Helen Smallbone has had a remarkable life, marked by leaps of faith, family adventures, internationally-renowned music, and travels spanning many kilometres.
The mother of seven (including Grammy Award-winning artists Rebecca St James, and Joel and Luke Smallbone from for KING & COUNTRY) and grandmother of 13 has written a book about her journey, ‘Behind the Lights: The Extraordinary Adventure of a Mum and Her Family’. She’s told me that it’s been a while coming.
“I think I’ve always known that the story is so significant that it needed to be told; for whatever reason, I knew I needed to be the one that would tell it. I had been praying for the right time and a couple of years ago it just seemed to be the right time.”
After her childhood as a “pastor’s kid” and a decision to give her life to Christ as a teenager, Helen went on to marry David Smallbone, a promoter of Christian music artists. As Helen and David’s family grew, some curveballs came their way, with a series of setbacks in David’s working life including a significant financial loss and major opportunities falling through.
After three “closed doors”, the family moved from Australia to Nashville in the United States to pursue David’s career – but within months of the relocation, another obstacle arose.
“[David] came over to America mid-year in 1991 to see if maybe he could manage somebody else, [and] did pick up a management job. We arrived in America in August, 1991 and he lost that job a few months later, and that’s when – again – we were just like, ‘Now we’re on the other side of the world; another door has closed – what are we really doing?’”
Helen says the uncertain situation strengthened the family’s faith and made them rely on each other and on God.
“We would gather in the living room – at that point it had no furniture – and we would pray, and that’s when we really saw God lead us, [with] little tiny steps, and provide for us in miraculous ways,” she says.
One significant example of God’s providence came when a fellow home-schooling parent felt led to give the Smallbones his car. Helen was initially reluctant, as the man would be financially impacted insurance-wise if she had an accident.
“He said, ‘If you have an accident and I get sued and I lose my house, that’s God’s will for me – He’s told me to give you the keys to this car, and I’m giving them to you.’ That level of faith only shines out occasionally in our lives, and for him to do that to us was just astronomical.”
With a number of her children having taken up high profile careers, she says the closeness of her family unit helps to support her kids handle the burdens of being in the spotlight.
“Rebecca, Joel and Luke have walked their journeys very closely with their siblings; their siblings know the price they pay for those careers and having a public persona. They see the other side, they see the tiredness, the expectations and they see the responsibility.”
“In some ways life on the stage can be a lonely journey, but because our family has travelled that journey together, we can see the downsides and we can be a support.”
Helen is also the co-founder of a mothers’ ministry, MUMLife (Mothers Uplifting Mothers) to encourage mums through mentoring.
“My passion is the family, is motherhood. I know that the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand the holds the world of tomorrow. I want to encourage mums in this season of my life to keep on keeping on, to continue to be strong, [and] to serve knowing that they’re making a difference. I just want them to know that they’re prized and that they’re seen, and if this book and anything that I do can encourage them on that journey, then God-willing, I’ll be there.”