Today’s guest is my mother! My mother, otherwise known as Roslyn Langlois, has three children. I have an older brother and a younger sister, so I’m the middle child, and she has two grown-up grandchildren: a favourite granddaughter and a favourite grandson. Very handy.
Mum’s worked in many different positions and done many different things. She’s a concert pianist, so if you’re watching the video you can see the grand piano behind us, and she’s a choir conductor, and she gives wisdom to many. I wrote that, but I mean it. And she’s been the vice-president of a radio station –
– so she’s led worship in all sorts of different situations, and she composes music as well, and there’s more. There’s so much more. So welcome Mum, it’s good to have you with us.
It’s lovely to be here.
A different kind of interview, I think, but it’s fun.
How did you become a Christian?
Well. I think it started pretty early, because my parents, your grandparents, were both Christians when I was born. My father had been studying theology, and Mum, I think, had told me about when she became a Christian, so I was born into that atmosphere. But I was in Sunday School, and in choirs, and I loved the Lord, all the way along. There was every reason to love him and no reason not to. But of course, as I got older, there were situations that were sort of crises, where my decision was to go with following the Lord. I’m just trying to think what some of the major ones would be.
I think that there was a point when Billy Graham came to Australia. He went all around the nation, and dad decided to go, and to take me, and we wanted to be in on it – or I wanted to be in on it.
How old were you then?
By this time I was fourteen, so I’d definitely been a Christian for quite a long time then. It was an amazing meeting, because I’d never seen so many people stack a football ground in North Hobart for that purpose. It was just lovely to hear the gospel preached, and Dad and I both went forward, which was, I suppose, affirming the fact that I wanted to follow the Lord.
Because Poppy was an Anglican minister, wasn’t he?
Yes, so he was a Christian Anglican minister.
When you went to university in Melbourne – mum attended the Conservatorium of Music in Melbourne – was that a challenge to your faith?
No, I don’t think it was a challenge in the sense that I felt there was any attack on it. I think that I’d learned over those years – because I had to be away from home even in high school years to go to school – and I guess I’d had the opportunity to make either decisions that were following Christ or not. I was not [perfect] I don’t think any of us are. I certainly had things that weren’t right, and that I had to repent of in that stage. The whole thing of going to Melbourne was itself a gift, and it was amazing, because at the beginning of that last year of school, which was year 12, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was given the privilege of being the Head Girl of the school, so I was pretty engaged with what was going on there. Lovely things were happening in the school in terms of other girls coming to the Lord, and that sort of thing. But when I was approached by the Education Department and asked if I’d like to have this scholarship and go and study music in Melbourne … I can’t remember mum and dad and I having a conversation about it, but it must have been a mind-blower for them as well.
But it was very exciting, and I knew that was the Lord. And also, the music teacher that I had at Melbourne had been my examiner for the associate piano exam, and I sensed that he believed in the Lord, and sure enough that was the truth. So I had a very good piano teacher and felt the support from him, and I think I linked up pretty quickly with the Christian groups at the uni, because the Con was part of the rest of the uni. I really could be who I was.
I had a lovely red coat, that was (laughs) it was sort of the mark of who I was. I was short, and I had my little red coat, and I came from Tasmania down there, and opportunities came along very quickly for the development [of my faith]. I always was able to express, in one way or another, that what I was doing was enabled by the Lord – which it really was. And there were plenty of situations in which I needed the Lord’s help. I did have relatives in Melbourne, but I couldn’t see them very often – they were in a completely different part – so I was very much on my own. So there were things that had to work out through prayer, which included financial things, and where I was going to stay, because things weren’t always easy that way. So there were lots of opportunities, and my faith was just being built in one thing after another.
I remember there was a situation in which I was acutely conscious of not having enough money, because my shoes were wearing out. I did a lot of walking, and I didn’t have the money to get them fixed up. I remember saying something to my teacher, I think, my piano teacher, about pennies from heaven – just joking around – and within a couple of days I’d received, from people who were close to mum and dad in Tassie, the first of a number of cheques which came regularly to help me get through. So the pennies came from heaven!
