Short Bio of Helen Gwilliam
More and more I am realizing that God gives us a testimony not for
ourselves, but for His glory and honor. He is the Potter; we are a
work in progress. He is constantly shaping, adjusting and
realigning our lives, not to make us look good, but so that His image is
reflected in His vessels.
I was born in rural Saskatchewan in a farming community, one of six
children. Life in the fifties and sixties seemed much simpler; and
like so many families, our lives were centered around church activities.
I carried my "religion" into my thirties . It was a "feel-good
religion" that required little of me but time and was my insurance of a
life hereafter, or so I thought.
I met and married my husband right out of high school. His career
was in the banking industry, so moving became a normal part of our
lives. I soon learned which boxes were necessary to unpack, and
the rest could be stored. As a young couple with two small boys,
our world seemed to be pretty routine and ordinary, but that world was
literally torn apart when I lost my mother to a senseless act of
violence which sent me reeling into depression that lasted for years and
years. Doctors told me there was no hope for the depression and
that I would have to learn to live with it.
One day I picked up a Bible that my mother had given me, read one verse
which jumped off the page at me; and I cried out to God. The
heavens opened over my life. I cannot describe the life-giving
flow of His love and mercy that poured into my spirit. Suddenly, I
was on the great adventure, and I have never looked back. Days of
depression turned into days of joy as the Lord became my life, and zeal
for His house consumed me. My husband also received Jesus as His
Savior that year and quit a 25-year career with the bank to open an
accounting business. Our motto has always been to treat every
customer as Jesus would.
The Lord has given me a great passion for women's ministry. I
strongly believe in women mentoring women and in the power of women
ministering to women. I have ministered in the areas of Leadership
Training, Intercession and Prayer Coordinator and serve on the
leadership team in our church. However, the singular passion of my
life is for the glory of God. I have quit examining my life to
wonder where my giftings and talents are and have focused my energies on
His glory. I have learned that He becomes all things at all times
as we have need. My life's verse is "that I may know Him" (Phil.
3:10). I believe that everything in our life flows out of that one
verse. The priestly ministry of intercession and the daily seeking
of Him is what spills out into the lives of others and builds the
Today, my husband and I have two grown sons and a lovely six-year-old
granddaughter. We feel tremendously blessed to have our family and
to be part of a much bigger family, the Body of Christ. The joy of
the Lord is indeed my strength, and I rejoice in His faithfulness and
glory in His presence.
"There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of
Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with
her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she
was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and
day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she
gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward
to the redemption of Jerusalem." Lk.2:36-38 (NIV)
The warm autumn sun felt comforting and invigorating on Phanuel as he
worked steadily to bring in the remaining harvest of vegetables.
The Feast of Tabernacles was only days away, and there was much
excitement in Jerusalem. Phanuel and his wife had much to be
thankful for, the fields of barley had been plentiful, and their storage
bins were filled with produce. They had a family of seven healthy
children, who were all taught in the ways of the Lord. As he
worked, Phanuel thought of the prophecy that Jacob had given to the
tribe of Asher many generations ago, "Asher's food will be rich, he will
provide delicacies fit for a King." Gen 49:20 (NKJV)
Often, when Phanuel was in the fields, he had a young companion at his
side, his youngest daughter Anna. Although Phanuel loved all his
children, it was Anna whom he watched with a keen eye. Being his
youngest,, he naturally felt protective of her; but Anna seemed to
possess something that was beyond her natural ability. Phanuel
sensed giftedness in his daughter, which other family members had
noticed as well. "Ah, my little Anna," said Phanuel as he scooped
her into his arms and twirled her around, "perhaps one day you will
serve delicacies to the king." Anna squealed with
delight as she put her small arms around her father's neck. All
was safe and secure in her world.
As Anna grew older, her childlike sweetness blossomed into that of a
beautiful young woman. She was totally unaware of her beauty, and
even possessed a childlike innocence. When Anna attended the
Temple with her family on the Sabbath, several of the young men would
give her admiring glances and would try to catch her attention.
Anna seemed oblivious to their antics and would only smile at them in a
courteous fashion. Her heart always seemed strangely warmed when
she was in the Temple. Anna loved hearing the things of God and
listened closely when the Torah was read.
When Anna turned fourteen, a new family moved to Jerusalem and began
coming to the temple. Phanuel and his family became friends with
this family and would often share the Sabbath meal with them.
