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God provided: that house (1979-1993)

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

I’m telling stories of how God provided for Lesley and me as we tried to “seek first his kingdom”.

Moving with purpose

In February 1979, we moved house across the city of Bradford from Shipley to Pudsey. Our aim was to support the developing work of our church in Pudsey, so we saw the move as seeking God’s kingdom. We bought an attractive, three-storey weavers’ cottage in a conservation area and moved in with our one-year-old son, Simon.

At the end of 1980, our church in Bradford planted a brand-new church in Leeds, of which we were part. Soon we felt we could better contribute by moving more towards the centre of Leeds, so we put our house on the market. A buyer quickly made an offer and applied for a mortgage, but we were shocked when the survey report came back, showing some serious faults which meant that no mortgage could be given.

Seeking compensation

We didn’t have the money to deal with the faults. In any case we didn’t think we were responsible, because when we bought the house only about two years earlier, the mortgage survey showed no problems. A church friend was a senior manager at another major building society. He advised us that we had a good case for compensation from our building society and helped us to negotiate with them. At that time, a similar case with a different building society was going through the courts to the House of Lords, the result of which would affect us. After quite some time waiting, that building society won the case, and therefore our building society refused our claim, leaving us with no chance of compensation.

God provided!

We felt we had to deal with the problem, whether we were to move immediately or not, otherwise we would be stuck in the house indefinitely. I tried getting a council grant, but it seemed we were not eligible. Eventually we decided we needed to extend our mortgage to get the work done. Glyn Daniel from our small group, who had just bought his first house in Pudsey, offered to move out so we could stay there (now with two children) while the work was done. At Spring Bank Holiday we moved to his house and then went off for a holiday.

We returned a week later to some amazing news. Another friend from church, John Swift, who worked for Leeds City Council, had heard of our situation and knew we were now eligible for a grant. In our absence he had applied for a grant on our behalf. It was approved even though the work had already started, on condition that some extra work was done as part of the grant including installing lovely new windows! Eventually, all the faults were sorted out, together with the extra work, with much less on our mortgage than we originally expected. God is our provider!

Faith tested

Again, we put the house on the market. Again, we got buyers. Again, building societies refused the mortgage! Even though the necessary works had been done, no surveyor was prepared to sign off that the house was okay. One surveyor even told us, off the record, “the house will stand for hundreds of years but I can’t risk saying that.” So once again, we found ourselves stuck.

This was now a real test of faith. We had moved to Pudsey believing that this was God’s will, that we were seeking his kingdom, and now this seemingly impossible situation had us trapped. Both of us struggled with this. Lesley even thought of giving up on God, but pulled through when she realised what a massive loss this would be for her and her family. I was helped by Paul’s instruction to slaves in Titus 2:8-9. In difficult and apparently unchangeable circumstances he encourages them to show good faith so that “they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour.” I committed myself to live adorning the doctrine of God, even if I had to stay in that house for the rest of my life.

Moving out

We had several further abortive efforts to sell, after which we gave up for a while. In 1988, by which time I was a full-time PhD student, we put the house on the market again. There was virtually no interest. Our estate agent astutely recommended making a major increase in the price, to attract a different range of buyers. Almost immediately we had an offer, which we accepted, and amazingly the building society gave a mortgage in full knowledge of the past problems with the house. After all this time, this was too good an opportunity to turn down.

We made an offer for a house in Leeds, which was accepted. Unfortunately, we couldn’t bring together the moving out and the moving in. However, friends from church, a newly married middle-aged couple, invited us to stay in their house in the gap between moving out and moving in. So, in July 1988, now with three children, we finally moved out of ‘that house’!

More challenges

Then it all went pear-shaped again. First, the sellers of our new house backed out because they got a higher offer. In a way, we couldn’t blame them because it was a period when house prices were shooting up dramatically, so they got a much better price. However, it meant we had no house to go to.

Then, it became too difficult to stay with our friends. They had overestimated the challenges of a family with three young boys living on the attic floor of their house and asked us to find somewhere else. At that point, we were planning to go to the USA just a few weeks later for six months, as part of my PhD. We couldn’t instantly buy a house, and no one would let for such a short period, so we had nowhere to go.

Another family from church invited us to live in their home for two weeks while they were away. We gratefully accepted. Then another family offered their home for a week during their holiday. Again, we accepted. But after that, there was nowhere else to go!

During this period, I went frequently to letting agents, alongside trying to continue my PhD. It was one of the most stressful periods of our family life. Lesley was having to cope with three boys during the summer holidays in a series of different temporary accommodations, with all the challenges of moving each time.

The day before our friends returned, I went once again to the University accommodation office, knowing that we were likely to be homeless the next day if we couldn’t find a house. A new property had come in, a four-bedroomed back-to-back house in Beeston, South Leeds. I went to see it and it was fine. The owners were, remarkably, prepared to do a short-term lease for the six weeks before we were due to go to the USA. Hours before our friends returned, we moved out of their house into spacious accommodation, with local schools nearby. We stayed there until October, when we flew to the USA. God provides!

The outcome

We had a great time in the USA, which I’ve written about in another post. However, we were due back in April, still without house. A solution had to be found.

Before we left, we asked a trusted friend from church, Janos Taller, to find a house for us. He was a businessman who invested in property. We gave him Power of Attorney and access to our bank account. He more than repaid our trust!

The task Janos took on was challenging. House prices had continued to rise rapidly since we sold ours. The small profit we had made, needed for a deposit and any refurbishment of a new house, was looking less and less. Moreover, our possessions were scattered all over Leeds in church friends’ houses, where they had gone when we moved out of ‘that house’.

Despite that, in our absence Janos bought us a four-bedroomed house, did the necessary refurbishment, arranged church working parties to decorate it, and gathered all our possessions together. There was even a little money left. What an amazing testimony to God’s provision and the love of his people! Given the circumstances I feel this qualifies as a miracle, as well as showing Janos’s skill, faith and faithfulness. God is faithful and he provides!

To cap it all, we sold the house four years later to move into our present property. At that time house prices had dropped significantly. Many homeowners had ‘negative equity’, but we got a buyer immediately and made a healthy 30% profit. God is our provider!

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