Unfortunately we can’t go through mum’s whole life story – we don’t have time! So I was going to ask what made you and dad decide to become missionaries, but it sounds like it’s a very natural outworking. You’re already sharing the gospel with people all the time, you already have faith provision and that kind of thing, so it sounds like it was a very natural next step for you guys.
Yes, I guess it was. That is a big leap, from where I just was! So my brain has to go on fast forward.
Well, I think it’s John’s story as well as mine, of course, but I think that John had heard from his uncle and aunty such fantastic stories of how God had provided for them in all sorts of situations, so John having – what’s that saying – hammered his flag to the mast, as “Lord, whatever you want”. He was very open on that level, and so was I. It was a wonderful time actually, that time of our life in the church as a whole, in Australia, and in our state. People were rediscovering just how near God really was, and how He did call very personally, how He did provide, so we were both very open to that. We didn’t know what that was going to mean, and it meant quite a number of different things really.
Yes, because when I was very little you started in a sort of rehabilitation centre, living by faith there, and then you moved to a children’s home, and then you joined Youth With A Mission –
Which again, is very much living by faith.
Yes, we haven’t had a lot of money, ever. Plenty of experiences, but not a lot of money.
(laughs) That’s right.
So, classical music is obviously a very huge part of your life, and sharing God is obviously a huge part of your life. How have you been able to share God using classical music?
Yes, that’s been lovely really. I’ve found that people in all sorts of situations are very open to hearing you play the piano – in my case, that’s been what I could do – so in a way I just had to be prepared to open my mouth. I didn’t always feel as if I was as overt as I might be. I was wanting to do that, and I would pray about that, whoever I was with, because I worked with some excellent musicians, and just playing to people … but after a while I got the message, you know? God knew exactly what he was doing.
There were situations where I could be very overt, and there were others where … people are not dumb, you know? They hear where you’re coming from, and it was a really fine musician – I probably shouldn’t name names – but someone who I worked with quite a bit who’s a brilliant Australian musician, a string player. We were in the middle of a practice, and somehow just talking about who we were came up into our conversation, and he said something to the effect of “It’s very evident where you’re coming from.” Not in a reactive way, it was just in the conversation we were having, which was very reassuring, because I’m not the only Christian who’s sometimes thought “How overt should I be?” Because sometimes you feel as if what you could say would be utterly not part of that particular conversation, but there is a way of just following through in a conversation, which is just very natural, and not forced, and doesn’t make the person feel “Uh-oh, here I am, I’m going to hear it.”
So not bible-bashing, but just as it naturally comes out.
So after YWAM, you and dad joined Christian Performing Artists’ Fellowship. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Yes, I think one of the really exciting things about that was how God got our attention. We were at a radio conference – because that was when we were in Christian radio in Hobart – and I didn’t find those conferences terribly interesting.
They’re not exactly mum’s kind of music.
It wasn’t even just the music – there were technical things … but I was at them, so I was there, and there was this particular session – I think we were in Melbourne. Just before it – I don’t even know who this person was – someone came up to me and said “You’re a musician, aren’t you? You might enjoy this!” and handed me a book that was called Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers by Patrick Kavanaugh. I thanked the person, because I had something interesting to do now through the meeting, and I sat down in the meeting and flicked through [the book]. There were things on this composer and that composer from over the centuries, and then I got to the end and it had a mission statement of The Christian Performing Artists’ Fellowship. And as I read that mission statement, it was just like an electric shock went through me, and I thought “This is so exciting – this is just what we’re on about.” Because at that stage in Youth With A Mission we’d been – when I say “we”, there was another lovely staff member who was a musician – we’d had music camps, and reached out to young musicians in Hobart and so on. So this absolutely fitted in that, you know? When I went home from Melbourne, this other staff member and I talked together about what we’d seen, and I wrote a letter to Patrick Kavanaugh. A few weeks later, when I wasn’t in any way thinking about it – in fact I think he woke us up from sleep at about seven o’clock in the morning (we probably needed to be woken up) – it was Patrick Kavanaugh, and he said he was really interested in coming out to assist us with a music camp, and that started off this whole wonderful relationship with Patrick and his wife, who are both wonderful musicians, but also with lots of other great musicians in the US, and students who came from the US, some came from Australia, some came from Russia, and Latvia, and it was just wonderful.
