By her own admission, Betty Broadhurst isn’t extraordinary. She’s lived a simple life. She and her husband raised three children, spoiled six grandchildren and at 90, Betty now enjoys the antics of six great-grandchildren. She lives modestly in a cozy apartment, is committed to her church and enjoys swimming. With a quick grin, she admits she’s a fair hand at baking. Basically, she’s the ideal grandmother.
But there’s more to this woman. Betty and her late husband Ged were moved by the plight of children in developing countries and made the decision to sponsor with Compassion. It’s a partnership that’s lasted for 45 years.
Compassion Canada was only five years old—just barely getting started—when the Broadhursts attended a presentation at the Woodstock Collegiate Institute. A film was shown outlining Compassion’s successful sponsorship program. Ged immediately jumped on board. “They wanted to know if anyone was interested in sponsoring a child. Of course my husband said ‘Yes!’” Betty laughs, “And we signed up. That’s when it all started.”
It wasn’t always easy, but the couple was determined to stick to their commitment, she says. “My husband was always interested in helping children and young people. Once we started [sponsoring] we were never going to stop as long as we could keep it up.”
Betty sees her continued support as a duty, not an option: if she’s able to change the life of a child, she needs to. “Maybe this little one wouldn’t be able to go to school, or eat, or live normally if I didn’t do it. Maybe someone else would step in, I don’t know. But I’m able to do it at this time, and I feel very blessed because of it.”
Living with a mission
Betty became a Christian when she was just 17 years old. A talented singer, she competed in a radio competition in Toronto and won the chance to jumpstart a career in Hollywood. But her father was concerned for his teenage daughter. Believing she’d be exposed to a negative lifestyle, he cancelled the trip. Frustrated and embarrassed, Betty began avoiding her friends and went to church with her mother instead. Her escape from embarrassment quickly led to a new life entirely—a life with Jesus Christ.
At 21, Betty married the love of her life, Geddes Broadhurst. They eventually moved to Woodstock, Ontario where they discovered a community they could sink roots into. They got involved in a church— the same one Betty is a part of today—and raised their three children: Bill, Judy, and John.
In looking back over nearly 70 years of marriage, Betty is the first to admit that things aren’t always easy. But something that still amazes her is God’s faithfulness through challenges and suffering. “There’s security in remembering that the Lord was there for you all through the years,” she says, “And you know you were able to handle those different situations with him there.”
There were many times they needed that reminder.
When Ged was 58 years old, the company he faithfully served for years informed him he was no longer needed. Instead of looking forward to retirement, he was looking in the classifieds for work. But who would hire someone his age? They had no choice but to trust that God would provide for them.
Of course, God didn’t just provide—he gave them a whole new mission.
“I want to share only what wIll encourage them. I want them to know that God is your strength in these situations.”
The couple were brought on staff with Youth for Christ, an organization that works with the church and other partners within Canada to reach young people with the message of the gospel. Ged and Betty’s passion for youth motivated them to develop more than 20 satellite locations across southwestern Ontario where young people could connect with staff, seek help and discover purpose in their lives. The Broadhursts had always supported youth development. Now they were actively a part of it.
Ged’s fierce commitment to the Lord and infectious generosity were an inspiration to those around him.
“Ged would have given you anything,” says Betty. “He would have done without in order to give to someone else who needed it.” He also pushed people to grow. “He’d say, ‘You can do it! There’s no reason you can’t.’ He encouraged me to do a lot of things in life that I was afraid to try.”
Ged and Betty were actively involved in Youth for Christ as volunteers for 20 more years after Ged’s retirement. He went to be with the Lord peacefully in January, 2012.
A journey of trust
The Broadhursts taught their children at a very young age to put their trust in God—something they’d have to live out as a family years down the road. Their eldest son, Bill, suffered from liver cancer for two years before he passed away at only 55 years old. Betty relied on God for strength each day. “The Lord was certainly with me,” she says. “I was amazed that I could keep on going and not seem to wear down.”
Although Bill’s illness was the hardest challenge she’d ever faced, she was inspired by the legacy he left behind. “We had a lot of people who had become Christians because of Bill’s testimony,” she shares. “They sent us letters after [the funeral]. It was so encouraging.”
Reflecting on moments like these reminds Betty what she’s learned over a lifetime—and she now shares these lessons with the children she sponsors. “I want to share only what will encourage them. I want them to know that God is your strength in these situations,” she says.
She’s certainly had that opportunity. In the last 25 years alone, Betty has sponsored six different children from Haiti and the Philippines. One young boy she supported preschool to high school graduation wrote to her from university to share what God was doing in his life. She’s built relationships with her sponsored children’s families, too. Her current child was too young to write letters at first, so her grandmother helped her. It was a unique situation; most younger children write letters with help from tutors at their Compassion centres. But getting to know her sponsored child through the words of another grandparent has only deepened Betty’s connection with the family.
She loves being so involved in their lives. “When a girl I once sponsored finished the program, she said, ‘I’m going to miss you, Miss Betty!’” She laughs. “My current child can now write to me herself, and we have a really nice relationship.” It’s one of many she’s built over the years, and she’s excited to hear how God will change this little girl’s life, too.
But Betty still believes she’s just ordinary.
“I don’t think I’ve had an exciting life,” she laughs, “But the Lord has certainly been my strength. I would really recommend a relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s just wonderful to know that you have that security and strength every day.”
Want to know even more? Read this story and more in the latest issue of Compassion today, where you’ll learn how Compassion’s ministry is helping children around the world develop healthy minds, bodies and relationships while discovering God’s love for them in Jesus Christ.Download the latest issue!