flood – and a vision from God. The story of The House of Bread ...

Judy Faulkner, 100, is still involved with the Christian centre in the Cotswolds that God called her to set up in 1990 with her friend Fran Wilson. Sharon Barnard reports on a ministry that has been through the mill …

One flood is a disaster, but to experience two – and then two fires on top of that – could be called a catastrophe. “But God didn’t see it that way!” say Fran and Judy, who knew they could trust him.

“I could see chairs and tables whirling up the drive which had become a river,” remembers Judy who was marooned in her first floor bedroom in the July 2007 flood.

Then in September of the same year a severe fire broke out at midnight on the first floor of the centre, only to re-ignite from a hot spot 30 hours later. The two fires took out the entire building except the thick brick walls and the roof.

The situation was in God’s hands. The friends had seen him at work before, such as when he found a cash buyer for their wool shop in Harrow Weald.

“With 34 wool shops up for sale in the area at the time, humanly there was no chance,” says Fran.
Then, while they were running a mobile Christian library for local villages after they moved to the Cotswolds, it became clear what God wanted them to do next.

“God downloaded the blueprint for a Christian centre, where we were to have no specific charges and were not to ask anyone except God for anything,” Fran explains.

It was three-and-a-half years before they shared their vision with four wise and discerning Christians who went away to pray about it.

They were encouraged by the words of Exodus 23:25 where God says: “I will bless your bread and your water” because at the time they were looking at a premises which had an outdoor bread oven and two wells.

However, by the time the group met and agreed that this was what God wanted, the property had been sold.

Fran and Judith didn’t know any other ‘bread and water’ buildings, but one of the group told them he had inherited a semi-derelict water mill which used to grind corn for making bread. He wanted it to be used for a Christian activity before he sold it.

Judith and Fran were loaned the ground floor. They set up a coffee room, Christian library and bookshop and after about 18 months they were able to use the entire four-storey building.

Gradually, with help, it was transformed into a residential centre and The Mill began to be much used.

On 9 April 1994 at the centre’s first Praise and Prayer Day the speaker, knowing nothing of the situation, hammered on the wall and said: “God we claim this building will be yours within the year”.

Three days short of a year later, on 6 April 1995, they bought it, having on that day received the money from two legacies and an interest free loan.

Following the flood and fires, people assumed The Mill would close, but Judith and Fran waited for God’s direction.

One of their mentors shared John 12:24: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it abides alone”.

What was God saying?

Fran says: “A couple of nights later I clearly heard God ask: ‘Will you put the whole work to death?’
“It was a shock. It was traumatic – much more so than the flood and fires, but knowing that it is foolish to argue with God we both said: ‘Yes Lord’.”

It seemed God was going to bring life through this death.

They were to call The Mill ‘The House of Bread’ and there was to be a supply of ‘fresh bread’ – God’s Word – for all visitors.

 “The emphasis would be on teaching, training, equipping and encouraging the Church – individuals or groups – to bring change wherever God has put them,” says Fran.

“Since then Holy Communion has become the centre of community life each weekday and there has been a real change in the spiritual atmosphere.”

The House of Bread continues to run on a faith basis and is now managed by a young couple and volunteers.

Judith, who celebrated her 100th birthday on 11 November 2013, knows God still has more work for her to do.

“My great desire is to see all my family come to faith in Jesus,” she says. “God has a purpose for everyone. There is no such thing as retirement in God’s kingdom.

“God delights to use the ordinary to do the extraordinary.”

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