“Jesus, I’ll buy a Bible if my cat lives!”
Dayle’s journey from paganism to pioneering mission on her estate in Rotherham
“I was a witch and my cat got sick….” It was impossible not to be intrigued as Dayle began her story.
Yet what really struck the small group from CMS walking around the Canklow estate in Rotherham on a grey autumn afternoon was the way Dayle lit up as she talked about Jesus and his impact on her life.
Here’s her story in her own words:
My name’s Dayle and I’m from Canklow in Rotherham.
In the past, I prayed to Jesus and thanked him for everything, but that was as far as it went. I never went to church and never really read the Bible. I would never have expected to get involved in church.
Spiritual but not religious
I’ve been a spiritual person all my life. A few years back I kind of got into the New Age, with a sense of “God isn’t real, you look for things yourself. Your mindset does things, if you want to see it positively, you see it positively.” I went that way a little bit, and then I was a pagan and a witch and I was veering towards Satanism. And that was when God called to me.
My story starts with my cat, who I love to pieces. One night she was having a fit and I automatically just cried out to God, “Please help her.” And then I made a promise: “Jesus, I’ll buy a Bible if you get her through the night.”
Pulled to church
My cat made it, so I bought a Bible and started reading. I said to God, “I don’t know what you want me to do.” I started to see the Bible as a guide to live a happy and fulfilled life. And then I felt this constant pull to go to church, like a feeling in my stomach. I did ignore it for a while. And then I thought, “That’s Jesus.” I felt he wanted me to go to church because I kept coming across things about church.
I went along to Rotherham Minster. I was scared – it’s a scary thing to do. And then the minute I stepped in, that feeling in my stomach just completely disappeared.
When I’d been going to church for a couple of months, I thought Jesus was telling me to take the next step. I asked the vicar, “How can I get more involved?” He suggested I come to a Thursday group that was starting to read the Bible together.
Thursday group was started by Ali Middleton, a CMS-trained pioneer and associate vicar at Rotherham Minster and St Paul’s Masbrough. Ali invited people who had been asking questions about God and were interested in reading the Bible and learning more about Jesus. (You can read group members Steve and Claire’s stories on our Jesus Never Gives Up pages.) We started reading the Bible. We were reading Mark and that was fantastic because there were a lot of things for me to take away from it, thinking, “What’s it trying to teach us to help other people?”, instead of it just being a story.
Thursday group has impacted every single part of my life. The people at Thursday group know that if they need help, I’ll answer the phone, same as if I need help with anything. It’s like a proper family. And the best thing is when one of us has done something to upset someone, we know we’re in a safe place so we can say we’re sorry. It’s not a place where we come for an hour and then we go again.
Jesus is always there
Jesus means the world to me. He’s the first person I say hello to in the morning. And he’s my best friend. He’s the person that whenever I feel stuck, I’ll go to. And sometimes for fun, I’ll just say a quick prayer, “Jesus, you want to come down and watch this film? Or do you want to come out on a walk with me?” And sometimes I feel him. Sometimes I don’t. I always know he’s there.
Life before was full of stress and anxiety. I worried about everything. Since I found Jesus it’s very peaceful. It’s completely changed because I know that Jesus is now here with me, so I’m not stressing about everything.
Bringing heaven on earth
Canklow faces isolation, deprivation, antisocial behaviour. We have a few people who are struggling, so they take it out on people’s property or other people. But it’s a good place as well because we have community spirit and no matter what anyone goes through, guaranteed someone’s going to be there to help you. Which is what I’m trying to grab hold of and spread out more.
Before I really wasn’t involved in anything because I didn’t have anyone to talk to and I didn’t really know anyone because I was shy. Now I have a sense of calling, to bring positivity and help to Canklow. One of my goals is to bring God’s Kingdom of heaven down to earth.
Jesus has definitely changed how I interact with people on the estate. I live in the newer part of the estate, and I rarely talked to anyone who’s always lived there. And then the more I prayed and the more I walked around praying, the more people stopped to talk to me.
From litter to Lego
The first thing was that I did a litter pick because we needed to clean the place up a bit. We’ve got rid of so much rubbish, and now we’ve noticed there’s a decline in people dropping litter, which is making everyone feel better.
At the minute in Canklow, we do a monthly litter pick, a weekly get-together of crafters (knitting, crocheting, cross stitch, drawing, all sorts), game nights and hopefully we’re going to get funding for a Lego morning. It’s all helpful for mental health.
I do “God Rocks”, where you read a part of the Bible and then paint whatever verse that you feel called to on a rock and leave it somewhere for someone to find as a way of saying, God’s here with you. And I’m exploring the idea of garden church.
Some of the ideas come from the Thursday group. Someone will mention something and I’ll say, “Oh, that’s a really good idea. Can I borrow that idea and see where it goes in Canklow?” Ali is really supportive. When I’m stressed I go to her because she knows how I’m feeling. And every time I’ve got an idea, I’ll send a message or ring her up or whatever. And she’s always there to help.