Never too late

“Age is not a factor when you are on God’s path.”  — Cindylou Barclay going to serve at 62.

At an age when many mission workers are celebrating many years on the field and well established in ministry, Cindylou was just being introduced to Christianity. In 2005, at 45 years old, she was baptised.

When she was young in the faith and trying to maintain control of her life, it was a challenging time. Up until that point, her life was characterised by pain and hardship. She found it hard to trust others, including God. It would take the next 10 years for him to transform her heart of stone.

One of her first steps in learning to trust God was returning to college at age 50. She planned to take a business course; instead, the Lord redirected her vision to an art programme, although she was unaware of how God was going to use this for his glory.

At 55, she made a promise to God to take his Word more seriously, and spent hours each day for the next seven months reading the bible. Her days consisted of studying scripture, drinking tea and journaling; she was amazed at how God worked in the lives of his people throughout history and she had visions of how God had been constantly present in her own life. She realised that, in his grace, he waited until she was 55 to reveal these things to her – when she could handle the darkness of her past.

In her 30s and 40s, doctors had given up on her. She was regularly taking 12 medications per day, bound to a wheelchair and walker, and struggling with four mental illnesses. Today, she is fully healed, physically and mentally; her doctor calls her “a walking miracle.”

As Cindylou was growing in her faith and artistic skill, out of the blue she received an email from Zoë Cromwell, then SIM’s arts coordinator for Africa, inviting her to apply to do an art-as-mission residency in Kenya. They had never met, but God forged the contact. At 57, Cindylou arrived for this three-week event, realising from the first morning that Africa was the place she wanted to spend the rest of her life serving God. One year later, she returned for another three months, and since then has been up-skilling to return full-time, being discipled, doing biblical studies and studying ministry through trauma healing.

Cindylou says, “The Lord revealed to me that we are never really done with being teachable. Our hearts must always be open to learn.”.

Her recognition of God’s grace has deepened as she considers challenges she might face as an older mission worker. She will miss her four granddaughters, but knows technology will help her keep in touch. In fact, her journey into missions has been a positive witness to her eldest granddaughter, who is now asking questions about faith and ministry.

Cindylou will incorporate arts and trauma healing at the Mongu Youth Centre (where SIM NZ’s Daniel and Anita Muir served from 2017-2018). At present she is in Lusaka for orientation and to learn some language.  At an age when some mission workers are preparing for retirement, she admits, “I do not plan on slowing down and have forgotten how old I am. Age is not a factor when you are on God’s path.” She testifies that she feels stronger now at 62 than 40, and says, “I know that God’s power in healing has prepared me for his will to be done.”

Richelle Watt

Pray that Cindylou acclimatises well to the environment and culture of Mongu, and effectively reaches youth through her unique skills.