Bruce and Janine Dyer are an inspiring example of a young couple, who love each other, their family and their community, and who also serve in ministry together. Though both Londoners, born and bred, the dynamic duo now reside in Barnsley, where they are viewed by some as the ‘Posh and Becks of the North’. The couple have been touching people’s lives via a prison ministry, gospel music and their annual Love Life Festival, which attracts up to 5,000 people. The couple, who have been married for 13 years and have three children together plus one on the way, spoke to Keep The Faith about their marriage, their ministry and their love for the Lord.
KEEP THE FAITH (KTF): What inspired you to move to Barnsley, and what’s it like up there in the North?
BRUCE DYER (BD): When I first heard that Barnsley FC wanted to sign me, I told my agent (my Dad) that I didn’t want to go. All I could think of was how cold it would be in winter, and not being able to understand the northern culture. I am a Londoner through and through, so it was a big decision to move up North, but my father advised me to at least go and have a conversation with the chairman of Barnsley FC. After our meeting, it felt so right to sign for Barnsley FC and, I must say, it has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my career. Life up North is great; I love it. Life up North is so much slower and calmer than in London and, since becoming a Christian, I live a very quiet life, so life up North is perfect for me.
KTF: You had an illustrious career as a Premier League footballer, and were the first teenager to be signed for £1million. When you reflect on your football career, what memories stick out the most for you?
BD: I will always remember the day I signed for Crystal Palace in that record transfer fee. The thought of being part of UK history was really special and then, one month after signing for Crystal Palace, we were promoted to the Premiership, and my dream of playing in the Premiership became a reality. Four weeks later, I was picked to play for the England U21s so, in the space of three months, my world was turned upside down in a good way.
KTF: You remain active via various community activities, one of which is a very vibrant prison ministry. Can you tell me a little bit about it?
BD: Love Life UK launched Love Life UK Outreach in 2012. We conduct weekly Bible studies in a prison; we travel across the UK doing Sunday morning services in prisons, and we host Black History events in prisons across the UK. We are really blessed at Love Life UK Outreach to have awarding-winning artists, well-known musicians and well-known sportsmen, who volunteer their time to support the work we are doing in prisons across the UK. We have found that football and music are great ways to engage with offenders; it’s like a key that opens the door of their heart and breaks down barriers, which enables us to communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a relevant way. Love Life UK Outreach is also heavily involved in the lives of offenders on their release. We help offenders get connected into a local church, and we help create an environment that enables them to stay accountable.
KTF: What do you enjoy most about your prison ministry work, and can you give me some examples of success you’ve experienced?
BD: You cannot beat seeing a genuine response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ that leads to a total transformation of a prisoner’s life. I remember a Bible study we were conducting, and we got onto the subject of fatherhood, and a few of the prisoners mentioned how they had failed their kids, because of the amount of time they had spent in prison. One of the prisoners mentioned that he had been in and out of prison for eight years, and had no real relationship with his children. I could sense he wanted a change, and we prayed that on his release he would be the father God desired him to be. We also prayed that God would provide for him, and bring stability into his life. Within a month, he was released; within three months, he was granted access to see his daughters, and then, three months later, his daughter moved in with him and the transformation in this family life has been miraculous. Our prayer for restoration and stability had been answered.
KTF: The people of Barnsley seem to have taken you and your wife, Janine Dyer, to their hearts. How did you and your wife become such key people of influence in the area?
BD: The people of Barnsley have been so good to us, and our time in Barnsley has been awesome. Sport and music are great tools to be used to engage with people, and both my career at Barnsley Football Club and Janine’s career as a singer have opened many doors for us. We are utilising our influence for the purpose of spreading the love of Jesus Christ. One of the ways we have been doing this is through the Love Life Festival; it has something for the whole family. The Festival consists of football, gospel music, funfair rides, bouncy castles and food. We have had some high profile guests attend our Festival: the ex-England and Manchester Utd defender, Rio Ferdinand, Fabrice Muamba and many others. Last year’s Festival saw over 5,000 people attend. There has never been a Christian event like it in Barnsley, and people have been so blessed. I get some lovely messages via social networks from people in Barnsley, who genuinely appreciate the work Love Life is doing, and many have begun to ask questions about the Christian faith.