CPAF has a big summer camp, doesn’t it? Where Christian up-and-coming musicians from all around the place, as you say, get together and learn music and also learn about God.
That’s right, yes. Bible studies were a very important part of it, and John and I were both available on the counselling staff. It was a very wholistic sort of thing, but it was really saying “God is the giver of all these.” Whether it’s operatic singing, or acting, or playing the piano – God’s the giver of the gifts, and you can revel in those, and share that He’s the giver of the gifts. That’s your witness.
I think there’s this thing in performing arts with Christians, where you’re concerned about whether you’re giving enough of a witness, and you’ve had that same question.
As a writer, the encouragement is then to write something really overtly Christian which often – or sometimes – goes badly wrong. It becomes cheesy. Or in Christian music, or in Christian movies, or whatever. In classical music, unless you only play Bach, I guess you’re a bit stuck. So that message, as you say, that God is the giver of all these gifts and just by using our gifts to His glory, we can be a witness.
That is exactly right. That was such a major thing in that whole ministry, and I’m sure it still is. So that was how things unfolded there.
So you packed up from Tassie and moved over to the US.
Yes, I’m sure you remember it!
I do, because I had little babies.
And that was a challenge. I think all Christians will have to meet that challenge at some point, where you do actually have to make a choice, if that’s what God’s saying. And it is very challenging, and it is very difficult, and sometimes I’ve found as I’ve looked back – not on that particular instance, but some other things in our life – I’ve thought now “Did we really get it right, Lord? Was that really You? We thought it was, I hope we were right.” And you can really only just hand it over to the Lord. So it was very difficult to leave family, to leave our immediate family, yourself and Catherine and Anthony, and particularly this new generation coming up, because you know you’re going to miss out on all sorts of things, but we couldn’t get away from the fact that the Lord had called. With every bit of understanding that we had, that’s what it was.
God has been faithful, in terms of your relationship with my children.
Yes, hasn’t He? So faithful. And also in terms of our relationship with your generation, as well. It’s not that there haven’t been things we’ve had to work through, as all families have, but we’re just so blessed by the relationship with our own children – who are not children anymore!
So speaking of challenges, can you talk a little bit about the challenge of Parkinson’s?
Yes, I can! (laughs)
Yes, it is a challenge. It’s an interesting thing to be told that you’ve got a disease like that. This is what sort of came to me in the initial years, was that I could pray for healing for me, and believe for healing for me, but it very quickly came to me that there are thousands of people just in Australia alone with Parkinson’s. It really is a disease that a lot of people have, let alone other parts of the world. Especially the western world, I’m not sure about other parts. Anyway, having this thought, that there were so many people with Parkinson’s, the thing to do would be to pray for research, and that answers would be found, because there are very few answers when it comes to Parkinson’s. But the interesting thing is in the years that I’ve had it now, that there really has been quite a discovery of potential reasons – it’s still not absolutely secure – but even without reasons, things that you can do. So I’m involved now in the LED light sort of – I’m trying to think of the actual term –
The infrared light study that you’re participating in.
Yes, it’s just using ordinary people to be part of that.
Well, you have to have Parkinson’s.
(laughs) Yes, that’s the only thing.
I’ll put a link to that in the show notes, so people can read more about that study.
