Speaking at conferences, writing books and carrying out interviews was all good and glamorous for Anne Calver. But her faith was being tested as she battled to have a baby.
She and husband Gavin, who is now the CEO of the Evangelical Alliance, had been married for several years and had setback after setback in their quest to become parents.
“We went through the first year and then the second year and I started to think this was never going to happen,” says Anne. We went for some tests and the doctors told us it was very unlikely that we could have any children. That was a really difficult pill to swallow at the time.
“Yet weirdly the same month they said you are not going to have any children I actually got pregnant with our daughter, Amelie.
“Just before I gave birth to her, they discovered that I had antibodies in my system, and they said it doesn’t leave your system at any point, but we recommend that you don’t go on to have many more children. That was really difficult because I had hoped to have lots of children. Strangely, I fell pregnant again about ten months later. But we went on to lose the second and I had an operation to remove the baby. That was one of the most painful times for us… I felt quite fearful after that of trying again.”
After a few more years of grappling with this, Anne says God spoke to her very clearly about trying again.
“I really felt the Lord saying to me, ‘You’ve closed that door on parenting again, but I haven’t closed that door. I want you to open it again. I want you to look your fear in the face and I want you to open the door and try again.’
“So we began to try again and after literally one month we conceived. But when I went for an early scan at six weeks there were five antibodies that were in my system that were all attacking the new life inside of me.
“And the hospital staff said there was only a five per cent chance of this baby coming into the world alive.
“But praise God a few months later they picked up a heartbeat and they said he’s going to live to fight another day. I knew it was a boy all along and that he was going to be called Daniel because it was like the Lord just shut the mouths of the lions.
“And he was protected somehow from the antibodies coming all around and attacking him.
“I went through a massive journey faith wise during that time just realising that when you look fear in the face it doesn’t necessarily mean it all disappears but you have to hold on to God anyway. It really was one of the hardest journeys of our life. Then Daniel was born at 30 weeks and they had to get him onto breathing equipment quickly but they held him up so that I could see him straight away.
“I was finally able to hold him after about three weeks of intensive care and today you wouldn’t even know that he’d gone through anything. At nine years old he’s just a perfect little boy.”
Anne’s deep-rooted faith helped her significantly through that difficult time, thanks to the commitment she had made to Christ in her late teens.
“As a child I attended an Anglican church on the Wirral with my family,” she recalls.
“But I found myself in the pew just feeling there must be more to life than this. So through my teenage years I tried to look for that elsewhere.
“I spent more time with my friends and with boyfriends. Then at 18 I came to a crossroads in my life where I didn’t feel fulfilled. So I made a decision to pursue God with everything in me.
“I then did a gap year with Exeter Vineyard School of Discipleship when I encountered Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, which dramatically impacted my life. I began to hear the voice of God. I’d never experienced that before.
“And then I went out to India on mission and began working at ‘Mother Theresa’s House of the Poor and Dying’ and in a church in Delhi and it was just a really life-transforming year for me. And I absolutely knew 100 per cent during that year that God was my everything and I wanted to follow him with everything I had.”
Little did Anne realise the next part of her journey would result in her marrying a member of the well-known Calver family, when God called her to the London School of Theology.
“When I got to Bible college I made a decision that boys were not going to feature for a little while in my life. But on the first night I met Gavin and he became a really good friend of mine and during that year we found ourselves going out with each other.
“We married quite young in our early 20s. I’m not sure that I would encourage everyone to marry that young, but I knew that Gavin was the right man that I was meant to be with. Then Gavin was offered a job with Youth For Christ in Birmingham. I think that was one of the hardest parts of our journey because I’d come from this quite nice rural town on the Wirral and he’d come from South London.
“We had no family, no friends or anything. I hadn’t really cooked a meal in my life and I had hardly ever used a washing machine. We’d been at Bible college where they’d fed us and looked after us and done everything. So getting married and moving to Birmingham was a really challenging time.”
Many years later, Gavin is continuing to follow in the footsteps of his father Clive, when it was announced recently that he would be taking over as the new UK CEO for the Evangelical Alliance. Anne said it has been an adjustment to build their own identity in ministry being part of such a high-profile family in the Christian world.
“Twenty years ago when we began our ministry people would compare Gavin to his father,” she explains.
“I think we were trying to form our own space within the evangelical world but now we feel very comfortable with it. We actually feel affirmed when people refer to the Calver family and what we do, because the Lord works through families and generations in such powerful ways.”
Now Anne’s own ministry is becoming even more established and she was recently appointed as Assistant Minister at Stanmore Baptist Church. She is also a much sought-after speaker and has featured at major events such as Spring Harvest and New Wine.
Anne says she still gets nervous preaching to large crowds.
“It’s a massive privilege and it’s costly,” she says. “You don’t just suddenly get up there one day. You need to be doing it out of a place of total surrender to the Lord and really listening to his voice and walking closely with him. Otherwise I have no right to get up there and minister to his people. It’s always nerve-racking. I always feel extremely sick before I preach and yet when I’m up there I know that I’m making him smile.”