KTF: You and Janine seem to have a strong marriage. How did you both meet?
BD: I actually met her when I became a Christian and going to as many concerts as possible to have a social life. At that time, Raymond & Co were singing everywhere; I was going everywhere, so I saw quite a lot of Janine. I was quite discreet about how I felt about her.
Janine Dyer (JD): I knew Isaiah-Raymond, who is Bruce’s brother. I didn’t know that Isaiah-Raymond had a brother; I only knew his sisters. After Bruce became a Christian, he was just around, and I said to Raymond, ‘You kept your brother a secret!’
KTF: When did you know that you were destined to be together?
BD: One night, Raymond & Co were rehearsing, and Isaiah and Janine came to my sister’s; it was her birthday. It was really late at night and Janine was stranded in east London. I had my eldest son with me, who was five at the time. Isaiah said to me, ‘It’s really late. Can you do us a favour and drop Janine home?’ I said, ‘Yes, no problem.’ When we were in the car – as strange as this sounds – I felt love in the car, and felt that we were a family. I remember I went to put some petrol in the car, and something said to me that I’m going to be with Janine for the rest of my life.
JD: It was my friends who told me that Bruce liked me. I was really green, but my friends were, like, ‘He likes you’. To me, he wasn’t being how someone would be if they liked you. One day, when he was coming to the end of a trip to Holland with his football club, he said, ‘Would you mind if we went somewhere for dinner? You don’t have to go with me on your own, you can invite one of your friends.’ We went out to dinner when he came back. We were both very nervous, but sitting down at the table with him, I just knew we were going to be married, and we didn’t even say anything. It was just like a spiritual connection.
KTF: What do you love most about your wife and being married?
BD: I love her looks. I love how she engages with people. She’s fun. She’s a good mum. She’s caring. It’s a beautiful thing to know that you are with the person that God wants you to be with. For me, being an ex-professional football player, a big thing with footballers is trust. I’ve never been able to trust a woman apart from Janine, and I love the fact that I can trust my wife. She’s got my best interests at heart and vice versa.
KTF: What’s it like doing ministry together as a couple?
BD: It’s a blessing. And sometimes it can be funny because Janine is a strong character. It’s a pleasure to play my part in helping to make a difference to someone’s life, and knowing that my wife and I are doing that together.
JD: It has its ups and downs, but it’s nice. It’s great, because we can be together serving and doing things for the Lord. I think it encourages other couples and people when they see a couple together, united.
KTF: You are both committed Christians. What role does your faith play in your marriage?
JD: Our faith comes first. I don’t even think we’d be together so long without Christ. It plays a very important role with our children: how we raise them; what we try to teach them and instil in them; what decisions we make in our lives, and practical things. In everything, we put God first. We always think ‘What would Jesus do?’ and trust Him to lead us and direct us.
KTF: Although you seem like the perfect couple, no doubt you have arguments. How do you resolve your conflicts?
BD: What I really love about Janine and myself is, if we have a disagreement, because we’re Christians, there comes a time where we have to humble ourselves and acknowledge when we’re wrong. We try our utmost to let God’s Word have the final say, and just submit to Him and be humble about it. We’re never too big to apologise.
JD: My mother-in-law always says ‘Never go to bed on an argument’, because the enemy wants to try and come in; the little foxes spoil the vine and cause bad feeling and division. We try to always sort things out and, even if it means one of us has to back down first, then that’s what we do and we just say we forgive each other, love each other, resolve things and just move on.
KTF: What’s your hope for the future, where your marriage is concerned?
BD: By the grace of God, to honour our vows and to be an example to other young couples that you can stay married and stay faithful; enjoy life and be a Christian. Just to be a role model, if I’m honest.
JD: I hope it lasts; we made those vows at the beginning, and believed those vows when we got married, and we are very committed to those vows. When our children are older, I hope we can just go and enjoy ourselves and be on holiday all the time, and that the kids will look after us, lol. The children will get older at some point, and we won’t be too old to enjoy each other, carry on in ministry together and have fun together.
For more information about Bruce and Janine Dyer’s ministry visit www.lovelifeuk.org Like on Facebook at Love Life UK Follow on Twitter @lovelifeuk7