For us personally, for John and myself – John is my husband, and he’s very very much a part of this whole experience, because with having something like Parkinson’s, you do need a lot of support. So John has embraced being not only my husband, but my carer, which is very challenging to think that you need to have a carer. If I’ve got to have a carer, he’s a very good carer to have, let alone the rest of the family.
So another wonderful thing with this prayer about the research, and the Lord giving a way forward – which we can see that various things are coming to light now – but we’ve met some fantastic people. It’s like when I went to the conservatorium, the Lord has opened the door on relationships. There’s this young professor – well, I think he’s young, he’s probably mid-forties or something – he’s at a university in Sydney, and he’s getting some light on the subject – but he was just so happy to be supportive to us, so we’ve gotten to know him and his wife. And another lovely doctor, who’s supposedly retired – she’s also a musician – in the north of Tassie, and she’s very much following and supporting me and us. It’s just fantastic who God leads you to.
So there are some very difficult things about the actual condition – I don’t recommend that anyone want it to happen! But it’ll be alright.
Good things can come out of it.
Yes! Good things can.
So when do you feel close to God?
That’s a really lovely question. That’s always a filler, that line. (laughs) It really is. While I love worshipping God – I love playing, and singing, and being with people who love Him – whether it’s by myself, but often it’s with others, I love that situation of having the freedom to sing, to speak our prayers, but I think that there’s been so many situations when I’ve been in need and I don’t necessarily feel anything in particular, except that I know I can call out to God, and I do, and it’s amazing. I’m sure John could tell stories – I don’t know if he’d tell them, but they’re great stories – like “Where is my phone? I can’t find it.” Or wallet, you know, and I say “Lord, will you just help us find it? Because we need to get out of here pretty quickly and John needs his wallet.” And he finds it really quickly. I love those things.
But there’s far more to relationship with the Lord than that sort of thing. He’s just so kind and humble I think, in letting us ask Him about anything, run of the mill, but also big things where you’re just crying out. And we’ve had some real cry-out situations, and we do right up to the minute, and it’s wonderful to be able to just let the Lord hear. It’s so amazing how in the Scriptures we’re really encouraged as to how real we can be with the Lord. It’s silly to pretend with him. Those wonderful stories with women, of Jesus – both before and after the resurrection – they are so marvellous. And when you think of the fact that women were not held in very great esteem at all, at that time. But Jesus, I remember hearing years and years ago on an ABC broadcast this young woman saying that Jesus was the first… what’s the term?
Yes, the first feminist. I thought “Oh, that’s a good one!” In the sense of honouring women. He just honoured women, and protected them. “Leave her alone, this thing that she’s done is going to be told all over the world,” and sure enough it is. We’re in the place to be able to say “That’s true.” That’s exactly right. Right up to date.
I never thought that I was brought up as a feminist, and then I realised that you were actually a career mum. It never occurred to me growing up that you were actually a career mum.
And as a woman I’ve been encouraged by you to follow my dreams and to do whatever was there in front of me, which I really appreciate.
What’s one thing about God or Christianity that you wish everyone knew?
(chuckles) This is very much off the top of my head – again, it’s a fantastic question – one thing I wish everybody knew is that God is utterly approachable. Awesome, and amazing beyond anything we can imagine in terms of character and understanding and knowledge – I mean it’s God we’re talking about, so you sort of run out [of words]. But it’s the nearness and the personalness of God. I’m really glad that in our hymns and in some of the awesome music that has been composed for the glory of God – little allusion to Bach there – I think the thing is that He understands us. Right from the beginning of the Old Testament on, you see God who is approachable as well as the awesome God. Somehow all of that comes together. It’s super.
Thank you so much! That’s all my questions.
It’s lovely to talk to you. Always lovely to talk to my beloved daughter. And the other daughter, and the son.
This has been awesome. And don’t worry, I’m having an interview with Dad later. Thanks so much, Mum.
My great pleasure.