Their oldest son Ethan would sometimes strike up a conversation with
Anna. Although Ethan was slightly older than Anna, it soon became
obvious that they were kindred spirits and shared many of the same
interests. Ethan had a mischievous personality and loved playing
tricks on the adoring Anna. Their friendship blossomed into young
love, and Phanuel was not surprised when young Ethan asked for Anna's
hand in marriage.
The joy that Ethan and Anna exuded was contagious, and everyone felt
that this young couple had a blessed and a favored future.
Together, they made plans for their life, they talked of their home, the
babies that they would have, their hopes and dreams. Anna dreamed
of having a large family, and felt in her heart that their firstborn
would be a son. Every day as she prayed and gave thanks to God for
the son she knew she would have. The weeks soon turned into months
and the months into years. Still there was no sign of pregnancy.
Anna knew that God would give her the desire of her heart and continued
to seek him for a son. She remembered that even though Sarah was
barren, God gave her a son when she was past childbearing age.
Soon Ethan and Anna would celebrate their seventh wedding anniversary.
Anna knew that seven was God's number of completeness and perfection.
Surely this was the year that God would open her womb. Anna fasted
and prayed and sought the Lord's direction. As she prayed, she
began to sense that this would be a year of great testing and trial to
her faith. Anna also knew she must stand firm and believe that God
had a plan and a purpose for her life far beyond what she could think,
or ask, or imagine.
Several months later, Ethan came home early from the fields. He
was weak and burning with a fever. Anna sent word for the doctor
to come. The doctor's eyes became dark and troubled as he examined
Ethan, and he motioned for Anna to meet him outside. As he shared
the prognosis with Anna, she sat in stunned silence, not believing what
she was hearing. Her head wanted to scream a thousand "NO's!"
However, she remembered to put her trust in Jehovah, and felt a quiet
peace growing in her heart.
Ethan died a young man, not even twenty-five years old. Anna
watched in disbelief as her young husband's body was lowered into the
ground. "Oh God," she prayed quietly, "Were all my hopes and
dreams just foolishness? Lord, I even felt that it was your desire to
give me a son. Was I mistaken?"
After Ethan's funeral, Anna's father encouraged her to move back into
their home. Yet, Anna often found herself going to the Temple to
be alone with the Lord. Many days, she would lose track of time
and simply spend the night at the temple, worshiping and praising the
Lord. At first, Phanuel would attempt to go to the temple and
bring her home to be with them, but, after a time, he realized that is
where her heart was and left her be.
One afternoon in the middle of the week, Anna was surprised to see
Benesh, her husband's brother, come to the temple. "Anna, I must
talk to you." The urgency in his voice startled her.
“Anna,” continued Benesh, “Come home with me and be my wife. As I
am Ethan's brother, my duty is to care and provide for you. You no
longer have to live here. I will give you a home.” Anna felt
flattered by his proposal. She knew he was a kind man, and would
provide for her well, yet she knew that was not God's will for her.
"Thank you for your gracious offer", responded Anna, "but I know that is
not God's best plan for me.” As Benesh left the temple he wondered if
perhaps Anna's grief was greater than anyone realized. "Maybe I
should have been more insistent," thought Benesh.
Benesh was right. Anna was grieving. However, the grief she
felt was not so much for her husband but for the people of God.
She saw their apathy and their coldness. Although they honored God
with their lips she knew that their hearts were far from Him. "Oh
God", cried Anna, "turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and
the hearts of the children to their fathers. Raise up a mighty
prophet like Elijah, O Lord, send a deliverer."
Year after year Anna continued in prayer and intercession for the nation
of Israel. Although many people did not understand her, they
respected her, and realized that there was a Spirit of Grace and Glory
on her life. Even well into her forties, Anna was still a
beautiful woman, the Presence of God that she carried seemed to make her
even more beautiful. She was filled with a joy and a peace that
flowed from her innermost being. Often, her friends would
encourage her to leave the temple life and begin to teach other women
about God. "Anna," they would chide her, "you know so much about
the things of God. Think of the ministry you could have here in
Jerusalem. God has not planned for you to be hidden away for the
rest of your life." Standing resolute in her
convictions, Anna would not be moved. She knew the voice of the
Lord so well, and knew that she must remain true to her calling.
Others felt her life was a waste, that she would be better off working
with the poor, and doing something more productive with her life.
