Inspiring story of Norwich Christian pioneer
Inspirational Norwich Christian pioneer Val Dodsworth has been usefully spending her time during lockdown writing a short biography of her remarkable life.
Val modestly describes it as: “The story of God’s dealings with a very ordinary and unexceptional human being; of how He opened my ‘blind eyes’ and turned me from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to Himself; and of how I then received His forgiveness for messing up the life He had given me, experienced the joy of a place amongst His own people, and the hope of Abundant Life in His presence after this life is done.”
Born in Ipswich, Val grew up near Reading during a childhood full of dogs, horses and often absent parents.
She became pregnant at 19 in an age when unmarried mothers were considered something to be ashamed of and it was decided that Val should give up the baby. She went to live for the duration of the pregnancy at a Christian organisation called The Mission of Hope.
Val did indeed give up her daughter, Ruth, but happily met up with her 20 years later and they have been in touch ever since.
It was at the Mission of Hope that Val discovered the Christian faith which was to be the driving force for the rest of her life.
For a while she went back to being a stable girl and started attending Greyfriars Church in Reading.
A turning point was answering an advertisement for a Housekeeper at The Mayflower Family Centre in Canning Town, East London.
She was offered the job by Rev David Sheppard, the leader of Mayflower, an England international cricket player and later to become Bishop of Liverpool.
“I loved the job and stayed there for five years,” recalled Val.
Her next move was to Langley House Trust, a prisoner rehabilitation charity led by ex-Japanese prisoner of war John Dodd – her first contact with the Probation Service.
“Providing a home for the homeless, and especially homeless ex-prisoners was beginning to take hold of my heart,” said Val.
She attended Middlesex Polytechnic and became a trainee probation officer in Corby in Northants. For the next 20 years Val worked as a probation officer in Northants, then after her marriage in Lowestoft, Ipswich then Norwich.
Val married Bill Dodsworth, whom she had known ten years previously at Langley House, in 1982 in Northampton and, although they worked 80 miles apart, they worshipped together at Surrey Chapel in Norwich. Bill worked for Rowntree’s in Norwich making chocolate but sadly died in 1992.
Then on her own, Val started to take various Christian workers into her home and the seeds of The House of Genesis began to germinate in her mind.
Val continued work in probation and then in Norwich Prison as a chaplain and her guests at home grew to four or five including one ex-prisoner – Richard - who first suggested setting up a charity to accommodate and support men coming out of prison.
Val bought a six-bedroom house on the outskirts of Norwich and the vision started to take shape and a second house followed as a gift from a local Methodist church.
The work was never smooth running for long but Val persisted and she also found time to help launch Street Pastors in Norwich as its co-ordinator.
Genesis continued to meet the need of ex-offenders using several different houses – and continues today, owning or managing four properties accommodating up to 16 residents.
In 2015, Val was deservedly made an MBE for her services to the homeless in Norwich.
If you would like to receive a free PDF or printed copy of Val’s book – Val Dodsworth a Reminiscence, you should contact Val at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07758 208470 to read the full story of her life.
Pictured above is Val Dodsworth with her MBE presented in 2015 for services to the homeless in Norwich.
Read our previous story about Val.