The Pastor's Pen

A Tribute to my Aunt.


On Friday 23 June, I watched the memorial service of my aunty Barbara over zoom. My aunt Barbs was the last surviving sibling of my moms. She was born on 16th February 1944 and died on 17 June 2023.

I wrote a tribute to her that they read at the memorial service, that I have posted below for your edification. I was grateful for the study we did in Philippians that helped me write this eulogy for her. Like Paul, my aunt who was a missionsary most of her life, had counted everything else as loss for the sake of Christ (Phil.3:7), and had invested her entire life in the goal of knowing and serving Christ. The person who can truly say, “For me, to live is Christ,” can also confidently say, “to die is gain.” 



Dear Uncle Jim, Kyle, Claire, Paige, other extended family and friends, we send our deepest condolences to you all with the loss of aunty Barbs.

We regret that we could not be with you all mourning her loss but also celebrating with you today her life. We send much love to you all from the Middle east.

This last Sunday, I preached from Philippians 1, where Paul says to the church at Philippi in verse 21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Aunty Barbs was on my mind the whole week as I prepared this sermon, thinking about her life and her death.

Barbs was the one who first shared the gospel with my mom when she was going through her divorce. Barbs was also the one who took my mom to Brackenhurst Baptist Church where she continued to hear the gospel and see the gospel displayed in the lives of believers there.

Barbs was also the one who first shared the gospel with me and encouraged Michelle and I to go to Sunday School at BBC. Visiting Barbs and Jimmy on the mission field in Gazankulu was my first exposure to missions and missionaries. I loved being with Barbs and Jim. I loved visiting them, whether it was time spent with them playing "Marco Polo" in their swimming pool in Soetdoring street or going away caravanning with them, or driving around in their bakkie on dirt roads in Belfast (Mpumalanga), I loved every minute of it. Barbs taught me how to make my first kite. She also taught me how to make potjiekos. I loved how intentional she was, making every moment count. I loved the peace they enjoyed. I loved the happiness and joy that they had. I loved the way they loved and served others. I loved seeing the sacrifices they made for others.

For Barbs to live was Christ!

Barbs was unashamedly a Christian, who loved Christ and lived for Him. Even in her old age, Barbs wasn’t going to waste any of her life on pursuing things that did not matter to Christ. She faithfully served her Saviour right to the very end.

Paul then says in the same verse, that “to die is gain”. We think of death as a terrible loss, not a gain. Not being able to visit and fellowship with Barbs is a terrible loss for me and everyone else here today no doubt. But still that word “gain” is used. That is not a word that we would typically associate with the word “death”. But for the Christian, to die is gain. Paul, who could confidently say, “For me, to live is Christ,” was also able to confidently say, “to die is gain.”

Barbs who lived the Christian life properly, understood the Christian perspective on death. Barbs has lived her life well for God’s glory and I believe with all my heart that she has died bearing witness to the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The bible teaches that to be absent from the body is “to be at home with the Lord.” I rejoice with you today uncle Jim…that Barbs is at home with the Lord. I know your home without Barbs there at Mbanga is going to be a much quieter place. But her home-going is a reminder to us all, that heaven is real! I know you know this already uncle Jim, but we always need to be reminded that as Christians, our best lives are not on this earth. Our lives here, no matter how good, or bad they may have been, is nothing compared to the life that awaits us in heaven.

Barbs gain is our loss, but how can we hold that against her? 

My prayers are with you Uncle Jim as you mourn Barbs loss, but my prayers are also for your comfort in this wonderful truth, that one day you will see Barbs again, and both of you will enjoy your heavenly inheritance together.

Thank you, Uncle Jim and aunty Barbs, for showing me and my family Christ, for showing us that Jesus is far more precious than anything that this world has to offer.

All our love

Gareth, Keri, Ezra, Eden and Gabriel.

Leave a Comment

Comments for this post have been disabled.