But not for one minute did Anna think that her life was wasted, God was
guiding her life day-by-day, moment-by-moment. The prophetic
gifting that she had received, as a young child was being honed and
sharpened as God spoke clearer and clearer to her. She rarely
shared these things with others but pondered them in her heart and
prayed and fasted as God directed her. In turn, the Lord knew that
this well-prepared vessel could be trusted and was fit for the
master's use. She had sat in the Lord's council for many years and
was now part of his inner circle.
The years passed quickly. Anna was now well into her seventies.
Her frame was very thin from eating a simple diet along with continuous
fasting. Occasionally, friends and family members would visit with
Anna at the temple. "Anna, move to the country with us. You
are so thin. Come and eat some good food and get some fresh air.
You have been in this musty temple almost 50 years."
Even though Anna's body was weakened, her spirit waxed stronger and
stronger. She knew the remaining years of her life would be
crucial to fulfilling the destiny God had ordained for her.
The Lord's instructions to her were simple and direct. He told her
of things to come, and spoke of a man that would be born to prepare the
way of the Lord. “Forerunner" was the word He used. Although
this man would be strange in his lifestyle, he would shake the religious
leaders of Israel. "Pray for him, Anna, he must be totally
separated to me. No wine must ever touch his lips, and he will be
filled with my Spirit even from birth. Pray that my purposes will
be fully accomplished through him."
One afternoon as Anna was preparing her evening meal, the Lord began
quietly speaking to her. "Anna," said the Lord, "I have heard your
prayers for many years. Even as a young woman, I heard your
petitions asking me for a son. Today I have come to tell you that
you will indeed have a son. This is not a child who will come
through your womb, but a child born through the years of the travailing
of your Spirit. This baby is the promised Messiah and His birth
will be the culmination of your life's work. The scripture will be
fulfilled, “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and
the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
Isaiah 9:6 (NIV) Anna could hardly sleep that night as she basked in
the joy and wonder of the words of the Lord.
The call to intercession in her life grew more and more intense.
Anna realized that principalities and powers were raging over Israel.
Night after night, she slept very little as the warfare became more and
more fierce. She sometimes wondered if this calling would claim
her very life as the battle raged on, but she always sensed the Lord
sustaining her and praying through her. War raged in the
heavenlies as Anna prayed with groans that words cannot express.
Although she was a seasoned intercessor, nothing in all her life
prepared her for the weight of this burden of prayer. She knew she
could not count her own life dear and was sure she would not survive
under the pressure of the warfare. All Anna could do was look to
the Lord, and trust Him as the battle grew in intensity.
Suddenly, everything around her became so still and quiet, and a great
peace flooded Anna’s whole being. She thought she must be
dreaming, "what has happened Lord?" Anna stood up and stepped outside in
the cool of the evening. A star in the East was so brilliant that
it illuminated the whole city. Off in the distance, yet coming
from deep within she could hear a heavenly chorus exclaiming, "Glory
to God in the highest, and on earth peace to whom His favor rests."
Luke 2:14 (NIV) The glory of God seemed to be everywhere.
Anna fell to the ground and worshipped the Lord. She knew the
course of history had been changed.
The next several days were a blur of joy and excitement, mingled with
deep restful sleep. Early one morning as she was preparing for the
day, she heard the voice of Simeon in the temple. Simeon was well
known as a devout and godly man in Jerusalem. Anna knew that he
would not be in the temple unless the Holy Spirit had directed him.
She stayed in the background, watching as Simeon stood with a young
couple and began prophesying over their baby. "Could this really
be?" thought Anna. Joy surged through her entire being.
When Simeon noticed Anna, he motioned her forth. As the young
mother passed her baby to the aged Anna their eyes locked. Though
generations apart, a deep understanding seemed to pass between the two
women as each knew that they had a special part to play in the birth of
this baby. A fire burned in Anna's heart as she held the tiny
infant. In some ways, He looked so ordinary, and yet He almost
seemed to be speaking to her. "I am the Bread of Life, I am the
Resurrection and the Life, I am the True Vine, I am the Way, the Truth
and the Life". Anna knew that the babe was "Emmanuel-God with us."
Not too many weeks later, the Lord called Anna home to be with Him.
Yet Anna lives on. Today, she is part of that great cloud of
witnesses. Her spirit lives in the hearts of thousands of men and
women who are again looking for the great Messiah to come not as a baby
in swaddling clothes, but as a King clothed with great glory.
“Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even
those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn
because of him." Rev 1:7 (NIV) "Even so, come Lord Jesus." Rev22:20 KJV
Helen Gwilliam December 2004