Tribute to a Faithful Servant by Stan Wallace (12 November 2008)
Phyllis Watson, a Tribute by Stan Wallace
I count it a great privilege to be asked by Bob & the family, to speak about Phyllis, although it is difficult to give a full word picture of the life and personality of someone so dear to all who knew her, and loved her.
Phyllis was born in Glengormley, a district on the outer edge of Belfast and overlooking the north shore of Belfast Lough. A member of a large family, she attended local schools, and had many friends. She and Bob married in 1949, and they both trusted Christ as their Saviour two years later in 1951. This conversion experience was followed by a strong desire to serve the Lord and make their lives available to Him.
Less than a year later they entered Belfast Bible College as students, looking to God in faith for the supply of their material needs as they sought to equip themselves for future service. I think it was late in 1953 that I met them at a meeting in Belfast, and that was the beginning of a friendship that has lasted more than half a century.
They became interested in the work of the New Testament Missionary Union in South America, and felt it was the Lord’s will that they should work in fellowship with that missionary group. Accordingly, they sailed with their little two year old daughter, Pauline, to Buenos Aires in 1955. Their son John, was born in that city, and in 1957 they moved as a family through Argentina, Paraguay, and Bolivia, before setting up home in Mato Grosso, which could then be described as the Wild West of Brazil. Robert was born there, and we can imagine how difficult it must have been for Phyllis to adjust to, a radical change of climate, culture, language, and the lack of basic amenities which we take for granted in this country. Naturally, the day to day concern for the children was acute, because of the danger from snakes, poisonous spiders, fiery ants and the like. But she coped well and developed a ministry among the women of the local church. Sometimes Phyllis stayed with the children when Bob was away visiting pioneer communities in the interior, and other times she and the family went with him, staying on the farms and making friends with the other families there. Sometimes they had to travel long distances on rough and dangerous roads, the five of them crushed together as passengers in the cabin of the truck with the driver, or on the back with the cargo.
For the next four years they engaged in the ministry of evangelism, and teaching the groups of believers scattered throughout that vast region. They were years of testing when working in conditions of deprivation and challenge, they proved God as their Sustainer, and Christ as the builder of His church through the power of the Holy Spirit.
They arrived back in this country in 1961 and I remember meeting them on the dockside as they disembarked from the ship at Tilbury. The cost of their ministry had been great in terms of their physical health and it was obvious they could not return to the same sphere of labour. They were about to enter a new phase of their ministry.
In 1962 Bob became secretary in the British Isles of the New Testament Missionary Union, and the family moved to Heswall. This was not a salaried position where he was assured of a regular stipend, but was a continuation of the life of faith, which had characterised their previous ministry. For the next 16 years they exercised an ever widening ministry among old and young and the family reached adulthood. Phyllis played a vital part as wife, mother, grandmother, and co-worker in all the developments which took place. She coped well with moving to different homes when Bob was called to the pastorate of three congregations, one in Liverpool, and two in Northern Ireland.
I believe Phyllis has left us an example for us to follow: content to work behind the scenes, as well as publicly, knowing that she was the Lord’s servant. She was a loving wife, mother, grandmother, a cherished sister, and a true friend to so many. She is now with the Lord whom she served so faithfully for so many years, and she will have already heard His voice, saying “Well done thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.”